God's Word Over Google

How many times have you been in a conversation with someone and been wondering about something?

I'll sit with friends at lunch and we'll be discussing some topic. Usually sports. There's always a question. Where'd that guy go to school? Who beat that guy's record? When was the last time that team went to the Super Bowl?

As adults in our mid-thirties, we have still not become accustomed to the idea of having access to the wealth of all human knowledge in our pockets. We will sit and argue (politely) about something when someone says, "Well, why don't we just ask Google?"

There's no need to wonder anymore - we have the answers in our smartphones, which are constantly connected and seeking out that information, important or not, that we desire.

I think if we took the same idea with Scripture then we'd be much better Christians. Instead of arguing pointlessly about an issue, we need to ask, "Why don't we just ask God's Word about that?"

We may have access the wealth of knowledge in our pockets, but we have access to God in our Bibles. We need to be looking to the Bible for answers to life's most important questions, not to Google.

If You Stand For Nothing, You'll Fall For Anything

In a microcosm, this video is everything that is wrong with how we view ourselves in this world today. 

What kills me about this video is the staggering postmodern view that young adults have these days. A postmodern view says, "You do you, and as long as you don't harm me or get in my way, everything is fine. We're all fine by believing whatever we want, and everyone is fine."

In the video, the 5-foot-9 white male asks the students if he is a woman, a Chinese woman, a first-grader, or substantially taller than he appears. The students can't seem to give a straight answer to any of those questions, for fear of not being politically correct. 

That's the problem. We have gone so far off the radar of politically correct that we can't even tell a 5-foot-9 white guy that he's not a 1st Grade Asian Woman who is well over 6 feet tall. 

There's a point when this has gotten ridiculous, and I think we've reached it. 

Capturing the 2016 AIM Series

 The AIM Series is a video project from Adventures in Ministry where we are releasing eight quality videos from eight outstanding speakers every year. This is our second year, and we're excited to be providing this free resource to all starting on May 1st. 

But how are we doing it? 

Well, the University Church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama and the Graymere Church of Christ in Columbia, Tennessee have been gracious enough to grant us use of their equipment and space as we film these videos. Most of the video were filmed inside of the Graymere TV studio. 

How it's technically put together is probably a lot less complex than you might think. High Definition video has come a long way in the past decade. 

Central to everything is the Blackmagic ATEM TV Studio. It's a hub that connects all of our cameras up (we're using three) and routes one video signal to our BlackMagic Shuttle capture system. Everything is captured digitally, there's no actual film or tapes involved. 

We're able to switch the views dynamically as the video is captured with the Blackmagic software. This simulates a real board that you might pay thousands of dollars for but is included the Blackmagic ATEM hub.

We're using some great cameras for the AIM series this year - two Sony HDR FX7's and a Canon Vixia HF 500 for the short black and white views you'll see on the videos this year. All three cameras are extremely high quality and professional grade. 

Speaking of professional grade, we're capturing audio separately with the Zoom H5 recorder. We have a Shure lapel mic that all of out speakers will be wearing to capture really great quality audio. 

After the video is captured on our solid state hard drive, we plug it up to our Mac mini and use an app called Compressor to, well, compress the footage. Our 15 minute videos are usually about 25 gigs each before we compress them down to about 3 gigs each. 

After that's done, we take the compressed video files and put them into Final Cut Pro. Alongside that we we take the audio from the Zoom H5 and sync it with the video in Final Cut. We make any edits necessary to the video, and add the graphics and titles in. 

Our beginning motion graphics we composed entirely in Adobe After Effects and both the paper AIM sequence and the Legit sequence took over 17 hours of work to create. They are rendered into self-contained videos and then put in front of all our videos this year. 

After all the editing and adding titles is done, we'll do some audio cleanup and color correction and then export our project to one, self-contained video that you can download on theaimseries.com and view on our AIM YouTube channel. 

Every video averages about five hours of work to complete, but it's well worth it to give your churches a high-quality and FREE resource to use this summer. 

Head over to theaimseries.com to sign up. We can't wait to show you these videos on May 1st! 

Being A Light In Today's World

This was a sermon I delivered at the Central Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on April 10, 2016. I'm happy to present the full audio and text of this sermon in its entirety here.  

Let's talk about billboards.

You know what billboards are. Advertising. Rolling down the road and seeing these obnoxious, huge signs that say "In a wreck? Need a check?" You may or may not pay any attention to them unless they're really cool or really funny. Like these.

What do billboards do? They represent the company or service or organization that they are advertising for. Whether it's a product, service, or idea - that organization is represented by that billboard. That billboard is a reflection of that company or organization.

Just like these billboards - YOU are a reflection of Christ. Every day - you're a walking billboard for Christ. And everything you do - how you act, where you go, what you say - is a reflection of Christ in your life. You are the lens that people are experiencing Christ through.

Now, that sounds like a lot of pressure, it sounds like a big job. But it's true. If you call yourself a Christian, you are a walking billboard for Christ. So - How are you representing him at your job? At your school? On your ball team? How are you representing him online?

In today's world, we have incredible and boundless ways to be representatives for Christ. Through the gift of technology, we can reach out to people who we might have never reached before. As small as the world has become, we can communicate effectively the Gospel of Christ without even leaving our living room.

So this morning, as representatives of Christ reflecting his glory to everyone we know, how can we be that light for God?

#1. Encourage Others

Being a light starts with you. It starts with those closest to you. Before we can even think about influencing those we don't know, we have to start with those that we do.

Some of you are great encouragers. But when we talk about our modern world, a lot of our communication takes place on our phones, over email, and on apps like Snapchat and Facebook and Twitter. Somehow, some way, we think that different rules apply to us when we're on the internet and on social media, and we say mean and horrible things that we would NEVER say in real life. We lose our minds, and I can't figure out why. I've got news for you - the internet IS real life! It has BECOME our lives!

Before you hit that SEND button, think about this: "Would I say this to that person's face?"

Bring out the old "What Would Jesus Do?" - would Jesus tweet or retweet this? Would he like this video on YouTube? Would he say this hateful thing, even in private? If he was standing over my shoulder watching me type this, would I be okay with that?

Paul tells the Thessalonian church something every important:

[ 1 Thessalonians 5.11] [ESV]

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Paul was so proud of the Thessalonian church. They were doing it right. You see, Paul had been forced to leave abruptly from that church that he helped to start. Something had kept him away - most scholars believe it was a threat from the government or a political blockade that kept him from going back and seeing them.

Remember, there were no phones. No email. No texting. No Facebook messenger or Snapchat. Literally no way of communicating short of handwritten and hand-delivered letters. As Paul had been forced to leave his friends, he left not knowing whether or not he would see them again. He actually had to send Timothy instead to check up on them, and when he got the report back on how they were doing, he was incredibly relieved to find out that they had not only stayed the course and obeyed God and kept going with what Paul had taught them, but they had even grown and prospered in the face of harsh persecution!

So Paul couldn't help but be proud of them. Almost like a proud parent when their son or daughter makes the game-winning play on the ball field: "Yep. That's my boy. That's my girl."

So he said, "Encourage one another. Build one another up, just as you have been doing!"

Church, do we do that?

Are we constantly seeking ways that we can encourage one another and build one another up? I know that no church is perfect, and that we all have hush our issues, but how much are we concentrating on building one another up?

The word for that is edification. That's an old-sounding word. Edify.

It's found in Ephesians 4.12 - it's talking about "equipping the saints (that's you) for the work of ministry, for the edification of the body of Christ (also you)."

What does 'edify' mean? When I think of the word, I think of an edifice, a building. That's what this word literally means, 'to build up.'

When I was a young man (hopefully I still am a young man, but I digress), my father would come in on Saturday mornings and wake me from my peaceful slumber and simply say, "Get up. Let's go." I'd have about 30 seconds to get dressed, which was actually good training for the Marines now that I think about it.

But my dad used to build all types of things - small buildings, shops, extensions on homes - but mostly he built outdoor decks. I remember going out with him on those Saturdays and sometimes spending half the day just getting ready for building. We would have post holes dug (I was usually the one to do that) and we would mix concrete and fill in those holes with posts that would hold up the entire structure. We'd spend hours just on prep work to build the foundation before we actually built anything at all.

The overall theme of Paul's letter to the Ephesians is unity. Unity in the body of Christ. And part of unity is building one another up. But that can't be done unless the building up is done on a firm foundation.

You know the song the kids sing sometimes - "The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock." The wise man built his house on the sturdy, unmoving foundation and when the rains came, he didn't have anything to worry about, his house stood firm. But the foolish man built his house on the sand, and the rains washed it away. I believe the term the kids use is "The house went SPLAT."

Speaking of things going splat, it is a LOT harder to build something up than tear it down. Anybody can tear someone down - it's a lot harder to build someone up. Psychiatrists say that for every negative thing a person hears, there has to be a minimum of five positives to erase that negative. These days with social media - Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter - we can tear someone down from hundreds or thousands of miles away. With these anonymous apps like Whisper, After School, and Yik-Yak, we can tear someone down and they won't even know who it was! Young people, if you're using an app to mask your identity or give someone a false impression of who you really are, that's wrong. God knows and sees who you really are.

Which brings us to our next point...

Be a light by...

#2. Being Yourself

Let's talk about compartmentalization. Do you know what that is? That means that we put our lives into compartments. We act a certain way at work or school versus at home, we use different language on the ball team versus at church. We set ourselves up like our chest of drawers at home. Instead of putting t-shirts here, socks here, we put church here, home here, school here, internet here. We keep them separated, almost as if we're living different lives.

But God knows who you truly are, online or not. He knows your thoughts and feelings, and that's scary. In order to be a light to this world, we can't compartmentalize ourselves as Christians - we have to be consistent throughout our lives. Be yourself - don't try to live up to someone else's standard or be cool in someone else's circle - be yourself.

When I think about being yourself, I think about who you really are, inside your heart. Only you and God know who that person is. That brings to mind two scriptures...

For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

That's in Proverbs 23.

Above all else, GUARD YOUR HEART, for everything you do flows from it.

That's in Proverbs 4.18.

You probably get told all or tell yourself the time to make decisions with your mind and not your heart, right? Like your mind isn't connected to your heart??

If it's in your head, it'll eventually be in your heart. If it's in your heart, it'll eventually get in your head.

There is no such thing as a non-emotional decision. Everything you think you end up doing. Your feelings affect your faith or your faith affects your feelings, and you cannot separate your feelings from your faith.

John Mayer let stuff get to him once. John Mayer is a singer/songwriter who has had multiple albums go platinum. And there was a period several years ago where he just let all the haters, all the bloggers, all the twitterers - he let that become the only thing he paid attention to and it started changing him in a way he didn't like. He actually moved to Montana from L.A. so he could get away from all of it.

He said this:

"Celebrities will spend hundreds of thousands (if not millions) on personal protection. They'll hire bodyguards. They'll put up fences and walls around their homes. They'll install elaborate security systems. They'll spend all this money and then go check the internet and read the most horrible things that people have said about them every morning. And when they do that, they'll forfeit all that money they spent on security because you let em get in."

You may have not let them in your house, but you let them in your heart. You didn't let them touch your body, but you let them in your heart!

It's not just celebrities, we do it too. We let all sorts of stuff in our hearts and then we wonder why we're miserable and unhappy!

Why am I unhappy? Why am I miserable? Why am I irritable? Why am I a jerk? Because you let them get in your heart!

We gotta keep our guard up. We have to protect what matters. If we can protect our hearts, we can be ourselves. If we protect our hearts, we can be free ourselves to show the light of Christ brighter and brighter and not be held down by our own hearts.

#Represent Christ in Everything You Do

Jesus says,

[Matthew 5.13-16] [ESV]

13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

God has called us to be salt and light to this dying world! Make no mistake - this world will not get better. It will never be at peace. If you're waiting for world peace you're going to be waiting a long time. And Jesus tells us that and he tells us that while we're here, our job is to be salt and light.

Salt was used back in the day for preservation. Now we use it in everything. When salt is applied, it dissolves inward and disappears. Because Jesus is a master illustrator, he uses the illustration of salt to speak to the inward part of us, our character.

The light speaks to our outward part - our testimony - revealing and illuminating the truth.

You are the light of the world - you are Plan A. There is no Plan B. You are God's plan to save a dying world that is lost in sin.

#Conclusion

Going back to our first point today - you are a walking billboard, a reflection of Christ in everything that you do.

This light represents you. It's pure. It's constant. You'd be surprised how far one point of light can go in the darkness. All your job is is to reflect this light. It's not to change it or distort it or shine it in people's faces - it's to simply reflect the light of Christ to the world.

What does it mean to be a light for Jesus? Well it doesn't mean you must be perfect. It doesn't mean you have to preach on the corner. But what it does mean is that you need to love like Christ loved. Have compassion for others like he did. Encourage others like he would. Be His representative here on earth.

It means you conduct yourselves on your ball team, at your place of work, on that favorite social network like Christ would have you to do, because people that are lost are using you as a lens to see the Gospel. What are they seeing?

What if - WHAT IF - we decided to use these devices to glorify God in all things? WHAT IF we decided to use our athletic abilities for God's glory? WHAT IF we decided to use our careers and jobs and businesses to reflect what Christ means to us? WHAT IF we decided to use our lives as a billboard to represent Christ in all things?

What if?

I'll tell you what if. If you were to do that, you would change the world.

Jesus used 12 ordinary men 2000 years ago who had no iPhones, no internet, not even telephones or telegraphs to make a permanent dent in this world and changed it forever. Imagine what your youth group could do with the tools and technology and influence that we have now?

I don't how else to say it - your conduct in this modern world, no matter where that may be on Facebook or in the park with your kids - will directly reflect what everyone thinks of the Church and of Jesus Christ. You may be the only Bible some people read. So what are people reading? And what are you advertising?

This morning, how are you representing Christ? Are you representing him at all? If you've strayed from that path, from the path God has set for you to be an example to others, to your kids, to your spouse, come back today. We can pray for you and ask forgiveness for you. If you haven't made Christ your savior, then why not do that today? Come right up front and we can baptize you this morning.

Why don't you come while we stand and sing.

"The Most Important Thing We Do"

A funny thing happened the other day. I got a request from a friend who works here in Columbia for some quality teaching materials. He was trying to talk to another friend about coming to Christ. I naturally jumped on the opportunity, grabbing up some copies of Take Route and Access to God so I could bring them to him.

As my wife and I were heading up to Target with the kids one day, I was a little hesitant to ask her to make a stop to deliver the materials to my friend. It wasn't out of our way or anything, it's just that if you have small children, you understand that time is very much of the essence when going out somewhere. I explained the situation and that the materials I was getting to my friend were going to be used to talk to someone about Christ.

"That's okay, honey," she said. "This is the most important thing we do."

This is the most important thing we do.

It isn't writing or blogging. It isn't coming up with clever podcasts or themes for retreats. It isn't even making sure we have the best church service in town.

It's bringing others to Christ. On a deeply personal and real level.

Not through Twitter, not through an email newsletter. Face to face.

I often forget that God wants us in the trenches. He wants us talking to people. He does not hope but expects us to go into all the world, despite having magnificent technology at our fingertips. Jesus told us to "Go." So many of us don't.

Our job as disciples is to make other disciples, plain and simple. We need to be reminded that that is the most important thing we do.

Great Changes to The Site

Sometimes I feel as if I may have neglected my site here. With the amount of content I've produced over the last 3 years here, I make no changes to the site at all and do not write any articles and I still average over 200 views a week. That's not bad considering I'm not offering up regular content.

But what if I did? I decided this week to change that. No, this isn't an April Fool's joke. No, I'm not going to try to write an article every day, and no, I'm not looking to "expand my brand" or make any money - I just want to share my knowledge and thoughts with you, for free. I hope to bring you 2-3 high quality posts a week from now on.

I have so many people that ask me about tech stuff on a daily basis, and I love it. Not because it makes me feel popular, but because I'm hopefully helping people and making their lives easier.

That's what I hope this personal site of mine has been and what it will become more of in the future. A place for people to make their lives easier. So it was time for renewal. A revamp.

You'll notice the slight redesign. I wanted the content to be king - I wanted you to be able to find what you need when you need it. There's a Search bar for this site right on the sidebar now for that very purpose. There's lots of content already on my site - so take another look around if you haven't recently.

You'll also notice some new sections and pages. Some are super-nerdy like Taskpaper, and others are more practical like some of my Resource pages. I hope you can find what you need, no matter what you're looking for.

You'll find something else really cool: my Reading List. I've hacked together a Pinboard + Instapaper + IFTTT workflow to allow you to essentially see a real-time feed of what I'm reading. Anytime I save an article to read, it will pop up on the top of that page. Pretty neat, huh?

UPDATE: Now you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter, a summary of posts throughout the week, plus some extra goodies.

I hope that my site will become even more of a destination to read
some great things about technology, ministry, and spirituality. I hope that it will help people. Most importantly, I hope it's just one more way that I can glorify God With my talents.

What's in Your Mac's MenuBar?

A MenuBar is that bar at the top of your Mac's screen. Sometimes, apps like to stick shortcuts and helpful tools in the MenuBar to help you access features faster or see relevant information at a glance. It's super-Mac-nerdy, but here's a look at some apps and utilities that I'm using in my Mac's menubar.

First off, a disclaimer. My Mac's MenuBar never looks like this. This is far too cluttered and long for me, so I use the excellent Bartender 2 to make my MenuBar look like this:

Bartender allows me to have a pullout "drawer" with a keyboard shortcut so I can have easy access to some of my apps and utilities without having to have my entire MenuBar cluttered.

F.lux. First from left to right is F.lux, a free utility that changes the temperature of your Mac's screen, a lot like the new Night Shift feature for iOS 9.3 which just shipped last week. Basically, it eases strain on your eyes at night time by removing the blue light that's emitted from the screen. Blue light is the light that signals your brain to wake up in the morning, and the orange-red sunlight is the light that signals your brain to tell you that the day is done. Theoretically, F.lux should help you sleep better if you do lots of late-night work. I know Night Shift on iOS has helped me sleep better for sure.  

Screens. Screens in popular VNC client that I use to access  several computers and work remotely on them from my main Mac or iPad. Screens is excellent at this, and let's you connect remotely to those computers in a fast and easy way with great design on the app. I do lots of video compression that takes a long time sometimes and it's nice to be able to do that on another computer that I don't have physical access to. If you need to use multiple computers, Screens is the way to go. 

StatsBar. This is a cool little app that allows you to see a myriad of into at a glance. I can see my machine's memory, disk usage, and CPU usage all in one little pane, just like a pretty version of Activity Monitor. Similar apps like Menumeters do the same thing, but I've found Statsbar to be the one I stuck with. 

Adobe. Adobe's icon is pretty useful, but only when you need to update your apps in your Creative Cloud. 

Transporter. I have a File Transporter sitting on my desk - it's basically like your own private Dropbox for syncing files. 

Unclutter. This is a neat utility where it lives like a drawer coming from the top of your screen. Simply go up to the top of your screen and scroll down with two fingers on your trackpad like you're scrolling down an internet page, and you are presented with a helpful drawer divided into three sections: Pinned Files, Clipboard History, and Notes. Very helpful in switching between apps as well. 

Droplr. In the battle between file sharing and URL shorteners, Droplr is the king. It won out over CloudApp for me because of its feature set. I've paid for the premium plan for over a year now and love it. I pay $99/year and can have uploads up to 2GB in size, have custom domain branding and a custom downloads page. If you find yourself sharing big files on a regular basis and needing to share them with others, Droplr is for you. 

Copied. Not pictured (because I don't have it as an icon in the menubar) is Copied, a very helpful utility that functions a lot like Droplr except just for text and images. Their iOS apps are also pretty great. 

1Password. Couldn't live without this password manager. I manage a bunch of websites for people, and I have all of my sensitive information and passwords locked inside of 1Password. I've never found anything comparable, and I would highly recommend it. 

ItsyCal. This is an older calendar utility - but I just love it. Lots of people swear by Fantastical, but IstyCal works great for me. 

Dropbox. The linchpin of my entire operation. Couldn't do work without it. 

NoSleep. There was a time when I hooked my 13-inch Macbook up to an external monitor, and NoSleep helped me keep my Mac on while the lid was shut. Simple and free. 

System Icons. The rest of the icons in my menubar are system-level ones that I keep handy to get info or make changes quickly. I keep AirPlay there because I'm usually always listening to podcasts or music through my Bose Soundlink, as well connecting to Apple TVs here at the church building to present in classes and such. I keep the Keyboard icon there because I'm so often looking for special characters. Sound is self-explanatory. I still use Time Machine as a secondary "easy" backup but still make images of my entire computer every month using SuperDuper. I keep Bluetooth up there to keep connected to my Apple Wireless keyboard that I love typing on as well as Bluetooth speakers. I keep my Clock on military time because, well, that's the only way a sane person would do it. 

So I hope this has helped - I hope you'll share your MenuBar with me as well and have it featured here on the site. Cheers!

 

The Day After the Resurrection

Image via Jacob Abshire

Image via Jacob Abshire

Something intresting to think about. What happened on the day after the Resurrection?

It's now been 24 hours since Jesus came back to life. If you're keeping track, Jesus only made five appearances his first day back:

  • To Mary Magdalene (given a message to the disciples)
  • To the other women who come to the tomb (intending to complete the burial preparation of His body)
  • To two disciples on the Road to Emmaus
  • To Simon Peter (nowhere recorded, but alluded to in Luke 24:33 and 1 Corinthians 1:5)
  • To the astonished disciples [Thomas is absent]

If you're John, and you saw Jesus die before your eyes, you wake up this morning with a renewed hope. Everything is different now. Everything that Jesus said, even though there may have been doubts before, is absolutely true now, and he's living and walking around proves it.

The Son of God defeated even death yesterday. And for that, there's hope for all of us.

Effective Apps & Resources for Youth Ministry

Below are the notes for my lecture I gave at Faulkner at their Youth & Family Summit on February 29, 2016. 

A few notes before we begin:

  • Isaiah 44.9–20 – don’t make your tech an idol
  • People shouldn’t say “Wow that was a great presentation” - they should say “He or she really brought that passage to life”
  • Don’t ever let your tech speak louder than the Word.
  • God used people - Moses and Joshua and Jesus and Paul - he didn’t use an app to spread the Gospel
  • If your focus is on your PowerPoint and not pointing kids to the Gospel, you need to reevaluate your preparation
  • My process: [1] Look at the Word, [2] Write my lesson, [3] Add in any technology.

Bible Study / Apps

  • TheBible.org app / greattreasures.org (it ain’t pretty but it works!)
  • Logos Bible Software
  • YouVersion (YouVersion Live interactive notes)
  • Faithlife Study Bible
  • Accordance
  • ESV Bible

Resources

  • AdventuresInMinistry.com
  • AIM Series
  • Ministry Bits podcast
  • Active Digital Parenting
  • Start2Finish
  • Wes McAdams
  • The Bible Project on YouTube
  • The Youth Cartel
  • YFC.net
  • Download Youth Ministry
  • The Source for YM
  • Youth Ministry 360
  • The Clues Brothers (escape games from Andrew and Philip Jenkins)
  • Open.Lifechurch.tv

Reasearch and Writing

  • Editorial for iOS
  • Byword for iOS
  • Apple Notes for iOS
  • Copied for iOS
  • Simplenote
  • Evernote (good app but not recommended)
  • Microsoft OneNote

Social Media

  • Instagram (fastest growing social network in the world)
  • Flow for Instagram (nice UI, multiple accounts, iPad app)
  • Tweetbot for Mac / iOS (great Twitter client, multiple accts)
  • Fenix for Twitter for Android
  • Tweetdeck for Mac (multiple accts)
  • Buffer (time-deliver posts, multiple accts)
  • SaveFrom.net
  • Adobe Post
  • Adobe Clip

Graphics

  • Canva for iOS
  • Gimp
  • Photoshop + Lightroom subscription (9.99/mo)
  • Pixelmator for Mac

Organization

  • MinHub Youth for iOS
  • Microsoft Excel or OneNote
  • Dropbox
  • Postagram
  • Ink Cards
  • Wunderlist
  • 2Do
  • Omnifocus

Websites / Mobile Apps

  • Squarespace
  • Hover
  • Clover sites
  • Subsplash

Organization

  • MinHub Youth for iOS
  • Microsoft Excel or OneNote
  • Dropbox
  • Postagram
  • Ink Cards
  • Wunderlist
  • 2Do
  • Omnifocus

Win With God in 2016

The following is a sermon I delivered on Sunday, December 27 at Graymere Church of Christ. Feel free to use this in its entirety - and you can also download the Powerpoint or Keynote.

[1 John 5.4]

We love winners, don't we?

There may be no greater mystery in professional sports than the Buffalo Bills in the early 1990s. You'll recall that the Bills were able to advance to the Super Bowl in each of the seasons from 1990-94. Notice that I didn't say that they won the Super Bowl. 

In the recent documentary by ESPN entitled The Four Falls of Buffalo, it was remarked that "there is no greater joy in sports than winning the Super Bowl, and no greater pain in losing one." The Bills were a team that just couldn't finish, and in dramatic fashion. While hindsight is 20/20 and looking back it was certainly a great accomplishment to even play in four consecutive Super Bowls (4 of the 32 teams in the NFL have never even had the honor),the inability to just finish the season the way you started has haunted this proud football franchise for decades

Because it's not how you start, it's how you finish

What matters is what happens in the end. 

We're finishing up an entire season that most of the world dedicates to the birth of Jesus Christ. And while that is a significant event, it is no nearly as significant as how Jesus died and was resurrected. 

Jesus had what was the greatest comeback in history. To be put to death on a cruel cross and be raised by God from the dead three days later was the most focal point of global history. It not only showed him to be the one true Son of God, but it showed everyone he was who he said he was. 

It's not how you start, it's how you finish. 

Maybe you're finishing this year on a bad note. Maybe you're a little down. Maybe you're battling health problems. Maybe you're in a bit of financial bind. Maybe you're a little lost spiritually. Maybe you haven't been the Christian you wanted to be this year - maybe you didn't attend worship as faithfully as you wanted, you didn't get involved as much as you wanted, or you didn't study as much as you wanted to. 

A new year is a perfect opportunity for a fresh start. It's an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. Nothing really changes except the calendar, but mentally, there's something new and awesome about having a new year to get some things done. To resolve ourselves to change and make things better. 

The Buffalo Bills had not one, not two, not three, but four opportunities to finish strong. They didn't capitalize. But you can. 

Tonight I'm going to give you three reasons why you can win in 2016. 

 

We can win in 2016 with God because...

I. We Have the Power to Change

There seems to always be a guarantee in life that change will happen. Change is something we tend to fear and become anxious about because we do not feel in control of life. The good news is that God has a plan for your life to hope, future, and to prosper. If we trust in God and allow the change to grow us to become more like Jesus Christ in how we respond and act, then we are promised that all things will work together for good for those who love Him and keep His commandments!

As I look back on 2015, lots has changed for my family and I that I never saw coming. This time last year I was looking at planning the Church Street Youth Group for 2015, and I was really excited. I had become a little jaded in youth work and a little burnt out. But through some time off, some study, and talking with some mentors, I was back at work and fired up about 2015. I was working harder than ever and I really thought that was where I was going to be for a number of years to come. 

And then Graymere came knocking. And it was an opportunity that my family and I could not pass up. 

It has been a different kind of challenge working here - one that I didn't expect. But my family and I dealt with the changes that came to us and we responded in a great way. 

Change is inevitable. Sometimes people say "I don't like change" and to me, that's just an excuse not to push yourself, to not test yourself and realize the true servant that God would have you to be. 

But the greatest thing about change is that the power lies within us to make change in our own lives. We can also choose how we respond to changes around us. God has given us an uncanny ability to evaluate what needs to change in our lives and make it happen. 

A New Year is a great time to rededicate your life to serving God. We can have the assurance that God will be faithful to us in times of change, whether that's in our own lives or the lives of those around us. 

The well-known passage in Deuteronomy illustrates this perfectly for us:

31.6 - Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified of them, because the Lord your God goes with you, and he will never forsake you.

Just as we might take a walk with our spouse down a path, I like to imagine that God is with me, right beside me, where ever I go and whatever I do. And it's important to note that God will not change. Ever. We are the ones who must do that. 

The world and the devil have a great way of trying to convince us that God will conform to whatever box we try to fit him in. And that's just not how it is. 

[Malachi 3.6] 

I, the Lord, do not change.

I'm reminded of the well-known story of the battleship that was out at sea. The captain, who was worried about the deteriorating weather conditions, stayed on the bridge to keep an eye on all activities.

One night, the lookout on the bridge suddenly shouted, “Captain! A light, bearing on the starboard bow.”

“Is it stationary or moving astern?” the captain asked.

The lookout replied that it was stationary. This meant the battleship was on a dangerous collision course with the other ship. 

The captain immediately ordered his signalman to signal to the ship: “We are on a collision course. I advise you to change course 20 degrees east.”

Back came a response from the other ship: “You change course 20 degrees west.”

Agitated by the arrogance of the response, the captain asked his signalman to shoot out another message: “I am a captain, you change course 20 degrees east.”

Back came the second response: “I am a second class seaman, you had still better change course 20 degrees west.”

The captain was furious this time. He shouted to the signalman to send back a final message: “I am a battleship! Change course 20 degrees east right now!"

Back came the flashing response: “You change course 20 degrees west. I am a lighthouse.”

The Lord is our lighthouse, and no matter how much fussing or complaining or sin or the devil tricking us into God somehow changing, he won't. It is we who must do the changing. 

 

We can win in 2016 because...

II. Jesus Has Already Overcome the World

Jesus says himself in John 16.33 to "be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."

That's great news. Because we can reason from that one statement that Jesus made that if he has already overcome the world, then there is nothing in this world that should overcome us!

In fact, Jesus says in this same verse that we will have tribulation. We will be tested. We will be tempted - by the world. He says these things so that we can have peace. He has already overcome the world. 

[1 John 5.4-5]

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This passage is all about victory. We sing the song so many times: Victory in Jesus. My savior forever, he sought me, he bought me with his redeeming blood. That's our victory. But what does victory have to do with a maturing love for God?

We as Christians live in a real world with real obstacles. Real temptations. Real pain. Sometimes you may read scripture or come to worship or Bible class and feel like it's not the real world. That the Bible isn't speaking to you - it's speaking to all those people without sin, distress, or pain. 

It isn't easy to obey God. It's much easier to drift in the world, make our own decisions, follow our own plan, and "do our own thing." 

But the Christian is "born of God." We may look at that phrase in scripture and gloss over it, but this is what gives us ultimate victory. This is what can help us win. "Whatever is born of God overcomes the world." 

The Greek word for victory is actually Nike (NÉE-Kay). Not the shoe brand. The word simply means victory, and those two words: overcome and victory are favorites of John, both in his Gospel and his letters. 

Our victory is the result of faith, and we grow in faith as we grow in love. 

There's an old legend of a soldier who was serving in the army of Alexander the Great. The soldier wasn't acting bravely, he wasn't fighting and pressing as he should have. 

The great general approached the young man and said, "What's your name, soldier?"

"My name is Alexander, sir," the man replied. 

The general looked at him straight in the eye and said firmly: "Soldier, get in there and fight - or change your name!"

What is our name? We are called "Children of God, the born-again ones of God." Alexander the Great wanted his name to be a symbol of courage - our name carries with is the assurance of victory. To be born of God means to share in God's victory. And when we're victorious, we have overcome the world. 

 

We can win in 2016 because...

III. You're Backing the Winning Side Already

We need to understand that God is on our side, and it's the winning side!

When you feel overwhelmed, it's important to go to God in prayer and confess your inability and inadequacy. You need to be honest if you're afraid and tell God exactly how you feel.

In 2 Chronicles 20:12, Jehoshaphat says to God in prayer, “We are helpless in the face of this large army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but we look to you for help" (GNT). 

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt like there was a problem in your marriage, your career, or somewhere in your life that you thought was overwhelming? You start at the beginning of the week thinking maybe you can handle it, but by Wednesday you're out of power.

Maybe you've felt like the author of this poem:

"The world had a hopeful beginning
But man spoiled it all by sinning
We trust that the story
Will end in God's glory
But right now the other side's winning."

Have you ever felt like that? You pick up the newspaper, and it looks like the bad guys are winning. There are kids killing other kids in our schools! The moral and spiritual climate of our society is collapsing. It looks like the bad guys are winning in many ways.

So what do you do? You say, “God, we're powerless, and we don't know what to do.” You tell God exactly how you feel. 

It's interesting when you compare verse 12, where it says we're powerless, to verse 6, where Jehoshaphat says, "God, you have all the power in the world." It doesn't matter if you're powerless if God has power. If you put your trust in him, he'll take care of you.

I don't have to have power. You don't, either. And you don't have to pretend that you do. All you have to do is trust in God, who's got all the power that you need.

It's difficult to express our inadequacy, even to God. But when we turn over control to Him, we can trust that he will bring us the ultimate victory. 

 

Conclusion

The Buffalo Bills couldn’t win the one game at the end of the season that mattered the most. If we trust in God and fight those battles for him - it may even look hopeless and look like we’re going to lose, but we will have victory in the end. 

So this evening, how does your story end? What’s happened in the past doesn’t matter - only moving forward is what God cares about. We can win with God because we have that power to change. We can win with God because Jesus has already overcome the world. And we can win with God because we’ve backed the winning side already.