“You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15
It was the first Sunday of the year. I had just turned 12 a few weeks earlier. I remember because I wasn’t yet allowed to sit with my big sister in the unofficial “youth section” during big church. It wasn’t a set rule; it was just something you didn’t do. Instead, I sat with Mrs. McNealy, the lady my mom asked to watch me since she was in the choir. Sitting with Mrs. McNealy was a happy consolation prize, as she’d scratch my back and give me candy during service. But this New Year’s Sunday stands out, as it was the day my words got me into His.
On this day, at the start of the message, the pastor descended the six pale blue carpeted stairs, asking people to share their New Year’s resolutions. Now, you have to understand about a thousand people were in that congregation. But did I care? Apparently not. My hand shot up before I had a second to realize just how many eyes were in the room.
Truth be told, I had no clue what a resolution was, much less did I have one. I mean, come on, I was 12. But you know what I wanted? To talk into that microphone. After a few people went, I concluded a resolution was a lofty goal you told people to impress them. So, I kept waving my hand like I was auditioning for a talk show. And then it happened; the pastor started heading my way.
What began as a dream of being a kid rockstar on that mic turned into instant panic. I was supposed to say something smart, right? And I’m at church, so it needs to be Jesus-y, yea? As he approached, I sensed my sister, over in the cool youth group island, shrinking back with embarrassment, while my mom, sitting in the choir loft, had this “what on earth is my child doing” look on her face.
As the pastor handed me the mic, the weight of it sunk into my tiny hands so quickly that I almost dropped it. Just then, Mrs. McNealy swooped in and held it up for me. Maybe it was that touch of confidence, my messed up need to impress, or perhaps the Holy Spirit (I think a combination of all three). But suddenly, I heard myself declare to all of Tabernacle Baptist Church that I would read through the whole Bible in a year.
Suddenly, the room filled with nods of approval and smiles of admiration at this little whipper-snappers’ most holy proclamation. Take that, cool youth kids! Crowd surfing the wave of self-aggrandizement, I caught the look on my sister’s and mom’s faces – absolute confusion and disbelief. They were both keenly aware of the reality I had detached from; I HATED reading with a passion. And here I was, literally in front of God and everyone, declaring I would read the Bible in a year!?!
It didn’t take long for the high of being a super-pious good little Christian girl to come crashing down. It’s one thing to boast about wanting to do “godly” things. It’s another thing for God to show up and hold you accountable. Later that evening, before bed, I had an encounter with the Lord. God showed up with something to say. It wasn’t a literal voice or vision. But with a firm conviction, I knew I wouldn’t get away with using God’s Word as a cheap snack to feed my ego. At that moment, I knew I had to keep my word and begin to read His.
I searched the house and stumbled across a Bible with a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan in the front. Turning to page one, I began to read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” and then I kept reading. Did I understand half of it? Heck no. I was 12. But motivated by the fear of the Lord and personal conviction, I was determined to keep my word concerning His. And you know what, after I read and read some more. And after I asked my mom a few awkward questions, like, “What is circumcision?” a few things started to make sense.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t finish reading the entire thing in a year; it took me a little longer. But by sticking with it, I did finish the following year. And when I did, I flipped back and started again, “In the beginning, God created…” And this time, you know what? I understood more than I did the first time. Some questions from before now had answers. But I also found I had new ones. And things that were once strange didn’t seem as confusing this time, except for circumcision. That’s always been weird.
But I stayed with it, and in doing so, I fell in love. With the story, the characters, but most of all, with the Author. God was showing up in those pages, and Jesus revealed Himself in ways I’d never imagined. And since then, every time I reach the last verse in Revelation, “Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen,” I flip back to page one and start again, “In the beginning…”
On that winter Sunday in ’97, did I have any clue I’d one day be called pastor? Could I have foreseen thousands of pages of reading laid ahead in receiving a master’s from seminary with a concentration in Biblical Studies? Could I’ve imagined my greatest joy would be nights spent reading the Bible with other believers, teaching His Word at conferences, or discussing the Scriptures with teenagers and adults? Heck no. But God did. And it has been the best New Year’s resolution I have ever accidentally made.
When we consider God’s incredible generosity, it goes beyond providing us with life and meeting our basic needs. We’re talking about an overflow of life brimming with variety, flavors, choices, and blessings. It’s a feast of goodness meant for us to enjoy and share. Being immersed in this generosity would naturally lead us to spread those blessings and live generously, right? But have you ever spent time with a bunch of little kids? If you have, you’ve witnessed it no one needed to teach them how to snatch a coveted toy from another kid, exclaiming, “Mine!” It’s like we’re instinctively wired to be selfish.
But why do we hold back when surrounded by a world dripping with God’s generosity? What drives us toward selfishness instead of generosity? The answer: fear. Fear of lack, the unknown, and future demands. Fear of missing out. Fear that our giving might be misused or unappreciated. Yet, fear wasn’t meant to motivate us. We’re meant to be guided by God’s Spirit and His abundant faithfulness. Shifting from fear to faith takes time, beginning with remembering who provides for us.
Recently, at the dealership for an oil change, they pitched trading in my car. I love my car, and I have no plans to sell it. But they talked about “savings” and “security,” trying to convince me to upgrade for future protection. In the midst of their quick talk, I blurted, “Oh, that’s not a problem for me. Im a follower of Jesus. I don’t live in fear of poverty or lack. Gods got me.” To be honest, the response surprised me. But it especially shocked the salesman, who was utterly taken aback. He didn’t quite know how to respond to the “God’s my provider” comeback. You see, he wasn’t aware that I had been working with God to pay off that car as quickly as possible, and in doing so, I had experienced His unwavering abundance. God’s lavish generosity had created a God-fidence (God-confidence) within me, and the fear of lacks grip had weakened its hold in my life.
The truth is, everything we have skills, time, words, money it’s on loan from our Creator. While God showers us with resources, those following Jesus give them back daily, letting Him direct their use. Grasping it all belongs to God, fear loses grip. Recall Jesus’ words: “Seek the kingdom of God… all will be provided… Don’t worry about tomorrow.” (Matthew 6:33-34) Generous living for believers is about faith, not fear. We trust God as Provider. If fear holds us, we can’t receive the goodness He has. So, let’s embrace open hearts and hands, knowing God’s in control. When it’s about living generously, let’s wholeheartedly trust God and let go of fear.
Hebrews 11:6 drops a truth bomb on us: “without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Faith is the essential ingredient for a life all about Jesus. But here’s the million-dollar question: Is just having faith enough? Can the faith we’re rolling with today handle the wild ride of tomorrow? Is the same trust that ignited a spiritual spark in the past still burning as brightly today?
I hopped on the Jesus train when I was a kid. Back in those Sunday School days, with felt boards and all, my faith was mostly rainbows and sunny skies. But time’s flown, and life has thrown some curveballs that my kid-level faith just wasn’t prepared for. Those twists and turns turned into a full-on-faith workout, with each challenge providing weight and resistance. Since my first “aha” moment with Jesus (and believe me, there have been quite a few since), I’ve made withdrawals from my faith piggy bank more times than I can remember. When life got real, I had to tap into my faith stash – that’s just how life goes.
But guess what? The faith journey isn’t a one-and-done deal, frozen in time like a picture. It’s a living thing that keeps growing and changing. Its power isn’t just about showing up initially; it’s about the ongoing evolution that keeps our spiritual fire burning.
So how do we grow our faith? Check out Romans 10:17: “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Basically, hanging out with Jesus and hearing from Him is what grows our faith. Thankfully Jesus speaks to us in all sorts of ways. His voice is in the written word of Scripture. He speaks through wisdom and encouragement from others. We’re strengthened by His continued faithfulness and presence in our daily lives. And the “aha” lightbulb moments in our hearts and spirit – yep, that’s Him too.
Jesus is in a never-ending conversation with us. He wants our faith to thrive and grow stronger at the sound of His voice. Our job? Make sure we’re listening and loading up on all the good stuff He is sharing. That way, our faith tanks stay filled, and we’re ready to live a faith-fueled life that pleases God and sets our hearts ablaze for Him.
Missed Pastor David’s message on faith? WATCH HERE
Baptism holds profound significance in the life of a believer and Christian community. However, as with any act of worship, it can sometimes lose its depth and become a routine and ritualistic practice. In the familiar, we may inadvertently overlook the immense power and transformation that baptism represents.
An interesting analogy comes from Nicander, an ancient Greek poet who used the culinary art of pickling vegetables to illustrate baptism’s importance. He used the Greek word “bapto” to describe dipping the vegetable into boiling water and “baptizo” for leaving it permanently immersed in vinegar. This connection is intriguing, especially considering that every occurrence of “baptism” in the New Testament uses “baptizo.”
Nicander’s use of these words vividly portrays a spiritual truth. Though you may have once been “bapto’d” or dipped into water, the reality of baptism is that when you embraced faith in Christ, you were permanently immersed in Him. Christian baptism is not a one-time event but an ongoing state of being surrounded by Christ like a vegetable forever enveloped in vinegar. And just as a pickled vegetable takes on the essence of the vinegar, our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus immerses us in His life, transforming us to be more Christ-like than our former selves. This transformation is not brought about by the physical act of baptism itself but by a life of faith in Jesus, empowered by His Spirit.
In Romans 6, Paul asks, “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Paul is not preaching the need for baptism to already dunked people. Instead, he’s encouraging them to remember its reality, even as they may be struggling with sin. He is pointing them to the truth that they are immersed in Christ; in this, they can find the power to overcome and live in faithful obedience to Him.
So when you see a jar of pickles, remember baptism is not just a dip but an eternal immersion of one’s life, forever united with Christ. If you have not yet been baptized as a follower of Jesus or are interested in reaffirming your commitment, we invite you to join us at our upcoming Lake Day event (Aug. 27th – sign up here).
Last Sunday, Pastor David emphasized the significance of worship as an essential part of our Christian lives – it’s simply what we do. While it holds a central place in our faith, what makes worship truly beautiful is its diverse expressions and forms. Thankfully, our worship isn’t confined by rigid religious rules or restrictions. Instead, through Christ, we’ve been given the gift of approaching God boldly to worship Him in ways that reflect our individuality.
It’s worth noting that there’s nothing wrong with experiencing rich moments of worship and encountering God through more traditional or scripted styles, often referred to as liturgy – these can be incredibly powerful. However, what matters most is worshiping God authentically, just as we are. God desires a personal relationship with each of us, and He not only accepts but delights in the unique and personal ways we express our worship to Him.
Worship cannot be confined to a one-size-fits-all mold; it can take on various styles and formats – traditional and contemporary, elaborate or simple, scripted or spontaneous. Furthermore, it can be influenced by culture, denomination, or personal preferences. What matters to God is the genuine devotion and adoration that flows from our hearts. It’s a beautiful reflection of the love relationship between the Creator and His creation, bringing joy to God and deepening our relationship with Him.
This week, take moments to pause and engage in worship. Turn off the noise during your commute, running errands, cooking dinner, or getting ready for bed, and reflect on God’s goodness and faithfulness. Use worship music to offer your voice as a gift to God through song. You can even take a moment now to declare who God is to you. And for a creative expression of worship, try going through the alphabet, ascribing a name or characteristic to God that starts with each letter (e.g., Abundant, Beautiful, Creative, Dependable, Exalted…).
Missed Pastor David’s message from Sunday on worship? WATCH HERE