A Year in Reflection

So where do I start. I haven’t blogged in a long time. This has been some kind of year for my family. My first year teaching. My wife switching school districts. My daughter switching school districts. My middle son starting public school. My youngest switching to a new sitter. We find out we’re having baby number four, Zyla. We are asked to serve on our church pastoral staff as Outreach Pastors. I preach TWICE at church, and really get involved in Wednesday night class discussions. Yes, there has been so much to report. However for the purpose of this post, I really want to focus in on my experience as a first year teacher.

Today was the last day of school, and while outwardly I was happy that it was coming, because I was ready for a break, in my heart, I knew that I was not ready to let these students go. In truth, I loved them…hard. I gave them all of me everyday for every class period of the past 8 months. I began to know them, what made them tick, what made them smile and laugh. I strived everyday to make each student laugh at least once. Sure, my antics could be chalked up to being new and inexperienced, but I choose to think that they are just a part of my makeup that God gave me specifically for this task. And as I look at all of the letters that I have received from students and the messaged from parents, I just sit back and wonder “How?” How could a guy who up until two years ago barely liked children have fallen this in love with a profession that he previously despised? How was it that I cared so much about these kids? How did I let them into my heart? How was it that my classroom, a classroom with a man who really had no idea what he was doing, become a place where kids felt safe telling me their secrets and confiding in me? How’d I even get this job? lol. My students proclaim me a great teacher, but I know better.

God is truly great. It was only by His Spirit that I made it through this year. In every instance, God gave me the words to speak, whether in correction, or encouragement. He helped me navigate all of the emotional swings of these 13 and 14 year old students. I prayed for them. They ate in my class. We pranked each other. Students who weren’t even mine were attracted to me. I know it wasn’t me that they were attracted to. It was God. They saw God in me, and while some of them don’t know that specifically, it makes me so happy that I was able to be Jesus to these kids every time they saw me.

And so, as I watched them leave today, my eyes were dry, but my heart cried a bit. 8 months. Everyday. Now, nothing. It’s sad, but in my heart I really feel that the work that God wanted me to do with them was done. Now I have to trust Him to continue it as they head into high school. In truth, these students aren’t really mine. I was simply someone God placed into their lives at this junction to steer them towards Him as much as possible, and plant seeds that will hopefully bloom into success and a relationship with Christ. But, I love them just the same. They will forever be a part of my heart, a part of me.

My heart is full today. Thanks be to God for this wonderful year. I’m praying for many, many more as He grows me professionally and spiritually to be a lighthouse in the classroom.

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Year End Reflection

In many ways, I am still in the same headspace at the end of this year as I was at the beginning. This is a headspace of wondering and questioning. It’s not a bad thing, rather I think it is a healthy exercise in checking my own self against what God is wanting me to see and know. For me, the story of this year is not the grand blessings that God showered upon us, and how we are ending this year differently than we entered it. The real story is what God has done in my wife and I. We have matured in our faith in real ways. So, as we look towards this next year, there are a couple of things personally that we are looking forward to discovering.

Number 1, what are the dreams that God has for us, and the dreams that He will give us? Dreams are so important. For a long time, because I was so broken, I did not dream, and therefore my family also ceased to dream. I desire to be a dreamer again, and I know that God desires the same thing. Not just ordinary dreams, but BIG, GRANDIOSE, MIND-BLOWING DREAMS that can only be fulfilled by God. I feel God saying to His people that the time to dream has come again. Don’t be afraid. Dream.

Number 2, we are believing that this will be the year when we finally begin to see parts of God’s ministry within us coming to reality. This won’t be a year of stagnation. We believe that God is going to show us where we fit, and how we fit into His grand plans for our area and beyond. He is going to stretch us, and I really believe that the ways that He uses us will frighten and astound us, not that we are any more special than anyone else, but it feels like the time is coming. We know a very small piece of God’s design for us. More is coming. I believe this for so many people. The evidence is there that so many of you are right on the precipice of something great. As we are believing for our own lives, we are also believing for yours.

No resolutions for me. I’m not going to try to lose weight. I’m just going to commit to working out regularly. My real focus this year is on my spirit and my heart. It’s time to live again. This year is going to be so great. Dream. Be prepared for His instruction. Then let’s do it! You all be blessed, cause we are going to bed. We’ll say “wassup” to 2014 tomorrow morning. lol!!

Happy New Year! God’s Kingdom come, and His will be done in 2014.

The Power of Words: top ten ways we speak death

Isaiah 59:1-3- surely the arm of The Lord is not too short to save, not his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God. Your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, you tongue mutters wicked things.

1. Lying- Proverbs. 6:16- these six things The Lord hates…..a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil…

Proverbs 12:22- lying lips are an abomination to The Lord, but those who deal truthfully are his delight.

When we lie, we go against His very nature.

2. Sowing discord- Proverbs 6:12-14- a troublemaker and a villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks maliciously with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart- he sows discord. Therefore….he will suddenly be destroyed without remedy.

If we sow it, we reap it.

3. Gossip-spreading intimate or private rumors or facts

Proverbs 20:19- a gossip betrays confidence, so avoid anyone who talks too much.

2 Corinthians 12:20- separate yourselves from those who gossip.

4. Slander-false or malicious statements or reports about someone.

Psalms 140:11- May slanderers not be established in the land; May disaster hunt down the violent.

Proverbs 10:18- whoever hides hatred has lying lips

5. Tale bearers -proverbs 11:13- a tale bearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.

We must create an atmosphere where we can share freely without fear of hearing it again from another source. We must pick each other up when we fall, and not condemn them and spread that around. When we break confidence with another, we lose that connection sometimes for good.

6. Cursing- Romans 3:13- their throats are open graves, their tongues practice deceit..”

Psalms 109:17- he loved to pronounce a curse-May it come back on him. He found no pleasure in blessing. May it be far from him.

If we want to walk in the blessings of God, we can’t curse.

7. Blasphemy- using Gods name in an unscarred way

Ex. 20:7- you shall not take the name of your lord in vain, for The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

we use Gods name as a curse word, and we also use God’s name to get what we fleshly want. We can easily learn to insert God where we want our will to move. There is a fine line here. God is not to be used to manipulate anyone or anything.

8. Filthy Language- put off all filthy language out of our mouths.

9. Contentious speech- a hurtful, hateful, malicious, disagreeable, and argumentative speech.

Proverbs 21:9- better to dwell in an attic than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

Proverbs 26:21- as charcoal is to burning coals….so is a contentious man to kindle strife.

10. Unbelief coming out of our mouths- what’s in our hearts comes out of our mouths.

Hebrews 3:12-13- see to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily.

Faith is not denying the facts, but it is stating the truth. Faith looks at the mountain and sees the mountain mover!

The Power of Words: 4 things you must know about your words

Proverbs 18:21- the tongue holds the power of life and death…

We need to stop trying to get God to agree with our words, and get our words in agreement with God.

James 3:1-2- dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed we make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every way.

Basically, if I could learn to control my mouth, I can learn to control every other thing in my life. When my mouth is out of control, my life is too.

1. The tongue is disproportionately powerful.

James 3:3-5- when we put bits into the mouth of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships for example, although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small speck.

James 1:26- if you claim to be religious, but don’t control your tongue then you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

Too many times, we have allowed our lives to be capsized by our little tongues.

2. The tongue is inherently evil

James 3:6,8- the tongue also is a fire , a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body , sets the whole course of ones life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. …but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

3. The tongue is divinely tame able. The only way that we do this is via the Holy Spirit.

Exodus 4:10- but Moses pleaded with The Lord, “oh Lord, I’m not very good with words. I’ve never been me I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue tied nd my words get tangled.” Then The Lord said to Moses, ” who makes a persons’ mouth. Who decides whether we speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, The Lord? Now, go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what you say.”

When God changes us, he begins with our tongue. Satan wants to occupy our mouths. As a believer, Satan can’t hurt me, but he can try to get you to turn your mouth against yourself. By doing this, he makes us powerless and helpless.

4. The tongue is contrastingly productive.

James 3:9-12- with the tongue, we praise our God and curse human beings. Out of the same mouth come praise and curses. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water slow out of the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Bad news: we can speak death.
Good news: we can speak life.

We have to make the choice. Either control our tongues, or our tongues will control us.

The Power of Words: Do You Value Your Words?

Many times we speak words out of our mouths all the time without recognizing the value behind our words.

Proverbs 18:20-21- from the fruit of their mouth, a persons stomach is filled. With the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Basically, the quality of the words that come from our mouths strongly influence the quality of our lives. In Genesis, we see that god spoke things into existence. Thus, because we are created in God’s image, we hold the same creative or destructive power. Many times, we see people who have the truth and stretch the truth cause us to reject the original biblical truth. Our words must line up with what God is saying.

We need to stop trying to get God in agreement with our words, and get our words in agreement with God. When this happens, we have true power and authority. Our words are either agreeing with life, or agreeing with death. So the question becomes whether or not we are releasing life or death when we speak?

1. Our words connect us to God. They have the power to connect God from the spiritual world to the natural God.

John 1:1- in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God.

Psalm 107:20- he sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.

Jesus came as the Word to save us from our sins and connect us, but we only truly connect by the power of OUR words.

Romans 10:8-10; 13- the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…if you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that god raised him from the dead then you are justified……everyone who calls on the name of The Lord will be saved.

Example:we declare with our words that Jesus is the Messiah and we accept his salvation. Then we are saved and connected to God. We have to speak the words and believe in our heart. Our words place us into right agreement with God.

Matthew 12:31-37- but I tell you this, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks a word against the spirit of God will not be forgiven neither in this age, nor in the age to come. …..for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. ….but I tell you that everyone will be judged for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be judged, and by your words will you be condemned.

Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is taking what God has done and attributing it to Satan or some other source.

2. Our words connect us to each other.

Proverbs 18:20-21- he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from The Lord.

There is a reason that this verse is here. Our words connect us also to our spouse or to other people. When we misuse our words, or fail to communicate, the relationship suffers. It gets weak and brittle. Stop speaking death into your relationships, family, health, finances, life. Speak life!!

Be a life speaker! Agree with God’s words and his plans.

Ephesians 5:25-26- husbands love your wives, just as Jesus also loved the church and gave himself for for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.

Are we cleansing or corrupting by what we are are speaking? Words can either destroy relationships or restore relationships.

Change Your Sound Pt 8 : I know who I am

There is an identity crisis in the Body of Christ. Satan doesn’t have to steal our authority or power, but if he can steal our identities, we effectively stop ourselves.

Matt 3:13- the baptism of Jesus – after he was baptized, the spirit of God descended like a dove….and said,” this is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

It took 30 years for Jesus to get baptized and begin his public ministry. God affirms Jesus’ publicly before he even begins ministering.

-stop trying to earn or prove God’s love for you. It is important that we believe this and know that God approves and accepts us. As soon as you accept Jesus as Savior, you become loved unconditionally. He will never love you any less or any more. It is a changeless love. So God affirms Jesus before anything of note happens in his life.

Following his baptism, instead of beginning to minister, Jesus went on a 40 day fast in the wilderness. Perhaps this was to get his heart ready and to reveal the full scope and relevance of his ministry. This happens in Paul’s life as well in Acts.

During his fast, Satan meets him and begins to tempt him. Matt 4 details this for us. satan attacks his identity.

He attacks our identity by twisting scripture for his purposes. He only attacks his identity, because if he can get Jesus to lose focus of who he really is! he can render his entire ministry of no regard.

When you know who you are, you will not be….

1. Performance driven-when we know who we are, we understand that we don’t have to win his approval. When I really know that I belong to God, and that he loves me and affirms me, it sets me free.

Satan attacks Jesus first where he is weak because he had not eaten. (V3-4), but Jesus already knew that he was the cornerstone and the bread of life. In verses 5-7, he continues attacking Jesus’ identity again by challenging him to jump from the highest point of the temple. Jesus answers by telling him not to put God to the test.

2. When I know who I am in Christ, I will not be arrogant. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone about what you can or can’t do. When we are challenged, we must rest in who we are in Christ. Our boldness doesn’t come from arrogance, but from a deep knowledge of who we are in Christ.

Arrogance will keep you jumping off of stuff, just to prove that you belong. When we know who we are, we can blow negative things off because we are secure in our identity.

In verses 8-10, Satan offers Jesus the entire world if he will only bow and worship him?! Jesus rebukes him.

3. When I know who I am, I will not be selfish. It would have been easy for Jesus to accept Satan’s deal and skip the pain of the cross. However, he saw outside of himself and saw us, who would need him to endure the torment, so that we could be blessed and restored back to God. He paid the full price so that we could have a relationship with God.

Change Your Sound pt 7 : what sound does Jesus want you to hear?

1. Jesus meets you where you are

John 20:19- on the evening of that first day of the week, when the discuss were together,with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “peace be with you”

Many of us find ourselves in this situation, closed off an locked away from the world. Maybe not for any other reason of that we have been hurt and betrayed. So we find ourselves locked away with our fear. Then Jesus shows up in the midst of the disciples’ fear. Jesus always shows up in the middle, and He releases their fear .

2. He gives us encouragement

John 20:19-“peace be with you”

Jesus says nothing more than peace. He didn’t address anything other than their storm and speaks peace into their lives. The doors were locked, but they could not lock Jesus out. By the same token, no matter how much we lock ourselves away, Jesus still can come through with his peace.

The last thing they were expecting was Jesus to come in and say what he said. He had just been beaten and crucified. Why would he show up? Besides, they had all left him alone. They had betrayed him. If anything, they expected him to chastise them for abandoning him in his darkest hour. When God shows up, he doesn’t bring condemnation. He brings peace. We often wonder what God thinks about what we do and who we are, but God comes in love to bring us peace. He can relate to our fears. He understands.

Philipians 4:6-7- be anxious for nothing, but in everything make your requests known to God;and the peace of God…..will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

3. He shows us his love.

John 20:20- after he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw The Lord.

Instead of condemning then, he showed them what he gave up for them. He gave them undeniable proof of his love. It is love in action. His love for us is not performance based. We don’t have to earn it, because we can’t earn it. He gives it freely through grace. He comes into our hearts and addresses our guilt and resentment. He covers them in his great mercy. He models this for us so that we can learn to let go of guilt and resentment. We can be free of them; no longer a slave to them in our lives. Because of this, Peter goes from wanting to give up to preaching a historic sermon that adds 3000 people to the new church.

Psalms 32:1-2- blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven,whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin The Lord does not count against them

4. He wants to fill us

John 20:21- and with that he breathed on then and said, ” receive the Holy Spirit”

He comes to us, meets us, loves us, and then he fill us anew. We need a continuous, constant, daily filling of the Holy Spirit.