How to Stay in Love for a Lifetime

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Last Sunday marked the seventh and final message at Avalon Church for the message series, A Better Marriage. You can listen to all seven messages at www.avalonchurch.net. I encourage you to share these messages with a friend. As a way to reach friends, family, or co-workers, you can buy the book, “Marriage in the Nude: A Man’s Guide to Love and Grace,” and give it as a gift. It is quite possible that God will use you in this way to save a marriage and point people to Jesus. The following is an excerpt from the book.

 

“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25, ESV

A fascinating thing about the first marriage in the Garden of Eden is how completely open and honest they were with each other. Of course, this was before they ate the forbidden fruit. But think how remarkable that statement is: "The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." That statement contains some beautiful truths and opens a few principles to help us foster a lifelong love.

… the man and his wife

There was a sense of equality between husband and wife. They both were acutely aware of their value to God and each other. They formed a strong team. A team commits to each other, watches out for each other, and sacrifices for the greater good. God designed marriage to be a place of self-sacrifice rather than a place of self-service. Teamwork makes the team work. Teammates do not envy the role of others. They recognize their contribution as valuable and make the team stronger by accepting divinely prescribed roles.

…were both naked

Marriage in the nude gave birth to humanity. Nakedness reveals more than a physical reality. They were completely open with each other. Openness leads to oneness. Absolute acceptance marked their union. Unconditional love underpinned their relationship. Until you build a sense of consummate openness and vulnerability with your spouse, you will not experience that kind of God-ordained unity. They did not cover up with each other. There was no shame or embarrassment, but a genuine sense of freedom with each other. Can you imagine that? No jealousy. No striving to get the upper hand. No manipulation. No hurting each other. Openness about struggles and successes, trials and triumphs.

Although it is possible to be uninhibited with each other, the only way you will truly be open is when you rest in the grace of Jesus. Once you understand His grace, then you will give grace more freely. Let's face it, when you are keenly aware that you have done nothing to earn, deserve, or merit His grace, then you can release forgiveness, live with understanding, and love with no strings attached. It mirrors God's love for us. What would happen if we truly began to live by God's grace in our marriage? There would be much less worry and stress. We would be able to communicate more clearly and share our burdens more fully. It would totally revolutionize your marriage.

…and were not ashamed

Shame has vast power. Some suggest that it significantly influences how we act, whom we accept, and how we see ourselves. That is why it is so important to remember that when Christ saves a person, he completely removes the shame of our sins and our past. We must rest in the perfect work of Jesus if we want a Christ-centered marriage. His grace transforms.                                                  

Because you are an image-bearer, you can live by grace. You can give and receive grace in your marriage. You can rest in the knowledge that God knew what He was doing when He made you. He makes no mistakes. Resting in Him helps you accept each other. Oddly enough, we often create an illusion of the idealistic partner, rather than embracing the real person. You can’t have a perfect spouse, but you can love the one God is sanctifying He continues with his makeover. Women often marry thinking their husband will change. Men often marry thinking their wife will never change. The more we rest in Jesus and his grace, then the more we depend on his finished work to empower our marriage! Resting in him helps you not be ashamed.

Once again, that is not to say that we can expect our spouse to be sinless.  No person is without flaws and blemishes, but we can grow and become more like Christ. Although there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, you can have one that is perfect for you!

Don't fall prey to the "soul mate" myth that pervades our culture. Many fear that the person they marry may not be their soul mate, whatever that means. That belief leads to thinking that marriage is a transaction designed for self-fulfillment rather than a biblical relationship requiring love, commitment, sacrifice, and service. A flawed theory like that leads to disappointment because your spouse becomes your idol. You expect your husband or wife to be the answer to all your problems. He or she will fix all that is wrong with your life. You see him or her as the source of your contentment, fulfillment, meaning, security, and hope. Only God can give you those things.

Start Praying Now for Our Annual Miracle Offering

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Our annual Miracle Offering will be held on December 3rd. Every year we hear stories of the miracles God does in so many people’s lives. I want to encourage you to get the date on your calendar so you can start praying about what God wants you to give this year. You can get in on the blessing! Your giving makes such a difference for our church and we can’t do it without you.

God clearly promises to bless us when we are generous. He blesses our work, our relationships, our health, our finances, and every part of our life. Deuteronomy 15:10 “Give freely and spontaneously. Don't have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God’s blessing in EVERYTHING you do, in ALL your work and your ventures.” (MES)  

What is the Miracle Offering?

If you are new to Avalon you may not have heard about the Miracle Offering. It is a special offering that is over and above your regular giving. We ask everyone to bring his or her best offering of the year. Giving a special gift expresses our love and thankfulness, stretches our faith, and positions us to be blessed. I hope that you will pray and ask God to bless you in an area where you need it most. It may be a lost loved one you are praying for, or a new job, or a health issue, or a broken relationship, or your marriage. Whatever miracle you need make sure to sow this seed in faith and ask God to bless it. People have told stories in the past of how God saved a family member, provided a promotion, gave them children, blessed them financially, or answered an urgent prayer.

The Miracle Offering positions our church to grow and unleashes ministry. Over the next few months I will cast the vision for our future and talk about a plan for this year’s offering. I am very excited about where God is taking us!

I am asking every person at Avalon Church to give in the Miracle Offering as an expression of love to God this year. We are better together. When everyone does his or her part, we accomplish BIG THINGS for God. I can’t wait to see what God does through us this year!

 

 

 

 

What Does the Bible Say about Disciplining Your Children?

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This week in our series A Better Marriage we talked about Grace-Centered Parenting. You can check out all the messages in this series on www.avalonchurch.net. This coming Sunday, September 10th, we will talk about Finding a Grace-Centered Sex Life. I encourage you to attend and invite a friend. 

                             

The Bible has a lot to say about how we teach, train, and discipline our children. This primarily involves teaching or instructing and applying discipline. Of course, discipline corrects a child, instructs him or her in the way to live, and provides the positive outcome of wisdom. The purpose of all discipline is to teach.

A parent receives his or her moral authority from God. The best way to teach your children how to live is to begin with a relationship with God. There is also a great emphasis on teaching and instructing. You can discipline without instructing properly. We have all seen this happen. We teach our children with our own lives, by our own example, and by pointing them to a relationship with Christ. While you can’t force your children to have a relationship with Jesus, you can create a positive environment that makes a relationship with Him a normal part of life. Being faithful and completely involved in the life of the church is a critical component of teaching and instructing. It is impossible to impart to them something you don’t have yourself.

Consider the following verses about instruction and discipline:

Proverbs 1:8 My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. (NLT)

Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your children and they will give you happiness and peace of mind. (NLT)

Proverbs 22:15 A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away. (NLT)

Proverbs 13:24 If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don't love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them. (NLT)

Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your children while they are young enough to learn. If you don’t, you are helping them to destroy themselves. (GN)

Proverbs 23:13-14 Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death. (NLT)

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. (NLT)

Here are a few biblical tips on discipline that will help you know what to do:

  • There is a wrong way and a right way to discipline.
  • Discipline and instruction are biblically-mandated.
  • The purpose is to produce responsibility.
  • Spiritual involvement bolsters discipline.
  • Don’t ever compare your children to each other.
  • Prioritize the most important things and then build margin into your life and schedule.
  • Say yes whenever possible. Be positive. Affirm often.
  • Don’t be manipulated by the attitudes of your kids.
  • Draw clear lines and be consistent.
  • Praise character, good deeds, hard work, responsibility, and accomplishments rather than beauty, talent, ego or pride.
  • Partner with the church.
  • Start early. What you think is cute when they are toddlers can turn ugly as they get older.
  • Foster respect and responsibility.
  • Be flexible, but not in parenting absolutes.
  • When it is over, drop it.
  • Speak blessings over them.
  • Laugh as much as possible.

There are challenges involved with raising a child. Do not despair or lose hope about the culture in which we live. God has promised to be with you and help you. He has given an instruction manual that will guide you to the end of your journey and will empower you to raise champions for His glory.

How to Have More Money and Enjoy Life More

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God has a financial plan that will make you successful. The Bible teaches God-breathed principles that transcend all cultures and eras. His economic blueprint does not depend on how much money you make. Nevertheless, the burden is on you to make the decision to live by His principles or by your feelings. God's laws work no matter how high or low your income level is. His truths are transcendent.

Every person possesses unique abilities and passions. God, in His wisdom, has given us distinctive personalities, different levels of giftedness, and personal yearnings. God's plans work for every personality and gift type. Whether you are a business owner and desire to make enough money to travel the world, or you work for someone else, want to live a simple life, and plan to retire early, His principles work the same. Here are a few things He teaches us about our relationship with money.

 

Begin with the Tithe

 

God says that He MUST be first. He is the priority in our finances. How do I put Him first? God says the first step is tithing. The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives. (Deuteronomy 14:23) This makes sense because tithing is an exercise in faith.

The Bible teaches us that the tithe is the first ten percent of our income. Notice it is the first part, not the leftovers. God has always demanded to be first in every part of our life. Once I prioritize God in my finances, it is easier to begin to prioritize other aspects of my spending.

 

Cultivate Contentment

 

Be thankful. It sounds simple, but it works. Be thankful for what you have. Learn to be content, and it will quell lots of unnecessary spending and unwanted debt. How many times do we buy something that just hangs in the closet or gathers dust in our basement? Thankfulness and contentment simplify your life and bring a margin to your finances. If you don’t get this principle, then all the financial planning in the world will not be enough, because no matter how much you make or how much you have, it will never be enough. The Apostle Paul said, “For I have learned to be satisfied with what I have.” (Philippians 4:11)

 

Manage Your Spending

 

Once you put faith in your finances and manage your contentment, then you can effectively manage your money. Save and invest in yourself. Wise people do not live at or above their means, but they keep some margin in their lives. King Solomon wrote, “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.” Follow a budget. Once you have done that, then you can fully enjoy life for a long period of time.

God does want you to enjoy life. Some feel guilty about this and don’t enjoy God’s blessings. Others miss out on real joy because they seek it in the wrong things. God desires to bless you! Following His plan opens the possibility of fully enjoying our time here. Jesus said He came to give us life to the fullest.

King Solomon was a wise man. The Bible says that he was the wisest man who ever lived. When he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, he wrote from the perspective of one that did not live for God's purposes. That is why the book has such a depressing theme about the meaninglessness of life. However, even in his depressed state, he observed that God's ways are always the best ways. Consider his thoughts on money and work. “And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19

Life is indeed a gift from God. Enjoy it!

 

 

 

Overcoming the Poverty Mentality

This coming Sunday I will teach on How to Get Supernaturally Blessed Money.  There is a way to get God to work supernaturally on your behalf. You won’t want to miss this helpful message. One of the things I will talk about is overcoming a poverty mentality. The following is on the same subject I will talk about on Sunday at Avalon Church. 

The poverty mentality has nothing to do with how much money you have. You can be rich and have a poverty mentality. The poverty mentality means that you perceive there is never enough. Even in a time of amazing abundance we tend to convince ourselves that there are not enough resources to accomplish our God-given dreams. As a pastor, you can limit your faith by believing in scarcity rather than abundance. As a follower of Christ, we have no right to believe – ever – that there is not enough. The Bible is abundantly clear that God owns it all. Jesus is not short on resources and everything in the universe has Jesus as its goal and belongs to him. He has laid claim to it all because the Father has given it to him. All the resources. Both human and financial. It is all his and he has the power to supply ALL OUR NEEDS. According to Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

 The uplifting truth is that there are more than enough resources. God is the one who owns the resources and he has the will to provide. He loves you. He has promised to supply all your needs. Notice that he supplies “according to” not “out of.” If you were to ask me for money because you have a need and I decided to give you some money because I have the ability and desire to help you, then I have two options. First, I could supply your needs “out of” my resources. That means there is a limit. I have decided that there will be a limited amount of money I will give you because I am giving to you “out of” my bank account. On the other hand, if I agree to help you “according to” my resources, then I have just given you carte blanche or a blank check. It means that you can expect that I will meet your needs all the way to the limit of my resources. God promises to meet our needs “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” He has no limit on his resources. 

So if you struggle – and we all do – with a poverty mentality from time to time I hope you will consider these things to help you overcome and start believing in God’s abundance. 

·      God owns it all. He has more than enough to meet your needs.

·      God loves you and wants to bless you. If an earthly father loves to see his children have their needs met how much more does our perfect, righteous, amazing Heavenly Father love to meet ours?

·      I must act in faith. I must trust his promises and goodness.

·      I must willfully begin to center my focus on God’s loving nature and realize that he will supply.

·      I must willfully begin to stop living in fear with a scarcity mentality and begin realizing that there are more than enough resources to meet my needs and to accomplish my God-dreams. 

When I begin to acknowledge, practice, and believe this I will slowly but surely allow my faith to transform my thinking. And when that happens there is nothing you can’t do!

Improving Communication Between Husband and Wife

This is an excerpt from Marriage in The Nude: A Man’s Guide to Love and Grace, by Ritchie Miller. You can order it here. 

When God created Eve, He took her from Adam’s side. The Hebrew word used to describe God’s creation of woman means, “to build carefully and skillfully or to fashion her.” God seemed to take a little more time and care in creating woman. God created Eve to be considerably more refined than Adam. Women cherish beauty and cleanliness. They communicate differently. They admire cute things. They are tougher on the inside than a man because they are more emotionally connected than a man. Although a wife's emotional makeup is entirely different from her husband's in most cases, it is equally important. In fact, it may be more important. Women are the emotional glue that holds the family together. They are more in touch with their emotions because they need to be. Wives bring beauty and romance into marriage. Moms provide a unique emotional expression to their children that is critical to their well-being. Women have a God-created skill set that men do not have. It is beautiful and necessary for a Jesus-centered marriage. Women are emotionally stronger, more intuitive, and softer on the outside than men. Thank God! It is a part of His design.

As a pastor, I have observed that these differences are a part of what makes marriage a beautiful mystery. They bring delight and joy. However, these differences in emotional expression, communication, and instinct can also be a source of marital conflict. Many marital conflicts stem from not understanding these differences. Only when Jesus is at the center of your marriage can you navigate these differences and live in joyous union the way God intended.

By trusting God’s design for us, we can celebrate the differences between husband and wife and embrace them as a part of the blissful, yet mysterious union. The Apostle Peter admonished husbands and wives to live together “in an understanding way.” Learning the subtle differences between the ways men and women communicate will go a long way in helping your communication with each other. Females tend to use many more words in a day than men. Males tend to use fewer words. Women have an innate desire for intimate communication. They love details! Men, on the other hand, tend to think that their actions speak for them, and usually require fewer intimate details.

I learned this early in our marriage. Kim is a naturally outgoing person. She loves to meet people, and she quickly empathizes with them. She meets total strangers and quickly discovers details about their family, children, where they are from, and things I don’t even know about some of my friends! I once played basketball with a group of men for about two years. One day Kim asked me about some of them, and I realized that I did not even know some of their last names, much less any personal details about their families. I knew their first names and what they did for a living. I knew who had a good jump shot and who played the best defense, but that was about it. It blew her mind that I never had any deep conversations with any of them. I think that illustrates the difference between the way men and women communicate. She has had to learn to understand the way I communicate. She has learned to be patient with me and has extended a lot of grace to me. She understands that just because I tend not to be detailed, does not mean that I don’t care. I have had to learn to pay more attention and grow in communication skills. Engaging in deeper and longer conversations ministers to her needs in a Christ-like manner. She naturally craves conversation, and I have been mandated by God to understand her and love her as Jesus loves the church. We have both learned to know each other better, and as a result, our marriage is stronger. We are learning to celebrate our differences.

You Can Have A Better Marriage!

 

God used a naked woman to show men how to have a great marriage. In the Genesis creation story, we see how God demonstrates His love, blessing, and purpose for our lives. It is a picture of God's grace to us. Grace is all of God's doing. It is undeserved, unearned, unmerited kindness and favor from God. Adam certainly did not do anything to deserve God's favor, but God richly and freely poured out his grace on the first humans, because that who God is. Before there was any sin, there was grace! That was God's original foundation for marriage and all human relationships. A marriage that is grace-centered functions the way God intends all marriages to function – centered on a relationship with God and built on his grace. Join us at Avalon Church for A Better Marriage as Pastor Ritchie Miller teaches what the Bible says about how to have a blessed marriage.                             

Here are the messages for each week:

  • August 6th – Marriage Begins with Grace
  • August 13th – Learning to Communicate with Grace
  • August 20th – Achieving Success at Home and Work
  • August 27th – Learning God’s Financial Plan for Your Home
  • September 3rd – Grace-Centered Parenting
  • September 10th – Achieving a Grace-Centered Sex Life
  • September 17th – How to Stay in Love for a Lifetime

Don’t miss out! Join us each Sunday for the messages and join a small group for the series. You will be glad you did!

 

 

Marriage in the Nude

Marriage in the Nude is a different kind of book because men love to read it. It is designed for couples to read together and will help husbands and wives learn the secret to a better marriage – God's grace. When you build your relationship on God's grace, you make a deeper connection, improve communication, understand each other better, get better at work, handle money better, manage conflict, and improve your sex life. You can't have a perfect marriage, but you can have one that is perfect for you! Rooted in powerful biblical principles of God’s grace found in the Creation Story, Marriage in the Nude will serve as a guide to help you discover a deeper love and a stronger bond than you ever imagined. You can have a happy marriage filled with love and grace. But first, you must get naked!

Purchase it here for $14.95 https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Marriage+in+the+Nude%3A+A+Man%27s+Guide+to+Love+and+Grace

Or at Avalon Church for $10. The Kindle version will be available next week.

How God Will Turn Around Your Circumstances

 

Faith is the most critical component of the Christian life. The Bible states that, “It is impossible to please God without faith.” God gave us many promises that come through Jesus. Jesus is the source of love, life, healing, supply, provision, forgiveness, redemption, deliverance, protection, blessing, and purpose. Jesus is not just a means to an answered prayer, he is the goal and purpose for our lives. The more you learn about Jesus, the more you will fall in love with Him and the more your faith will grow.

Most of us fall victim to the lies of the enemy. Jesus tells us that, “We will know the Truth and the Truth will set us free!” When we begin to believe all that God says about us because of Jesus and all that He promises us because of Jesus, then EVERYTHING in our lives begins to change. The lies of the enemy will disrupt, deceive, discourage, and manipulate you. The truth of Jesus will set you free. So stop believing the lies of the devil that say, “I can’t; I’ll never; I’m not smart enough, good enough, or strong enough; I’ll never get out of debt; He will never; She won’t get better; or I am just unlucky or cursed.”

Declare in faith what is true. You do this by declaring God’s promises over your life in faith. I believe that faith that is spoken is faith that is enacted. You don’t really have faith until you declare it. Romans 10:17 tells us that the Bible strengthens our faith when it says, “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” (NKJV)

Here are a few examples of Bible verses and declarations of faith that will change your circumstances.

  • When you need to forgive or to be kind, quote Ephesians 4:32. “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Declare, “Through Jesus I have the power and ability to forgive and be kind, even to those people who challenge me most.”
  • When you feel discouraged or like giving up, quote Philippians 4:13. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Declare, “Through Jesus I have the strength to endure every circumstance and overcome every challenge.”
  • When you need to guard your language, quote Psalm 141:3. “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.” Declare, “Through Jesus I can guard what I say, speak in wisdom, and speak truth.”
  • When you need peace or an attitude adjustment, quote Colossians 3:15. “Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.” Declare, “Through Jesus I possess peace and reject worry and stress.”
  • When you are afraid, quote 2 Timothy 1:7. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. Declare, “Through Jesus I will not fear but I will be bold, loving to others, and disciplined in my life.”
  • When you need financial help and the faith to give, quote these promises. 2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” Malachi 3:10 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” Declare, “Jesus is my source and my provider. He gives abundance, not poverty. I will commit my money to Him so that He will bless my finances.”
  • When you need healing, quote these verses. Isaiah 53:5 “But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Jeremiah 30:17 “’I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,’ says the Lord.” Declare, “Jesus is my healer. Through his divine power I am healed.”
  • When you need help with your children, claim Psalm 115:14 “May the Lord give you increase, you and your children!” Also quote Psalm 128:3. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.”

When we declare God’s promises and His Word over our lives, the He begins to respond to our faith and turns things around for us. Try it! You will find that your life is much better when you trust in Jesus!

 

 

 

 

You Can Make A Difference By Praying!

 

Did you know that God answers prayer? It is true. God wants you to pray and ask him for guidance, direction, protection, and supply. He loves it when you pray! The Bible tells us that our prayers are like a sweet fragrance to God.           

Psalm 141:2 Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.

He hears our requests and keeps track of our sorrows and petitions to him.

Psalm 56:8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

Why should we pray? Here are a few verses that tell us why.

Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.

1 Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you.

Jeremiah 32:27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

Ephesians 3:20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Matthew 21:21-22 (NLT) Then Jesus told them, “I assure you, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May God lift you up and throw you into the sea,’ and it will happen. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 7:7-8 (KJV) Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Philippians 4:6-7 (MES) Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Join me in praying for these things this week:

  • Pray for Avalon 365 – we want to reach people with the gospel and be an every day church!

  • Pray for the growth of Avalon Church.

  • Pray that God supplies our financial needs.

  • Pray for our student ministry Beach Retreat. We have more than ever before going this year. Pray for our students to have an encounter with Jesus!

  • Pray for the Avalon HOPE event – Back Pack to School. We want to show the love of Jesus to our community.

  • Pray for Avalon Kids. Pray for Brian Tatum and our leadership team as they gear up for the new school year.

Prayer works! I hope you will pray this week and believe God for answers!

Take the Control Freak Test

 

The summer school break is nearly finished. Time flies by so quickly it seems out of control, doesn’t it? Here is a little humor for all the control freaks in the world. Enjoy!

 

You Might Be a Control Freak If…

  • You get sweaty palms when you don’t have a list.

  • When you ride instead of drive it increases the likelihood of a divorce.

  • You think, “If you want something done right, then do it yourself”, should be a Bible verse.

  • You will gladly admit you are wrong in the unlikely event that ever happens.

  • When other people talk, you hide your boredom by sighing a lot.

  • You have made an agenda for your family vacation.

  • You actually do know what's best for other people.

  • If someone touches your stuff you will most likely “un-friend” them on Facebook.

  • You sent your wife over 1000 texts last month asking when she will be home and what’s for supper.

  • It genuinely bothers you that your favorite celebrity changed hairstyles without consulting you.

  • You enjoy surprise parties thrown for you as long as you get to plan them.

  • You have actually considered leaving a 12:00 lunch appointment at 12:01 because they were late.

  • When people call you stubborn you actually think they are complimenting you.

  • Taking orders from someone else is like a roundhouse kick to the face.

  • When people disagree with you it only proves how stupid they are.

  • Watching an episode of Hoarders makes you think of how messy everyone’s desk is at your office.

  • You always have to have the remote.

  • You’ve actually yelled at an old lady driver and felt justified.

  • You lose sleep when someone you barely know doesn’t take your advice.

You are Only One Choice Away from a Different Life

 

I heard a good friend make the statement, “You are only one choice away from a different life.” I have spent much time pondering that statement and I believe it is true in both a negative and a positive way.

I have known many people who have experienced the truth of that statement through a bad choice. The choice to have an affair, to drive drunk, to take illegal drugs, to steal something when you think no one is watching, and so many other bad choices can lead you to a completely different life. It can ruin your reputation, your family life, your finances, and so much more.

When you think about it from a positive standpoint, however, it has even more power to change you and lead you to a different life. That is the power of the gospel. One choice can change you forever. You can choose to receive Christ, to get baptized, to start tithing, to get in a small group, to begin serving and your life will be forever changed. The positives and possibilities are endless. You can choose to live on a budget and manage your money. You can choose to live a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise. You can choose to start that business, to finish your education, to read the Bible regularly, to pray, to extend forgiveness to someone who wronged you, to be kind, to be generous, to love, to be positive; the possibilities are endless and the difference one decision will make in your life is amazing.

You are just one choice away from a different life. What will you choose?

Finding A Place Where You Belong

 

 

Many people resist the idea of church membership in our culture. Part of that may be because people distrust institutions and part may be because they misunderstand what it means to be a member. If you see the church as a corporation, then you probably don’t see the need for membership. But if you understand the biblical picture of a church as a place of belonging, as a family, as a place where you grow spiritually and a place where you can express your God-given gifts, then your view of church membership is different.

The first church I served as senior pastor is a wonderful church with a strong core of committed believers. Soon after I became their pastor, however, I made a shocking discovery. There were lots of people who claimed to be members of the church but they never attended, served, or gave. They were members in name only. They signed a piece of paper saying that they had received Christ and been baptized and that they wanted to “join” the church. That was pretty much all that we required of them. Doesn’t that miss the point entirely?

Many Christians treat church membership like they treat a gym membership. They sign on the dotted line. They show up occasionally. They are usually sore for a while afterward. They like the idea of being a member but they do not ever fully experience the benefits of being a member because they never fully participate.

The biblical model of church membership is not as much about joining as it is about participating. That is why at Avalon Church we emphasize participation rather than membership. Does signing a piece of paper make you a member of the local body of believers? No! Participating with a group of believers makes you a part of the group. Signing a piece of paper is about exclusion but participating is about inclusion. You only really belong when you participate.

So how do you participate? We emphasize taking your next step in your relationship with Christ. No matter if you are a new believer or a mature believer, you must always take your next step. I believe these steps are necessary for “membership.” Notice that these steps are all about participation and are foundational to growing into a committed follower of Christ:

  • Identify – We must identify with Christ through salvation and baptism. Only then can we truly be a part of a church. You identify with a church when you attend regularly and hear the teaching of God’s Word so that you can grow in your faith.

  • Involve – Getting involved by serving is vital to the Christian experience. God has gifted you and you have something to contribute. Getting involved with a group of believers for fellowship, support, and growth is critical for spiritual growth.

  • Invest – By giving to spread the gospel through a local congregation you are helping fulfill the biblical mandate to take the good news to everyone everywhere. You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving. Generosity is a big part of obeying Christ’s command to love others.

  • Invite – You play a huge role in bringing others to Christ. By simply inviting others to church you are also inviting them into a relationship with Christ. You play a role in God’s story. God wants us to share that story with others.

What about you? Are you a paper signer or a participant? Lots of church members are not really church members yet – but you can be by taking your next step today! Make sure to participate in our Next Step class at 9:30 each Sunday in August. 

 

 

 

 

What Jesus Said About Unity in the Church

Did you know that Jesus prayed for you? You can read about it in John 17. One of the big things he prayed for was unity in the church. Nothing will derail vision faster than disunity in the ranks. It is true of a business, a basketball team, a family, and a church. How many times have we seen the movie where a less talented but determined team pulled together and toppled the more talented, better financed, more popular, but ego-centered team? It is such a popular idea that it has become a cliché.

Why is unity important in the church?

1. Jesus prayed for it.

 John 17:23a “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity."

 If Jesus prayed for unity in the church, then it must be important. He prayed that the church would follow the example of the God the Father and God the Son. What could the primary reason for this unity be? Point two answers that question.

2. Unity is necessary for the most effective presentation of the gospel. 

John 17:23b “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Notice how this kind of unity is tied to the spreading of the gospel. “Then the world will know…” I believe a church that is unified around the mission of spreading the gospel will model the kind of unity that the Father and Son have. I also believe that Satan knows the best way to keep a church from fulfilling its mission is to get people arguing over non-essentials. This kind of disharmony causes the church to become inward-focused and to lose its evangelistic passion. 

3. Unity is necessary for the power of God.

2 Chronicles 30:12 “Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD.”

When God’s hand is in a church or a group of people, his power rests on them. This power is necessary for the unity of mind and purpose needed to fulfill God’s plan. A church must not focus on the minor things but on the major thing! Too often we divide ourselves over things that do not matter. Don’t mistake diversity for disunity. We can be wonderfully diverse while being totally in harmony over who we are in Christ. If God created over 400,000 species of beetles, why would he not want churches with unique personalities and abilities to reach people!

4. Unity keeps the church body growing, maturing, and working at its fullest potential.

1 Corinthians 12:12 “…just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”

 Ephesians 4:3 “…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Some Christians think that spiritual maturity is achieved through amassing knowledge about the Bible the Bible. But spiritual maturity is achieved through obeying what the Bible says and fulfilling the mission of telling everyone everywhere about the gospel.

5. Unity flows from love and love unites the church in its mission.

Colossians 3:14 “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Without love, there is no unity whatsoever. This love must be focused on and received from Jesus Christ. There is no other way to keep harmony and stay on mission.

 6. Unity keeps Christ at the center instead of us.

Ephesians 1:10b “…to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

It is not about you but it is about Christ! My plans, my desires, my preferences, my agenda, and my feelings are nothing compared to the gospel. When we become unified around that mission it changes everything and makes our churches more effective in fulfilling God’s mission for our lives.

The Psalmist said it well when he wrote, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 131:1

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Vacation

 

From the beginning of humanity, God gave us an important principle for successful living. He wants us to prioritize the proper rest and restoration. God created the universe and then rested on the seventh day. God does not get tired but shows us that we should rest in him. In fact, one of the Ten Commandments states that we should take a Sabbath day. I often say that you can get more done in six days than in seven by trusting God’s grace. Resting in Him is the only way to true rest and rejuvenation.

This principle of giving God first place is found throughout Scripture. God wants to be first in our relationships, our time, and our finances. Without putting God first spiritually, we fail to experience the kind of physical restoration we so desperately need.

If you do not practice this principle, then you will take a vacation but you will not find any true rest. This ultimate rest is tied to worshipping and trusting God. It is easy to get out of the habits that help us during the summer. Your schedule is different. Your routines are different. As such, it is easy to stop doing the things that are vital to renewal.

This summer I want to challenge you to find real rest by staying faithful to worship God. How do we do this?

1.    Vacation but don’t quit.

Take a vacation but do not go on vacation from God. When you are in town, stay faithful to come to church and worship. It is often easy to lie in bed and skip this important part of your Christian life. Don’t allow your time away to become a bad habit of skipping church.

2.    Rest without walking away.

Make sure that you rejuvenate, but also determine that you will continue to serve during the summer. When you are away, find a replacement for your volunteer ministry position. I am not suggesting that you need to skip your vacation to serve at church, but I am saying that you need to serve during the summer when you are not on vacation. We certainly need you, but to be honest, you need it more. It is vital that you stay connected to your area of service and to the people in your small group and ministry team.

3.    Maintain your spiritual disciplines.

Stay faithful to read the Bible, pray, and give. Take time on your vacation to say thanks. I think it is incredibly powerful when you are at the beach, the mountains, looking at the stars, or spending time with family and friends to spend some time being thankful to God. When you are in “non-working mode” is a great time to reflect, and remember how good God is and what things are most important in life.

Be faithful in your giving. This is an incredible act of worship. You can automate your giving at www.avalonchurch.net. This helps you stay connected to God’s blessings and helps us maintain the ministry of Avalon Church even while you are away.

I hope you have a restful, rejuvenating summer!

Pastor Ritchie

                              

 

 

Why I Give (Even During the Summer) at Avalon Church

In addition to being the founding pastor of Avalon Church, I’m also a financially contributing member. I believe the Bible teaches that we should tithe the first 10% of our income. Kim and I have committed to bring the tithe and give offerings above the tithe. God has blessed us financially because of our giving. I truly believe you can’t out-give God. I think it is important to share with you some of the reasons why we do this.

First, I believe in the mission of this church. You have heard me say repeatedly that our mission is bringing people, wherever they are, into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m proud to be a part of a church that cares about reaching people who are far from God. I’m proud to be a part of a place where we minister to families, start churches around the world, help the poor and orphaned, and care about young people and children. Every time I hear a story about a changed life I know that my giving plays a part in that. People’s lives are being changed because many people at our church give. You simply can’t do ministry without money! Jesus said that our treasure would follow our heart, so because my heart is with this church, I want to support it financially.

Secondly, I want to be an example to my family and friends. This generation has more stuff and technology than any previous generation. Yet relationships and community are what they crave most. The only way they can experience lasting community is in a biblically functioning church. A church can’t exist and fulfill God’s mission in the world without people who support it financially. I can’t say that I love others and then spend 100% of my paycheck on my needs and wants.

Thirdly, I give because God commands me to give. In the Old Testament God commanded his people to tithe. In the New Testament Jesus talks a lot about giving and money. Paul writes about money when he states, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Every month, we automatically give to our church because it honors God. We want to honor God even when it’s difficult or when things are tight. There have been times that we’ve gone without something in order not to cancel our giving to the church. To be honest, I’d rob the mortgage company before I would rob God! It always amazes me that we have never suffered financially because we give, but have been greatly blessed because of it.

We normally give online or by text. We set up a profile on our website and chose to make our tithes and offerings automatic. It’s convenient and keeps us from forgetting. 

I want to encourage you to take the same step and automate the important by setting up your online giving profile at www.avalonchurch today.  Or you can set up text to give at 84321. You make a difference when you give. Thank you for giving and I hope you have the best summer ever!

Pastor Ritchie 

The Essentials of What We Believe

 

What you believe determines the direction and outcome of your life. The same thing is true about a church. What we believe about God, the Bible, Jesus, and God’s grace determines who we are. Religion is about rules, good deeds, traditions, restrictions, earning God’s favor, and looking moral. But that is not what Jesus died to accomplish. He came to redeem us and to set us free. John recorded in The Gospel of John, “The Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

The driving vision for our church is, “Bringing people, wherever they are, into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” If we truly believe and follow that vision, then we will create a culture that prioritizes reaching people with the gospel and helping them grow in their relationship with the living Christ.

We are far from perfect. We love to say, “Avalon Church is the perfect place for imperfect people.” However, we serve a perfect Savior. I truly believe we are trying to embody the following beliefs:

  • We believe the Bible is God-breathed and is to be taught, studied, read, believed, and obeyed.

  • We believe that what you believe about God is the most important thing about you.

  • We believe the only way of salvation and forgiveness is through faith in Jesus Christ.

  • We believe that Jesus Christ is to be the center of the Christian life and that Christians are to live out the Gospel because Jesus is the virgin-born, sinless, Son of God who purchased our freedom by His death on a cross and His resurrection from the dead.

  • We believe that every Christian is to be a part of a local church and is to attend, worship, give and serve in love with other believers. Participation is membership. We are better together. It is not about you, it is about us!

  • We believe God’s grace is amazing and that it is the only way to grow, live, find freedom. That is why we embrace the messiness of real people coming to Jesus, no matter where they are.

  • We believe that God’s love living through us will change the world.

  • We believe that generous people are happy people.

  • We believe spreading the Good News is the job of every church and every believer. Inviting is evangelism.

  • We believe we should take Jesus seriously and everything else not so seriously.

If we guard these things, then we will be the church God designed us to become. We will be a light on a hill that points people to Jesus. In the end, that is all that really matters. 

Don’t Get Back Hair in Your Eyes

 

When you are not connected at Avalon Church, you feel lonely. When you feel lonely, you accept friend requests from people you do not know on Facebook. When you accept friend requests from people you don’t know on Facebook, you agree to meet a pretty dental hygienist for coffee. When you agree to meet a pretty dental hygienist for coffee, you are really meeting a 300-pound biker. When you meet a 300-pound biker, he takes you for a ride on his Harley. When you ride a Harley with a 300-pound biker, you get back hair in your eyes.

 

Don’t get back hair in your eyes. Come to The Next Step Class every Sunday at 9:30 to learn how to get connected at Avalon Church. You can sign up here

The Struggle for the Leader’s Mind

 

There is a battle for your mind raging around you every day. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (NLT) Every leader must fight the war no matter what leadership platform you have; parent, neighbor, spouse, manager, employee, business leader, or church leader. There are four big struggles we must deal with on a regular basis.

 

The Battle with Doubt

 

Satan used doubt as a weapon against Eve in the Garden of Eden. He deviously asked her, “Did God really say that?” He has used disbelief ever since. Although having questions is not a sin, disbelief is. Disbelief is doubting God’s Word, his promises, and declarations. Your enemy the devil will fill you with doubt if you do not use the shield of faith to protect yourself. Faith offsets the temptation to operate in unbelief. Faith is often tied to our words and declarations. Start speaking words filled with faith in God’s promises when you deal with doubt.

 

The Battle with Discouragement

 

I have never known God to use a discouraged person in a great way. We all get discouraged. But when we live there constantly, it affects us negatively. The opposite of discouragement is courage. Courage is necessary to advance, grow, win, and protect. The Bible tells us that King David, “Encouraged himself in the Lord.” When you feel the fires of discouragement, turn your heart toward Jesus. Read the Bible. Repeat God’s promises daily by memorizing encouraging scriptures. Pray. Talk to a friend who will lift you and help you.

 

The Battle with Distraction

 

Sometimes is it not sinful things that ruin our careers, family lives, or personal lives. It is a lack of focus. An army will not win a war if it has no focused battle plan or mission. A football team can’t move the ball down the field if every teammate is not on the same page, running the same play. Distractions can come in many forms. It may come from mission or vision drift, which happens when we fail to focus on our mission and don’t fight to stay on target with our cause. Other times it can come from trying to do too many things. Less is more when waging war against distraction.

 

The Battle with Deception

 

How can you know and follow what is true? Our culture offers many different versions of truth and many alternatives to absolutes. The problem with saying, “There is no absolute truth,” is that is an absolute statement. It can’t possibly be true logically because it is a self-defeating statement. I believe there is truth. Jesus said that he is the truth, and if you know the truth, then it will set you free. Many leaders become deceived when they stray away from the truth, whether it is truth based on your mission and vision, or whether it is a spiritual truth. The Bible speaks about many ways of being deceived. One of the greatest ways, however, is being deceived by our circumstances and doubting the promises of Jesus. Don’t doubt him. Don’t be deceived. Stay the course and you will win the battle for your mind.

 

 

 

How to Overcome Negative, Defeated, and Discouraging Thinking

 

Lasting change does not happen by changing your actions, but by changing your thinking. Change your thoughts and you change your life. We know this to be true intrinsically. For example, how many people have gone on a diet to lose weight? Through discipline and perseverance, they lost weight for a time. But as soon as they went off the diet, they gained the weight back. Often, they gained more than they lost! The only way for lasting change to happen in your health is to change your thinking. When you believe that your health, quality of life, and time with your family will be negatively affected if you don’t change your lifestyle, then you are able to make a permanent change.

The Bible is clear about how to change your thinking. It is not through self-effort, but through surrendering our minds to Jesus Christ. By surrendering our minds to him we capture negative, fearful, and defeated thinking and speak the truth of God’s Word over our lives by faith. By daily declaring God’s truth, we transform our lives. Changing your thinking leads to lasting transformation.

I believe that most Christians struggle with their thinking, and as a result, they speak things that are not true over their lives. For example, we often say things that are rooted in the lies of the devil rather than the truth of God’s Word. We say things like, “My marriage is hopeless, my kids will never serve God, I’ll never get out of debt, I can’t stop this habit or sin, that’s just the way I am, bad things always happen to me, my husband will never come to church with me, I’m not smart enough, I’m not disciplined enough, I’ll never have enough money, or I’m not good enough.” We believe the lies and reject the truth of God about our lives because of our circumstances. When we look at our circumstances rather than God’s declarations, we speak negative, hurtful, and defeated things.

The Bible teaches us that when we put our faith in the finished work of Christ, then God makes us a new creation. You are loved, accepted, and blessed in Jesus. Through Jesus, you have direction, purpose, and meaning in life. There is no barrier too great or challenge too difficult to derail God’s plan for you because of Jesus. You have every resource you need through Christ. You are not an accident and have been empowered by God’s grace. You are strong, loving, patient, faithful, joyful, and disciplined through the power of the Holy Spirit. You have energy and passion because of Jesus. It is God’s will to save people, so you can pray in faith for God to save your loved ones. When you begin to think in faith and speak in faith, then God transforms your life.

How can you begin to change the way you think and speak? The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:5-6 that we participate with the Holy Spirit to change what controls us.

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” (NLT)

The key to a changed mind is transformation by the Holy Spirit and a surrender of our will to Jesus. There must be an agreement between our will and the Spirit. We must agree with God and fill our minds with the truth of God’s Word. The language of the world is worry, fear, doubt, and unbelief. It leads to death. The language of faith is the language of life. By thinking, speaking, and repeating words of faith, our lives are filled with life and peace.

What would your life look like if you began to think, speak, and repeat the kind of words that God blesses? It would be more positive. You would be happier. You would have more faith. You would give life to those around you. You would have better relationships. You would make a greater impact for Jesus.

I want to give you a prayer to practice this week. By saying this prayer at the beginning of each day you will begin to fill your life with faith. You will be declaring God’s promises over your life.

Prayer: Because of Jesus I am loved, accepted, and blessed. Through Jesus, I have direction, purpose, and meaning in life. There is no barrier too great or challenge too difficult to derail God’s plan for me today. I have every resource I need through Christ. I am not an accident and I have been empowered by God’s grace to face the day. I surrender my words, thoughts, and imaginations to Jesus. I have the energy and passion I need to please Jesus today. I will not let the enemy distract me through doubt or discouragement. Christ is my strength. I step into that strength now. In the name of Jesus, amen.

 

For more on this topic, listen to the messages from the series, “Think, Speak, Repeat.” You can access each message in the series at www.avalonchurch.net.