Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Are You Amazed or Surprised By God?



Sometimes, when I read the gospels or the book of Acts, I think to myself, "Why doesn't this happen anymore?"

Acts 2 summarized the early church with this statement:
Acts 2
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Daily?  As you read the book of Acts, it's obvious that the early church made an extreme impact in a very short period of time.  Within decades, Christianity had spread across the entire known world during a time when travel was difficult and mass communication didn't exist.

Why doesn't that happen anymore?  Why don't we see this type of impact?  Well, we do.
In the year 1900, there were less than 10 million Christians in Africa.  By the year 2000, there were 380,000,000.  Since 1950, the population of China has tripled, but there are 100 times as many Christians as there were back then.  They went from 500,000 Christians in 1949 to roughly 40,000,000 today.  All of that took place in a country where  Christianity is persecuted.

I know of a church in North Carolina that started with just 8 families, and no official backing church. The 8 families relocated to a new city, and started building their congregation by doing door to door evangelism.  Four years later, they had 11,000 people attend their Easter service.  They've baptized thousands of people, donated over a million dollars to various charities, and volunteered thousands upon thousands of hours to their community!

God is still working in the world in mighty ways!

The question for you is: what are you expecting from God on a daily basis?

One Situation, Three Sets of Expectations

In Acts 3, Peter and John were traveling to the temple for prayer. On the way, they came across a crippled beggar who asked them for money.  Instead, Peter healed him and gave him the ability to walk. When the crowd realized what happened, they were amazed.  Eventually, Peter addressed them and rebuked them for being surprised.

In the passage, we see three groups of people, and each group had different expectations.

The Crippled Man:  Expected hopelessness

He assumed that this day would be the same as the previous day, and that the next day would be the same as well.  If he was lucky, someone would give him a little extra money. If it was a bad day, he may go another day without food.  But the best he expected from the day was getting just enough money to buy food; there was no hope.

The Crowd: Expected nothing

They had no particular expectations for the day.  It was just another day.  There was no reason to expect anything amazing or awful to happen.  This was just another day. Why would they see anything incredible?

The Apostles: Expected God to work mightily

When the beggar asks Peter for some money, Peter doesn't even pause to pray before healing the man.  It's as if it never crossed his mind that he might not be able to heal him.  He had absolute confidence that God was going to show up.  He was so confident that God would show up, that when OTHERS were surprised by the miracle, he rebuked them.  In his mind, he assumed God is going to show up in big ways on a daily basis.

Why Are We Surprised?

Acts 3
11While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade. 12When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?
Why would you be surprised when God works mightily?
If God is who He says He is, and does what He says He will do, why are we surprised?
  • This is the God who parted the Red Sea...
  • Who made the Sun stand still for Joshua...
  • Who sent His Son to redeem a fallen world...
  • Who raised His Son from the dead...
  • Who promised that we would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes...
Why would we ever be surprised when He acts mightily?
  • We should always be amazed by God
  • We shouldn’t be surprised when He does what he says he’ll do
We should expect God to act mightily, and be prepared for when He does!

Are You Prepared?

Peter and John were ready when God acted mightily.  At different times and in different places, God has shown up in different ways.  In the gospels and Acts, God showed up in the form of visible miracles.  The lame were healed, the hungry were fed, and even the dead were brought back to life.
If you're like me, you've often wished that you could experience that type of miracle.  I want to see something fantastic.

But when you really think about it, there's nothing more fantastic than when a sinner repents and put's their faith in Christ.  Hunger is temporary, sickness ends when you die, but your soul's destiny is eternal!

Are you prepared for God to show up in a major way in your life? Are you prepared for when He does show up?

The thing is, you never  know which conversation is going to change someone's life for eternity!

I want to end by sharing this video of my mother's testimony.  She did not grow up with a strong church background, and rebelled during her teenage years. Over the 30+ years since she put her faith in Christ, she's impacted 1,000s of people through the various ministries she's been a part of (she's been on staff at Hill Country Bible Church Pflugerville for over 10 years and previously led the children's ministry at Hill Country Bible Church Austin).  Beyond that, her spiritual legacy has transferred to my sister and myself.

There's no way the woman who shared her faith with my mother could have possibly known the impact those conversations were going to have.  But she was prepared when God showed up...
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

70 Ways Stay Creative



If you're responsible for generating fresh and new ideas frequently, you know how difficult it can be to remain fresh and creative.  Here is a list of 70 ideas on how to stay creative.  They're organized into five categories:

Organizing Ideas - Most of our best ideas come at the wrong times. You need a system to record ideas as you have them, and then be able to retrieve them when the time comes.

Breaking Through Barriers - We've all had the frustration of seeming to hit a barrier with our creativity. Here are some suggestions on how to break through creative blocks.

Staying Inspired - Here are some suggestions on how to keep your mind inspired.

Self-Examination - Here are some suggestions on how to continually evaluate your work.

Better Yourself - Here are some suggestions on how to continually grow as a person.

Organizing Ideas

01) Get Evernote on your phone and record every interesting thought you have
02) Make lots of lists
03) Constantly take notes
04 Weekly organize and review your lists and notes
05) Create a system to organize your ideas
06) Remember and write down the stories of where your best ideas came from

Breaking Through Barriers

07) Challenge yourself to create something new for 7 days straight
08) Share or create something that is embarrassing
09) Create a derivative work
10) Watch an old movie or listen to some old music
11) Free associate - Pick a random word or idea, and write all the thoughts that come to mind related to that idea
12) Reverse your perspective
13) Ask other people their perspective on a subject
14) Start over from scratch
15) Write down 10 solutions to a problem (ignoring whether they're good or bad solutions)
16) Write down 10 possible directions for a project for you start
17) Identify the obstacles and roadblocks you're facing
18) Ignore all of your usual routines and patterns
19) Create something in a genre or style you wouldn't normally create
20) Take a break
21) Analyze something which you think is great, and write down specifically why you think it's great
22) Create templates from your favorite pieces of art (stories, songs, works of art, designs, etc.)
23) Create a playlist which communicates the emotion of the project you're working on, and use it as a soundtrack while creating
24) Create something just for fun
25) Clean your office
26) Create outside of your normal workspace
27) Take several of your past ideas and merge them into a single project
28) Drink a large amount of your favorite source of caffeine
29) Listen to a new style of music
30)  Look into new designs
31) Stay up really late at night working on a project
32) Restrict your freedom on a project
33) Remove all rules and restrictions
34) Work with someone else
35) Create things regularly that NO ONE will ever see
36) Write a story or a song or create a piece of art just for yourself
37) Take a day off from all technology
38) Spend several hours alone with just yourself and a notebook
39) Stop over-thinking while being creative
40) Work on something where you don't stop to critique until you've created a full draft
41) Stop aiming for perfection!

Staying Inspired

42) Take something apart and put it back together again
43) Listen to emotional music while day dreaming for at least 15 minutes
44) Talk with energetic children frequently
45) Record your dreams
46) Go for a walk without music
47) Go for a walk with music
48) Go somewhere you've never been before
49) Go somewhere with old architecture
50) Dedicate 15 minutes every day to brainstorming
51) Meet with creative people
52) Seek out people whom you respect and ask them lots of questions
53) Learn a new instrument or art form
54) Learn a new word each day
55) Write down the reasons you love creating things
56) Get lots of rest
57) Observe someone else being creative
58) Do something you did for fun when you were young

Self-Examination

59) Make a list of your favorite things you've created
60) Make a list of your least favorite things you've created
61) Analyze the differences between the best and worst things you've created
62) Analyze the differences between the best and worst aspects of other people's work in your style or genre
63) Listen to inspiring music and imagine creating an incredible piece of art
64) Get a coach
65) Get feedback
66) Go back and look at your work from 5, 10, 15 years ago
67) Create an improved version of a previous project

Bettering Yourself

68) Read all the time (books, blogs, articles, etc.)
69) Learn about something new
70) Create a tutorial on how to make something






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Monday, April 21, 2014

VIDEO: "Heaven Is For Real" According to the Bible - David Platt



"Heaven is for Real" the film opened this weekend to great success. In it's opening weekend alone it generated double it's budget.  This shouldn't a terribly big surprise since the book it's based on sold 7 million copies.

But what should we make of these types of stories?

Honestly I don't know what to make of the surge of near death experience testimonial books.  I'm not sure I would be as harsh as David Platt is in this video, but I would totally agree, "Our level of discernment...is extremely low."  We're so quick to support things which seem to support our beliefs that we fail to use biblical discernment.

Check this out!



Heaven is For Real According to the Bible from David Platt on Vimeo.
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Twenty Questions Which Will Make You a Better Communicator



Whether you're a preacher or give business presentations, the essentials of communication are the same: (1) Content, (2) Clarity, and (3) Connection.  To effectively communicate, you need all three elements.  Here are twenty questions that will help you sort through content, package it in a way which is clear, and connect with the audience from start to finish.

Content

Content is the raw information you're trying to communicate.  The content is what makes the communication actually matter.
  1. [KEY QUESTION] What is the one thing the audience MUST walk away with?
  2. Are you answering a question that the audience is asking?
  3. Do you have any useful information?
  4. What information do you want to communicate?
  5. What is the least important information in your presentation?
  6. What information do you need to remind the audience of during your talk?

Clear / Clarity

Clarity addresses whether the content is communicated in a way in which the audience can understand. Clarity is when you package the content in an way the audience can receive it.
  1. [KEY QUESTION]  Are you building bridges from their current understanding to the new information you're presenting?  Or, are you expecting them to simply understand the new information?
  2. Are you literally speaking clearly? Is the environment so loud and distracting that they can't hear you?
  3. Have you stopped to consider where the audience is currently at in their understanding of the subject?
  4. What is the one thing the audience must understand?
  5. What does your audience need to understand before they can understand your talk?
  6. Are your illustrations, examples, and stories relatable to the audience?  Do you have to explain your illustrations to the audience? (HINT: If they don't naturally understand an illustration, it's not a good illustration for that audience)
  7. Are you giving them so much information that they will be overwhelmed? 


Connect

Connection deals with whether or not you are holding the audience's attention.  You may have great content, packaged in a way the audience can understand, but -- if they're not listening, you're not communicating. 
  1. [KEY QUESTION] Why should the audience continue to pay attention to anything you're about to say?
  2. How can you hook the audience from the beginning?
  3. How can you build a tension in your introduction which will lead the audience to keep listening?
  4. When is it absolutely crucial that your audience is paying attention?
  5. What elements in the environment will be a hinderance to you keeping their attention?
  6. When in your talk/presentation/sermon are you most likely to lose their attention?
  7. What are you doing to engage people with a variety of learning styles?


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Friday, April 18, 2014

Free eBook "Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die" by John Piper


Over at http://www.desiringgod.org they're giving away John Piper's "Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die."  It's a great book on (as you might have guessed) why Jesus came to die.


Click here to get a free book.


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VIDEO BLOG | How to Get Great Audio and Video Without Spending a Lot of Money

For my first adventure in video blogging I decide to do a video on my setup.  I spent a good bit of time patch working my setup together, but I think it looks and sounds great for a casual video blog.  This video walks you through how you can have a similar setup.


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From Skeptic to Servant | The Power of the Resurrection



The Book of James starts off with a truly shocking opening statement!
James 1 (NIV)
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, 
James 1 (NET)
1 From James, a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ
Ok that probably didn't shock you.

James just declared himself a SLAVE to both God (which is not surprising, since he was Jewish), AND to a man called Jesus. But he didn't just say he was a slave to Jesus. He said that Jesus was "Lord."  The Greek word there is "Kyrios," which was used by Christians EXCLUSIVELY for God.  Some Christians took the term so seriously that when the Roman Empire required that all Roman citizens declare "Kaiser Kyrios!" (Caesar is Lord), they chose to die rather than declare that anyone other than Jesus was Kyrios.

By James declaring that Jesus was Kyrios, he was declaring "Jesus is God, and I am a slave to Him. He is the Christ (The Messiah) who is the hope for all mankind."  To us as 21st century believers, that's not all that interesting of a declaration.  It's just a simple declaration of our faith.

Here's the problem: James was the half-brother of Jesus, and HE DIDN'T ALWAYS BELIEVE! 

In fact, in all of the early appearances of Jesus' brothers, they show up to make fun of Him.
Mark 3
20 Now Jesus went home, and a crowd gathered so that they were not able to eat. 21 When his family heard this they went out to restrain him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” 
Jesus' family thought He was CRAZY!
John 7
3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Jesus' brothers did not believe.

We don't hear much more about them until James resurfaces a few months later in the Book of Acts and, suddenly, this man who did not believe in Jesus and thought He was crazy is LEADING THE CHURCH IN JERUSALEM that Jesus started.

Everything changed!

Church and Jewish history eventually records that James died after being taken to the top of the Temple. The leaders demanded he take back his claim that Jesus was the Messiah.  He refused, saying:
“Himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven.”
So, they pushed him off the top of the temple, and then stoned him to death.

What changed?

How did a man go from thinking Jesus was crazy to dying for the sake of Jesus' praise? We're never given an exact answer to this question, but Paul gives us a pretty good guess as to the moment when everything changed.  In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul summarizes the Gospel with this:
1 Corinthians 15
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 
Paul gives us this incredibly concise version of the life-changing message.
  • Christ died for our sins
  • He was buried
  • He was raised
  • He appeared
Paul didn't claim Jesus was a great teacher.  He didn't claim he had a mystic experience.  He claimed something happened!  Jesus died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised, and HE APPEARED TO PEOPLE.  Paul's claim was verifiable!

If anyone was going to refute the ridiculous claim that Jesus was raised from the dead, it would be James.  He didn't believe in Jesus.  He thought his big brother was crazy.

But 1 Corinthians has a little bit more to say:
1 Corinthians 15
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James,
The risen Christ appeared to James, and it changed everything!  In that instant, James' thinking went from, "My brother died as a crazy person," to "Jesus is the Messiah. He is the Lord, and I am His slave."

In an instant, his identity changed!

As James continues to write, he's going to give us a lot of commands, but he always argues from the idea that A CHANGE IN IDENTITY LEADS TO A CHANGE IN ACTIVITY.  He's not giving you a list of activities which will change your identity.  If you followed every single one of his commands, but you fail to embrace the reality that Jesus died for your sins, He was buried, He rose, and He appeared, you have gained nothing.

He wants you to experience Jesus the way that He did.  When that happens, it changes you from the inside out.  If your identity is in Christ, it changes your activity.
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Free eBook, "When Helping Hurts" by Steve Corbett


Here's a great book on benevolence and compassion ministries.  How do you help those who are struggling without hurting them or yourself.  The book is by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert.

Click here to download the eBook.
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I Have a Two Year Old! ...and lots of pictures of him!

Today my little boy turns two.  Here's a series of pictures where you can watch him from two minutes old to two years old.  Now for an absurd number of pictures...






Sadie seemed to know Jennifer was pregnant before we did.  The entire time she would lay on Jennifer's belly.
 1st time holding him.












First bath!


An early smile
 First Boot Camp with our church

First Summer Fest with the church




Charlie Brown







 First light saber duel



First Christmas
















 

First birthday
First time at the beach





 First time trick or treating


First time watching Star Wars
 First hair cut







 First silly string fight
























2nd birthday party!

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