The ability to be successful is not about what material things I can gain it really is about my internal state of peace, joy and fulfillment in how I live my life. If I can thrive on the inside then that abundance will push its way out into every area of my life. But it starts on the inside, in my heart. So when things get difficult we often have to stop and check our directions. We have a internal compass, it is called our heart and the heart that is surrendered to the Holy Spirit has a huge advantage, a supernatural guiding by the God who made a life plan for us. Psalms 45:1 “My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6
For the sake of clarity I think it is super important for us to draw a distinction between a Christian home and a Christ centered home. In many Christian circles it seems to be enough to simply believe in God, acknowledge that we need salvation through Jesus Christ and once our household has made that decision we check it off as a completed task. That is what I would define as a Christian home. Yet in this home there is dysfunctional Christianity. Very little prayer except maybe over meals. Very little conversation about Jesus. Jesus is rarely considered in decisions. Church is attended but very little life change comes out of it. In short, a peek inside the home would reveal that this family is not much different than a non-believing family.
In comparison a Christ Centered home also believes in God and that salvation comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but the approach to how they live their Christianity is much different. Just as the name implies Jesus becomes the center of the home. There is a belief that following Jesus and His ways results in spiritual power. There is faith in the prayers of the family believing that a great and powerful God hears their prayers and will answer. There is prayer for miracles. Prayers of surrender. Prayer over daily decisions. The Word of God is honored and talked about in terms of how to live life and how to make decisions. There is a love for the bride of Christ, the church. It is not a question of will we go to church, but our love is compelled by the love of Jesus for His church. We serve, love, give and honor the bride out of honor, love, passion and respect of Jesus. In short, in a Christ centered home Jesus is first. The relationship with Jesus Christ is alive as if He is living in the home just like any other family member. Do you see the difference? What are you going to do about it?
How do we know if we are growing in our relationship with Christ?
For every Christ follower that desires to be transformed by the power of God that is an important question. It is also an important question for the church, especially in a church culture that heavily celebrates salvation, but does very little to celebrate spiritual growth. This can leave the impression with a lot of people that once you “pray the prayer” you are good. I have witnessed first hand how dangerous it is for us to celebrate the starting line of a relationship with Jesus Christ like it is the finish line. Salvation is not a momentary decision that now all of a sudden makes you “arrived” or “complete”.
I recall of a conversation with a guy who would call himself a “Christ follower”. He was in church every week and faithfully serving. He was living and sleeping with a woman that was not his wife. Left her and starting doing the same with another women who was married. When I brought it up with him there was no conviction that this was sin, but rather, he was offended and continued his behavior and celebration of this sin on social media. While this is an extreme circumstance it underscores what I am seeing from many in this current church culture that celebrates salvation, but not holiness. Salvation comes through repentance and submission of life and will to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and, don’t miss this, Lord. Making Jesus Lord in every area of life is what the Bible describes as “transformation” or “sanctification”. Transformation occurs along the journey of life as we willingly submit to conform to the nature and character of Jesus Christ.
So how can we know if we are growing in our relationship with Christ? I wanted to try to make this helpful as possible so we could examine the difference between a life controlled by flesh vs. one controlled by the Spirit.
|Spirit-Filled Mind||Sin-Filled Mind|
|Spirit-Filled Emotions||Sin-Filled Emotions|
|Spirit-Filled Mouth||Sins of the Mouth|
|Gentle Answer||Yelling; Quarrelsome|
|Spirit-filled Behavior||Sins of Behavior|
I love the way Paul described this process in us that changes our old self (the right column) to the new man (the left column). Phil. 3:13-16 “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule,[a] let us be of the same mind.”
It doesn’t happen in day and it doesn’t happen if you are not pursuing being transformed by Christ.
Here is a question that every Christ follower ask and wants the answer to, “How do I Spiritually grow?” So let me first give you a couple of verses:
“Since we are all one Body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.” Rom. 12:5b NLT
“We who believe are carefully joined together with Christ as parts of a beautiful, constantly growing temple for God.” Eph. 2:21 (LB)
“Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more…” Heb. 10:25
The Bible describes each Christ follower as a member of His body. He tells us that we belong together and that we need each other. Let’s be honest it takes hard work to build healthy relationships, to build fellowship and to build community. So why should I put forth the effort? God’s design is that we grow faster and we grow stronger together when our relationships push one another toward being like Jesus. Think about it like this, a hand or any other part of the body can’t grow when it is disconnected from the body. The truth is, you can’t grow by yourself. You can gain knowledge by yourself but the body part grows when it is connected to a healthy living body. The Bible teaches us and I have discovered in these last 20 years of ministry that people who grow the most in their relationship with Christ are the most connected into a healthy body of believers. Disciples of Christ are made in living life with the body of Christ. Hope this encourages you and helps you today!
Dear Loved Ones,
If you have been watching the news over this past week you have seen the awful images of 21 Egyptian Christians kneeling before they were executed by the radical Muslim group known as ISIS. While our stomachs turn at such a hideous action, there is some degree of disconnection because these events are occurring in another country. We need to be aware and reminded that the same enemy that is operating in the Middle East is the same enemy that is operating in our community, in our church, in our homes and in our lives. Eph. 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Satan is very real and on the attack. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” A lion attacks by pouncing on unsuspecting prey or running a flock and then separating one from the rest. Once he has captured and killed his prey he then stands over the kill and roars.
I want to encourage you today to stop and take an inventory. What plan of destruction has the enemy designed for you? Regardless of whether you aware or unaware he is at work and his end game is to separate you whether it be in your mind, heart or body away from Jesus Christ and other Christians.
Here is the good news! Jesus is greater than Satan. Jesus is greater than anything that Satan can throw at you. Make Jesus Christ #1 in your life. Let me encourage you to take a stand and embrace these 5 habits:
1. Put on the Full Armor of God Everyday! I literally pray through these verses.
Eph. 6:10-18 “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
2. Have a Dedicated Time Each Day To Pray and Read God’s Word
Eph. 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
3. Go To Church Every Week
Seek to be with God’s people to be uplifted and encouraged. Be where people know your name. Communicate with people about what is going on in your life. Be present when you are there. Sing, look up the Scriptures, take notes, listen for the Holy Spirit speaking and obey Him.
4. Don’t Compromise
Follow Jesus with your whole heart! Don’t cut corners. Obey the Word of God. Stay away from people who tempt you to do things the Word of God tells you not to. Let everyone that knows you know that you are an unashamed Christ follower and then live out that love for Him. Don’t be a show, just be rock solid day in and day out.
5. Stretch Your Faith
God uses people who put their “Yes” on the table. Consider these verses, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” Heb. 11:7 “Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him.”Gen. 6:22 “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”Gen 6:8 Most of us never stretch ourselves beyond what is expected, what is normal and what has already been done. Noah was willing and God used his faith to do something seemingly impossible. My simple challenge to you is to put your “Yes” on the table. Lord whatever you ask, whatever you want, that is what I will do. Lord no matter what it will cost, where it may take me I will do “Whatever it takes” to follow.
I write these things to you today because I love you! I know that if you will do these 5 things you will be spiritually healthy.
In Christ Love,
Pastor Jeff Hickman
WHY I PRAY FOR YOU BY NAME
(This next 2 minutes may change your 2015)
I often send out messages to our LifeSong family and my friends via Facebook, text or email to encourage them, but most of all to tell them that I prayed for them that day. Every day I pray for my wife, children, family, staff and myself. Why is this so important? We live in a world where most of our attention and time are spent reacting to the physical world around us. The events of our relationships, jobs, finances and environment affect us on every level. I want you to consider a verse that if you take some time to reflect on it will rattle you to the core and drive you to your knees.
Eph. 6:12 “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Behind the veil of this physical world is a world that is even more real than what we can see and touch. The spiritual world is not a world filled with ghost and goblins trying to scare people like some would suppose, but rather, it is a war. Right now there is a war happening in the spiritual realm for your heart and mind. They are fighting for the heart and mind of your children, your friends and your family.
Stop for just a moment and consider the evidence of how this war is affecting you and the people around you.
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
This verse tells you the enemy wants to steal your life, destroy your life and ultimately separate you from God forever. The second half of this verse tells us that Jesus came to give us life and the opportunity to live life to the fullest.
How do we do that?
-The voice of God has to be louder in our life than the voice of the enemy.
-The truth of God has to be implanted in our heart.
-The Holy Spirit has to be in control.
-We need personal spiritual leaders in our life.
-Be on mission with other Christ followers in church using your spiritual gifts
-Give yourself to prayer
I pray for you because I believe it is a game changer. Often times as I listen to the Holy Spirit He tells me specifically how to fight for you. I believe as your pastor and because I love you it is one of the greatest ways that I can minster to you. When I pray on your behalf I believe that I am standing in the gap in the spiritual world and it is making a difference in your life. In 2015 I am committed even more to praying for you and ask that you go war with me. I hope you will develop your own prayer strategy and add my name to your list. I love each of you with all my heart and I am rooting for you each day to win spiritually!
1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.
Psalms 4:1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: you have enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.
Psalms 145:18 The LORD is near to all them that call on him, to all that call on him in truth.
Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked: but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
Luke 6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
Luke 18:1 And he spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Colossians 4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
1 Timothy 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
James 4:3 You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it on your lusts.
James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Here are the headlines of a Chicago newspaper a few years ago…
Corpse Discovered After Four Years
For the past four years, many of Adolph Stec’s neighbors figured the reclusive elderly man had abandoned his neatly trimmed bungalow to the growing weeds and bushes.
Over time work crews came to shut off his water, his gas, and his electricity. For years the mailman bypassed his residence, thinking it was vacant. Once and a while, a neighbor would mow the lawn or knock on the door and receive no answer. But it wasn’t until Tuesday morning that the developers who bought Stec’s home at a tax auction three years ago finally stepped inside to find a man’s body almost completely decomposed in his living room chair. A newspaper from 1997 was at his side. Police described the remains as “mummified”.
“One day about four years ago he said hello from across the yard, and was never seen again,” said next door neighbor Peter Vella, 66, as he was cutting his front lawn Wednesday afternoon. “The grass in his yard got as high as two feet, so for 2 or 3 years I mowed his too. I didn’t want the neighborhood to go to pot.”
For now, it is unclear exactly when he died or the cause of death. Police said the only leads are the newspapers and mail in Stec’s home that appeared to be as recent as Feb. 1997, when Stec was 72.
After this story broke many asked the question, “How could this man die and not be missed?” “Why didn’t anyone care enough to simply check on him? This is a painful reminder that many people in our culture are painfully lonely. Stec wasn’t lacking information; he died with a newspaper by his side. Stec was lacking key meaningful relationships.
We are living in a world that puts a high value on self-sufficiency. At our fingertips we have instant access via the internet to any information we need without leaving the safety of our homes. We can email, text, message and chat without seeing anyone face to face. We can buy anything we want and have it delivered to our front door. If we do decide to leave our homes our attached garages allow us to drive in and out without seeing or speaking to our neighbors. Our culture is sinking deeper and deeper in “information isolation”.
Earlier this week I was shopping for Amy’s birthday and met a lady working at Kohl’s. She was very friendly and after seeing my “findhopeinhim” email address she asked, “Where do you go to church?” I told her I was a pastor and she proceeded to tell me that she went to a very large church but was finding herself very dissatisfied. She said, “I love the message and the pastor. The services are awesome, but I show up and nobody knows I’m there. I do not know the pastor and if something happens to me or my family who am I going to call. Who is going to preach my funeral?” I stood there stunned for a second. I gathered my thoughts, encouraged her and went on my way.
I have thought a lot about this conversation over these last few days. Saturday I got a call to do a funeral for a man who had no pastor. The family called me on a recommendation although I had never met them in my life. Unfortunately, “Information Isolation” isn’t just happening in our neighborhoods, many people are experiencing it week after week in our churches. It may not be a neighbor whose body is decaying while we sleep just yards away but it might be the person sitting next to you every week in church that has bought the lie that this Jesus thing is a “God and me” thing. They celebrate, sing, and gets lots of good information but they don’t pursue the soul filling opportunity to share life with people who love Jesus and know the person who shepherds them week in and week out.
Our church verse is Luke 10:27 “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” As I thought about that verse I realized that God is identifying our need for a relationship with him as the highest priority in our life, but then He makes sure that we don’t fall into the trap of “this is a God and me thing”. In essence Jesus says, “Don’t just love God; love other people with the same focus and energy that you love yourself.” Jesus wants us to love others as ourselves not because that’s what good Christian people do but rather because that is how we are designed. God created us to live life and share life with others.
I truly believe that every person has a name and every name is important. Let me encourage you not to fall into the trap of being a number and simply showing up. Share your life and give it away to others. Some of you may remember the old TV show CHEERS. The whole story line and set was built around a bar where people knew one another and were sharing life. I’ll never forget the song that opened and closed each episode especially these lines that rings over and over in my head, “Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.”
Have you ever thought about how good it feels when someone knows you and calls you by your name? A few days ago I was walking in a store and from a distance I heard a small voice calling, “Pastor Jeff, Pastor Jeff!”. I turned and from the other end of the store here came a little girl running to greet me with arms opened wide. I gave her a big hug! With expectation in her voice she exclaimed, “When are we starting Bible Club?!! “When are we starting Bible Club?!!” It is an amazing feeling to be known and called by your name! One of our core values at LifeSong Church is that “every person has a name and every name is important”! You are not just a number or a soul, you are a unique creation of our awesome God and He knows you by name and calls you by name John 10:3 “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” I want to know you and when you walk through the doors of LifeSong Church I want you to hear your name and feel like you are at home. I want to hug your neck(unless you don’t like to be touched) and tell you how much we love you. We are living in a fast paced world that seems to be taking less and less time to really get to know people and love them. We have exchanged real relationships for Facebook likes and retweets. Here is a pretty strong test for you…. If somebody in your household dies who are you going to call to preach their funeral? I know that is a morbid thought and your thinking, Pastor Jeff why did you go there? Here is the point, when it gets right down to it nothing is as important as the relationships you build in your life. I don’t want to just be a preacher you see and listen too. I want to know you and your family and pour my life into yours. You have a name and I believe that name is awesome and important!