Mar 28, 2019
In our local church (extraordinarychurch.ca) over the last several weeks we talked about the Bible and its life-changing content. We explored some ways you can engage Scripture in a living, vibrant, revealing way, as opposed to something instructional or informational only. Here are a handful of ideas for you to consider.
Memorize Your Favourite Verses
We all have our favourite verses. Some of them we love because they’re comforting or extraordinarily inspiring, providing that extra boost of biblical hope when we need it.
I want to encourage you to memorize Scripture. Here are a couple of Scriptures for your consideration.
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.…”
Here’s one we love to quote, especially the first part of the verse. God causes all things to work together for good”to make us more like Him. When we truly believe that God not only works in, but causes events in our lives to conform us to His character, we will no longer doubt, worry, stress, or become anxious when hard times hit us. We will instead rest assured that God is at work in every situation in our lives to make us more like Him and nothing – absolutely nothing – takes Him by surprise.
Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
If you and I considered ourselves crucified with Christ and our motto was “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” we’d be much less concerned about our image or reputation, and we’d be all about Him and His concerns.
When we indeed die to self, we no longer worry about whether or not we’re getting respect for who we are and what we do. We wouldn’t be bothered by misunderstandings that cast us in a bad light, situations that are to our disadvantage, circumstances that humiliate us, jobs that are beneath us, or rumours that are untrue. Being crucified with Christ means His name is my name. I can live knowing He’s got my back because it’s His back.
Read The Whole Story
We must learn to read the whole story of Scripture from beginning to end. The Bible is God’s story of redemption, the revelation of Himself and His plan for the world. All those stories and all those characters are parts of the whole, characters in the drama, but none of them is the point. They all point to the point: Jesus Christ came, lived a perfect life, died an innocent death to save sinners and kill death and sin, and will one day return to right all the wrongs.
If I wrote you a letter, you wouldn’t start reading that letter in the concluding paragraph. You would start reading it at the beginning.
While I think it is good to read the Bible occasionally from Genesis to Revelation, I am not suggesting that you do that. However, I would encourage you to start reading each book or letter in the Bible, by starting at the beginning. This approach will help you with context.
Read To Know Him
This is the advice I would suggest to any Christian who finds the Bible to be stale and lifeless: look for Jesus. So much of what we miss in Scripture is because we look for characters and themes and lessons other than Jesus. But He is both the primary character and the central plotline of Scripture. To search for anything else first is to rip out the heart of God’s Word. Because Jesus, as John 1 tells us, is the Word made flesh.
Every page of Scripture points to Jesus. It all fits together to point to Him and to glorify Him and depict Him and reveal Him. When we read the whole story and see Jesus throughout the pages, we see Him anew, not as whatever preconceived notions we had. We see Him as more than a teacher, more than a healer, more than a model character. We see the breadth of Jesus from the man who sat with children and loved widows to the sword-wielding King of justice and glory.
Read And Study
I prefer the New King James Version for study and read various translations. Sometimes a different translation will make a point with greater clarity.
Additional resources and books are helpful too. Some will prefer commentaries; others will gravitate to Bible study curriculum. Each serves a great purpose in helping us dig in and understand more. Don’t shy away from them. Find the ones that fit your learning style and take full advantage of them.
If you seek to do anything I’ve shared with you in your own power, you will dry up, run out of motivation, get bored, become arrogant, lose faith, get confused, and turn from God. It is inevitable.
To connect with God through His Word is a work of His Spirit and not something that can be formulated. All the suggestions I just made are not the equation that adds up to a relationship with God. They are ingredients that must be present, but only His Spirit can mix and prepare them in such a way that we see Him in His glory and are moved to follow and honour Him.
So pray that your understanding is opened and your eyes enlightened when you read. And He will do just that.
And as you delve deeper into God’s Word, you will find that the Scripture is the only information that can bring out a life-changing transformation.
Jun 9, 2018
Those who know me well understand that I am naturally an introvert and have developed an aptitude to interact beyond my comfort level. However, new interactions can still be awkward for me. I hope that this isn’t obvious through my body language or words. If that’s been the case with anyone reading this post, I am sorry.
With that being said, I am an avid lifelong learner and believe in drawing and growing from every individual and experience that I have. Recently, I was directing a video for Florida North American Missions and was with church planters, Anthony and Jessica Marquez. I marveled at how Pastor Antonio engaged with complete strangers, and how it opened doors for meaningful connection. One of two things happened that day, as I stood salivating for that prowess and ability to interact with strangers. Pastor Marquez either recognized the astonished look on my face in that quaint espresso and crepe cafe or heard my heartbeat for that ability. Because after his interaction he looked at me said five words I will never forget. “I never meet a stranger.”
Since then, I have embraced every interaction as a Divine appointment, knowing that my steps are ordered by Him. The mantra that rages and drives me to connect with all people (literally), from all walks of life, in this foreign land are those convicting and inspiring words, “I never meet a stranger.”
Why am I sharing this with you? In the past, people have inquired as to who my mentors were. For many years, I wasn’t able to cite a specific individual and allowed that to create an imagined void in my ministerial life. I felt pressure to seek out people I admired with the intent of gaining a mentor. Yes, I have a Pastor (as I believe all pastors should) and I have some elders that have, and continue, to significantly shape my life. However, I don’t think that you have to have a specific “life coach.” When in actuality, I believe God will use your past and present circumstances as well as a myriad of people to deposit things into your life in which the whole of your existence may hang. These people, may or may not quickly fade out of your life.
So much can happen in a conversation, an embrace, a listening ear, etc. I encourage you to stop seeking a “mentoring ideal” and drink deep from the experiences, people, and opportunities God has set before you this day.
Here are three things I would like for you to consider.
– Get over yourself. Humility is key. Once you get over yourself, you will begin to see the many mentors that are right in front you, as opposed to the utopian mentor you’re seeking.
– Keep learning. Commit to being a lifelong learner. This positions you to live in the rhythm of the many teachers God will give you (circumstances, experiences, people, etc.)
– Enjoy the journey. Mentorship, in its myriad of forms, is an experience and not a destination.
Thank you, Pastor Antonio Marquez, for an unforgettable mentoring moment.
How about you? How has the mentorship journey looked for you?
Jan 4, 2018
Walking with God is a journey that lacks nothing. Many years ago Sarah and I surrendered our lives to the road less traveled and have not regretted one moment of each curve, hill, or valley. His leadership is gentle and safe, just like a Good Shepherd.
Over the next several weeks, our family will embark upon a most exciting journey.
On January 3rd, The Pentecostals of Mississauga, a young church plant in the Greater Toronto area of the province of Ontario, Canada, unanimously elected and welcomed us as their new Pastor.
Our hearts are full of excitement and our visions of revival, growth, and harvest are exploding before our spiritual eyes.
As hindsight is always 20/20, we humbly and fervently thank God for the years of preparation, and the people God has placed in our lives who have shaped us, led us, and inspired us to grow.
Having served at New Destiny Worship Center over the past three years, we are cherishing every moment of joy and ministry, and every beautiful friendship we have been graced with, and are thankful for the partnership and support of Pastor and Sis Ballestero and the New Destiny church family, as they send us off to Ontario!
Stay tuned for more exciting details!
Experience Mississauga below!
Dec 26, 2016
It was 1984 and my parents decided that they would rent an RV and explore America with their kids. Tough to fathom with today’s prices of gasoline, huh? I was along for the ride and had very little control of where we went. Honestly, at that age, I was consumed with the fact that I could play Atari from state-to-state. Even bathroom breaks couldn’t stop or thwart our progress because we had a house on wheels! Life was great!
Where were we going? Well, I knew that we were going to Los Angeles. Disneyland, Universal Studious, Sea World and the city where Michael Jackson lived. SOLD! I was ready to go! I was told I may even see “The A-Team”, television show being recorded. Are you kidding me? Life couldn’t get any better, at least not for this 7-year-old.
All of these adventures and experiences came to pass, and I remember with vivid clarity those incredible moments. Yet, there are other memories that have stuck with me and contributed significantly to the person I am today.
I remember being overwhelmed as I peered through the glass of the helicopter trying to sit still and take in the Grand Canyon. From the air, the Grand Canyon is more than just a sight to see. It really is a life changing experience. Mount Rushmore is one of the reasons I am such a huge fan of history today and in particular Abraham Lincoln.
My father was adamant about exposing all of us to so many different things at a young age. At the tender age of eight, I had already been to every state in this country with the exception of Alaska and Maine. During this amazing journey, I found myself being exposed to the Indian reservations of the Cherokee, the rolling rural hills of Tennessee to the desert lands of Nevada.
I credit my ability to connect with all people from all walks of life to recurring experiences like this that my father instilled in all of us. If we hadn’t tried it, we were going to! Especially if it was food.
In my estimation, two demographic trends that will see Revival in the twenty-first-century church is first, the urban community and secondly the diversifying of the local church. Leaders of the church must face both of these realities; continuing urbanization and rapid ethnic diversification. A September 18, 2000, Newsweek analysis states, “We are now living in an Age of Color in which the nuances of brown and yellow and red are as important… [as] the ancient divisions of black and white.” Multiculturalism in America is now a well-established fact.
Understanding this apparent truth, that was solidified by the monumentally gargantuan historic election of our current president (President Obama), the church must be actively engaged and in a tireless pursuit to expose our local church communities to diversity.
If pressed, I think many American churches would say they are open to all people and groups. Yet, the reality is that most congregations are doing nothing to intentionally expose themselves to those who are not like them. So, I am encouraging and humbly submitting that we all take my father’s advice. How will we know if we like it or don’t like it until we have tried it? Even if we didn’t like it 10 years ago it is funny how our pallets can change.
A multi-cultural church is one that recognizes, utilizes, and celebrates the racial, cultural, generational, gender, and other diversity represented in the congregation and community. I know this is bold instruction but I am asking that you read that statement one more time and give it serious thought. Our local universities, schools, local governments, small and large employers, and even families have mandates that compel diversity. The church has long since had a mandate from the word of God. God is no respecter of persons, neither is God’s church.
Even with 21st-century globalization, the church should be the world’s beacon of diversity. It is the only ecosystem where regardless of social, economic, racial, cultural, and generational diversities PEOPLE are received, loved and employed. It is in fertile environments such as the diverse church where the love of God can thrive and accelerate the church’s influence in our local communities.
In every organization, the leadership is the lid. Our church communities will reflect our leadership in our spiritual dispositions, diversities, and behavioral demeanors. That is why it is imperative that our church leadership must reflect diversity!
Our church worship services must demonstrate this diversity in language, music, art form (any form of creative self-expression that you allow in your local church), and interaction.
Today’s multi-cultural church demonstrates the following points below and I believe a mono-cultural church striving to become a multi-cultural church, must aggressively pursue the following:
- identifies itself publicly as multi-cultural
- possesses a shared vision of intentionally being multi-cultural
- reflects the community
- recognizes uniqueness and gifts of the different cultures in it
- includes those populations in:
- volunteer staff
- ministries and programs
This century and season of the church is a golden opportunity era for urban and ethnic harvesting. Which will strengthen our local church communities, expose our people and in turn, advance the kingdom of God!
Nov 21, 2016
Planning an event can be very overwhelming. The timeline, the details, the cost, marketing strategies, location… this is just the beginning. Often times the stress of making the event happen can lead you to a place in which you ask yourself, “What am I even doing?”
I, too, have been stressed out before and asked myself that same question.
However, planning a successful event does NOT have to be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to stress you out, robbing you of the joy that serving others can bring.
Over the past 20 years of planning all types of events, in diverse sizes, and for various demographics, I have picked up a few pointers that I’d like to share to encourage you.
1. Determine The “Why”
Are you having this event to inspire and challenge? To see others come to a place of repentance and relationship with Jesus Christ? To equip leaders to better effectively serve? To promote an idea or project? To garner support from volunteers?
Determining the “Why” will instantly streamline your focus and point you on the path to having a well thought out, well-planned event. This is the absolute first step.
2. Get Started Early.
One mistake people make when planning, is underestimating the amount of time they need to bring everything together. Keep in mind that the prep time needed will vary depending upon the context of the particular event. The earlier you start – the less stress you and others will feel. Plus, more time gives you ample opportunity to vet your ideas and make changes without missing a beat.
3. Think Like Them.
Who is “Them”? It could be your audience, sponsors, speakers, security team, caterers, the corporate community, etc. In every phase of your planning, make sure that you are thinking about “others”. The objective is to remove all other distractions so that your partners can focus on their task(s) effectively; and so your audience doesn’t have to climb over obstacles to benefit from your event.
4. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Let me say it like this… If you think you’ve over communicated, you’re probably halfway there to get your point across. Therefore, communicate clearly and often with both your team and your attendees.
5. What Is The Call-To-Action?
In other words, what do you want your attendees to do with what you’ve presented.
Remember, the win is not getting them TO the event. The win is getting to do something with the information you’ve presented to them AFTER the event. The proper win is what makes your event a healthy event.
6. Enjoy the journey.
This is critical, because it allows you to drink deep from the moments that bring together an experience that is going to accomplish something special. Trust me, you want your event to be born and nurtured from a joyful attitude, as opposed to one that is depleted, stressed, and burned out. Everyone will enjoy themselves when it is evident that you have enjoyed yourself.
Nov 14, 2016
II Chronicles 16:7-9
7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. 8Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”
History records King Asa as being a good King, who as he obeyed and relied upon the Lord to fight his battles, was very successful. Although toward the end of his life, he began to trust in man and refused to seek after the Lord’s way.
Because of this, he began to lose battles and eventually his very life, because he chose to seek the care of physicians, rather than the provision of the Lord God.
Oh, how much better it is to simply trust God and to seek HIS way! Our human nature says to figure it out on our own, to MAKE it happen. If there is a will, there is a way, right? But God’s way is the way of faith and total dependence upon Him.
God wants all the glory for the things that he does in our lives. Let’s be sure our hearts are right with Him, so He will ‘seek us out to show himself strong for us’!
Today, I choose to surrender all my plans and solutions, in exchange for a sweet relationship with Jehovah-Jireh, My Provider!
By: Sarah Thompson