These songs can be downloaded on iTunes.
As I’ve been reading through the Bible recently, I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of times the biblical authors give thanks to God. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Colossians, and in just the first three chapters Paul either gives thanks to God or instructs the Christians to give thanks to God six different times!
1:3 “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.”
1:12 “...Joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”
2:7 “...Strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
3:15 “...And be thankful.”
3:16 “...As you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
3:17 “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, to it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
From what I’m seeing in Colossians, it appears that giving thanks is supposed to be a natural, consistent, spontaneous part of the Christian life. Take some time today to press pause and thank God for who He is and for what He has done for you. After expressing gratitude to God, look for opportunities throughout the rest of this week and weekend to express gratitude to people in your life for who they are and for what they've done for you. Who knows, perhaps your words might be just the source of encouragement they need!
I can’t stop thinking about how amazing our God is, that He’s blessed us with a church that's able to give away not one, but 11 mission trips! When we first started talking about this, our team was pumped at the thought. As the weekend approached, we were in prayer that the Spirit would move to select the right people for the trip. Each time a name was revealed from the bucket on stage, my heart jumped a little!
We'd like to congratulate the following people who won and would love for you to join us in praying for them as they embark on this adventure:
My first trip to Haiti transformed my life, and I can’t wait to see how God radically changes their lives through their trip!
If you feel that God is calling you on a short-term trip with us or another organization, don't hold back. Sometimes we have to step out in faith like Wayne and Terri to experience things that can change our lives forever. View our upcoming opportunities on our Global Missions page or contact me if you'd like to learn more!
Many years ago I had a friend who I knew who never really gave her heart to Jesus and never was baptized. I prayed and prayed for an opportunity to talk to her about it and one night, as she was dropping me off at my house after going to a movie, we started a conversation. I asked her what was stopping her from following Jesus and being baptized. She told me, “How can God forgive me when I can’t even forgive my own brother?” I told her that God first wanted to forgive her from all of her sins and in time, as she yielded to God, her heart would soften and she'd be able to forgive her brother and others who had hurt or wronged her in the past.
A few days after that conversation, she and her husband both were baptized. And in time, she forgave her brother too.
1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Many times our past holds up from following God. We can never be good enough on our own to come to Christ. Never! God didn’t send Jesus to die for the healthy, He came for us who are the sick. He came for those of us who have a past, who don’t feel worthy, who struggle daily really believing God could love us that much!
Don’t let your past dictate your future. God loved you first! He desires your companionship. He longs to see you in heaven with Him!
No matter where you are in your relationship with Jesus right now, don’t be afraid to take the next step. Maybe that’s asking a friend, “What’s keeping you from following Jesus?” or, “What’s keeping me from following Jesus?”
Jesus loves and forgives and He forgets—and He wants us to have a beautiful life with Him! Leave whatever it is in your past and keep walking.
We believe parents make the biggest difference in their child’s faith. So we want your kids to hear the Big Picture Show Bible story first from you! Take five minutes this week and read the Bible story with your child and talk about the questions below. You can also listen to the songs we'll be singing this weekend!
Big Idea: Jesus died for us, and now He is alive!
Talk About: Tell your family this week what Easter is really all about. Jesus died for us because he loved us so much!
Big Idea: Jesus is love so He made the ultimate sacrifice for you.
Talk About: Talk about why Jesus died on the cross for us.
Bible Story: Matthew 26:1-28:10
Big Idea: Jesus is love so He made the ultimate sacrifice for you.
Talk About: Read the Bible Story aloud together this week.
Here's one short, yet factual statement about me: Unless I write it down, it will not happen.
You know those people—you tell them something small and they remember for years down the road. They pick up on the small details of your life and make you feel immensely special because they’ll remember for years on end. Hi, i’m not one of those people. Thank goodness for reminder systems, calendar invites, etc.
So, how do I combat this? I put things in my direct line of vision consistently and frequently because I want and need them to be a priority.
That’s why the Circles of Influence program we received in service last week was so immensely beneficial to me. I care more than I can explain about those five names I wrote down, and I bet you do too. Those names represent thousands of prayers and hopes for those people you hold to be important in your life. They represent who knows how many conversations.
I truly believe we all have great intentions with our prayer life and to spread the gospel with others. We easily get distracted and forget to be bold in our prayers and our conversations, but we have a new day... every day! God is good to press “restart” with us—to give us a new perspective, a new opportunity.
If you haven’t yet written down your five names of those you're going to be intentional with, I say stop reading this blog now and write them down!
There's no prayer or person that is out of God’s reach. Pray specifically and boldly for those names and then go do something about it! You and I both have a challenge set before us today.
I look back on my long journey toward Jesus so many years ago and recall the way I sat in the church making commitments to Christ during the worship service and then left and lived however I felt like living. I did it for years. I sensed the need for something more, but kept running on the same church attendance treadmill in an attempt to reconcile myself to God. I would feel the pull, the tug, the nudge to step out of my seat and jump in the waters of baptism, but I talked myself out of it time and again. I can hardly express the relief I experienced, the weight lifted off my spirit, when I finally took the plunge and said, “Jesus, have it your way. Whatever you want, I want.”
How about you? Have you been thinking about taking the plunge? Maybe putting it off for weeks? Or months? Or, like me, years? Easter is a time when we make it super easy to take the step of baptism. Just go here to register and then show up on Easter Sunday, April 20 with a towel in your shirt and shorts that you don't mind getting wet. We'll be excited to see you there!
Want something to celebrate today? How about this: At Southland so far this year over 200 people have been baptized. How awesome is that? God is doing something amazing around here in response to our prayers, generosity, and availability to be used by God to share Jesus with others.
This morning, Southland staff gathered to read scripture and pray. We read through Acts 8:26-40 about Philip and the Ethiopian—a cool snapshot of Jesus being shared clearly and someone responding eagerly to the invitation to know and follow Him. We then prayed for God to be lifting up more and more "Philips" at Southland who will go and share Jesus in their lives, their community, and through their words. We also prayed for the "Ethiopians" out there who are searching for Jesus, searching for the One who is the Truth, to find their way to Him. We prayed for the upcoming Easter Baptisms and then committed to praying for every person of the 200 who have been baptized this year so far—by name. It was an awesome time of hearing voices lifted up to the Father on behalf of the people at Southland.
We would love to invite you all to join us as we pray for the movement of God's Spirit in the hearts of people. Check out the passage in Acts today and add your voice to our prayers for “Philips” and “Ethiopians” who are out there in our church, in our community and in the world. If you know one of the 200, begin lifting them up by name daily. We as a staff want to thank you all for the ways you love God, love people and prove it daily.
These songs can be downloaded on iTunes.
We live in a world that loves results. In fact, most everything we do is centered around the result. It’s what drives us. It’s our motivation. It keeps us going. We work out to see results. We eat right to see results. We organize, practice our trade and keep our finances in check, all for the result.
Is there anything you'd be willing to do if the result was in question? Last fall I learned about a woman named Eppie who did just that, and God rewarded her faithfulness with an eternal result.
It was a summer revival in the early '70s. Many people filed into the small church night after night to hear about the love of Jesus. At the end of the revival, the preacher challenged each person in the room to identify someone whom they would be willing to pray for their salvation. Eppie chose Paul, my grandfather. His name was heavy on her heart and she prayed for him daily for the next forty years. It wasn’t until his funeral last fall, when the preacher casually mentioned Paul’s coming to Jesus in his last days, that Eppie saw what her prayers had done.
Eppie just picked somebody. That’s it. She looked around at the people God had already brought into her life. She picked one and started praying. And she didn’t stop.
Check out these verses from 1 Corinthians 3:6-8: “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose.”
Paul tells us in Romans that it doesn’t matter which role we get, whether we plant seeds or water them, it’s God who does the real work.
What might God be asking you to do? Is he probing you to pray for someone? To give to a specific cause? Or to invite someone to lunch? Whatever it is, I can promise, the fruit from your faithfulness will be just as rewarding as the end result. And who knows, you may affect eternity, too!
Have you ever had to get up in the middle of the night for some reason? A few weeks ago my wife Nakada and I had the opportunity to go with UK’s Christian Student Fellowship to Florida with about 180 college students. We stayed in a retreat center that housed about 75 people. So that means almost everyone was packed into rooms, sleeping on an air mattress in the middle of the floor. If anyone had to get up in the middle of the night, you had to make your way across dozens of people scattered all across the floor—in the dark. Then when you got out to the hallway, you were blinded by the bright light. After a few seconds, your eyes would adjust to the light and you could make your way about. But then when you went back into the room, it was pitch black! It seemed even darker than it was before. But, of course, after a few minutes your eyes adjusted and you could see just fine. The darkness didn’t seem that dark anymore.
We spent all week studying through the book of 1 John and the first chapter talks all about the light and the dark. I couldn’t help but make the correlation...
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7, NIV)
To me, it seems fairly obvious. The longer you’re in the dark, living in sin, the brighter the light seems, and the more time you spend in the light, in God’s presence, the darker the darkness begins to look, the more and more noticeable our sin becomes. But if we spend time in the darkness—living in a life of sin—all of a sudden the darkness doesn’t seem as dark anymore. This is when we begin to rationalize our sin—that it’s not really that bad. John refers to this as being “blinded by the darkness” in verse 11. But if we will allow ourselves to spend time in the light, God promises us that Jesus will cleanse us from our sin.
This reminds me of the song by Hillsong United, Light Will Shine, which simply says, “Your light will shine in the darkness, we are Yours.” Our prayer for you this week is that you will spend more time running away from the darkness and into His glorious light. Read through 1 John this week and think about what the darkness is in your life and allow God’s light to illuminate every aspect.
I just recently had a Facebook interaction with six people I grew up with and we talked about growing up in the church. It began because someone posted a picture of all of us at church together.
The conversation began with how fun those days were. It turned into remembering that although we were in church and we were having fun (you can’t tell from this picture), we could not remember being taught the importance or even the ability of having a personal relationship with Jesus. I remember having to memorize prayers and creeds. I remember hymns we sang. I remember being at church a lot. However, just like me, person after person commented that they wished that with all of the memorizing and reciting they would have been taught the intimacy of a personal Savior.
It can be hard to imagine the God of the Universe wants to have a personal relationship with all of us. The same God who created the oceans and the dry land knew us in our mother’s womb. The God who made the stars in the sky also knows the number of hairs on our heads. Jesus himself prayed for our relationship with Him. In John 17:21--23, Jesus is praying when He says, “... that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
I hope each of you reading this understands Jesus came to this world so that we could have a relationship with Him. He wants us to interact with Him. This interaction can happen when we are all together on the weekends for our worship services or when we are all alone. I believe some of my most memorable times with my Savior have been in the quiet of the morning. The distractions of the day haven’t begun yet and I just talk and listen. It's in those times that my friend Jesus and I get to know each other on a more personal level.
If you'd like to know more about Jesus as a friend and Savior, visit our Prayer Ministry this weekend and ask questions. If you want to learn more about how you can connect to Jesus on deeper levels, stop by Connection Point. My prayer is that anyone who comes to Southland will know that they can have a personal relationship with Jesus.
God has placed lots of folks in my life who don’t follow Jesus. Having these relationships help remind me that I really enjoy these friends here on earth and would like to see them spend eternity with Jesus in heaven. I need to share His truth with them in love. When I pray for these friends, I feel the peace of God. I sense God saying, “I got this.” (Sometimes I hear the voice of God translated in urban slang). It hasn’t always been this way, though.
I used to be a person who would sit down with an atheist or agnostic for hours, try to answer all their questions—usually in a rather harsh and judgmental tone—and argue with them toe-to-toe whenever I perceived they were attacking my faith. I won some arguments; but, not surprisingly, none of those folks came to know Jesus.
Later, I evolved into a type of person who’d learn every evangelism trend in the book. I relied heavily on methodologies, hoping they’d prove successful when I spoke about Jesus. When I was honest with myself though, I thought, “This isn’t a good return on my investment.” In my mind I had thought, “I got this,” in regard to speaking about Jesus with others. For all of my attempts however, only a few people whom I interacted with seemed to trust in Jesus.
For the past several years, I’ve been trying something new. When I have a relationship with folks who don’t follow God—whether they are old friends who reveal to me their unbelief or if it’s someone new—I simply pray for them and try to love them. I’ve come to abandon the argue-them-to-Jesus method and replaced that, through God’s grace, with listening and asking questions. I then attempt to love them and pray for them. In a strange turn of events, I’ve been able to see lots of folks come to know Jesus. As they do, God seems to place even more non-Christians in my life.
Pray. Love. Repeat. That’s my strategy. It seems that, with this way of sharing and caring for others, the pressure is off me, and once again I sense God saying, “I got this!”
A Scripture I’ve been reflecting on lately might be familiar to you; 2 Chronicles 7:14. The NLT translation reads,
“...if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
In this passage, God had listened to an eloquent prayer from the prophet Samuel and at the end of it, I read between the lines,“I got this... no matter what!” Previously in the passage God described a situation as potentially looking bleak but said, “Hey, no matter what happens, I got this!”
It saddens me to see people not in relationship with Jesus Christ. Evangelism—the sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ—is important to me, but my pattern of evangelism has certainly changed. Every day as I see folks I know struggle through life without the wisdom of God guiding them, I now try to remind myself that their coming to know Jesus isn't a burden I have to bear. When I think of the Chronicles passage, I reflect: I belong to Jesus. I can lift my concerns up to God in prayer. He’s gonna take care of everything. And you know what? He does. When I relax and give people and circumstances to Him, I feel (if I could see His face) that He’s smiling at me. “I got this, big fella. I got this.”
Do you have relationships with people who do not know Jesus? Have you given your concerns to Him?
This past week I was teaching in L’viv, a city in western Ukraine through our partner, TCMI. The week began with the host school administrators telling me that my class size would be reduced because many of the men were called up to the Ukrainian army. The six students who attended class were all aware of the political situation in their country, so we prayed daily for God’s covering of our class time.
I don’t know your political leanings, but the Ukrainian people are living with a high level of anxiety right now over the Russian takeover of the Crimean Peninsula. The Russian government is forcing everyone there to surrender their Ukrainian passports and accepting Russian passports. Imagine being raised a Ukrainian in Crimea and now becoming a Russian citizen without moving from your apartment or house. Imagine giving up the freedoms you’ve known as a Ukrainian citizen since 1992, or choosing to leave your hometown, your extended family, your church family, and moving to a new city so you can keep your Ukrainian citizenship. This is a reality many believers in Crimea are facing right now.
The Christians of Ukraine, including the believers in Crimea, know that ultimately God is in control, but they are living under the fear of what the Russian government may do to their country and people. Will you pray for the church leaders, the church members, and the Ukrainian leaders, that the choices they make will center on the hope found in Christ? Our brothers and sisters there pray daily for us here in the United States, where we have so many more freedoms. Will you go before God, King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords, and ask him to strengthen the people of Ukraine, especially the believers who know Christ alone brings peace? No matter the political outcomes, the people of Ukraine need our prayer support.