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.

 

 

How to Create Margin and Survive Your Schedule

 

This time of year – the time between Easter and the end of school – seems to be one of the busiest times of the year. Spring Break. School programs. Prom. End of the school year. Ball games. Activities. Taxes. You get the idea. For most people life seems like a blur. James, the half-brother of Jesus, addressed this issue nearly 2000 years ago when he asked the probing question, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) Even before cell phones, the Internet, and modern transportation, people struggled with margin and schedules. God wants us to make the most of our fleeting time.

You can either cram as much as possible into your life and create stress, chaos, fatigue, and frustration, or you can do what James suggested and live on purpose. As a young man, I bought into the belief that managing my time meant that I had to sleep less, get better organized, and work harder to please my taskmaster, the calendar. I thought that was the only way to squeeze every drop out of life. But the calendar lied. He deceived me while he slowly choked out my joy. He kept telling me that more is more. It is only when I discovered that less is more that I began to recover my joy and accomplish the things that matter most. What is the secret?

Get Centered

You are too busy not to spend time with God every day. This must be the first and most important commitment. Reading the Bible and praying each day is the one thing that will keep you centered and keep you from running off the rails. It helps you remember God’s grace in your life as he writes your story. It seems counterintuitive to the person with a crammed schedule, but it is necessary for a busy employee, parent, or entrepreneur. Spending time with God, whether in the morning, at lunchtime, or in the evening, is critical to your joy and success. It helps you live by grace rather than guilt.

Get simple

One of the great challenges for busy people is how to find time to fit it all in. Being organized helps, but the key to finding margin is not finding a way to fit in more stuff but learning how to eliminate stuff. This is where learning to say “no” is critical. You must determine what is most important in your life and schedule that first. Many busy people want to spend time with God, go to church, serve, participate in a small group, and spend quality time with their family. They just haven’t learned to say no to things that keep them from doing it. Your peace and joy come from what you say “no” to as much as what you say “yes” to. Committing to simplify your schedule creates the opportunity to live by a purpose. It is OK to say no.

Get focused

You must determine what is essential and pursue that wholeheartedly. The commitments you make must be meaningful, simple, and doable. I have often made the mistake of setting a goal or planning a schedule that was completely unreasonable. You must bring an intense focus to your planning. Decide what is most important and do that first. Everything else can wait.

Get scheduled

Most people begin with the schedule first. They do not take the time to ask hard questions or decide what is indispensable. Until you put God at the center of your day, commit to the essential, and learn the art of saying no, then you will fall victim to your schedule. Once you have made those critical decisions, then you can approach the calendar with confidence and make it serve you rather than you serve it.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed. Jesus said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Living by God’s grace empowers even the busiest person to create margin and live joyfully.

3 Rules for Defeating Giants

The story of David and Goliath has permeated the fabric of our culture to the point that this true story has become a metaphor for overcoming great odds. Not just great odds, but even slightly difficult ones like a basketball team beating another team that was marginally better. While one can draw that conclusion from the biblical text, that was certainly not the main point of the story.                                 

This story shows us about life, our relationship with God, who God is, God’s power, overcoming great odds through faith, and how God wants us to live. It shows the power of God not the power of David. David is a picture of Jesus Christ. He sacrificed himself for the unbelieving Israelites and defeated death and the enemy. He became the king of God’s people. All of this points to Jesus.

With that said there are many powerful principles that can be drawn from the story. One of my favorites is that David did not let his enemy set the rules for his life. Goliath, backed by the hordes of the Philistines, threw down the gauntlet to the Israelites, who had their own throngs of fighting men. Goliath said, “Let’s fight man to man.” Obviously, he wanted to do that because he was 9 & ½ feet tall, had the most advanced weaponry of his day, and had an armor bearer to boot. While it was common in that day to settle small skirmishes in that way, it was not common for large armies in a major conflict to do so. I’m still not sure why King Saul kowtowed to that demand. Nevertheless, Goliath’s challenge implied fighting Goliath’s way. You can tell by the introductory trash talk between David and Goliath that Goliath expected more. But David did not operate by the rule of intimidation but lived by the rule of faith. He came to Goliath with a sling and five smooth stones and a heart filled with faith in God. Don’t romanticize “little David’s” approach. A skilled man with a sling and a tennis-ball-sized rock was a formidable weapon. Properly slung it was like being hit with a small cannon ball. David, of course, won and the rest is history.

That brings me to the big application questions. Who is your enemy? And are you allowing your enemy to set the rules in your life? Here are three rules that will help you defeat the giants in your life.

Rule #1 – Faith in God Wins the Battle

The enemy wants you to live by the rule of doubt. He began this strategy in the Garden of Eden with Eve. He always wants you to doubt God’s words, God’s promises, and God’s wisdom. Do you live by doubt or do you live by the rule of faith? David lived by faith in God. It was the difference between defeating a giant and being bird food.

Rule #2 – Wear Your Own Armor

Even King Saul tried to get David to conform to his ways. He tried to get David to wear his armor. Perhaps it was the king’s personal armor or maybe it was from his armory. Most likely it was the king’s own armor, which tells us that David must have been a large teenager because the Bible tells us that Saul was “head and shoulders” taller than everyone else. The point is that David figured out quickly that he could either conform and die or walk in his own giftedness and win. God has made you with particular skills and experiences. You either conform to everyone else’s way or walk in the power of God’s gifts and blessings in your own life. 

Rule #3 – Favor Action, Attack, and Advance

David did not hesitate. He accepted the challenge and acted. Your enemy wants you to hesitate, to wait, to procrastinate, to find a more convenient time, or to ignore the challenge before you. He tells us to put it off and to wait for better circumstances. A few decades later David’s son, Solomon, wrote, “If you wait for perfect conditions you will never get anything done.” He probably learned this lesson from dear old dad. No doubt he heard the story countless times. It was enough for him, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to record this lesson in Holy Scripture.

Someone will set the rules for your life. You will either live by the rule of faith and follow God’s rules – the ones that lead to life and victory – or you will let your enemy set the rules for your life and go on to struggle and defeat. I hope you choose wisely and choose life!

The Best is Yet to Come!

 

I often say the best is yet to come for two reasons: 1) It is a faith statement that is rooted in God’s Word and God’s will, and 2) I really believe it! God is empowering us to reach and connect more people so that we can fulfill our vision of “bringing people, wherever they are, into a growing relationship with Jesus.” We are becoming an “everyday” church through Avalon 365. It has been exciting to see so many people receive Christ, get baptized, and attend the Next Step classes.  God is building our momentum and I believe the best is yet to come!

Easter weekend is the most important weekend on the Christian calendar. Jesus died and resurrected on Easter weekend and more people receive Christ on this weekend than any other date on the calendar. That is why it is important for you to be involved this Easter. Here are four ways you can make a difference on Easter weekend and be a part of the great things God is doing at Avalon Church.

1.    Show up.

One of the ways you can reach and connect more people is by showing up. Easter offers one of the greatest opportunities of the year for you to draw close to Jesus. Because of his resurrection, you will be reminded of God’s great love for you. The Easter services will be among the greatest we have all year. We have several opportunities for you to attend. Join an Upper Room Gathering on Friday at 7:00 PM at the church auditorium or in a small group. We will have communion and prayer for the weekend services. We will have services at 6:00 PM on Saturday and 9:30 AM and 11:00 AM on Sunday. I hope you will take advantage of one or more of these options by serving in a service and worshipping in a service.

2.    Bring someone.

Inviting is evangelism! Studies show that most people will come to church if someone invites them. Invite your friends, neighbors, family, and co-workers. Grab a handful of invite cards and pass them out. We are praying for 100 people to receive Christ on Easter weekend at Avalon Church!

3.    Volunteer.

Don’t miss this opportunity to make a difference! Studies show that four people attend for every person who volunteers. The Bible teaches that serving precedes spiritual growth. We need you to be involved, people who need Jesus need you to be involved, and you need you to be involved! I would encourage you to serve in as many services as you can. You can make a difference!

4.    Bring a special offering.

We began talking about the Family Ministry Offering several weeks ago. Some of you have already given to it and I am so thankful. I am asking every person who attends Avalon to give something. Pray about what God wants you to give. This special offering will help us improve the environments in Avalon Kids and Avalon Students. It is an investment in reaching children and students! No matter what the amount is, pray and ask God to reveal to you what you should give.

I can’t wait to see you this Sunday. Let’s pray for a great Easter at Avalon Church! 

5 Commandments for Easter at Avalon Church

 

 

Last year I introduced the 5 Commandments of Easter at Avalon Church. I want to remind you again of how important this time of the year is.

Easter is approaching quickly and we are getting ready for a great move of God at Avalon Church. Since Easter is the time of year when more people visit a church and more people get saved than any other weekend, we must be on our “A Game” at Avalon Church. With that in mind here are 5 Commandments for Easter.

1. Thou Shalt Not Ignore A Guest (or anyone else).

We must all take responsibility. Reaching and connecting people requires that all hands be on deck. This is not just for our Guest Services ministry; it is for all of us. We are better together! Having a good attitude will help our guests take their next step. So let’s be friendly, helpful, and welcoming. We are preparing and working for a great move of God, so let’s show everyone that we are prepared.

2. Thou Shalt Not Say, “I Don’t Care.”

It is OK not to know the answer to a question but it is never OK to say, “I don’t know.” Instead of pointing or shrugging, make sure to walk a guest to the check-in, the children’s area, or wherever they need to go. It is critical for people to feel loved and cared for when they arrive. Your actions say I care about you. If you don’t know the answer to their question, then take them to Guest Central. Offer to help carry their things. This lets people know that we truly care about them.

3. Thou Shalt Not Sit On The Sidelines.

Easter is the most important time of the year for Avalon Church. More people will come to Christ on Easter weekend than any other time of year. We need you to be involved. Invite people. Hand out invite cards. Invite friends, family, and neighbors. Commit join us and pray and at an Upper Room Experience on Good Friday. Attend Saturday at 6:00 PM and bring a guest. Attend and serve on 9:30 and 11:00 on Sunday. Serve somewhere. Let your leader know that you are available. If you don’t normally serve, this is a great time to start!

4. Thou Shalt Own It.

Owners take responsibility. Since you are Avalon Church we must all take responsibility and be involved. This is not just for the staff or the leaders. It is for everyone. This is a huge team effort and we will see a great move of God if we all get involved. Your language is important too. Don’t say “they” or “them” but say “we” and “our.” This is your church. Pray for it. Love it. Own it. I am asking every person who attends Avalon Church to say, “I care.”

5. Thou Shalt Expect God To Do Something Big.

Jesus said, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22) Join me in praying and believing God for great things at Easter. Let’s pray for 100 people to be saved on Easter Weekend! That only happens if we all get involved and we all pray in faith. 

I am praying for a God-sized Easter. Let’s all pull together and watch God do something big!

Unplug And Connect With God

 

There are many blessings to all of our modern technology. I happen to like air conditioning, plane travel, television on-demand, and the Internet. It sure beats walking everywhere and sleeping in the woods. But on the flip side, there are curses that go along with technology. We are always connected. Every minute is filled with social media, cell phones, texting, music, and taking lots of pictures. How did we ever make it before we were able to post a low-quality picture of what you ate for lunch?

While there are many things to like about technology, there are challenges too. I will only focus on one. We are so connected that we are actually disconnected from peace, stillness, and silence. These elements are necessary to connect with God.

Psalm 46 is dedicated to “The Sons Of Korah.” Evidently, they were a special group of singers among the ancient Israelites. Their job was to connect us with God through song. The Psalm speaks of being connected to God, of his majesty, and our worship of him. In verse 10 it states, “Be still and know that I am God…”

Evidently being still is an important aspect of knowing God. In order to know and worship him better and experience his power and presence, we must take the time to be still. So what does it mean to be still?

 

BEING STILL MEANS FOCUSING.

Before you read the Bible and pray you must take a moment to focus your attention on God and ask for him to speak to you. This means you must take the time to disconnect from all of your technology and take a moment to prepare your mind.

 

BEING STILL MEANS WORSHIPING.

The most common word for worship in the Bible is a combination of two words meaning, “To kiss towards.” That is what you did to royalty in ancient times. It showed your submission, loyal service, approval, and undying love and commitment. If we are to have that kind of experience with God we must disconnect in order to connect with God.

 

BEING STILL MEANS ACQUIRING A PEACEFUL DEMEANOR.

I personally enjoy observing nature. It brings peace to my heart and mind. It reminds me that God is the Creator and he is in control. In the wild hustle and bustle of our days, we must take time regularly to still our minds and experience God’s peace. This is a great cure for worry!

 

BEING STILL INVOLVES STILLING YOUR MIND.

You can only quiet your mind as you turn off technology and begin to focus on God. Being still enables you to think, muse, reflect and meditate on God.

 

BEING STILL MEANS STANDING FIRM AND BEING STRONG.

I was actually kind of surprised when I learned that being still was not always about simply sitting but about being strong. It means that you stand firm in your faith. It means that you are strong in your belief about God. It is really helpful to know this when you experience difficulty or stress. God wants you to be still and stand strong in believing that he will come through for you.

Being still takes practice. You may fidget at first. Your mind may start to wander but don’t give up on learning to practice being still before God. Disconnect from all that distracts and connect with God. It is a life changing practice. It is a necessary tool to get to know God better. 

 

God’s Prescription For Negative Thinking

 

This past weekend I preached about overcoming negative thinking through our faith in Jesus. If you missed the message you can listen to it online at www.avalonchurch.net. This article is a follow-up to the message.

Have you ever been guilty of stinking thinking? I know I have. It is easy to go negative sometimes. But if God is in control, and I believe he is, then nothing in my life gives me the right to stay negative or discouraged. Negativity and discouragement are tools that the enemy uses to make us take our eyes off of God and live in defeat. The Apostle Paul asked the powerful question, “If God is for us who can be against us?”

Chances are that you will face some obstacles in the near future. That is the nature of life. Those obstacles will either crush you or give you the opportunity to exercise your faith in God. Here are four ways to stay positive in a negative culture.

1. Ask God to deepen your faith.

Your view of God affects everything you do. It certainly affects your attitude. Meditate on these verses and how they affect your faith and your view of God. Romans 14:23 “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Mark 9:23 “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

2. Commit to reading the Scriptures.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2 that we must let God transform our minds and our way of thinking. We do this by filling our minds and strengthening our faith through scripture. Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” 

3. See things from God’s point of view.

This is not the same as simply determining to be a positive thinker. Some people are hopelessly unrealistic in their outlook and never even come close to reality. They simply think “happy thoughts,” as if this magically makes things better. Seeing things as God sees them is a faith commitment to believe God and his promises. Not all things are positive but the outcome will bring glory to God when I acknowledge that God is in control. God will help me when I trust him. Ephesians 6:10 “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your work to the Lord and then your plans will succeed.” Matthew 7:7 “Keep on asking and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened.” Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

4. Surround yourself with the right people.

If you surround yourself with negative people, then you will be influenced by their negativity. On the other hand, surround yourself with positive people who love God and watch your attitude get better! By the way, being actively involved in a small group at Avalon Church will help strengthen your faith and develop a positive outlook.

The Dirty Little Secret At Avalon Church

 

Avalon Church has a secret. You may or may not have noticed it. It is not always obvious to everyone. But it is there nonetheless. A few people know about it, but certainly not everyone. Are you ready for it? Here it is. Avalon Church depends on great volunteers!

Volunteers are the lifeblood of a local congregation. Without great volunteers, a church can’t fulfill the mission given to us by Jesus – loving people and bringing them into a growing relationship with Jesus. God designed the church to be a living, growing body, not an organization or club. That is why the Bible employs metaphors like a body, a flock, and a family to describe the church.

Volunteering has many benefits to you personally. Serving allows us to fulfill Jesus’ command to serve. It connects us and makes us feel like a part of a team. It helps us develop deep relationships. It fulfills us and gives an avenue to fulfill our purpose.

Serving matters. Serving God by serving others through a local congregation of believers is important stuff. It should never be just an add-on to our schedule but should be a priority in our Christian journey. Here are a few tips on how you can be a great volunteer.

Show up on time.

Treat your volunteer ministry as a priority. Showing up on time for your pre-service meeting is essential. This allows you to pray with your team and get ready to serve others. Not showing up on time says to others that you don’t take your job seriously.

Be prepared.

People need your best. Many people come to church needing Jesus or needing someone to care for them. Make sure to get plenty of rest the night before. Make sure that you look and smell clean. Brush your teeth!  Bad breath hinders even the greatest volunteer. Know your job description so you can be effective.

Pray.

Jesus said that we accomplish nothing of value without him. Make sure to pray and get in the right frame of mind to help others. Some people present a challenge and aren’t easy to love so you need God’s help!

Focus on others.

Remember that you are here to serve others. Chat with your friends after church. Make sure to be on the lookout for new people. Smile a lot.

Have a good attitude.

Your attitude should always be positive and friendly. Don’t just point people to where they need to go. Host them. Walk with them. Answer their questions. If you don’t know the answer take them to your team leader or a staff member. Never leave them with unanswered questions.

See the big picture.

The ultimate win happens when we serve and love others. A great program is good but it is not the vital win. Always be prepared to help outside of your area of ministry. Remember that the vision is for the whole church not just your particular area of ministry.

Recruit others.

You are a representative of Jesus and of Avalon Church. Your ultimate job is to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus. Getting people connected to our church is a big step. But we don’t just want to get people in the door; we want to get them connected. One of the best ways to get people connected is to get them to serve alongside you. Recruit a friend to serve alongside you. Don’t depend on your team leader or the church staff to do all of the recruiting. Get excited and bring your friends along!

I believe Avalon Church has some of the greatest volunteers in the world. This past Sunday we had many new people sign up to serve.  I am so proud of all of you. Let’s make the rest of this year the best ever by being great volunteers!

 

Inviting People To Church Works!

 

Every Sunday at Avalon Church we experience the power of inviting others to church. Many people come to Christ because you invite them. It is amazing how God has used so many of you in the past couple of weeks to bring others to hear the gospel!

A young man got saved two weeks ago in one of our services. He received an invitation to our church nearly eight years ago! God has been working in his life and he remembered that invitation. Another family visited that had been invited seven months earlier at a HOPE event! Many others came to Christ because you invited them. Keep on inviting. Don’t give up or get discouraged. Sometimes it takes a while but if you keep on inviting, God will answer your prayers.

Many Christians get intimidated by sharing their faith. But conversations about the Good News should be natural and sharing your faith should be an organic experience.  Following what the Bible teaches brings great joy. Jesus told His disciples that when the Holy Spirit controlled them they would have great boldness.

The Bible shows many ways that people shared their faith. There is really no “bad” way to share your faith.  One of the most effective ways is to partner with the church by inviting others.  The church is your partner in bringing the Good News to your family, friends, and the world.  God never intended for you to be without a church family, and he never intended for you to have to bear the burden alone of spreading the Good News. 

Inviting Is Evangelism.

Everyone can invite someone to church. Philip was one of Christ’s disciples and he bought his friend Nathanael to Jesus.  He simply said, “Come and see what I have found.”

Inviting friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers to attend a church service, a small group, or a special event is effective. Inviting comes naturally and does not require any special training. You simply ask. When you are excited about what God has done in your life, you want others to know your story. Invite them to hear the music, to hear a sermon series, to attend a special day or big event, to check out the children’s programs, or simply to come to church and have lunch with you afterward.

Don’t stop inviting people. God will use you to make an impact and to reach people! Inviting is evangelism! We saw it this past Sunday. Keep up the good work!

Solving The Marriage Communication Puzzle

 

Does it ever seem like men and women use the same words and yet speak totally different languages? Welcome to the world of marriage. You must understand that men and women speak differently…and that is OK. God actually designed it that way for a purpose. Learning to build your marriage on the foundation of God’s grace will help you become a better communicator.

Husband and wife are to be one in Jesus. Understanding this can help you navigate the sometimes-rough waters of marriage. God has made men and women different. We all know that. Truthfully, the differences are what attract us to each other. But in the same way that the differences can attract us, they can also frustrate us. They can cause friction in a marriage.

The Hebrew word describing Adam’s creation means, “to squeeze out.” I think this helps us understand how a man operates and thinks. Men came from dirt and are more comfortable being dirty, hunting, and playing football. Men are often unrefined and crude. That may explain why a man will share a foul smell with another man and laugh about it.

Men handle and express emotions differently than women. I believe God has made men tougher on the outside and less connected to their emotions on the inside. They need to be this way to protect their family. They have a God-given aggression that is useful in providing for a family. This is important for a wife to know because she will then be able to appreciate the differences in the way he communicates and expresses emotions. Just because your husband does not cry during a commercial featuring cute kittens does not mean he has no emotions. He just processes them differently than you do. 

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. A woman, by nature of how she was created, is naturally more refined than a man. Women love to be pretty and clean. They communicate differently. They love pretty things. They are tougher on the inside than a man because they are more emotionally connected than a man. Although this is different than the way a man is made, it is equally important. Women are the emotional glue that holds the family together. They are more in touch with their emotions because they need to be in order to bring beauty into the marriage and mother their children. 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 part of what makes marriage a beautiful mystery. They help make marriage delightful. But 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.

By trusting God’s design for us, we can celebrate the differences between husband and wife and embrace them as a part of the glorious, mysterious union. The Apostle Peter admonished husbands and wives to live together “in an understanding way.” Learning the subtle differences between how men and women communicate will go a long way in helping your communication with each other. Women tend to use many more words in a day than men. Men tend to use fewer words. Women have an innate desire for deep communication. They love details! Men, on the other hand, tend to think that their actions speak for them and they 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  played basketball with a group of men for about two years. One day Kim asked me about them and I realized that I did not even know some of their last names, much less any personal details. I knew their first names and what they did for a living. I knew who had a good jump shot and who played tough 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 just because I tend not to be as detailed as she is, does not mean that I don’t care. On the hand, I have had to learn to pay more attention. I have had to learn to engage in deeper and longer conversations. She needs to have more conversation than I. God mandated that I learn to understand her and love her as Christ loves the church. We have both learned to understand each other better, and as a result, our marriage is stronger. We are learning to celebrate our differences.

 

 

Happy Birthday To An Amazing Woman!

 

 

Happy Birthday to Kim! Her birthday is this week! She was born on February 9th in the year of none of your business! She has been an amazing partner in every sense of the word. She is not perfect, but she has been perfect for me. God knew this and made us the exact right fit for each other. She has been amazing. She has been faithful, encouraging, compassionate, and an exemplary leader. Here are a few important dates in her life:

  • 1982 – graduated high school and started dating me!

  • 1984 – got engaged at Christmas

  • 1986 – graduated college with a degree in music, got   married, and started at our first church as youth pastor

  • 1988 – started working at our second church as youth pastor

  • 1989 – Brittney was born

  • 1991 – Brandon was born

  • 1995 – Brooke was born, we moved to Georgia, started at our first church as senior pastor

  •  1999 – helped me start a traveling speaking ministry and evangelistic association

  • 2001 – co-founder of Avalon Church

  • 2001 – Present – served as an amazing pastor’s wife, pastor, and leader at Avalon Church

Kim, you have been an example to many, a friend to all, and an influence for God’s Kingdom. You have encouraged me when I was down, lifted me when I was weak, walked beside me when I felt like quitting, protected my back from all attacks, and loved me deeply at all times. You were there when I deserved love and when I did not. You have stayed in the game when we were under attack and your light has shined brightly through good times and bad. You are an amazing person, Christian, wife, mom, pastor’s wife, pastor, leader, and friend. You have made every day a good day. I am better for having known you and having loved you. May God bless you in the same way that you have blessed me. May he bless you in the same way you have blessed others. If he does that, then your cup will overflow indeed.

I love you. Happy Birthday! 

How Losing The Munchkin Village Made Me A Better Leader

 

 

My first job after graduating from college was serving as a youth pastor in the Redneck Rivera - Panama City, Florida. Tough job, but somebody has to do it. My first year on the job I decided that we would have a “Christian prom” for our teens. Being the creative type, I made most of the decisions about the event by myself because I thought no one else could “capture the magic” I had planned.

The theme was “Over The Rainbow.” It was based on the Wizard of Oz movie. I found a local college that had recently done a production of the musical and secured the Yellow Brick Road, the Munchkin Village, the Emerald City, and costumes for the Cowardly Lion, the Tin, Man, and Dorothy. My leadership failure was that I simply tried to do too much of the work myself without recruiting help and casting my vision to them. About three hours before the party started I found myself hauling props over the main bridge from the beach to the city during rush hour traffic. At the top of the bridge, a gust of wind caught the props and blew them out of the back of the truck and into the middle of the bridge. You can imagine the reaction. Cursing. Yelling. Horns. Gestures. And that was just me. 

When I finally got everything loaded back on the truck and traffic started moving again I was in a panic because time was running out. Panic normally leads to bad decisions. As I sped up to the front door of the hotel, I failed to notice that the props stood higher than the neon-clad overhang. Bam! Broken overhang. Broken neon signs. Broken props for the banquet that started in less than two hours.

That was a very expensive prom.

 

What did I learn about leadership that day?

1. You can’t be successful alone; it takes a team.

That was a hard lesson for me to learn early in my ministry. I imagine it is hard for many people to learn, but it is a lesson that you must learn if you are to succeed. God teaches this lesson to church leaders about the Body of Christ. Each part of the body has a function and a job. We are a team and as a team, we can do the job God has given us.

 

2. You must give away ministry.

I learned a valuable lesson on the bridge that day. Leaders must give away as much as possible. As a younger man, I felt guilty about that. I felt like I was being lazy. Real leaders learn that less is more. You must give away ministry.

 

3. Giving away ministry means you have to plan ahead.

I believe one reason I failed to give away ministry in the beginning was I did not plan ahead. If you are going to involve others, then you must be organized and plan ahead.

 

4. When you get in the middle of the bridge don’t panic.

Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of a bridge during rush hour with a flying Munchkin village. That is not the time to panic. That is the time to reach out and get some help. Step back and get a plan. Talk to someone. Get a coach. Get a mentor that can help you pick up the pieces and get out of traffic.

 

5. Learn from your mistakes.

If I honestly evaluate my performance on the leading that prom, then I have to admit that it was an unequivocal disaster. Thankfully I learned from my mistakes. In fact, I have a Ph.D. in making mistakes. But most people have an amazing ability to cut you some slack if you learn from your mistakes, grow, and don’t keep on making the same mistakes over and over.

I have learned many leadership lessons since then. One of which is that you must never stop growing, improving, and learning. Stay at it. And if you find yourself in the middle of a bridge in rush hour collecting pieces of Munchkin Land, then smile and take a deep breath. It will get better soon. 

 

Hallelujah! We Are Going To The Super Bowl!

 

Admit it Falcons Fans. You thought they were just teasing you. They always do. The Falcons have always been able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Surely they wouldn’t get in the playoffs. OK, maybe they would, but they would lose in the first round. Well, they looked good in the first round, but win the NFC Championship? You must be teasing. Then the score was 24 to 0, zip, nada, the old goose egg at halftime. And they didn’t just win; they dominated, humiliated, and destroyed the supposedly unstoppable offense.

Now we are going to the Super Bowl! So don’t ruin it by skipping church! Come to the 9:30 or the 11:00 service. Wear stuff from your favorite team. We will have a blast! And trust me… we need all the help we can get! 

How To Get Answers To Prayer In 2017

 

 

Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7)

One reason why some Christians don’t get answers to their prayers is they pray in doubt rather than in faith. As a result, they don’t see immediate answers to prayer and they believe that God is just not interested in them. When Jesus told us to keep on asking, looking, and knocking what did it mean? Do we get our prayers answered by bugging God until he relents? Do we nag God until he gets tired of us? “Here! Now be quiet,” says God in response to our badgering. I don’t believe this is consistent with the nature of God. Jesus said that the Heavenly Father is far greater, more loving, and willing to give good gifts to his children than any earthly father. He is a God who loves to bless and answer prayer.

Keep on asking means that I must pray in faith and then pray in thankfulness. I don’t think it means that I need to beg God over and over again to forgive me of a sin I have committed. Once is enough when I believe the Bible. Nor does it mean that I have to keep on asking God to help and heal my marriage. I believe keep on asking means that I pray about it and then I believe it and receive it. Then my prayers in the future are no longer requests, but prayers of thanks.

Keep on looking means that I am to continue to believe God’s promises. Sometimes I am tempted to doubt, but with God’s help, I believe. What causes me to believe? It is the promises of God. When you pray according to the will of God, based on the promises of God, depending on the goodness and grace of God you will get your prayers answered. You may have to stand on those promises for a bit, but God will answer your prayer.

Keep on knocking means that I am to do my part too! If you are praying to get out of debt make sure that you are tithing, managing your money well, and controlling your spending. It would be silly to pray for God to bless my finances when I don’t obey what he said about my money. That is praying out of the will of God and he does not answer prayers that contradict his Word.

Ask the Heavenly Father to help you pray in his will, believe in his promises, and trust him to answer your prayers and he will!

 

 

 

Winning Through Reading The Bible In 2017

 

Most Christians want to feel connected to God but struggle to stay consistent reading the Bible and praying. Sometimes that is a result of being too busy. Many times it is because we have good intentions but poor plans. In my opinion, it is often because we do not fully understand how to make reading the Bible and praying meaningful and enjoyable. Things that we enjoy we do. Try going on a diet that starves you. You will grit it out for a while but living a life where you are always hungry is not sustainable for most people. Why do you think so many people lose weight only to put it back on again?

Although you may need more discipline in your life (who doesn’t, right?) chances are that it is not more discipline you need but more joy in your devotional life. Think of it like a relationship. Would you feel like your marriage was strong if you only did things together as a couple because you were disciplined and had a daily checklist? I doubt that kind of relationship would last very long. You may need some discipline to get started, but you need to enjoy each other’s company eventually or your relationship will not last.

Here are a few thoughts on how to connect with God regularly through prayer and Bible reading and how you can learn to love it.  

·      Learn the why of the goal before you set the goal.

Why do you want to read the Bible and pray? If it is simply because you feel guilty or the preacher told you to, then you will probably not get much out of it. Before long you will begin to feel like something is wrong with you because you don’t enjoy it. Most likely you will continue in the cycle of frustration that keeps you thinking that you must not love God very much because, if you did, you would not struggle so much.

However, if you desire to connect with God and grow closer to him, then that changes the dynamic. It changes your motivation and your thinking. I have often heard men express the reason they don’t read the Bible is they don’t like to read. Yet they will read voraciously to learn the stats of numerous athletes so they can win their fantasy football league. The problem, then, is not that they don’t read the Bible because they don’t like to read, but because they think they can’t understand the Bible and, therefore, they don’t want to do it. They probably did not learn the why of the goal before they set their goal. Identifying the why changes the dynamic. Once you discover the goal behind the goal it motivates you.

·      Schedule around your goal.

This is very important. You have to put the “big rocks” into your schedule first. If you want to connect with God, then you have to see it as a priority in your life. It will probably require that you change your schedule. You can’t treat a priority like another add-on. This is true of any goal. You won’t exercise if you don’t treat it as a big rock in your schedule. Neither will you read the Bible and pray regularly if you don’t prioritize it in your schedule.

·      Set yourself up for success

This is where many stumble in their devotional life. They set goals that are unreasonable. They fail to take into consideration their own rhythms and the unique way that God created them. I like reading the Bible and praying to start my day. That is my best time and I am definitely more consistent if I plan it at the beginning of my day. But if your rhythm is that you are not awake until after you have been up for two hours, then you are not actually reading the Bible but just changing your sleeping position. It is possible that you need to go to bed earlier so you can start your day earlier. But it is also possible that you need to change your schedule at lunch or when you get home or your routine before you go to bed.

The point is you need to set yourself up for success. Find out what connects you to God best and do it. You do not have to do it like everyone else. I highly recommend using www.youversion.com or the Bible App to set yourself up for success.  

·      Tell someone

Sharing it with others helps you celebrate the win. Tell your spouse, a friend, or a small group member what you have been reading. Tell them what God is speaking to you about. Ask them to share with you what God is doing in their life. By sharing it, not only are you celebrating the win, but also, you are speaking into the lives of others. This kind of fellowship is encouraging to you and them.

I hope that you will find yourself closer to God in 2017 than you have ever been. You can connect with God through consistent Bible reading and prayer. I believe it is going to be a great year for you!

Don’t Miss “Best Christmas Ever”

 

 

The Christmas Production at Avalon Church this year is going to be spectacular! It is an event that you won’t want to miss. Bring your family and friends! Here are a few details to remember:

 

When: December 24th at 4:00 and 6:00 PM

 

Where: Avalon Church auditorium

 

What: This Christmas Eve production is going to be unique, inspiring, and awesome! It is a variety show format and will be filled with humor, amazing music, video, lights, and fun for the whole family. This will be a family service and all the kids will be in the auditorium too. Don’t forget that these services take the place of our regular weekend services and there will be no Sunday morning services on Christmas Day. Each child will receive a fun grab bag to help them connect and stay entertained. Also Santa will be available for the kids before both services.

 

Why: To reach people and celebrate what Jesus has done for us! Pastor Ritchie will bring a Christmas message that will be geared toward reaching people with the gospel. Make sure to invite all your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors to hear the Good News!