Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
On November 30th we took a group of students to Lake Aurora Christian Retreat Center for a Fall Retreat. The name of the retreat was One Heart. My prayer for the weekend was that our youth group would grow together in unity so much that they would develop one heart. I believe that is was a huge success. On our last night I had them do something called an "affirmation circle." Basically the idea is that in our world we spend so much time focusing on the negative of people that we rarely say anything nice to them. So everybody at the retreat at one point in time had to sit in the middle of a circle and everybody in the circle had say something positive about them. It was such a great time, that even though the students were exhausted, we did the circle for three and a half hour and there was not one complaint. It was a very emotional and uplifting time for all of us.
We got back from that last Sunday, and last Monday I got back in the car and went to our staff retreat. The six pastors of NorthRidge all spent three days together at a condo in Daytona Beach. We ate a lot (restaurant called Aunt Catfish's mmmmm!), watched some football (the Ravens should have won!) had some fun, but spent most of our time working. We each had to teach about a different part of 2 Peter 1:5-7 and that was an incredible time of personal growth for me. We also went over goals for the upcoming year. I am very pleased at the direction we are going as a church, and our main goal for next year is to "Grow." It is pretty simple but the basic idea is to take our congregation from surface level knowledge to a deep rooted love and understanding of God's word. We are all going to be challenged to go through the Bible in a year and that will be amazing. I am also getting trained to be an E.E. trainer and we will be starting Evangelism Explosion in early 2008, and that will grow the church in their evangelism. And of course we are moving to two service in January, with a slightly different style of worship which will be a part of growing us numerically as well. 2008 will be an incredible year!
Finally, I wanted to share with you what I did the day after I got back from our staff retreat. I had the privilege of leading chapel at a place called H.E.A.R.T. Missionary Training Institute. www.heartmissionarytraining.com It is down a long dirt road behind Warner Southern College. This is a training ground for students who want to learn to be a missionary in a third world country. It is a three month program that they are going through. For the first month they are cut off from the outside world except for mail they receive once a week. They are forbidden electricity, running water, stoves, microwaves, etc. The site is filled with amenities that are found in a third world country. Such as the shower is a water pump pumped into a shed with a solar panel of sorts attached to it. The water goes into a five gallon bucket that has holes stabbed into it. After their one month of adjustment, they sit in a classroom for one month and learn things such as "appropriate technology." Things like how to get water to a village that has no water, how to weave clothes, and how to grow your food. And then in the last month the students become the teachers, and they have to prove that they have learned enough to go overseas by showing projects and doing the daily duties that the instructor would normally do.
I met a lot of students who have a heart for going to places of the world that have not heard the Gospel. I felt very honored to have been a very small part of their lives, and I will be excited to get to Heaven and learn just how many people they reached with the message because of the H.E.A.R.T. Missionary Training Institute. Please keep them in prayer.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
First I have a confession to make. I was making some changes to my layout (got bored of the old one... hope you like it) and in checking to see how my changes were coming out I accidently became the 1000th viewer. So congratulations to the 1000th viewer... ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Now onto my main goal today. Those of you who usually read my blog know that I have a few themes, I like to have fun, I like to give you Biblical truths, I like to poke fun at Mr. Bartlett. But today I have to use my platform to speak out against something that is damaging to the gospel of Jesus and all of the truths that this very country was founded on.
There is a movie coming out on December 7th called The Golden Compass and it should not be viewed by any person with any moral fiber. I usually wouldn't speak out against anything like this, but usually movie makers aren't trying to trick people like they are in this one. For instance, if a movie is coming out with a lot of violence and/or sex and it is not good for children it is pretty obvious by the previews. The reason I am speaking out against this movie is because they make it seem like a fun, adventerous ride for the whole family. But the moral implications of this movie have been hidden from everyone
It looks on the preview like a movie that anyone who likes Chronicles of Narnia would enjoy, but it was made in direct opposition to Chronicles of Narnia. Listen to what the author of the book Philip Pullman says about C.S. Lewis' masterpiece "I hate the Narnia books, and I hate them with a deep and bitter passion," he told one interviewer, "with their view of childhood as a golden age from which sexuality and adulthood are a falling-away."
Not only does he hate C.S. Lewis, but he is not that fond of Christians in general. He told the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph about his religious viewpoints, "Atheism suggests a degree of certainty that I'm not quite willing to accede. I suppose technically, you'd have to put me down as an agnostic. But if there is a God, and he is as the Christians describe him, then he deserves to be put down and rebelled against. As you look back over the history of the Christian church, it's a record of terrible infamy and cruelty and persecution and tyranny. How they have the bloody nerve to go on Thought for the Day and tell us all to be good when, given the slightest chance, they'd be hanging the rest of us and flogging the homosexuals and persecuting the witches."
The Golden Compass begins with a precocious 12-year-old girl named Lyra (similar to Lucy) clambering into a wardrobe to avoid detection ... a choice that unwittingly launches her into a universe-altering adventure. (Sound familiar?) Lurking in the wardrobe, she hears her uncle, an iconoclastic explorer named Lord Asriel, describe a mysterious substance called Dust to a group of scholars.
Several events then occur almost simultaneously: Lyra is given a truth-telling device called an alethiometer (the golden compass) and told to keep it secret; she begins to hear rumors of children disappearing without a trace; and she's whisked into the care of a glamorous but ruthless agent of the church named Mrs. Coulter. Lyra soon discovers that the church is also desperate to learn about Dust—a substance they believe is somehow connected to original sin—and that Mrs. Coulter is spearheading chilling experiments on children in her pursuit of "truth." Specifically, she's separating children from their dæmons (pronounced demon), animal spirits that physically embody each person's soul and accompany them throughout life.
Listen to a quote from one of the witches in the movie "There are churches there, believe me, that cut their children too, as the people of Bolvangar did—not in the same way, but just as horribly. They cut their sexual organs, yes, both boys and girls; they cut them with knives so that they shan't feel. That is what the church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling." Without exception, Pullman characterizes churches and anyone connected to them as agents of wickedness, oppression, torture, murder and malevolence.
It's a fair question for those curious about this story to ask what it is teaching. At the most basic level, His Dark Materials (The trilogy of which Golden Compass is the first book) is an attempted refutation of the Christian faith: "The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all," says an influential character named Mary Malone, who then goes on to relate her own "testimony" of why she abandoned her calling as a nun.
As to what his books are about, the author himself said, "My books are about killing God." But despite a great deal of publicity on this subject, the series never addresses the issue of God's existence with any real certainty. There is a character who masquerades as God, known as the Authority. But we discover he was simply the first being to evolve—and there's definitely a heavy emphasis on evolution in this story—out of Dust into conscious existence.
As to whether or not a real Creator is responsible for everything, however, another character says simply, "There may have been a creator, or there may not: We don't know." Ultimately, then, the story remains agnostic about God's existence. And with regard to death and the afterlife, Pullman first imagines a dark underworld where all the dead go, regardless of their actions or beliefs. The dead are then released by Lyra, and their molecules are dispersed throughout the world.
To end this post Beliefnet's Rod Dreher writes that he intends to protect his children from Pullman's poisonous influence. "One expects that religious parents will keep their children away from the [Golden Compass] film. 'But why?' the question arises from liberals. 'What are you afraid of?' My children losing God, especially before they have a firm hold on Him, that's what. At some point they will question the existence of God. I did. It's normal to do so. I want more than anything else I want for my children, even their own happiness in this life, for them to believe in God, who is their salvation. If you believe in God, and that the loss of God is the worst thing that can happen to a person, then you would sooner give your child a rattlesnake to play with than expose him or her at an early age to the work of a man who openly says he wishes to destroy God in the minds of his audience."
Let's remember that and openly tell anyone who will listen not to see The Golden Compass.
Post written from article by Adam R. Holz on http://www.pluggedinonline.com/
Friday, November 16, 2007
It was definitely one of the best events I have been to in a long, long time. A lot of people put a lot of hard work in and it paid off in an incredible way. And great job Elvis!
Onto the serious part of my post. We have recently watched Facing the Giants in youth group and if you haven't seen it then you must. But one of the main messages in the movie was that there is nothing impossible with God... NOTHING!
This past week I got the chance to go to Dundee Ridge Middle School (This is a public school) and I spoke at the Great American Teach In (Career Day) and I got to talk to 5 classes that totaled 300 7th graders and we had an amazing time. They learned about life as a youth pastor. They learned about why I am a youth pastor as God transformed the life of me and my family when I was at my lowest point. And they all left class knowing that God has a plan for their life, a purpose for their life and a promise on their life that He will never leave them or forsake them.
Public school!!! Public School!!! I ask you what is impossible with God... nothing!
I am so very grateful for the time that I got to spend at the school and I am eager to see what else God plans on doing through the teenagers of Haines City. Follow Him, dream big, and remember that nothing is impossible with God.
I am going to end with a video that I played to the kids as an ice breaker, and have since put it on youtube and godtube to advertise my website. Hope you enjoy it.
Friday, November 9, 2007
I am currently sitting in 10th grade Bible class at NorthRidge Christian Academy and all the students are taking a quiz. It is mainly on the Beatitudes and it is so quiet that every stroke of my keyboard sounds incredibly loud. One kid keeps looking at me whenever I look up and it makes me think he is cheating... I hope he's not, but I will let you know at the end of this post if I caught him or not.
I have started another contest for all of my faithful bloggers. On our website, http://www.northridgehc.com/ I have made an obvious blunder. There is something that is obviously inaccurate on the site. You do not have to be an attender of NorthRidge to figure it out. Whoever is first to email me with the "mistake" I made will be enshrined into the James' Blog Hall of Fame in my next post... good luck and God speed.
I will let you know that the kid was not cheating. Judging by the answers on his quiz though, he probably should have :) Well I have looked at some of my old postings and they are really lacking if they do not have a picture on them, so here is a pic...
This picture has absolutely nothing to do with anything that I am writing about, I just think it's really funny.
So onto the serious portion. (By the way I got constructive criticism from one of my coworkers that my posts are too long so I am attempting to make it shorter.
I attended the annual Youth for Christ banquet last night (with Sharon and Seaton Hodges) and I learned a few things that I want to share with you. The Polk County branch of Youth for Christ is really big on reaching the less privileged.
They brought up a few students that were either from a detention center, a halfway house or just a neighborhood meeting for underprivileged. These students gave testimonies as to what God is doing in their lives. It is very amazing to hear stories of transformation and I am looking forward to partnering with Youth for Christ to see what amazing things God will do.
To keep this shorter than usual I must skip to my main point. One of the speakers got up to give a report of the past year. He gave us friendly reminder that when you see a sticker on someone's car that says AAA to remember to pray for them. To pray specifically for the Abused, the Abandoned and the Arrested. These are the people that Youth for Christ tries to reach and these are people that Jesus would have reached if He were here right now too.
So remember when you see the AAA stickers on the back of the car to pray for the Abused, the Abandoned, and the Arrested.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Actually I just wasn't inspired with anything last week to bring to you and I know that my blog readers expect nothing less than excellence and so I took a week off to prepare again for excellence.
I have a couple of updates for you. First of all, most of you will remember that about 4 0r 5 weeks ago I submitted a post that had my fellow staff member and my good friend (and my wife's boss :)) Mr. Bartlett's picture and I put it on there just to poke some fun at my pal. In case you don't remember here is what the picture looked like:
For some reason Bartlett didn't take to well to this picture, and he must not have liked it posted on the World Wide Web for all of my faithful fans out there to read. So Bartlett did something that deserves my respect... he sent me another picture. Here it is:
I made it a little bit smaller, because well I need to guard my friend against getting an ego. In other words I made his head smaller to keep him from getting big headed. :) But I will be honest with you... I like the first pic better. It makes me giggle. So that is this weeks survey question... which Bartlett do you like better: Big Headed or Small Headed.
Which brings me to my next point. I got some of you to fall for the oldest trick in the Christian joke book. Last week's survey asked how many of each kind of animal did Moses take on the ark. 4 people said 2, 1 person said 4, and 3 people said zero... and the answer is ZERO! Because Moses didn't take any animals on the ark, it was Noah so congratulations you three and for the other five... better luck next time... and for the other 199 people that viewed my blog since the survey was posted... answer the stinking questions!
Okay, one more order of business, and I know it is what you have all been waiting for... my Derrick Brooks picture. Without any further ado here it is:
Can you tell how incredibly nervous I was? I cannot believe that I was that close to the greatest football player in Buccaneer history! It was quite a night! In the picture with me is (from left to right, top to bottom) Doc Murphy, foot doctor and chaplain for the Haines City High football team; his wife, chaplain for the cheerleaders; my wife, the most beautiful woman God ever created; me; Coach Sam Wyche; and Mr. Derrick Brooks.
Now onto the meat of this post. I have been teaching the students at NRC the past few weeks something that I think I want to share with all of you, my faithful blog readers. I have been teaching a series called Lessons From the Master. The premise of the message is to sum up all of Jesus' teachings into four easy to remember lessons. I have been coming from the angle of if Jesus were physically standing in front of you and could only tell you four things what would they be? Of course, this is only speculation, but after much prayer and preparation I was ready to teach this series and would feel ready to give an account for my teachings.
So the first week was pretty simple it was to Love God. And we talked about loving God as your Abba Father. In other words to love Him as your daddy who can protect you from life's hurts. The second week we learned to Love Others and we looked a little more deeply at what love really is. We talked about the three different Greek words for love; Eros- physical love, Phileo- brotherly love and Agape- unconditional love. And when the Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself it means to love EVERYONE UNCONDITIONALLY! Wow! That is tough.
But last night's message was the most difficult for me because it is So Hard. Last night's message was to Love Truth. We looked very closely at the world's truth and at God's truth. The world believes that right and wrong is based on how you feel and the circumstances you are in and God's truth is absolute.
Let me give you an example that will rock your world. Imagine a woman is living on the streets with her daughter and neither one of them has eaten in three days. The mother decides to steal an apple to feed her daughter... is it still wrong to steal?
The answer is yes and will always be yes. Just because the truth is difficult doesn't make it any less true. Stealing is wrong always. That woman's circumstances are difficult and the world would say that in that situation it is perfectly okay to steal, but the Bible says that it is wrong to steal. Period.
I was trying to get these students to understand that all of their outside influences are telling them that truth can change and to do whatever is good for you, but the Bible says that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that is never changing.
My goal in posting this, the same as teaching it last night, is not to condemn anyone. I told you up front that this was very hard. My goal is to get you to think about where you get your concept of truth. Do you get it from the outside world or do you get it from the Word of God?
Friday, October 5, 2007
This is a picture of him back in the day coaching the Bucs and talking to our quarterback Craig Erickson. I am so glad we don't have those uniforms anymore and I am so glad we have a better QB. In school they used to say of the Bucs: Be Understanding Craig Stinks B.U.C.S.
Anyhow, I was excited to meet him, I knew that he used to go to the church that I got saved at, FBC Tampa and I also knew that he drafted Derrick Brooks so I was very excited.
Well, Monday afternoon rolled around and I realized that I didn't know what time it started and how to get to where it was at, so I opened back up the email that I originally got from my good friend Carlos. I didn't originally realize that the email had an attachment, and when I opened it up I saw the flyer for the banquet, and yes Sam Wyche was to be there... BUT SO WAS DERRICK BROOKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
For those of you that don't understand what this means to me, Derrick Brooks has been my favorite player since he was drafted in 95. I could not have met anyone in the NFL that would have got me more excited than him. Not only is he a great player (10 pro bowls, 2006 pro bowl mvp, 2002 Defensive player of the Year) but he is also a great Christian man. And when I got saved in 96 the whole Christian thing was knew to me, so reading articles and listening to interviews from Derrick and Tony Dungy and Danny Wuerfful did a great deal in showing me that being a Christian doesn't mean you have to be stuffed into a "No Fun Box" and that you can do what you love and be a Christian influence.
So we got to the banquet and we immediately went into the VIP room and I was standing 5 feet away from Derrick and was awestruck. Coach Wyche was next to him and was getting no attention so he walked up to us and started talking to Heather and me. Ordinarily that would have been the highlight of my night but DB was standing next to me.
Charlie Warren (great man!) announced that we were to get with our table and take pictures with the coach and 55. So we did! They were sitting down and we stood behind them and I could have talked to Derrick Brooks right then, and... I froze! I couldn't get a word out. Luckily I have the best wife in the world and she leaned over and started talking to him on my behalf. She told him that she had to memorize all of his vital stats before we got married (which was true) and I chimed in with "It was part of the wedding vows." Then we took the picture and I managed to get out, "It was great meeting you."
I was so excited, but it wasn't over. Something great happened. Half of our table showed up late. So we had to take the picture again. This time I wasn't going to freeze up, I got a sharpie and asked him to sign my jersey... and he did. I have never been so excited in my life (except for on my wedding day), and the steak was great and Derrick gave a great speech and the coach was awesome as well. I hope to have that picture of us with the greatest player ever to post on my blog next week.
So that was my exciting night and I want to transition into something else. If you haven't noticed I have a added a few features on the page. There is a section at the bottom that will give you news on Christianity, Bucs, and Youth so you can utilize that and there are also a couple of videos attached to my page.
I urge you to watch these videos this week after you get done reading my blog because they post great points. The main point they are trying to convey is that there is no special way that a Christian is supposed to look. In other words, just because you have on your church suit with your offering envelope sticking out it doesn't make you any more or less of a Christian than the guy in ratty jeans and a t-shirt.
This is something that I learned from the likes of Derrick Brooks. When I got saved I had this thought of what a Christian should look like and he definitely didn't fit that mold. Coach Dungy says that he is a Christian that happens to coach football but he is a Christian first and foremost.
That word unfortunately has taken a huge hit in recent years and it almost has a negative connotation to it now. I love the phrase Christ follower because it really simplifies things. Jesus never wore suits. Jesus never stayed away from lost people because they weren't like him. Jesus never was unaccepting of anyone. Jesus was a man of love and compassion. I would love to think that one day when I have breathed my final breathe that it would be said of me very simply, "He was a Christ follower." It doesn't matter that I am a Pastor, that doesn't make me any more or less of Christian. All that matters is that I, like so many others in this world, am doing my best to live like Jesus lived, not like people have told me to live.
To live is Christ, to die is gain!
Friday, September 28, 2007
He was born in 1980 which only puts him 2 years older than me and he lives in New Jersey. My dad's side of the family is from Syracuse, NY. Here's another thing about him... he's really good! The reason I found out about him, is that he just won another race this weekend, and now he is leading his particular racing organization. I do not know a lot about racing, but here are some things that I found in his biography.
-- 2-time Wall Modified champion (2001-02)-- 2-time Garden State Classic winner (2002-03)-- SST B Modified Chemung 100 lap winner-- Wall R.O.C. Tour Sunoco 150 winner-- 2 Riverhead Modified wins -- 2-time Turkey Derby winner
I don't know what that means but it sounds impressive. Here is a picture of the car he drives.
But if that fact that I have a man sharing my name who is a successful New Jersey race car driver is not enough... he has a brother. His brother is also a race car driver and owns a used car parts shop called John Blewett, Inc. Now it would be really eerie if this guys name was Mike or Mikey or Hunter or whatever alias my brother is using these days, but his name was John. And, in the spirit of giving out very personal information over the World Wide Web my mom lost a boy and his name was John. He was born around the same year as this John. So, here's the picture of John Blewett III and if you have ever met my brother Mikey you would see a few similarities there too.
So anyhow there is my interesting discovery for the week, and I will keep you up to date with anything that may transpire from this situation. Here is what I am hoping will happen... the power of this now very famous blog will spread all the way to New Jersey and the Blewetts will find out about this Youth Pastor in Florida who shares the same name and a few facial similarities with their race car driver Jimmy. I will let you know when I receive the phone call.
Onto some more spiritual things. This past weekend Heather and I attended a marriage conference called Weekend to Remember http://www.familylife.com/conferences/marriage.asp and it was held in West Palm Beach. (So for those of you that thought I skipped church to go to the Bucs game... you were wrong.) At this conference we learned a lot of interesting things. We learned the proper way to communicate, we learned about the way God views marriage as opposed to how the world views marriage, and we learned about how differences in expectations will lead to conflict.
The part that I wanted to share with you though was told to me at the part of the conference where the men and women split up. The men were learning about what it means to be a Godly father. The talk was very interesting and I am sure it was a lot of stuff that I will remember when I do become a father. I wanted to relay to you how this speaker ended his time with us men, because it relates a lot with the 30 days post that I talked about last week.
The speaker told the story of being woken up in the middle of night at his home in Atlanta with the news that his nephew was dead. His nephew was 23 years old and was apparently shot while trying to rob a convenience store. This was shocking news to the speaker because he felt like this man was not the type of guy who would do something like that.
As information started to unravel, the speaker had found out that his nephew had just found out that he was going to be a father. In a moment of foolishness decided that he needed some way to get Christmas money for his new baby and the baby's mother. Even though this man had never been in trouble before and would never do something so extreme by his nature alone, he will now be forever linked to a convenience store robbery and he will never be remembered as anything more than a thug.
The sad part is that one day his baby will be old enough to ask questions. And inevitably the question will be raised to his mother, "Mom, why don't I have a daddy?" Can you imagine the anguish that that mother will feel at that moment, and can you imagine the feelings of abandonment and confusion that that kid will have to grow up with. The speaker acknowledged the fact that when his nephew died, he left behind a terrible legacy. A legacy that will haunt his kid forever. All for a few dollars.
The question was then posed: If you left this Earth right now, what would be your legacy? Parents, would your legacy be as a loving parent? Christians, will your legacy be as a faithful Christian? What will you do today to ensure that you leave a lasting legacy? What will do today to make sure that everyone around knows that you love and care for them?
What's your legacy?
Thursday, September 20, 2007
I don't know if you have noticed the top of the screen of this blog. If you have you will see how many page loads we have had in the past month. We are up to 317 and last week we had 186 page views. So in only one week our readers have nearly doubled. That is awesome!
On my stat tracker I noticed that by far more people read this blog on Thursdays than any other day. So Thursday is my official blog day. This works well for me, because I don't work on Fridays and so Thursdays are my last work day you all know what that's like... it is so hard to stay focused on what needs to be done.
We have a couple of things going on in the online world of NorthRidge. First of all, there is the obvious greatest blog on Earth known as James' blog (and even my wife has read it now :) ) But there are a couple of other things. Jackie Noland and some others have felt compelled to start a prayer chain. So you can email email@example.com to submit any prayer requests you may have or to be a part of the email prayer chain and receive all of the requests that are submitted. We are also looking to post some great stories of answered prayers on our website so submit some of those stories to us as well. And I have posted some new pictures of the fire damage on our website, so check those out at http://www.northridgehc.com/.
Now that those details are out of the way, I wanted to let you know that I have been working out. My wife joined Gold's Gym a couple of weeks ago and there was a 7 day guest pass along with it. So I went last Thursday and took a spinning class (that's bicycling) and I was sore for 5 days. But I am really trying to expand my horizons and develop a new circle of influence. As a Pastor I feel a lot of times like I can get stuck in a church bubble. So I speak all the time on sharing your faith with the lost, but the truth is that I don't know many lost people. So I am excited to become a part of this tribe. I have already seen dividends. Here I am with my shirt off.
So I guess you can see that it has been paying off.
Anyhow, onto the seriousness. I give careful thought now to what I am to post on this blog. I did it at first as a way to get people to use our website and now I see it is a way to minister to people. I do not take that lightly.
So in preparing for this week's post I was drawing blanks, until today. I started watching http://www.lifechurch.tv/. If you have not been there you must watch it. This man had a huge vision for ministry in the modern age and he has multiple church sites across the country and simulcasts to all of those churches as well as to an online community that is apparently very large.
I was watching his last sermon series he completed entitled 30 days. The basic premise of this sermon series (and I suggest you watch it yourself) is, what if you knew you had only 30 days to live what would you do. He mentions that way he came across this idea is because he was having a hard time prioritizing his life. The Pastor was being asked to speak in quite a few churches and seminars and he didn't know when he should say yes and when he should stay home with his family. He talked to his mentor who told him that when accepting a speaking engagement ask yourself if you only had 30 days to live would you still go and speak there. This became a great way to gauge his priorities.
This Pastor went to great lengths to get his point across during this series, including interviewing people who had been given only a short time to live by their doctors. The stories were extraordinary. Do you realize how much your perspective changes when you have been given an ending point to your life. It changes in an immense ways.
In listening to this weeks message (which was after the 30 days series) the Pastor gave some follow up information. He informed his congregation that one of the people interviewed had gone on to be with the Lord, and that people from his small group were there with him the whole way through. But there was another story that really caught my attention.
The Pastor said that during the 30 days series there was a woman who decided that she needed to quit her high paying job to become a stay at home mother and have time to spend with her family. Because she decided that if she only had 30 days to live that she would definitely spend them with her family. Only 2 weeks after making this life altering decision, her 18 month old baby drowned in a swimming pool. It is a shame that she only had her epiphany a couple of weeks before her babies death, but it is a blessing that she had those 2 weeks.
My question to you, my faithful blog readers, is quite simple... if you only had 30 days to live what would you do? Then do it! Then do it! The book of James says that life is like a vapor, it is here and then it goes away. Don't get to the end of the road and be full of regret. Life life to the fullest.
I will end with a little poem that I memorized for some reason when I was in high school
Exhaust the little moments for soon they die,
And be it gash or gold they will never come again in this identical disguise.
Follow Up: Added Monday September 24, 2007
I received a comment from Andrew Statezny who is a campus Pastor for Life Church in Hendersonville, TN (I told you the blog was gaining popularity) and he informed me that there is a website called www.30daystolive.com that they made especially for that sermon series. On it are the videos of the people they interviewed, follow up with how they are doing, videos of the sermons in their entirety, and a section where you can answer what you would do if you had only 30 days to live. So check it out, and look for the next posting this Thursday... Go Bucs!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Of these special people that have been keeping up with James' blog I found out that we have royalty among us. The principal of NCA elementary division Mr. Michael Bartlett is now a faithful blog reader. I thought that some of you may not know what he looks like, so here he is...
I honestly just wanted to put his picture on because he hates this pic and I am laughing hysterically at the thought of posting this. But anyway, he does read, but he may not after this. :)
So, onto my blog.
This past weekend was a weekend to remember and a weekend I wish I could forget. For those of you that don't know we had a little diddy at the church on Saturday called Fusion Fest. We had been working really hard to get the word out to all of the public school campuses... and we did. We were excited of the prospect of what would happen on Saturday.
Well Saturday came and we had been working diligently for over a month on the details of this event. We had been begun setting up three days in advance. The band came in set up on a flatbed under a tent and then about an hour before our diddy was to begin... it started to rain.
No big deal we thought, we were protected by our great tent. Then a huge gust of wind came and toppled our whole tent over leaving all of the band's equipment unprotected. I must say that we had some incredible volunteers that stayed under the tent holding the medal poles to the tent in such a way that all of the equipment would stay dry. During the duration of this pole holding there was a little thing called lightning flashing all around us. 20 minutes later the rain stopped, everyone lived, and we officially had 45 minutes to re-set up everything that took us three days to prepare.
Our incredible volunteers didn't flinch, they got right to work and we made arrangements for the band to go inside and... praise God... 5 or 6 kids raised their hands saying that they accepted Christ!
Ever since this Saturday I have been searching for meaning in the whole event. I mean there were hundreds of kids that told me they were coming that didn't show up. Two football teams were supposed to be there in their entirety and both head coaches even cancelled. We had planned for this event for weeks and weeks and less than an hour before the event one gust of wind messed everything up. In these instances I can't help but ask the inevitable... why?
I may never know why things happened the way they did. I may never know why circumstances ended up the way they did. But I know for at least 5 kids their eternities changed forever because of Fusion Fest. And I suppose that was all worth it.
I wonder also, just wondering, if everything went off without a hitch, would I have taken the credit? I would like to say that I would have given all the praise to God, but honestly speaking I don't know that to be true.
But now I believe without any doubt or any reservation that the only way we pulled that event off on 45 minutes notice is through the grace and power of my almighty God! And I must not be discouraged over only 5 salivations, because... 5 kids got saved! God is the only one with that might.
Thank you faithful blog readers... God bless and know that Principal Bartlett is a cut above the rest.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I have a lot that I could write about today. School started and I think it is the greatest thing to see all of the students that are here. NCA is an incredible school. My wife is teaching kindergarten, and I could write an entire blog on why I could never be a Kindergarten teacher and the amazing patience that it takes to do that job. We have a big event coming up called Fusion Fest and I could write on all of the details and the opening doors of the event. However, I have something else entirely to blog about today.
Last Saturday I went to Kissimmee, Florida and volunteered at a place called Give Kids the World. This is a huge theme park like resort for terminally ill children and their families and it is usually one of the last stops on the journey of life for most of these kids.
I was real nervous going, and to be quite honest when Cindy Beasley asked us to go I wanted to find any reason not to go. After all, there was a Bucs game on during that time frame. But how could you possibly say no to that. Knowing that there are children who are dying and we have a chance to fill their last days with just a little bit of happiness; I kept on telling Heather that we just can't say no.
So we met last Saturday with a group of about 15 church goers and a handful of incredible youth and we went. My job was pretty easy I was to team with my awesome wife and two of our youth and we were to bus tables for half of the dining room. We were to clean off the tables, put away the dishes, and we were to help people with their trays to the tables.
I worked in restaurants while I was in college and so this job seemed great to me. I really loved the work and I really loved the satisfaction of helping out and I really loved partnering with my wife. I had a great time.
Having a great time at a place like that made me feel guilty though. How can I have a great time knowing that so many people in this place were struggling so badly. But the thing is that Give Kids the World was a happy place. The people that work and volunteer there go out of there way to make the families week the best of their lives, to give them some happy memories to cling onto when the times get rough.
As we watched people coming into the Gingerbread House we were told that the kids wearing the buttons were the ones that were terminally ill. Some kids had no hair or were in wheelchairs, but a lot of them you would never know by looking at them that anything was wrong with them. We sang happy birthday to this boy that was turning 12. We joked around with a lot of the people. We offered to take trays for the ones who looked like they might need help, but most of them politely refused my help. I was amazed at all of the people that came in for dinner that night.
I became the primary dish scraper of my group and I was okay with that. My team would bring a tray full of dirty dishes to me and I would scrape off the food and organize the dishes and send them back to the dish room where their were people to wash the dishes.
On a couple of occasions a lady had a few words to say about a few of the things that I was doing wrong and a few things that our church was doing wrong. I very politely accepted the criticism and informed my team if we had something we needed to change. This lady apparently felt bad about chastising me so harshly and she came to apologize to me. I said it was okay and by the end of the night I found out a lot about this lady.
I am very bad with names so I don't remember what her name was but she was 70 years old. She looked 50. She said that she works taking care of an old man (this is a 70 year old talking remember) and then she cleans houses as her main source of income. And three nights a week she goes to Give Kids the World and she leads the kitchen crew, which is made up of paid employees from Perkins who almost all have some sort of affliction, whether it is that they are bipolar or autistic or something like that. Here is the kicker... she has been volunteering in that kitchen three nights a week for 19 years. Yes I said it... 19 years! Which, to make my readers feel old, was when I was 6. I couldn't believe the work ethic of this lady.
At the end of the night, just like at any restaurant we all were standing around waiting for the final people in the place to stop talking and leave. There was a big round table with a bunch of Spanish people and one of the kitchen workers was over there chatting it up with them. I have not watched Telemundo enough yet to know exactly what was being said, but I was a little bit frustrated because I was ready to go home.
I would soon feel bad about that. The man came over to me after the people left and told me that he was sharing Jesus with them. He told me that every night he shares Jesus with at least one or two families and that is the only reason he helps out in the kitchen. When I asked him how this particular family responded he looked me in the eye with an air of confidence that we all should have and said, "Who could say no?" The man's name was Israel and I look forward to meeting him again one day soon.
My fellow readers there are many people who need us. Please don't put God in a box, express your faith freely and openly and with great pride because the God of the Universe is at work all around us... we just have to open our eyes and see.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I just finished reading a book called Under the Overpass (www.undertheoverpass.com) and it was about a college student named Mike and his friend Sam who felt convicted to live as homeless people for five months. They wanted to view things from a different, less-privileged perspective.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons from this book and I will remember a lot of the anecdotes as long as I live. There are a few things that I wanted to touch on for my blogger nation out there.
These two guys lived on the streets and played worship songs on their guitars for money to get food and they did everything that normal homeless people would do. But on Sundays, being the good Christian boys that they are, they went to church.
The book has a lot of interesting stories to tell of how people treated them when they walked in on Sunday morning. They went to a mega church in Phoenix, Arizona where security followed one of them into the bathroom and asked him in a very rude and threatening way if he was disrupting the service. They were forced off of a grassy knoll they were sleeping on on a church campus because the man was afraid of what people would think when they showed up for their "Outreach Breakfast." Come to find out the man who kicked them off the grass was head of community outreach at his church. They asked a Pastor at a small church whether the church could provide them a meal, to which the Pastor answered, "We don't do that here, we worship God here."
But then Sam and Mike went to an afternoon service on the beaches of San Fransisco, California. People were handing out bag lunches to the homeless while a young guy led worship. After that a 17 year old got up to bring a message to the crowd that gathered.
When the service was over the worship leader and the preacher boy came over to Mike and Sam and they talked like they had been friends forever. The ministers offered the two homeless guys more lunches and asked about their lives (now understand Mike and Joe never let people know that they were Christians with an address and money and a good family) and the two told them that they were trying to get bus fare to go to San Diego.
These two preacher boys then felt led by the spirit to invite Mike and Sam to their church for night service and offered to let them come back to their apartment to shower and eat and hang out. When these two showed up at the church they were treated like royalty and the worship leader took them to his car and opened the trunk... it was full of food. Then the 17 year old man of God gave Mike and Sam an envelope filled with the exact amount of bus fare needed to get to San Diego.
It was amazing to me that in all the stories Sam and Mike told about Christians it took two young guys on a beach to live out the gospel in their lives. What would you have done?
I am convinced that if Jesus were alive in this day and age that he wouldn't be as we picture Him. We picture Him as a white guy with luxurious brown hair and blue eyes. He drives an SUV, lives in the suburbs and is a member of the PTA.
From what we know of Jesus' background, He would look like a Middle Eastern man and would be talking radical talk. This means that Jesus would be targeted by Homeland Security and He would make people nervous if He got on an airplane, and quite frankly... most people would think of Him as a possible terrorist.
From what we know of who Jesus was He wouldn't live in a 4 bedroom overlooking the lake with a pool and a big backyard. From what we know of who Jesus was, my bet is that He would come to Earth as a homeless man. How would He be treated?
I am not saying that the answer to the Christian life is to give money to the poor because that is not the case. In fact, you should never give money to the poor because 9 times out of ten you are feeding a heroine addiction or providing an alcoholic with the very thing that put him on the streets. You should only give homeless people love, support, work, food, and gift cards.
My whole point is this: do we really want to reach the world with the gospel or just the people that are like us? If Mike and Sam walked into NorthRidge Church how would they be treated?
When I was in high school I witnessed to this homeless man, took him to McDonalds and brought him to night church. He felt led to come forward and profess his salvation, which in most Southern Baptist churches means to join the church. I didn't hear the conversation at the alter, but this man came back to the pew dejected because he was told he couldn't join the church without an address. That's all well and good, but his salvation was never rejoiced over within the congregation. Why was that? If that man made $50,000 and thus would supply the church with $5,000 a year you better believe we would have rejoiced. But the Bible says that the angels rejoice when any sinner comes to Christ.
My question then is... why are we so stubborn?
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
I looked at my statistics and saw that 9 people have viewed my blog... Awesome! To those 9 of you who are now regular readers of my blog I have a special treat for you.
If I am correct (which I usually am) the former Pastor of NorthRidge Dr. Maiden will be in pulpit on August 19th to speak to our congregation. After this he will have a book signing for his new book.
This led me to reach back into my memory bank and withdraw January 1, 2006. On this day I made a resolution that I would write the book that has been inside of my head for a while now. The good thing about this resolution is that even though I have not made a lot of progress in the past year and a half I have not yet broken my resolution.
So what I wanted to do for my faithful 9 blog viewers is give you a never before sneak peak into my new book which will be realeased on August 12, 2014. So here it is and please leave me some comments on what you think and where changes can be made. I love you 9!
I am sure that all of you are familiar with a timeline. We learned to use them in the third grade and have neglected them ever since. The basic point of a timeline is to chronologically arrange the order of events that have some significance to each other.
Such an example would be that I was born on May 20, 1982. I was saved on March 26, 1996. I graduated high school on May 22, 2000. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl on January 22, 2002. I got married April 24, 2004. Those are all of the significant events that have happened in my life up until this point and so the timeline of my life would look like this.
Now what I would like for you to do is to make a timeline of all of the significant events that have taken place in your life. They could be things like your birth, your salvation, your marriage, the birth of your children, the Bucs’ Super Bowl victory; whatever is important to you. If you like you can write it out in the space provided below.
Take a minute to look over your timeline and to reflect on these events. Think about how important all of these events were and where you would be if they had never occurred.
Now what I need to you to do is to use your imagination. I need you to imagine that this next picture is one straight line. In order to do that, imagine that you can physically pick up the beginning of this picture with your left hand and the end of it with your right hand. Pick it up straight off of this page and stretch the two ends out like Christmas lights. (like its that easy to stretch out Christmas lights) Then take your right hand and toss out the end of the line until it is straight
In your imagination this line should be perfectly straight just like a timeline. This line would be very, very long. It could probably stretch through your house and down the block for a little ways.
Now what I need to you to do is to use your imagination to take the timeline that you made for yourself and crumble it up into a little ball until it makes a tiny little dot. Place this little dot toward the very beginning of the long line that you stretched out in your head that went through your neighbor’s window. It would look something like this.
What you now have is a clear and understandable representation of eternity. The beginning of the line in your hand represents the beginning of time. I will leave it to people a lot smarter than I to argue whether there ever was a real beginning of time. For our illustrations purposes your left hand will represent Genesis 1 when God created Heaven and the Earth and everything on Earth.
The end of this line represents eternity. Now understand this: the line that you have in your imagination is very long. It is probably the longest timeline that you have ever seen, but if this truly represents eternity it is only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of how long the line should really be. We can not truly make a timeline that represents eternity because eternity transcends time. But for the practical purposes that this book will serve we must try to wrap our finite brains around infinity and the only way to do that is use our imagination to make this line.
So if your left hand is creation and the line is eternity then what does the dot represent? It represents your life. I bet for some of you when you were making your timeline you were thinking, “I sure have lived a full life.” Or maybe, “Boy, I am old.” But when you crumbled up your timeline and turned it into a dot I bet it made your life seem insignificant.
What I need for you to understand is that this is as close to an accurate timeline as we will ever be able to make here on Earth. And every time you make your timeline and put it in relation with eternity, it will always be a dot.
What if I live to be 75? A dot. What if I live to be 100? A dot. What if I am like Bethusela and live to be ? Always a dot. When we put our lives on the same scale as eternity it will always be a dot. Regardless.
Do you remember the last time that you went to a cemetery? There were a lot of tombstones surrounding you as far as the eye can see. The tombstones said something like this:
Here Lies John Doe
A Great Man, A Great Father, A Great American
What do we really know about this man? We know his name. We know that there were people that loved him and thought highly of him. We know when he was born and when he died. That’s it. That’s all we know. The reality is that his entire existence on this Earth was summed up with a dash. All of the successes, all of the stories, all of the experiences, all of the hard work; everything is summed up in one little dash.
It seems pretty depressing doesn’t it, but it is a true statement that one day after you die, everyone will eventually forget about you or the people that remember you will die themselves. When that happens all that you were and all that you stood for will be encompassed in that one little dash on your tombstone that separates the year you were born from the year that you died. In other words it will be nothing more than a dot on the timeline of eternity.
The Bible makes this point very clearly a few times on just how short and frail our life is. James 4:14 says, “…you are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Job 7:6 says, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle…” And Job 9:25 says, “Now my days are swifter than a runner; they flee away, they see no good.”
In order for you to understand what the line and the dot means to me let me paint you a picture of my childhood. I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Tampa, FL. I was an eighties child. Nothing beat the Dukes of Hazzard and the Ninja Turtles as far as I was concerned
I had blonde hair and blue eyes. I took my blonde hair and I parted it down the left side of my head and did a little bit of a comb over. So the left side of my head looked clean-cut and business-like and the right side of my head looked like tumbleweed rolling through the desert. It was almost like a sideways mullet.
I had a very keen eye for fashion. I wore nothing but t-shirts that usually contained some sort of cartoon character, such as Roger Rabbit or Bugs Bunny. I also owned one of those shirts that changed from one ugly color to the next if you touched it. And the prize of my t-shirt collection was a purple shirt with a surfer on it, but if you rolled up the sleeves the underneath color was orange.
Being from Florida, I only owned one or two pair of long pants and the rest of my wardrobe was comprised of jean shorts. The very same pair of jean shorts. You see, my mom found these particular shorts on sale at an outlet mall and felt it necessary to buy every pair, because it is hard to pass up such a good deal. So nearly every day for two or three years I was dressed in the exact same pair of shorts.
Coming form a family that wasn’t particularly affluent, we only got one pair of shoes a year. Shoes were a huge deal when I was in school, who you were was based on what shoes you wore. If you had the “Ken Griffeys” with the number 24 on the side then you could be part of the elite of the school. We bought our shoes at Wal-Mart and I can only remember one pair from one particular year and they had two velcro straps on them and had a picture of my favorite cat-eating alien ALF the side of them. During the summertime I absolutely loved my shoes, when school started and the jokes rolled in I would rather have went barefoot.
There is one thing though that I have failed to mention that topped off my wardrobe… my socks. I had socks that came up to my knees and had different colored stripes on them. It didn’t matter if the stripes matched my outfit, it only mattered that they matched each other. If you add all of this with the worst posture that anyone has ever seen and a set of teeth that makes Austin Powers look like Brad Pitt then you have a pretty accurate picture of what I was like as a child.
My name is James Blewett, (pronounced bloo-ette) not so hard. However when the first day of school rolled around and it came time to call roll all of the teachers pronounced my name as though they have never read English before. “James Blew It” would naturally be what poured out of their mouth. Being the first day of school and the first alphabetically called, this pronunciation would get the class rolling on the floor with laughter to start the year off. And then the statement that every teacher made with confidence as though they were the originators of the centuries old joke “James, you really Blew It this time.” And my year would get off to a great start. Just imagine my joy when I found out that in middle school we would have six classes with six different teachers and six different times calling roll. I am excited about going to Heaven, but I hope that the roll really won’t be called up yonder like the hymn says.
I painted you that picture in order for you to grasp the lack of self-confidence that I had. People that meet me today have a hard time believing that I ever lacked self-confidence because these dies I try not to cross over the cockiness line that separates self-confident people from pro athletes. It didn’t take long for me to create a defense mechanism known in the eighties as a “cut-down.” Now it is something that I struggle not to use.
My family life was not the best that it could be. My mom had an accident when I was really young and hurt her back, the injury handicapped her and she had to quit her job and stay home. My dad then became a workaholic, he didn’t have much choice with all of the doctor bills that were rolling in. My parents tried very hard, and I do believe they wanted the best for us however when I think back to my childhood I cannot think of one positive memory.
My mom was a frustrated, angry lady and needed an outlet for her anger and that usually came in the form of physically punishing me for any small hiccup that I made. I was truly scared of my mother for most of my life.
My dad had to unwind with a few beers when he got home from work and my brother and I would keep tabs on how many because once it got to three or four we made ourselves scarce.
I had often heard people telling me growing up that I was lucky to have two parents that have remained together for my whole life. The thing is that people didn’t know what went on behind closed doors. My parents fought like they literally hated each other on a nightly basis and the only reason they didn’t get divorced was because the state wouldn’t allow my mom to raise us alone and my dad worked too much to raise us, so they were stuck together.
I hated going to school. I really just hated that there were people at the school. I liked to learn and I liked to be distracted from life, but I hated going to school. However, until my freshman year in high school I only missed two days out of my entire schooling career because I just hated being at home more than I hated being anywhere else.
Of all of the things in my life that I hated, there was one thing that I hated more than anything else… nighttime. I hated being around people, but I hated being alone even more. It absolutely terrified me to be alone with my thoughts. When the lights when out and it was just me, I did nothing but question my existence...
More to come, check a bookstore near you.... in 8 years!
Friday, August 3, 2007
I am sure that if anybody is reading this (which I highly doubt) then they are most likely members of NorthRidge Church. The reason is because I mentioned it in the bulletin and so that is the only way that anybody would even know about this blog.
I am anticipating blogging on the inner workings of a youth ministry and letting everyone knows what really goes on behind the cubicles at NC. (that's my blog lingo for NorthRidge (why is the R capatilized?) Church) And I would like to tell funny stories and interesting antecdotes and maybe next week I will, but not this week.
This week the cubicles are less energetic than usual, because we are all working with a heavy heart. On Wednesday August 1st our good friend Jim Shemwell went on to be with his Father. It is still very shocking and very sad.
Now if you are a member at NC you would know that I have only been at this church for 2 months. But in those 2 months I have grown a close bond with Mr. Jim. He was such a nice man, such a Godly man, such an encouaraging man and I am going to miss him greatly.
I remember our interview process. My wife and I came to Haines City for the second time in a month. The first time went very well and now me and the Heath were coming to get voted on. Our fearless leader Pastor David decided that Heather and I needed some R and R. So Pastor got on the horn with Mr. Jim and asked him to take us to Disney World.
Mr. Jim and Carol and Larissa met us at the church and we followed them to the mouse world. We walked from the car to the train, from the train to the monorail, from the monorail to the front gate, from the front gate to the bathroom (it was a long walk) and the entire time me and Mr. Jim were chatting it up like we had known each other for 20 years. Heather and I knew that if everyone was even half as nice as him then we were definitely in the right place.
Ever since that day whenever Mr. Jim saw me he had an encouraging word for me. And I saw him a lot, and you would think that he would run out of nice things to say... but he never did.
A man that lived to serve the Lord. A man that made everyone feel special. A man that will be greatly missed.
I will see you again some day Mr. Jim.