Natural Spiritual Growth (John 6:60-71)

Have you ever had one of those “aha” moments when you realized that life is going WAY TOO FAST???  I guess I should probably rephrase the question to ask, “When was the last time you realized that life is going way to fast?”  For me, it was last night!

Alexa had kindergarten orientation.  This was “super exciting” for her and “not-so-super exciting” for me.  Yes, I am a control freak, I don’t do real well with change, and I happen to like the current ages of Alexa and Sophia (they are sleeping through the night, potty trained and they still think boys are gross and annoying).

So while everyone is listening to the teacher at kindergarten orientation (at least they looked like they were) I was thinking about how time flies.  In six more years, Alexa will be 12…it seems like just yesterday when we walked into St. Mary’s with no clue about what it meant to be parents.  And we walked out with no choice but to learn quickly.

We still have a lot to learn about parenting, but there are a few things that we have experienced over the years (see I already sound old):

  • Rolling out of bed in the middle of the night with eyes glued shut feeling for the walls with our hands and the stairs with our feet
  • Cleaning up wet fruit snacks, french fries and crackers out of the car seat
  • Reacting at lightening speed when they run out into a parking lot
  • Answering the question from them and their mom, “are we almost there”
  • Cleaning up a bloody knee or kissing an owie
  • Watching them laugh so hard they snort
  • Sitting in the big chair together early in the morning
  • Getting ready to send Alexa off to school…..

And this is the one that got me.  In fact, on the way home, I told her that I thought we should just skip the whole school thing altogether.  I said that if both Alexa and Sophia would just stop growing we wouldn’t even have to worry about school.  We could just continue on through life just the way it is.  I continued with a hint of sarcasm, “If you don’t stop growing, you’re going to get a spanking.”  With this Alexa said, “Dad, you know we can’t stop growing.”  As much as I don’t want to believe her, I know she is right.  God designed our bodies to grow. The truth is that God designed us spiritually to grow as well.

It is the mission of New Life Church to help everyone reach their highest level of spirituality; to accomplish God’s will for His glory.  Often, when it comes to spirituality, we make what is so natural (growth) very difficult.  Just like it is not natural for a child to want to stop growing, it is not natural for a Christian to want to stop growing.  When we allow God to do what He can in our lives GROWTH WILL HAPPEN—NATURALLY.  This means we must do our part to see that our basic spiritual needs are met:

  • We must have a steady diet of the Scriptures to grow our faith
  • We must share the Gospel in the world (we are a light, not an island) to strengthen our faith
  • We must spend time with other believers to support our faith
  • We must sacrifice our time and resources to further our faith

Sunday, the sermon will be from John 6:60-71.  Following the Bread of Life discourse several of the disciples could not accept the demands of faith and they left.  We are going to see that it takes faith to become a disciple that perseveres.  You will be challenged to grow your faith so you do not become just another statistic.  If you are willing, I would really appreciate your prayers for God to be glorified as we sing, pray, listen and participate in communion during the morning service.

Thanks again for bearing with my rambling in this e-mail.  I really appreciate your investment in the kingdom.

God Bless!

Troy

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Waterslides and the Bread of Life (John 6:41-59)

A waterslide in the summertime has become nearly as American as baseball and apple pie.  There is something just plain fun about climbing to the top of a large slide and voluntarily crossing over the threshold of no return.  If you have never experienced the thrill of allowing gravity to turn you into a human missile and pull you down a wet, fiberglass path, sloshing around corners and ending up in a raging pool with water up your nose, you should be in danger of losing your citizenship.

Yes, I meant to say citizenship!

In our family, the waterslide is a rite of passage from the toddler stage to the kid stage of life.  Alexa made her move a few years ago and now Sophia was ready for the transition.  This happened a few days ago, while in Minnesota we (Leigh-Ann, Alexa, Sophia and I) went with my parents and sisters family to the local amusement park.  After laying some rubber down at the go-cart track we were all ready to cool off on the water slide.  With five kids and an average age of 4.6 climbing to the top of the 50 foot high slide, we were in for an adventure.

Sophia was bursting with bravery as she climbed the steps holding Grandpa’s hand.  I could almost hear the thoughts going through her mind…I will not be scared…I will not be scared….I will not be scared.  Ok, I’m scared!  By now we are at the top and she stubbornly holds on to Grandpa’s hand and insists on going down with him.  I wasn’t going to ruin the moment, although I was kind of hoping she would want to come with me on her maiden voyage down the water slide.

I accepted the inevitable and took my three year old nephew.  After being flushed down at a high rate of speed and dumped out into violent water below, I found myself fighting for my life under water, trying to hold my nephew above water while I swallowed water like a human sump pump.   I recovered just in time to drop him off at the edge of the pool and then I saw them…Grandpa and Sophia barreling down the slide.  Sophia had a look of terror on her face that will be etched in my mind forever.  And then it happened, arms and legs flailing, Grandpa and Sophie are being torpedoed through the water.  In an instant they surfaced and Sophie was not happy.

After a little coaxing she finally decided to give it one more try—this time with me.  We walked to the top of the stairs and she held a death grip on my hand.  When we sat down on the slide she held so tight I could barely turn her around.  Once on the slide it was all business…Sophie had one thing on her mind….hold on to me.  I began to worry what would happen if I lost my footing at the bottom and we both went under for a second.  This could ruin her trust for life.  Here we are sliding down and I am deep in thought wondering what will happen if I fail my three year old.  Those thoughts were shoved aside by the fact that we were nearing the final corner before the “pool of lost trust.”  And then it happened, almost like a mirage, Grandpa was waiting for the handoff in the pool…I was just strong enough to pass her off above the water before going under.  Yes, “hero” is one word that came to mind….After coming out of the water, I immediately saw that she had the biggest grin possible on her face and she couldn’t wait to do it again.  Leigh-Ann said that every time she came to the bottom she had a look of horror on her face and then Grandpa rescued her and then she wanted to do it again.

Sophia had no idea that the water was only four feet deep and the worst thing that could happen would be a little water up her nose.  All she knew was that the water was over her head, it was moving fast and she was scared.  When she saw Grandpa waiting to rescue her from the dangerous water she could cope.

Life is sometimes like this waterslide.  We are moving out of control at a fast rate of speed.  The pool we are heading for looks very scary.  Without a strong person to catch us when we hit the bottom we feel we will die.  All we can think about is being trapped under the water—the worst case scenario.

For most of us this is not our first time down the waterslide of life.  We are familiar with more bills than income; we have dealt with regret from a relationship, we know how it feels to be unemployed, we have all worried about an unknown future,… the list could go on.  Somehow, life always has seemed to come together at the last possible moment and then things are somehow better for a period of time.  It is the moment that we are hurling out of control that God seems so far away, yet it is at this time that He is waiting at the bottom to rescue us from imminent danger.

As I have been meditating on the passage for this week’s message found in John 6:41-59 some parallel thoughts have come to mind.  This is part two of the Bread of Life discourse.  Jesus has fed the five thousand and calmed the storm.  Now he is explaining that He has come to do much more than provide for physical needs…He is the Bread of Life.  He gives a new satisfaction in this life and eternal safety in the life to come.  No matter how difficult the situation or how impossible life may seem, Jesus is always waiting for us with open arms.

I hope you will be able to join us this Sunday for the service at 10:45am.  If you cannot attend it will be posted on the web site www.newlifekc.org under resources.  As always, I invite you to join me in praying for God to be present and to work in each of our lives.

I hope you have a “New Life” day….the way Life is meant to be!!!

Troy

A New Life Week (John 6:22-40)

This week has been incredible, difficult and rewarding.  There is no question that it has been the “way Life is meant to be”, although it has not been “Life the way I meant it to be.”  To borrow a line from a non-theologian, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.”  There have been some days that were very predictable and the schedule worked together nicely.  Tasks were accomplished and life was manageable.  There were other days that turned into the proverbial “spin cycle” and I still feel a little woozy as I write this e-mail.

Sooooo, I am pretty sure that no matter how your life has been this week, you can probably welcome a little encouragement.  To begin, I thank you for your contributions to every blessing that will follow.  This may sound obvious to some of you who are a part of the New Life experience on a regular basis.  It may be a little surprising if you have been watching from a distance.  I guess my point is that there are no distant bystanders, whether you have been intricately involved or slipped into the back of one service you can be encouraged knowing that you are a part of the tapestry that God is creating with the New Life family.

Highlights from the week of August 10 – 17:

  • Saturday we had several join in the fun over at Chouteau.  We also had a planning meeting for our event on Tuesday.  After this meeting with the Tennant association one of the ladies had questions about how to join the church.  After sharing the story of salvation, she accepted Christ into her life.  As we were leaving she shared that she probably would be up half the night calling friends and relatives to let them know because they had been praying for a LONG TIME for her to come to Christ.
  • Below are a few e-mail responses I received this week from the services on Sunday:

I was a visitor to your church on Sunday, and I just wanted to say, WOW, what an AWESOME church!

I loved the message, and the worship was inspirational, and truly Divine.

We had an awesome Sunday.  I can’t thank God enough.

  • Tuesday we had fourteen New Life families team up with fourteen Chouteau families to spend time together “back to school shopping.”  We took the Wal-Mart experience to a whole new level.  The response to this event has been overwhelming.  All people that participated were extremely grateful.  It was like one person said, “a once in a lifetime opportunity that we want to experience again.”  Below is one e-mail description of what happened:

I just wanted to give a short praise report for the Choteau Courts Back pack Fill – Up!  Glory to God, what a special time for our church to show love and give of our selves to the community.  To help those who could not give back to us, but just blessed our socks off.  The two boys we helped joined us and their mother on the trip to Wal-Mart.  Their mother wanted to get some of the uniform pants and shirts, socks and underclothing.  She had each boy go into the fitting room to be sure they got the right size.   We already discussed that if it went over, we didn’t want them to have to put anything back, and we would make up the difference.  Guess what, when they added everything up at the register it came to $140.49.  $70.25 for each boy! We went to McDonalds and Gary treated us all to what ever the family wanted.  We prayed for the family and asked God’s protection and blessing for them.  The mother said that she wanted to come to our church on Sunday, and wanted to ride along with Lizzy!  I gave her a New Life business card and she will give a call to the church.

  • Wednesday, I received this e-mail… Wow! We’ve had so much “New Life” there is no way to accurately describe it. I’ll just do bullets:

-We met a man who had been hurt badly and was waiting to heal up before leaving

-He invited us to a “smoking” fellowship (that’s a first)

-We asked if we could come even though we don’t smoke. He said sure.

-We began to develop a friendship with T. R. While he smoked cigars and drank Martinis, we had a coke.

-Sunday night we invited T.R. to sit by our fire.

-He had grown to trust us by now and opened up. WOW!

-Former Green Beret, linguistics expert, then financial shark from Tampa, FL.

-To be sure his wife had assets in case of his death, he purchased a ranch for 2.5 million in NY. He put it in his mother-in-laws name.

-When his wife was murdered by Bohemian carjackers in Miami, he flipped.         

-He went to Greece to “party til his organs stopped.”

-Friends called him home to care for his wife’s 2 dogs and 3 cats.

-Knowing how she loved them, he could not disregard them.

-He blames himself for his wife’s death b/c he was not with her

-Meanwhile, his mother-in-law liquidated the house and the savings account which was in her name.

-To vent his frustration he became a cage fighter (home and abroad)

-After getting hurt in a cage fight, he decided to build an RV

-He was hurt in the repair shop (almost fatal) 2 weeks ago.

-He talked with us until 11 pm. He blames himself for his wife’s death. He says he has lost his faith and that god does not want him. He is “too bad” for God.

-I told him the story of Joseph. “Man meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”

-No major “break throughs” with him, but it looks like God is chasing him. We were so honored to be part of the chase.

  • Several of my past few days have been full of helping a new friend that is here with his pregnant wife from San Diego.  To make a long story short they are in their early 20’s, have college education and grew up in middle class families. After some very unfortunate experiences, they had been living on the streets for one week before I met them.  Over the past few days, God has worked in George’s heart and he has accepted Christ.  Continue to pray for Jenny as she grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness.  Last night on the phone, after midnight, in between runs to the hospital for Jenny who was dehydrated from being out in the heat for so long, George told me through tears that we were the only hope he had.  Considering all they have been through, we have done very little and to be honest it is both humiliating and exhilarating to recognize that God is allowing us to be a part of His work in their lives.
  • Another New Life moment came when I received this e-mail yesterday from a lady who has accepted the call to live among and minister to the homeless in KC:

“Thank you for keeping in touch. I will visit the church soon. God has laid out a plan for me to follow. Most people will not agree, but he knows best. I am coming closer to him everyday. Some days are frustrating than others, but that’s life. Wish you and your family the best.”

In the midst of these events and MANY MORE that I do not have time to mention, God has been working on my heart from our sermon passage for this Sunday found in John 6:22-40.  The people had been watching Jesus work from a distance.  Their curiosity was growing and so they began a pursuit of a New Life.  The context tells us that they walked several miles to the place where they experienced the “feeding of the 5,000.”  Throughout the night, the disciples fought the storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus was there to guide them and calm the storm.  The next day the crowd realized that Jesus was gone, so they made their way back to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  It is here that Jesus begins His, “Bread of Life Discourse.”  We will take the next two weeks to unpack the treasure that is found in this monumental passage.

My fingers are tired and I am hungry so I am heading to that vicious microwave……!

I hope you have your best day yet!

Troy

My Mazda 323 and God’s Provision in Life’s Storms (John 6:15-21)

Do you ever find yourself frustrated with your car???  The best car I think I ever had was the first one.  It was a Mazda 323 and everything was manual.  This car only had the bare necessities.  It had four wheels, an engine, cushioned seats and a radio (no tape player).  I never had a problem with her (there was a point where I switched from calling the car “it” to “her” as a term of endearment) until one fateful night.

I was traveling home from college and did not leave until close to 10:00pm so the earliest I could be home was 3:00am.  Everything was going GREAT until about 12:30am when I noticed the battery light come on.  NOT GOOD!!!  At this point everything was running fine, but every time I looked at the dashboard that pesky little light would stare right back at me.  It was starting to make me mad until I noticed that my headlights were beginning to dim.  Now I finally realized that I should try to find an exit.  I had about 15 miles to a large truck stop.  Since they advertised “Home Cooking” I thought they (whoever they are) would be a good place to land at 1:00am. NOT QUITE!!!  Back to the road….as I am driving, the lights are going out FAST so I make a decision to shut them off.  Yes, I was on the interstate and I turned off my headlights.  Soon a trucker who I will never meet pulled up right behind me and acted as my headlights.  And only a few minutes later I see blue and red flashing lights in my rearview.  NOT GOOD!!!  I did my best to explain, but the officer still gave me a ticket.  Then he gave me a lift to the “Home Cooking”.

After waking my dad up and asking him to come and get me, I went over to the Café and met a few guys who were apparently trying to dry up a little.  They offered to give me a lift back to my car (I’ll save that story for another time).  In the end, we got the car home (yet another story) and then found out that it was simply a radiator hose that had burst.  The bad news is that since it had overheated it had warped the head gasket.  And the cost to fix it was more than my car was worth.  NOT GOOD!!!

The bright side of the story is that when we were looking for cars (I had $700 cash to spend) we found a dealer who heard the story. Since he didn’t have anything that cheap on his lot, he offered to look in the newspaper to find another car and he did.  He came with me to test drive it and helped me negotiate the price down to $700 (there is nothing like having a used car dealer on your side of the negotiations).  Then he took it and put new tires and brakes on it and detailed it at his expense.  I had never met him before, and since he was a used car dealer and honest, I still wonder if he was an angel.

After putting up with a few hassles (to put it lightly), I had a better car (this one had cup holders and a sunroof in addition to the four wheels, engine, cushioned seats and radio), a new friend and a lesson to last me for the rest of my life.  When I was on the highway, in a broken down car, getting a ticket from the officer, I could not imagine any good coming out of the situation.  After 12 years, it is still one of my favorite stories to illustrate how God will take care of our needs.

This Sunday, we will take a close look at the miracle on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm.  You probably don’t have to think too hard to recall a storm in your life…in fact you may be going through one right now.  There is a clear message of comfort and hope that will build your faith in John 6:15-21.  I hope you will be able to join the other New Lifers for our service on Sunday at 10:45am.  In the meantime, make sure your radiator hoses are all in good working condition.

Have a great weekend!

Troy

Loyalty to Ruined Socks…and Spiritual Complacency (John 6:1-14)

Today, I have a hole in my sock.  This is not good…in fact it really bothers me — almost to the point that I am ready to get rid of them.  Not quite!  These are one of my “Top 5” pairs of socks.  Some of you like Leigh-Ann may not be able to empathize, because at the moment you start to get even the faintest clue that the fibers in your sock are wearing down, you throw them away.  You totally reject the socks that have spent hours with you.  They have kept your feet warm, free of blisters and sometimes have even looked good while doing it.  At the slightest hint of a weakness you leave them for a new pair.  What kind of a person are you anyway?

I am not like that (said like a good Pharisee).  My socks are a comfort thing…some pairs are too thin and they make my shoes slide around a little, some are too thick and they bunch up when I am putting on my shoes.  There are only a few socks in my drawer and quite possibly in the world that fit just right.  I know all you problem solvers out there are already frustrated as you read this….why doesn’t he just find the kind he likes and then buy 20 pairs?  You don’t understand….there is much more involved.  Those of us who hang on to our socks until they no longer are willing to hang on to us are warriors.  We unapologetically play favorites with our socks out of loyalty.  We love our socks even when they get old.  And this is the way it should be…I think.

My t-shirts are like this…I still have a t-shirt that I wore in college.  From my perspective this is true love…sticking with the clothes that have stuck by you.  Leigh-Ann thinks I’m crazy, so she has a way of throwing out my old clothes when I am not around, but I still have a few hiding places.

As old and worn out as they may appear I really struggle throwing them away.  Maybe because I get nostalgic and think of all the things my t-shirts and socks have been through with me.  Maybe because there is a comfort level with these clothes that I don’t have with something off the shelf.  Maybe you all think I’m crazy…

As out of the box as this may sound, we can become like this in our spirituality.  We can become so comfortable with the way things are that we refuse to recognize that it is time for a change.  Maybe we have such great memories of the way it was or we feel so good with our routines…maybe we just don’t know what to do.

This Sunday, we will look very closely at the fourth miracle in the book of John-“The feeding of the 5,000.”  The people did not even realize that although Jesus was making them comfortable physically, by feeding them, He was preparing them for eternal truths that would shock their socks off (pun intended).  There is a lesson to be learned from this miracle that is deeper than the fact that Jesus will provide for your needs or that Jesus can solve your problems, or that Jesus will give you answers for the most difficult questions of life.  The lesson will be obvious after we study John 6:1-14 verse by verse together.  I hope you will come and I hope you will pray for God to teach you the lesson He intends for you to learn.

I hope you have a “New Life” day….the way Life is meant to be!!!

Troy