Be Bold

(Day 23 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

I once heard a story about a man who, when he was a teenager, wanted to ask out a pretty girl he liked. However, he chickened out and did not ever ask her. Years later he found out that the girl’s mother had told her it takes a lot of courage for a young man to ask a girl out and that she should date anyone brave enough to ask at least once (within reason). So if this man had been bold enough to ask this girl on a date she would have said yes, but it was too late by the time he learned that.

Sometimes the idea of being bold scares us to the point of never trying something. And I think that can happen when we pray to God, too. Plus we are always told to “fear” God, to have a deep sense of awe and respect for God above anything else. That can make it easy to think that the God we fear should not be bothered with our little issues, and we should pray for only big things or things we feel safe praying.

The good news is God loves us! He showed His unending love for us when He sent Jesus to save us. When God became a man it also showed us that God is not bothered or inconvenienced by our small issues. He cares about every part of our lives, big and small.

To take it another step further Jesus was very bold, even in death. And we are to be like Jesus. When He died, the curtain to the temple was torn in two, symbolizing that we can come to God at anytime from anywhere. We do not need a priest or pastor to help us, and we do not have to pray only in a temple or a church building. Those things are great but not necessary in order for God to hear you.

The curtain tearing was like God telling us, “Come to me, I am ready to hear it all! So don’t hold back.” God is a big boy, and He can handle anything we can come up with. And all of this together should bring us hope and encourage us to be bold.

God is all-powerful, He loves us each more that we can imagine, and He invites us to talk to Him about anything because He cares about us so much. Whatever you want to pray about, you can pray about. Any struggle, or joy, or confusion, or anything else you want. You can even pray to God when you are mad, even if you are mad at Him for a while. The important thing is that you believe in Him, you are talking to Him, and being honest with Him. When you interact with God that way, great things happen. So go to God with anything you want or need. Be bold!

This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. Ephesians 3:11-12

So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! Since this new way gives us such confidence,we can be very bold. 2 Corinthians 3:11-12

By Frank Welch

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God Knows Better

(Day 20 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Matthew 6:25-33 

The key to submissive prayer is an understanding that God knows what we need better than we do. We are His children, and He is a good father who is pleased to provide for our needs. Therefore, Jesus instructs us to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness foremost, because those are what we need the most. As we eagerly seek to know Him more, He will provide for our needs. As he promises in the passage above, He will provide for our physical needs, making sure we are fed and clothed; but more importantly, he will provide for our spiritual needs, giving us more of Himself.

Psalm 37:4 tells us to “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” It is not wrong to have desires, and we know that God loves to give good gifts to His children; but we must first delight in Him. As we seek Him more, He will become our heart’s greatest desire; and He will never fail to give us more of Himself, allowing us to know Him and love Him more.

By Kyle Reilly

3 Self-Talking Points to Temper IOS

What is IOS? No, it doesn’t have anything to do with Apple. However, you can see people battling it as often as you see Apple products. IOS is a syndrome you have dealt with sometime in your life. People suffer with it on social media, tv shows, in the board room, and at the family reunion. It would be nice if there were a pill or shot for it, but so far, no.

We’ve all dealt with it, particularly in our formative years. When you gave that first book report in 3rd grade, when you got your first job, when you picked your date up for prom-it was heavy. Some people overcome it quickly; others struggle with it all their lives. Overcoming IOS may be a process or could be a defining moment. I had a defining moment my junior year in college and another a few years later that seemed to loosen the grip of IOS. Regardless of its hold on someone, the reality of it being loosened is real and is possible. 

This syndrome is Impressing Others Syndrome. Recognize it? Have you overcome it? If not, your self talk could be a solution. Most likely, your self talk is fear-based, maybe even lies you’ve been deceived to believe. 

So how do we counter those lies, that fear? Overcoming IOS will take addressing it at its roots. Those roots of lies and fears should be countered by our identity and truth as God sees us. The challenge is very personal, testing what we believe and just how true our convictions are. Our self talk should be based on truths that strengthen us to defeat IOS. These three are a great start.

  1. “God loves Me.” He created me and made me who I am. Who I am includes my looks, my abilities, my personality. He knows my history. No one else knows me like he does. His love is unconditional, and my performance and choices do not change it.
  2. “The best motives are eternity-focused.” Checking our motives should be a constant priority. Satan loves to tempt us to be temporally motivated and thereby tell ourselves to focus on things that have little or no eternal worth. When you check this root of IOS, you may discover the main self talk to change.
  3. “I’m a work in progress.” This reality can be personally humbling and also critically diffusing. This also creates in us a teachable spirit which allows us to not live for approval as much as growth. That’s a big difference.

What are you telling yourself? Lies or truths? Fears or convictions? IOS’s grip can be loosened. Ask God for your best self-talking points and be free.

Miracle in the Andes (book review)

I’ve been obsessed with this book while listening to it. So much so that when disc 7 wasn’t listenable because of scratches, I checked out the book today in order to read what I missed. (NOTE: Manatee County Library rocks! Not only did they bring the book from another branch to the branch closer to me to pick up, but they also called to let me know it was ready. BOOM!)

Nando Parrado is one of sixteen survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Argentine Andes Mountains. Another book, Alive, was written and made into a movie in the 90s. I’ve never heard of this story, so I was riveted by it. My riveting is a credit to Parrado’s storytelling and personal account of the survivor’s ordeal.

If you enjoy true stories that make you think and marvel, you should read Parrado’s book. You’ll be satisfied. But what you’ll hopefully also receive are some life lessons to model. He gives you plenty. These 72 days gave more than 72 lessons. The survivors continue to live them out. Read it and see what you could live out.

June’s Jordan Journey

Here is our final team member’s note about her journey to Jordan.

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On our trip I learned just how spoiled we are and how we take things for granted – so unappreciative and selfish.

I saw people with faith, love, and hope with a little of nothing that showed hospitality and welcomed us with open arms-thankful for what little they had and keeping their eyes on the Lord with hope.

When we think about faith like a mustard seed, I saw that firsthand in our home visits the church set up for the refugees where they could come together for the hope needed to carry on.

I worked with children that were far behind in learning and not allowed to attend public schools, and women with skills but could not go to work like we can.  I saw how important the church school and women’s center and in-home visits are to those hurting refugees.  It’s hard to put into words; just something you have to see to appreciate and understand the great need.

Something much needed that we all can do is pray!  Prayers for their families, health needs, visas to be able to go to another country and get settled-just to know they’re not forgotten.  The children need to be in school, women need a place to use their skills and feel self-worth, men need jobs to care for their families.

In all it was a very humbling, heartbreaking experience-an eye opener as I could see how we take things for granted but thankful for the opportunity to go, see, and do.  Praise God!

-June Hartlaub

Sherry’s Jordan Journey

Here is a second team member’s note about her journey to Jordan.

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My recent journey was truly a journey of love and miracles.  When I told my family that I wanted to go to Jordan their reaction was, “No way.”  It is hard to explain why as a retired grandmother I felt God was calling me to take this leap of faith and following His lead. I have no visible talent-can’t sing (but I can make a joyful noise), can’t do physical work, but I can and do have a huge capacity for love.  And God had a plan for me and my love.

While we were there, my time was spent at the Women’s Center and on home visits.  Let me tell you about the Women’s Center. The center offers women the opportunity to come together to learn crafts to perhaps sell them and earn a little money, but more importantly it gives them the chance to fellowship with one another and with us.  I met so many beautiful and wonderful women who are just like us in so many ways, but are so much stronger, happier, funny and joyful.  One Syrian woman absolutely blew me away in every way; but perhaps the most heart breaking way was her answer when I asked her where she wanted to go. Most people said Canada, Australia, or perhaps Brazil; but her answer was she wants to go home, back to Syria.

See, we are all basically the same; we want to be home.  And perhaps many of the beautiful, wonderful people God gave me the blessing of meeting may not get to go home until we are all home with Jesus in heaven.

-Sherry Morrow

The Gift of Balance: Marriage and Singleness (Part 1)

(This is part one of the fourth topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. This entry will be the first half of the conversation continuing tomorrow with the second half.)

Mark: When you think of maintaining balance in a marriage, the initial thing that may come to mind is relationship.

John: It seems there are two things to consider. One, what do you individually have to do to bring balance to the relationship.  Second, how does the couple work together to keep balance in check.

Tonya: One of the things that I remember probably halfway through my marriage was a moment when I felt God spoke to me to tell me that as a couple you don’t complete each other; you compliment each other. God completes us. He’s the lover of our soul. We can’t find that in our spouse.  But we can compliment each other, help each other grow.  So I remember that moment when he made it clear to me that when I walk closer with him and stay intimate with him, I actually don’t need as much from my husband. I still want closeness and intimacy, but when I’m close with the Lord I’m not trying to get things from my husband that he can’t give me anyway.

John: That reminds me of the triangle/pyramid illustration for marriage you’ve probably both seen where the two in the marriage are at the bottom on either end and God is at the top.  The more the two work toward God the closer you are together.

Mark: I just literally drew that on my notes.

John:  As simple as that is, it seems to be an easy tool to evaluate where I am working toward God as a person and also how we are working together toward him.

Tonya:  That speaks to singles also.  If God is first and the lover of our souls, then it brings peace to those who maybe are in transition and not wanting to be single that they are still whole and complete.  They don’t need a spouse to complete them.

I remember my dad used to use the picture of a coffee cup to illustrate it.  The cup is full of the Lord, and everything else is on the rim.  So if it falls off, it’s not that it won’t be painful, like if you lose your spouse or kids, but you can survive if your cup is full of the Lord. That’s always stuck with me-keeping the cup full with God first.

Mark: In order to have a healthy marriage, you really have to see yourself as healthy and whole first and not seeing all your needs met in the other person but in God. There is nuance and tension between relationship and companionship. It’s foundational to not look at the other person as meeting all your needs, or you’re going to be disappointed.

Tonya:  Because no person is capable of that.

John:  In light of being a married person, what’s different that you have to keep in check in your relationship with God?

Tonya: I’ve been writing a series on preventing leadership exhaustion and just recently wrote on marriage. To be married and have children, it does take more focus and energy, so it’s a little harder. When I was single and just met my husband, I was on top of the world spiritually and had no interest in dating. But when you fall in love, it becomes more challenging to make sure you’re still nurturing your time with the Lord.  You have to work at that a little bit more. You have to work at finding that balance for your time alone as well as your time together. You have to learn how to grow and encourage each other together.

My husband and I are as different as night and day, literally. The way he walks out his faith is very different than me. So how do you do that together? Finding that can be a challenge.

Mark:  I agree. From a different angle, there is an opportunity in a marriage to more deeply grasp what is means to love unconditionally. In this work you’re talking about, there are many opportunities to love this other person. By love I mean way beyond the emotion and feeling.  It’s the service, sacrifice, and action of unconditionally loving this companion.  Sometimes it’s easier than others, but it’s always front and center. You get this tangible opportunity to love this person in the way that Jesus loves us. I’m not sure that is about balance as much as it the difference between being single and being married and the opportunity it presents in what it means to love someone.

Tonya: Sacrificially.

John: Tonya, referring back to your “everything on your plate” exercise you talked about last week, the plate just looks different. There’s more on the plate-another person, kids come along-your plate is just different. There’s more on it, so the balance is keeping a healthy relationship with God based on what’s currently on my plate.

Tonya:  One of the things I’ve done since then has to do with a bull’s eye.  God is in the center, then your spouse, then your children, then your friendships, and then your ministry.  When I would teach pastors I would ask, “How do you do ministry starting with God and moving through your marriage, and then also back in?” The idea is that you don’t just make your own decisions.  They have to go through God, your spouse, your children.  It has to be right for your family first, then out through your ministry. But that’s for all of us in all the things that we do.

When I asked my husband about this, one of the things he said was that we make decisions together. So we make big decisions together-work decisions, moving decisions.  They take time and money, and impact everybody. So many of the leaders I work with have trouble grasping the impact of their decisions on their whole family. So this idea of using the bull’s eye was a different way to help them see it.

Mark: That’s an excellent point of being on the same page. Tonya, you and your husband are different.  My wife and I are very similar, so it’s fairly natural for us to be together on a decision and think the same way. That comes very easy.  For others who have differing personalities, it may be harder but it’s not less important.

Tonya: For sure, and I would not have any clue in how to just flow in a situation like that because we totally see the world through completely different lenses.  But you are right, so one of the things it comes back to is commitment. We made a commitment that means something; we meant it. When decisions have been harder, we’ve come back to our commitment to our vows, to taking the time to work it out. A lot of couples fall apart in those moments. “You don’t see it my way.”  They start to fall apart because they don’t have that strong commitment.

Mark: The picture coming to my mind is the balance between giving and getting in a relationship.  A commitment from both sides makes that easier. It’s harder to do when you feel like you’re the only one fighting. If both people work to be about giving first before getting, it’s like the oil that just makes the machine work better. The machine may break down at times, but the oil provides the lubrication when the friction comes when you are doing life together. Staying focused on the giving part first makes it more likely you’ll get the things you need out of the relationship as well.

Tonya: That’s right. When you are focused on giving and giving, your spouse will most of the time turn around and give back. You’ll get what you want when your heart is to give.  It’s that upside down thing we talked about before.  God’s kingdom is not the way the world’s kingdom is.

Faithful Love

This week my Bible reading plan took me through Hosea. This read is always a good one.

One could label the message of Hosea to be “beware of spiritual adultery-drifting little by little into disaster.” 

I highlighted verse 6 from chapter 6, and when I highlighted verse 12 from chapter 10 I noticed they share a term, faithful love. Read these two verses here:

For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings…Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the Lord until he comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain. (‭Hosea‬ 6:6; ‭10‬:‭12‬ CSB)

  • Drifting from love belittles faithfulness; adultery betrays love’s commitment.

The beauty of faithful love in our relationship with God is shown by the agricultural images in chapter 10. Yes, we reap what we sow. If we choose to sow unrighteousness, that is what we will reap. But that’s not an everlasting sentence. What we reap can be changed. God’s faithful and loyal love for those who choose rather to sow righteousness never ends; it is everlasting. He longs to pour this love on us so abundantly that it would be like rain.

How’s your love? Is it drifting? How can you correct your sowing choices, keep faithful love, in order to allow God to bring you rain?

Fruity Fridays: The Only Goodness in Us

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

post by Jeremy Nixon

Webster’s Dictionary defines goodness as the state or quality of being good; moral excellence, virtue; generosity, strength or the best part of anything. I particularly like “the best part of anything.” When talking about goodness you have to understand the opposite: evil. I think we all know what evil is, and it’s not the Descendants of Disney! However, my girls love that show, and as a “good” dad I oblige. Evil is everything derived from Satan, badness. The very thing that makes you happy (God) is good, and the thing that makes us imperfect…our flesh.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with my flesh and doing the right things at time because of my fleshly cravings. I know it’s hard to believe that I’m not a good person all the time…just ask John; he’ll tell you the truth. We all know that our struggle with sin is real (Romans 3:23). Paul writes in his letter to the Romans in 7:18-20 “for I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells within me.”

Paul’s struggle with sin was real, so real that he cried out for rescue! Our lives, if we are honest, are really no different than Paul’s. I know as having been a pastor that everyone looks to leadership in the church and seems to think that they are perfect; that if we could just be like them and have it all together then we’d be happy and good. I’m here to tell you that we don’t have it all together, and we are all not GOOD on our own. We struggle with sin just like you, maybe different or maybe the same. Pastors extort goodness and we see all the good that they do and so we see them as goodness. As a member of the body of Christ, we are urged to walk by the Spirit and one of the fruits of the Spirit is goodness.

Since we belong to Christ we are to strive to be good, not for salvation but because of Christ’s love in laying down his life for us and saving us. Because of God’s great sacrifice our response is the fruits. As a Christian that doesn’t work in the church, I find it harder to display the fruits, but it’s more rewarding when we are able to. To God be the glory because we can NOT do it without him. He is the only GOOD in me. This week our fruit is goodness, and I encourage you to demonstrate goodness to others. It’s encouraging knowing that Paul and others in the Bible struggled with their sin and being good…but the Lord delivered them. Our hope is in Christ and through him goodness can be displayed through us to reach others.

I get it wrong more than I get it right…but if you love God and love others like you love Him, I can promise goodness will prevail and the Lord will be glorified.