YOU JUST NEVER KNOW

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

If you know us or have read our testimony, you know that today is a blessed day. On April 18, 1995, our baby, Jacob Michael was born and given back to God.

The next few months were filled with many ups and downs. We wanted two different things. My wife wanted to talk and I wanted to be quiet. We were in a dark place. We were both Christians but didn’t want to hear it. None of it. We supported each other in anyway possible. We even listened to the statistics, 80% of couples who lose a child divorce. God wasn’t having it.

So we prayed. Children were all we wanted. We made it through the darkness of statistics, people saying all the wrong things, and sometimes giving up. Then, we were pregnant again. It was painful, those months, as we sat and waited for the worst. Our beautiful gift from God was born. A little early, a little tense, a little girl. She was and is an amazing gift.

Due to continuing health issues, we were then faced with more bad news. No more children. We continued to pray, worship, and be involved in Church. Adoption was of course an option, but before we did, God called. We took over the Youth Ministry at our Church and have been serving since 2000. We have watched so many children grow and go on into adult life as Christians. We helped to form them into a mature spiritual life.

You never truly know how God will use you. I often wonder what a life with Jacob would be like. He would be 18 today. I have rested on the fact that God is in control. He knows where we are and where we are going. It was not easy, especially in the beginning, but we are there. I live in the confidence that we will make memories while we are apart, but will stand with him one day on the side of glory.

I also am reminded that we never know where someone may be in their journey. You never know what someone may be going through or where life’s journey has taken them. Be Christ to them. Show them the love that you feel and the confidence that you walk in. I praise God everyday for the people he brought into our life. Especially during that dark time. You may be that person to someone. You may be the only one who can lead them to Christ. Do not take your opportunities to witness for granted. Love them like Jesus.

In His Name,

Deacon Jason

GET INTO THE MISSION FIELD

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How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Isaiah 52:7

The past couple of days, I have spent a lot of time paying attention to social media. If you are not into it, you should be. I have found that yes, as we all already know, there is a lot of negativity, hatred, and flat out disgusting things that people share to escalate either their egos or their place in society’s ladder.

But here is also what I have found. Connected to the right people, you can find inspiration. I have recently seen the postings of some very influential young Christians on Twitter and they have accepted me also.

The other positive aspect is the fact that it is your opportunity to be the hands and feet (or fingertips) of Christ in redeeming this area of our world. See what people are into and you will see how better to pray for them. For better or worse, there may be no better way then to get a barometer of where someone is at or is in need. Formulated correctly, this could be a jump start on a plan to reach them.

I have honestly been very encouraged lately to see that it doesn’t have to be as bad as some make it out to be. I certainly do not advocate spying on or bashing people with Jesus over their head, but if done with love, it can be an asset.

We as Christians must go to the mission field. It is sometimes a dark and scary place. But then again, I am reminded that Jesus hung out with sinners, just like me!

Oh and by the way, you can follow me on Twitter at @Deaconjason.

OUR TESTIMONY

This week is a dark anniversary made glorious in my family’s life. After one year of marriage, my wife and I were awaiting the birth of our first child. Due to unexpected health issues, Jacob Michael was still born and given back to God on April 18, 1995. We then were blessed with the birth of our daughter but told we could have no more children. This was a blow to us as we wanted more. After a few years of wrestling with God, he answered our prayers for more children with calling us to Youth Ministry. After 13 years, the ministry is going strong and we have been blessed with being in the lives of many. They have taught us and touch us as well. Praise God and praise him in any storm of your life. You never know how he will bless you!

BATTLE READY

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Courage. It is a challenge for Christians when faced by the day to day changes of this world. Opinions, arguments, politics all fly at us at a blinding pace. So how do we deal with it? How do we stand firm in the faith while going about converting as we are called to do.

We must do everything that we do with love for all. Hate the sin but love the sinner. Easier typed than done, I know.

1 Chronicles 28:20 (NIV)

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.
If you have difficulty in this area of your Christian life, you are certainly not alone. Remember all of those who have done the work before us that laid down their life for the kingdom. Most importantly, remember that Christ only loved all of us, yet was crucified.
If you find yourself backed in the corner for your faith, being called on the carpet for your Christian beliefs, remember that the enemy is behind it, not the one who is standing before you. This is where you must love them. You must pray for those who don’t pray for themselves. Being Christian doesn’t always mean that you have to take a beating. Stand firm but let the word “LOVE” go before all that you do and say. Keep Christ in the forefront of your mind so that your words and thoughts will be his.
Turning the other cheek is tough. Reading someone’s thoughts and beliefs that you know are not the Father’s can be hard. Engaging in a personal, online debate is probably not going to change their beliefs. Pray for an opportunity to reach them. Pray for God to change their heart. Be armed and ready when the chance arises, but again, do it with love.

HOME IS WHERE HIS HEART IS

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As I go about the business of talking to people about faith, I have found that a great number of people, for some reason or another, like to tell me that they are “spiritual” but do not attend Church. There are a number of reasons that they will give. I would like to share my thoughts on this with you and maybe we can help each other be prepared for the next time we are faced with this challenge in evangelizing (Preaching the Gospel).

Here are a couple of the comments that I most often hear. “I don’t need to go to Church, I can worship God in my heart.” or “Church is nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.” If you have spent anytime in attempting to bring people to the faith, I am sure you have heard these statements and many others.

What do we do when confronted with these statements?

First and foremost, BE REAL. Remember that this kind of thinking comes from a potential lifetime of the person feeling this way. You most likely will not be able to change it with some, what I like to call, “Bumper sticker religious statement”. Here is my favorite one of these (and it is true) “Church is a hospital for sinners, not a haven for Saints”. Throwing statements like this at them will most likely not change their heart. You have to take time and truly show them how it has impacted your life. Help them see that God loves to be worshiped and God loves to be praised. If they are parents, remind them of how it feels when their children come over. They love nothing more than to see their children and grandchildren, laughing and fellow shipping with each other. It is the same with God.

There is also something to be said for recharging your spiritual batteries and strategics. Think of it as an army. If you had an army of 1000 soldiers and sent them out into the woods, they would lack training, supplies, ammo and most important they would not know the strategy of battle. They would aimlessly wander around the woods. Maybe they would stumble upon the enemy and not know what to do next. Ultimately, just as with their faith, death would come upon them.

If you cannot convince them, no matter how long you talk and listen, then you must show them. St. Francis of Assisi is attributed with saying “Preach the Gospel. Use words when necessary.” Just be there. Be ready. When they are sick or hurting, attend their needs. When they are thirsty, give them something to drink. When they are hungry, feed them. Pray for them when they won’t do it themselves. Most of all, show them the love of Jesus in any way possible. It may take time, but if you ask, God will give you the opportunity.

The enemy stands at the ready. We as Christians are called to go out into the world and draw people to a life with Jesus Christ. The enemy has already equipped his soldiers with doubt, fear, hate and lies. It is our job to ensure that we stand at the ready, equipping ourselves for the battle, converting as we go. No we cannot do it from the pew. People are no longer seeking the Church for help. It is our duty to go out and get them where they are.

I leave you with the thoughts I have today for the children’s sermon. If you were going to carry a dollar with you and you had no pockets, would it be easier to carry 4 quarters, 10 dimes, 20 nickels, 100 pennies, or a dollar bill. The dollar bill is what we as Christians must become. We must stand firm and together when doing the business of the one who sent us.

In His Name,

Deacon Jason

GOD…ARE YOU THERE?

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Praying. A topic of great importance but one that is seldom discussed. I find this especially true with new believers. Many believe that it is a completely private act and that is partially true but I fear it is due to a feeling that people do it wrong. I know this due to the many times that I have asked someone to pray out loud in a group.

It is my opinion that many people are curious and just don’t want to ask. So here we go.

First and foremost, it should be one of the easiest conversations in your entire life. Conversation? Wait what? Yes, prayer is a two way street. No it is not like texting or calling on the phone, however it is a conversation. It is also a conversation with a friend. Even if you are new to the faith, God has known you since before you existed. He knows who you are and every hair on your head. Let us not forget, he died for you. So don’t talk to him like you just met.

If God knows me so well, then why did I need to tell him how I feel? Because he loves you, he wants to hear it from you. Yes, he knows your heart and wants you to tell him. He knows what you want and what you need but just as we as parents love to discuss things with our kids, it is the same with your Heavenly Father. Just tell him, it’s that easy!

How do I pray? God taught us how to pray. The Lord’s prayer is not only the most important prayer, because Jesus said that this is how to do it, but it is a guideline.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.

And it could sound something like this:

Father, my faith and trust is in you. You are the creator of Heaven and Earth. Your name is above all and I know you are there. I give my life to you and ask that your will be done. I thank you for this day which you have created and ask that you will provide what I need to make it through it. Father I have failed you and have fallen short. Please forgive me for what I have done and let your mercy rain down upon me. I pray Father that as I go about this day, you will protect me from evil and trouble, and that you will walk by my side. For this day is yours Lord and I give my life to you. Thank you. Amen.

Now it would be presumptuous of me to think that I know what you and God should talk about. I just want to show you how I believe it should go. It doesn’t need to be rigid or necessarily written out. Just talk to him! He is your Father and knows what is on your heart.

There is one more thing I want you to remember. A conversation is not a conversation without feedback. So here is something as important as everything else: LISTEN!

After you have talked to your best friend and Father, let him talk to you. Be silent and let him fill your heart. Then, as you go about your day, pay attention to what happens and who you come in contact with. Don’t ask God to give you the opportunity to serve him and pass up the chance. If someone talks to you about problems they are having, or a joyous thing in their life, show them the one who is in control. Let them see Jesus in you. Pray with them, pray for them, sit with them, listen to them, just as Jesus would do.

Don’t be afraid. Just do it. Tell him your hopes, your fears, your desires, your failures and above all else, don’t forget to thank him.

In His Name,

Deacon Jason

GO LIGHT YOUR WORLD

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When I am doing the work of the Church, Mass or a hospital visit, I wear a black clerical shirt and a collar. This is a part of the Anglican tradition and one that I hold as a very high honor. The question that I present to myself before putting it on is “Do you need this collar for people to know you are a Christian?” There are times that I feel that I would answer yes but I know it should never be that way.

I know that many of you that will read this blog post have not been called to this kind of ministry, as I have not been called to what you have been called to either. But do you need a hat, a sign, a bumper sticker, or a shirt that says you are a Christian?

We all face days that are better than others. We all fall short, even on our best days. But how are you known to others. Consider how each person that you come in contact with everyday would label you if asked. Would their first response be a Christian? A jerk? High strung? Fake? Nice? Sweet? The list goes on…

More over, how would those that are closer to you answer? Maybe it wouldn’t be “Christian”, but how about loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled. If those who come in contact with you would say these things truthfully, then you are known as having Christian qualities. Does any of this sound familiar:

Galatians 5:22-23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Here is an example that I have shared in my Youth Ministry: Take a light and completely cover it with a box. What happens to the light? It cannot shine of course. It is still there, but cannot be seen.

If the light of Christ is not shining through you, then go to the Father and work together on finding out what your box is that is hiding HIS light.

In His Name,

Deacon Jason