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On Ramp to Spiritual Growth: Understand God’s Will

God wants you to grow! And He’s provided everything necessary for you to grow! However, there are obstacles. Just like merging onto a freeway, many times we’re hesitant, things get in the way, we’re lazy, or fearful. One of the on ramps for me personally, was when began to understand what God is doing in the world. What is God’s will? is a frequently asked question. When I saw that God’s will was not difficult or hard to understand, my desire for spiritual growth increased. Here are three words that have helped me understand God’s will:

1. Relationship – The God of the Universe wants a relationship with you. And He went to great lengths to make that a possibility. Jesus showed his desire to have a relationship with us by giving His very life. See John 3:16. The growing Christian will see their life through the lens of this relationship God through Christ.

2. Identity – Christianity is not about what you do, it’s about who you are. Or really, WHOSE you are. God shapes our identity through our relationship with Him. As we relate to Him & draw closer to Him, we become identified with his character & his mission in the world.

3. Eternity – God made us for more than this life. Eternal life starts when we place our faith & trust in Christ, not when we die. One meaning of the word eternal is TIMELESS. Salvation makes us timeless. And this reminds us that God has more in mind for us than just the 60-80 years that we may live on this earth. We’re made for eternity. We are also saved & sent to help others understand & get ready to face eternity.

What helps you understand God’s will?

This month Bridge Church in Madisonville is talking about On Ramps to Spiritual Growth & Transformation. Join us Sunday’s, 10:30am at the Maritime Museum in Madisonville.

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On Ramps

I live in a growing community where the Interstate – I-12 – basically serves as a service road. That being said, merging onto the Interstate has become quite an adventure over the last few years. We’ve added on ramps & there is a wide diversity of drivers moving about every day. Along with that, there has been some questionable engineering on area bridges & on ramps. All this together means sometimes tying to merge onto or off of the interstate can cause you to get stuck.

Spiritual life is like that as well. Many people today get stuck on or never approach the path to Spiritual Growth. This past Sunday at Bridge Church we drew some parallels to growing spiritually & merging onto the Interstate.

1. Some drivers are just too HESITANT.

They approach the on ramp too slowly, they ride the shoulder. Other drivers are screaming, “ARE YOU GETTING ON OR NOT?”

A lot of people are like this spiritually. They are faithful to church for awhile or every now & then. We like the idea of spiritual growth, but we struggle to make a lasting commitment. Call it being “on the fence.” Jesus called it being LUKEWARM & SICKENING (Revelation 3:16).

2. Some drivers are easily DELAYED.

Something – a crash, debris, etc. – gets in the way.

Spiritually, our past, poor relationships, the opinions of others, sinful habits, lack of discipline, misunderstanding God & His will are some of the things that can get in our way & drastically slow our spiritual development.

3. Some drivers are just plain LAZY.

They avoid the interstate all together, even though its the fastest way, just because its TOO MUCH TROUBLE.

Relationships, commitment, dealing with our selfishness, being challenged to get out of our comfort zone. These are the things that growing spiritually will put you in the middle of. Some people opt out, because it’s not the easiest path.

4. Some drivers are too FEARFUL.

I’ve talked with people in our area, that won’t drive on the Interstate, because they are afraid of WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN.

They might ask me to serve in the nursery. I might be challenged to deal with that pain in the past. I might be disappointed again by a pastor or leader. Commitment is always risky. Jesus commended risk taking & actually sternly warned the fearful who choose the easy path (Matthew 25:14-30).

Where are you on the Path to Spiritual Growth? Are you driving full speed ahead? Are you hesitating? Are you delayed? Does it seem like too much trouble? Are you afraid?

God wants you to grow! And He’s provided all that you need to grow, starting with a relationship with Him through Jesus’ death & resurrection. He’s promised his presence & power for those that get on board with this journey. There’s no need to hesitate. You can do this! This year!

Join Bridge Church in Madisonville as we tackle this topic this month in a series we’re calling On Ramps to Spiritual Growth. Sundays, 10:30am at the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum, 133 Mabel Drive.

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Update from Haiti

Excited that my 13-year old son had the opportunity to go on his first Mission Trip to Haiti this week. Love his first commentary on the 3rd world. Pray for our team from Bridge Church as they work with Respire Haiti over the weekend.

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Jackson’s First Mission Trip

12138332_10207680210231342_2658751502455763519_oProud of my oldest son Jackson. He’s going on his first mission trip to Haiti in December! A team from Bridge Church will be serving with Respire Haiti, working with orphans at a local school, through feeding programs, & some light construction. Prayers appreciated! And he’s hoping to raise $700 to cover his trip. You can contribute HERE. Or put him to work with some odd jobs!!!! Ha!

This will be Bridge Church’s third trip to work with Respire Haiti. Incredible story & great work God is doing. Louisiana native Megan Boudreaux has built an incredible team & ministry to restevec children. You can read the story in the book Miracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman’s Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti. We have some copies available at Bridge Church this month.

Check out the video recap of Bridge’s last trip to Respire HERE.

Our God is Able #sermonnotes

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Last Sunday, Bridge Church started a new series called Our God is Able. We’ll be looking at how we should view God’s power & the difference that view should make in our everyday life. Here’s a few questions from the intro message to help challenge your thinking about our God who is “able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” Ephesians 3:20.

>> If we serve an all powerful, ever loving God, who can do absolutely anything, why are we as Christians, often time powerless, fearful, hesitant, & uncertain?
>> “My God is Able!” Now, what would my life look like, if I really believed that?
>> Do I believe that God can overcome death & hell, but will struggle to help me with everyday life issues?
>> Do I believe that God can raise the dead, but helping me deal with that difficult situation is too tough a case for him?
>> Is something or someone in my life right now bigger in my minds eye than God & his power?
>> Can you’re life be easily explained apart from God’s hand & his work?
>> Do you have a category in your faith that makes room for God absolutely blowing your mind?

Get the first message in the series Our God is Able HERE or on Itunes. Join Bridge Church this Sunday for part 2 & a special Orphan Sunday emphasis. 10:30am at the Maritime Museum in Madisonville.

It’s NOT the End of the World. YET…

Well, October’s here & the world didn’t end after all. But we did get some great shots of the Blood Moon. (My favorite is attached from Mike Mezeul in Dallas. Taken every 10 minutes. Wow!)

Still we’re told in the Bible that Jesus will return like a thief in the night & bring an end to this world (Matthew 24:44), & we should wait expectantly for that day (Titus 2:13-14, Philippians 3:20). Then we’ll experience a new heaven & new earth where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:10,13).

IMG_5312In last week’s Bible Study at Bridge Church, we looked at some of Peter’s advice to us concerning the end of the World found in 2 Peter 3:

  1. Be awakened by this truth – v. 1-2. Let it be like your morning coffee or shower. Everyday remember that life is short & tomorrow is not promised.
  2. Don’t be a scoffer. Take it seriously – vs. 3-8 A scoffer, takes lightly what he/she should take seriously. Heaven & hell are in the balance for many as they face the end of life or the end of the world. Don’t lose the weight of that truth from God’s word.
  3. Take advantage of God’s patience – vs. 9. God’s patience in not bringing about the end of the world or the end of our individual lives should tell us that we have more time to be a light & tell those around us about what he’s done for us in Christ. God’s patience should also serve as a reminder that he wants my friends, relatives, n
    eighbors to know Him before its everlasting too late.
  4. Let the Day of the Lord motivate you to godliness – vs. 10-12. If this is true “it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godlines”.

Great advice for parents to leave with teenagers as they leave the house – “Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want to be doing when Jesus came back.” Good thought for all of us as we think about the brevity of life & the truth from God’s word that one day this will all end.

Join Bridge Church this Sunday as we continue our study of the new testament book of 2 Peter. 10:30am at the Madisonville Maritime Museum.

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Time lapse photo taken by Mike Mezeul. Posted on a photography Facebook group that I’m in. See Mike’s work & get a print here: https://mikemezphotography.smugmug.com/Night-Sky/i-KpRzTb5/A

If This Were the Last Week of Your Life…

IMG_5280Well, apparently the world may end sometime this week! Great timing. Our church will hit 2 Peter 3 in our Fall Message Series called Godliness in a Godless World.

2 Peter 3:10-14

10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness 12 as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. 13 But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.

14 Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish.

Will the world end? I don’t think so, but if this were the last week of your life how would you live? Truth is, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Be at peace with God, with others, on mission with Christ. As a mentor of mine used to say, “Live every minute like the next may be the last.”

We’ll talk about what the Bible says about the end of the world this coming Sunday at Bridge Church, 10:30am at the Maritime Museum in Madisonville.

5 Reasons to Be Intentional About Relationships

WHY_BOTHER_PPT_04-RelationshipsBridge Church in Madisonville is in the midst of a sermon series called Why Bother? We’re looking at things culture is pressing us to devalue but God counts as of great value. One thing thats valued less & less is relationships. We don’t build front porches onto our homes much anymore. Instead we build “privacy fences” in the backyard. Loneliness plagues neighborhoods & people who have hundreds if not thousands of Facebook friends. And relationships can be hard & messy, unlike the video game that we can hit restart on, or the relational lives of television characters that we live vicariously through in our imagination. It may not be lack of desire, but lack of intentionality. So Why Bother with Relationships? Why do we need greater intentionality? Why should we push through difficulty to build deep relationships with others?

1. God’s primary purpose was & is to RESTORE RELATIONSHIPS. Isaiah 59:2 reminds us that sins separates humanity from God & that separation extends to our earthy relationships (James 4:1). What is God doing in the world? Restoring Relationships (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). As we relate with God, his desire for relationship will spread to us & through us to others.

2. Jesus bothered with RELATIONSHIPS. In the gospels, we see Jesus spending time with a small group of 12 followers who he called friends (John 15:14-15). Then he had an inner circle of three that he shared an even greater depth of relationship (Matthew 17:1). We also see Jesus initiating relationships with difficult people like a crooked tax collector named Zacheus, a promiscuous Samaritan Women at a well, & a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus. Jesus demonstrated intentionality in relationships & used relationships as the primary means for spreading the gospel.

I like Jon Acuff’s take on Jesus’ minsitry:

What an ineffective communicator Jesus was by our modern standards of platform building. He could have spoken to hilltops of thousands of people each night, but instead he wasted time at dinner with a handful of tax collectors and strangers. Want to change the world? It’s easy. Have a long, time-wasting, friendship-generating dinner with someone.

3. Jesus commanded us to bother with RELATIONSHIPS. Jesus not only set the example of intentional relationships, he took this to “COMMAND FROM GOD” status in John 13:34-35, then in John 15:12 & John 15:17. Also, in stories like the Good Samaritan, where Jesus presses his people to put the needs of others ahead of themselves, even despite busy schedules & cultural differences (Luke 10:25-37). And he adds in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:41-48) that we are to love even the most unlovable, like Roman soldiers that make unjust demands, & avowed enemies. With Jesus, intentional relationships are not an option for His followers.

4. You can’t possibly obey the Bible without building relationships. People often say in our culture, “I don’t have to go to church, to be a Christian.” That’s true, but New Testament Christianity would tach us that you must be in relationships with other believers to be an OBEDIENT Christian. Depending on what Bible translations you use, there are 40-50 verses that you can’t possibly obey outside of relationships. We call them the One Another’s. A few of my fav’s:

  • “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)
  • “…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
  • “…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
  • “…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
  • “…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
  • “…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)
  • “…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)
  • “Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)
  • “…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

Here’s a great Infographic with all of them listed.

5. RELATIONSHIPS bring growth & change into our lives. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” That’s a great image of the importance of friendships. I have a tool in my garage to sharpen my lawn mower blades. it’s called a Grinder. And when sharpening blades, it gets messy. Sparks fly. The noise is annoying. But the end product is a sharper tool & a cleaner cut. Without relationships, we run the risk of remaining dull & less effective as followers of Christ. So God compells us to sharpen one another. To push through the sparks that may fly as we grow & change through relationships.

Today there’s a great mission field to be had for the Christian that will be intentional about Relationships. We have so many lonely people. In our neighborhoods are people with few relationships. People are searching for answers in impersonal ways, but are open to a friend that will help them. Be intentional. Show up. Engage. Love. Serve. And see how God uses you.

Why Bother with Evangelism?

11313012_10155554154505133_296278548801156411_oBridge Church in Madisonville is in the midst of a sermon series called Why Bother? We’re looking at things culture is pressing us to devalue but God counts as of great value. Evangelism has long been at the top of the list for our culture, as we hate for people to “push religion on us.” But it’s also devalued by Christians because of our fears.

So, Why Bother with Evangelism? Four Reasons:

  1. God’s heart for the world should lead us to bother with evangelism (John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:19, 2 Peter 3:9)
  2. Jesus life & work demands & he commands that we bother with Evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20)
  3. The World is Broken & Breaking & we will be held accountable for our neglect of evangelism (Isaiah 59:2; Hebrews 9:27: Ezekiel 3:18)
  4. The Natural Flow of the Spiritually Growing Christian will be to give & share God’s heart & Jesus’ work with others & to care deeply about restoring the broken world (1 Peter 3:15; John 15:16; Acts 1:8; Matthew 4:19)

What would you add to this list?

Hear the sermon in its entirety along with the rest of the series here, or on Itunes (search Bridge Northshore).

8 Places of Engagement to Plant Seeds and Cultivate Relationships in Your Community #ChurchPlanting

In Church Planting, the ability to see the possibilities for relationships, ministry, & engagement in the community will determine much for the church’s future impact in the community. Engaging the community is fun, easy in most places (especially in the south), & can lead to many seeds planted, if you’re willing to risk & build relationships.

Here are 8 Places of Engagements in almost every community that I’ve found WIDE OPEN to relationship with a church. This is a continuation of the series Planting Seeds & Cultivating Relationships in Church Planting (Part 1, Part 2).

Members of Stillwater Church in Hammond pass out healthy snacks to kids getting off the bus at a local mobile home park.

Members of Stillwater Church in Hammond pass out healthy snacks to kids getting off the bus at a local mobile home park.

11. Multi-Housing Communities – Multi-Housing Complexes offer many potential points of contacts with all different kinds of people. One easy, low cost, highly relational way to make some people smile & start a conversation is to pick up some boxes of snacks & juice boxes & setup at a common bus stop at an apartment complex or trailer park after school. Our church does this the week before kid friendly events that we’d like to promote. Stillwater Church in Hammond has seen a new church birth, utilizing the after school bus stop as a primary way to make connections in two large mobile home parks in their area.

12. Community Agencies – Council on Aging, Volunteers of America, Boys & Girls Club, Local Fire Dept., Local Police Dept., Town Council, local Crisis Pregnancy Center, Mayor’s offices, local utility companies, Easter Seals, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood Revitalization committees, local Work Release Program. These are a handful of the community agencies that our church plants have worked with that exist in almost every community in North America. Great partners, often looking for volunteers, & often wondering why churches don’t offer to help. And believe it or not, we’ve found no problems from most community agencies with the expectation that we as a church would also be sharing the gospel with people we serve. Projects, partners, points of contact with the community is a phone call away.

13. Area Daycares – Private daycares are often open to allowing churches to make contact with families they serve. We have built relationships with daycares in our area that have allowed us to come in & do Gospel centered activities with kids. We also send posters & invites to any kid friendly special event (Easter Egg Hunt, Trunk or Treat, etc.) to local daycares & have found that many of them will post them on a bulletin board & some will pass them out to parents picking up their kids. Start by making a list of area daycares & consider including them in service opportunities & invites to special events.

14. Rec Fields – Another great way to both invest in the community & get some name recognition is to get a sign on the fences of local recreation fields. $200-500 can get your logo, name, website in front of a large % of unchurched people in your community. And the interaction with key leaders in the recreation programs can be a great thing for your personal network as a church planter as well. I’ve also seen churches serve rec fields in other ways: Inflatables & face painting on opening day, free snow cones, free souvenir pictures. I’ve also thought about the possibility of offering a Sunday morning worship time at our local ball field with 100’s pouring in every weekend for travel ball leagues.

Bridge Church in Madisonville, doing free balloon animals & face painting at a local festival in 2014.

Bridge Church in Madisonville, doing free balloon animals & face painting at a local festival in 2014.

15. Community Festivals – In Louisiana, there is some kind of festival going almost every weekend. Festivals offer a variety of opportunities for churches to engage the people of the community. First & maybe most importantly, the impact of getting to know leaders of festivals on most occasions also means getting to know key leaders in the city or town. Getting involved lets them know that you’re on their side & want to see the community succeed. A few ways that I’ve seen churches reach out to festivals: Serve by picking up trash all day, Face Painting, Kids Games, sponsor entertainment, Free Souvenir pictures, Festival volunteers, Setup & tear down. Many other ways to engage people. Remember your Invite Cards (see part 1), go unselfishly to serve the community, & have fun! Louisiana Festivals are the best!

16. Funeral Homes – Outreach to funeral homes? As a brand new church planter in the community, as I was networking, I stopped by several area funeral homes with a card & an offer to preach the funeral for anyone that didn’t have a pastor already. To my surprise, I soon found myself doing 4-5 funerals every week. Which proved to be emotionally exhausting, but served as a great way to connect with families at a time they needed the Gospel & relationships built around faith more than ever. People will NEVER forget you, when you’re able to be there with them in the valley of the shadow of death.

17. Community Networks – A network is a group or system of interconnected people. They are everywhere in your community & most are ready & willing to connect new people to the group. Get your church plant involved in the local Chamber of Commerce. Most have a Non-Profit membership stream & I’ve found that they love having churches involved. Early on in the life of one of our church plants, I joined what was called a BNI, or Business Network International. People paid to join a group that commits to help each other promote their respective businesses. They loved having a church in the group. Made all kinds of connections in that network. Church planting is about networking & you don’t have to recreate the wheel at the outset. Join the community networks & relationships will lead to seeds planted & opportunities to share the Gospel.

18. Local Hospitals – In the New Testament, we see Jesus often ministering to people at the point of illness, disease, & grief. There are several ways that a church plant can engage people at this point of need. Find out if the hospital has a volunteer chaplain program. In my community, our local baptist association has built this bridge to several local hospitals & pastors & lay people are trained & empowered to meet needs through chaplaincy work. Stock the Waiting rooms. Waiting rooms can be lonely, cold places. Get permission to put fruit baskets, magazines, fresh donuts, Bibles, or whatever you can in the waiting rooms. And don’t forget the gift of presence. Drop by & give the gift of a listening ear & encouraging words. One of my favorite servant evangelism projects is pick up a handful of gift cards to the nearest restaurants & drop by the ICU waiting room & give them away. Remember, this ministry is not about you! Only go if you can realistically put the needs of others first. This can be a great ministry for those with the gifts of mercy in your church plant.

What other Places of Engagement would you add to this list?

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