Look at me! Look at me!

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When I was growing up, the street that my parents lived on was an average street, but to me it was the best street.  There was a dozen or so kids on my street that were all the same age as me.  We moved into our home when I was 8 years old, which is the perfect “boy” age when thinking about a life of playing with friends.

It didn’t take long for all the neighbors to come and welcome my mom and dad to the neighborhood, which meant that my brother and I got to meet all the kids!  We quickly became friends.

Over the years, our friendship grew in so many ways.  We started in elementary school together and then on to Jr. High School, and even High School.  At each level, we all pursued different activities where some of us excelled and… some of us didn’t.  A lot of my friends were good athletes and did well in team sports.  I was good at sports, but wouldn’t say that I excelled.  I loved to sing.  I even loved to sing in front of people.  As a matter of fact, I loved to sing in front of people so much that I began to develop my ability so that I would be recognized in a greater way.  So, what did I do? I joined the choir where I was eventually chosen as a soloist.  I sang in different choral programs and found it to be very rewarding.  In High School, I became interested in clubs and organizations that impacted my community.  I ended up attending many meetings and eventually became club president!

What’s my point?  I needed recognition.  I grew up as an identical twin. As a young boy, this was more than “ok”, but as I grew up, I found that I wanted my own identity.  That’s why recognition became so important to me.

The years after High School were different than what I thought.  I thought that everyone who I had known as a young boy would stick around and we would always be close friends, but I was wrong.  All of us packed up, moved on and eventually lost touch.  All of a sudden, I felt like I was on an island all by myself.  My life just got SERIOUS.  It was now my responsibility to form my own destiny.  I needed someone who already knew what I would be facing to follow for a while so I could learn from them and then take it from there.  I needed a mentor, a life coach, someone! The problem however? There was no one to teach me.  Everyone had their own agendas and it was clear that I was on my own.

I continued my search to find someone to follow for years and years.  I found some men over the years that I thought were leaders but found out later they were not.  I had no invitation from anyone to follow.  They “talked the talk” but didn’t “walk the walk”.  So, I began my quest to be my own leader by learning as much as I could as I went along.  It was sort of “on the job training” but ended up being a very bad decision.

Proverbs 12:15 (NKJV) says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.”

I was on the path of becoming my own expert.  At first, I saw that if I put in the work, there was a payoff.  In some areas of business, I became very successful.  I was promoted and found life in a leadership role to be very satisfying.  The problem was I wasn’t sharing anything I learned.  I figured it out; others should do the same. Right? Wrong.

My business pursuits were prospering and I thought I had made it!  Boy, was I wrong.  Without even knowing it, my selfish pride was leading me to destruction.  Eventually, my pride became more than I could handle and I lost everything.

Why?! Why?! Why?!  I often asked myself this.  How could I have let this happen?  I was at my end.  I had no one to look up to anymore and as an adult, I was wanting to be that boy again.  At the very end of my rope, I found someone who was willing to step into my situation and disciple me.

Disciple, in this case, is a verb that simply means, “To teach; to train.”  I finally found someone I could learn from.  Discipleship is: looking for the kind of people we can join in relationship that are going to show us the right way to live.  My “someone” was willing to show me how to live as a follower of Jesus Christ.

I listened to him.  I found an adult who knew what I refused to listen to before.  I found an adult that was willing to spend the necessary time with me to disciple me.  But even in this critical process, I learned a very important truth: only he could do so much for me.  I still had one important choice to make, and that was the ultimate choice.  Would I CHOOSE to live for Christ or continue to live for myself and end up on the path that leads to ultimate destruction?  I chose life!

Friends, we need to make good choices.  Even wise choices.  Proverbs 13:20 (NKJV) says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”  A living example and pattern is much easier to follow as we see life lived out.  I now find myself submitting to the leadership of Jesus Christ and His Word.  My relationship with Jesus is the single most important relationship I have.  He is my guide and He because He’s alive, He is my living example!

I encourage you to take time and listen to this week’s podcast, “Who are you following?”  http://www.painesvilleag.com/painesville-ag-messages/?enmse=1&enmse_sid=2 I promise it will challenge you and change you.

We are all headed in a particular direction.  Each one of us is following someone or some “thing”.  Are we following a pattern that leads to eternal life with Jesus or are we headed towards an earthly destination of destruction?  Jesus is calling you… “Follow Me.”  Will you follow Him?

George Leonhardt,
Blogger

JOY THIEVES

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Can I confess something to you this week? I am a perfectionist. Many of you may be to. No matter what the task is at hand, if it is not done perfectly, the whole world basically comes to a stop. If my bed is not made perfectly (when I do decide to make it, that is), then I MUST remake it 100 times just to make it perfect. If a paper I am writing at school does not get a grade between 95% and 100%, I feel like a failure, even though a 94% is still an A.

Can I confess something else? I am the type of person that must be the best of the best. In high school, I had this goal to graduate as a valedictorian. When I chose the post-secondary option my junior and senior year, however, I realized that would not be possible because my GPA would be affected by the college courses. So, my new goal: graduate from high school with my diploma and an Associate of Arts degree. Sure enough, I spent the last two years of my high school career working towards that goal… and achieved it. I’m that girl that must graduate with straight A’s, three degrees with a minor and a focus, and then proceed to grad school on an advanced standing scholarship. I’m the coworker that must be the best team member at work.

Without things being perfect, or without me being at the top of everything, I become easily frustrated and annoyed. I become that person you don’t want to be around (especially when I receive a bad test score). I lose my joy. And my level of happiness is based off of it.

This is my joy thief.

This is what drags me down.

This is where the enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy.

You may be the same way. Or, you may have other joy thieves. Maybe your trigger is when you come home to a messy house, or you’re running late to work and you forgot you needed to stop for gas. It’s these little (or big) things that make us tick. But they are also the things that the enemy uses to drain us of our joy.

Friends, the Lord has given us joy with our salvation. In scripture, we read that in His presence is “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16.11). We are told to “shout for joy” (Psalm 32.11). Psalm 35.9 states, “And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation”.

Why do we let these thieves come and steal our joy?

Joy is not based on our circumstances, but on our salvation. If this is true, then we need to do a better job of guarding our joy.

For me, it might be accepting the fact that not everything has to be “perfect”. Let’s face it, the only Person who is “perfect” is Jesus Himself. It may mean taking a step back and being okay with not being on top.

What is stealing your joy? What is draining you of all your energy to the point where you no longer rejoice in your salvation? We all have our own joy thieves, it’s just recognizing them and taking the initiative to rebuild our joy and rebuke the enemy of our soul.

Pastor Aaron, in his sermon series “Habits of Happiness,” shares several joy thieves and joy builders that we can each relate to. It is important to find out what is taking our joy away and holding us back from truly living life to the full. You can check out the podcast here: http://www.painesvilleag.com/painesville-ag-messages/?enmse=1&enmse_sid=2

Church, I encourage you to ask the Lord to reveal to you how the enemy steals your joy. After He’s revealed that to you, dig deep into the Word of God and find HIS truth about the joy of your salvation.

Make it a great week!
Jenny Bushnell,
Writer, Blogger

 

Poured Out

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“Happy? Who has time for being happy?  Do you know what my schedule looks like?  If you did know, and we swapped schedules for a day, you wouldn’t last 5 minutes before giving it back to me.”

I’ve thought about saying this a time or two.  Sometimes your life is incredibly busy.  That’s just the way it is.  The world has evolved to being a very busy, hectic, “got to do one more thing” kind of world.  Everything is competing for the minutes you set aside to take a breath.

Now, I am not a man who can multi-task.  I’m just not.  Do you know of anybody that is gifted in multi-tasking? I have learned that most wives are gifted and that makes incredible sense.  Taking care of the home, the kids, their spouses… this has made them experts at this.  Good or bad, they’re gifted multi-taskers.  My wife, Nancy, is a gifted woman of God but also a gifted multi-tasker.  When I ask her what’s going on because I see her walking in every room of our house, she lets me know.  *Note to Self: Don’t ask Nancy that question again*. As she’s describing everything she’s doing, I’m literally exhausted just listening to her.  But that’s me! Because of Nancy’s gift, we are better off as a married couple.  Thanks Honey!

Nancy digs down deep physically at times to complete what she’s set her mind to do.  She is a firm believer in giving her all to the Lord in everything she does.  She is truly happy when she is giving.  And we both believe in serving God as He calls us.  Even in our times of struggle and difficult circumstances, we believe in giving.

Most of last year, beginning in March of 2016, Nancy and I lived through a long season of health issues.  I was in the hospital 5 times in 2016.  Nancy had injured her knee to the point they were discussing replacement of her knee.  She walked in pain every day.  We always believed that sometimes we’re abased and sometimes we abound.  We hung tight to God’s Word and had a great support network that included powerful prayer warriors.  And God brought us through it!  We understood that we didn’t have to live a stress free life to be happy.  We were blessed despite the difficult times.  As in, “beyond measure”.  We experienced blessings both tangible and untangible.  We were able to witness to a nurse at the hospital for countless days and nights.  She called my room a “Haven of Rest”.  When she was experiencing a difficult and tiresome day she would slip into my room and see if Nancy or I was awake.  Then she would sit down beside us for a moment to receive peace.  We prayed with her as often as we could.  We prayed for her family and her kids.  We prayed for her job and for favor from her bosses and co-workers.  Her name is Heather and God opened doors of opportunity for us to share the gospel with her.  We gave her a small gift at the end that she could use as a reference of “light” and “hope”.  That when she looked at it, she would remember her experiences with us and with God.

What’s my point in all of this? All we need to do sometimes to get over what we are facing is to give to someone else.  To be happy, truly happy, we must first be empty.  We must empty ourselves of our own issues so we can see the greater picture.  Jesus did this often in His ministry.  He knew what was ahead for Him.  He knew of His coming persecution and pain.  He knew of His beatings and ultimately His death, yet the Bible tells us that when He looked upon the multitudes, He was moved with compassion.

The Apostle Paul also knew the meaning of happiness.  He really did.  In Philippians  2:12-18 it says, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.  Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the world of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.  But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Did you catch it?  He said, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.”

It was not about him, but rather about the Philippians he was writing to.  And where was he writing from?  Prison no less.  Paul had found a Habit of Happiness.  That habit was living empty so he could see the greater need God was placing before him.

Click on the podcast link below to hear a powerful message given by Pastor James Aspito called, “Running on Empty”.  You will not regret it. There are 3 Happiness Hints that you’ll want to write down and begin to live out.

http://www.painesvilleag.com/painesville-ag-messages/?enmse=1&enmse_sid=2

Friends, what is keeping you from true happiness?  My wife and I find our true happiness in serving others.  The Holy Spirit works through our obedience and as a result, pours out joy unspeakable.  We have struggles.  We have problems just like anyone else.  We are not perfect at all.  And because we are not perfect we need Jesus all the more!  But we have chosen to be participants not spectators and because of that, we have no regrets.  We will pour ourselves out for others until every ounce of energy is gone.  And then we will praise God for the journey.

Blessings and favor and abundance to you in the Name of Jesus!

George Leonhart,
Blogger/Writer

A Desire To Die

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A friend and I were talking Saturday night about our desire to die.

Before you start to think, “How disturbing! Perhaps you and your friend need some counseling!” Let me explain… We were talking about our desire to die to “self” every day. Pride is the root of every sin, and its death is necessary in order for us to live a life of humility like Jesus did.

It’s not coincidental, but providential, that I would be reading a gem of a little book by writer, revivalist, and  Christian pastor, Andrew Murray (1828-1917), entitled “Humility, The Journey to Holiness”, which I highly recommend. I have been challenged and encouraged at the same time.

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I will warn you, just as Pastor Aaron did on Sunday during the Habits of Happiness sermon, that the pathway to humility is radically counter-cultural! It’s the opposite of what many of us were taught since childhood. It may feel unnatural, because it’s a supernatural way of living. And be assured, seeker, that the Lord will offer many opportunities for you and me to exercise humility as we seek to follow the example of Jesus.

Last night as I was waiting for sleep to come, I was reflecting on my heart’s desire to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus and to be a conduit of His love to those He brings across my path, “But Lord,” I asked. “How do I die to myself?”

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The enemy of our souls would prefer that we let pride be our guide and think only of me, myself, and I. Pride is what caused Satan to be cast from Heaven. Pride is what caused Adam and Eve to be cast out of the Garden of Eden and their perfect fellowship with God, and pride is what casts me out of abiding communion with God, for He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

God would have you and me look to the example of Jesus Christ “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) We are partakers of Christ… participants in the life of Jesus, and He is calling us to acknowledge that self has nothing good in it, except to be an empty vessel that He can fill. We must start by recognizing our spiritual poverty apart from salvation in Christ Jesus. He died to give us life eternal, but He doesn’t want us to wait until we get to Heaven to start living that life. He wants us to live lives NOW that reflect Him to a lost and broken world. We are to have the same attitude as Jesus. In order to possess that same attitude, we must learn the highest lesson a believer has to learn… that of humility… to be completely free of self and full of Christ.

Let’s look at the life of Jesus together, and see the example He set for us, the words He speaks to us, as His disciples. He is the perfect Teacher! Just as Jesus looked to the Father and only did what He saw the Father doing, we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as the role model for our lives and cling to Him in that abiding relationship. Reflect on His invitation available to all of us. Notice the chief lesson He wishes to teach us. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Oh Lord, we long to learn from You! Teach us to be gentle and humble in heart! Thank you that the grace to “Come” and the grace to “Abide” are from You alone!

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:3,5 (The Beatitudes)

Whoever is the least among you is the greatest. (Luke 9:48)

The greatest among you must be a servant. (Matthew 23:11)

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11, Luke 18:14)

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:14-15)

But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. (Luke 22:26)

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45)

Brethren, here is the path to the higher life. Down, lower down! This is what Jesus said to the disciples who were thinking of being great in the kingdom, and of sitting on His right hand and left. Seek not; ask not for exaltation; that’s God’s work. Look to it that you abase and humble yourselves, and take no place before God or man but that of a servant; that is your work; let that be your purpose and prayer. God is faithful. Just as water ever seeks to fill the lowest place, so the moment God finds the creature abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless. He that humbleth himself – that must be our one care – shall be exalted; that is God’s care; by His mighty power and in His great love He will do it.”
~ Andrew Murray

Jesus’ teaching and the way He lived His life was truly counter-cultural, as seen by the verses above, and it’s true of Paul’s teaching, as well, but that didn’t stop Paul from instructing and demonstrating that humility before God counts as nothing if not proved in humility before others in our everyday lives.

To the Romans Paul wrote, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:10, 16)

To the Corinthians, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

To the Galatians, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

To the Ephesians, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

To the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5)

To the Colossians, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:12-13)

Back to the question I was asking the Lord … “How do I do these things? How can I die to self?”  And He so faithfully answered my question as I read today and realized my inability to do any of this on my own.

“The death to self is not your work, it is God’s work. In Christ you are dead to sin; the life there is in you has gone through the process of death and resurrection; you may be sure you are indeed dead to sin. But the full manifestation of the power of this death in your disposition and conduct depends on the measure in which the Holy Spirit imparts the power of the death of Christ. And here it is that the teaching is needed: if you would enter into full fellowship with Christ in His death, and know the full deliverance from self, humble yourself. This is your one duty. Place yourself before God in your utter helplessness, in the spirit of meek and patient and trustful surrender to God. Accept every humiliation, look upon every fellow-man who tries or vexes you, as a means of grace to humble you. Use every opportunity of humbling yourself before your fellow-men as a help to abide before God. God will accept such humbling of yourself as the proof that your whole heart desires it, as the very best prayer for it, as your preparation for His mighty work of grace, when, by the mighty strengthening of His Holy Spirit, He reveals Christ in you, so that He, in His form of a servant, is truly formed in you, and dwells in your heart. It is the path of humility which leads to perfect death, the full and perfect experience that we are dead in Christ. It is in death to self that humility is perfected.” ~ Andrew Murray

Did you catch that? Dying to self is God’s work. I am so thankful that I don’t have to do the work on my own! Praise the Lord! The work has already been done… it is finished! Just as I am assured of my salvation because I recognized how lost I was in my sin and self and my utter inability to do anything about it, and called out to Jesus to save me, I can be assured that He who began that good work in me, is faithful to complete what He started!

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Now, trust me, I know that self tries to rear its ugly head from time to time, and what should we do when that happens? What should we do when pride seeks to steal the glory that only belongs to God?  I choose to be thankful that God is growing me and giving me awareness when this happens. In my weakness, He is strong! (2 Cor. 12:9-10) I can run back into His arms, confess it, repent of it, and proclaim the truth that I am dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin (pride) is no longer my master. (Romans 6)

I know I cannot live the Christian life in my own strength or effort, but I can walk each day in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within me! Let us be diligent to work out the practical implications of the work God has started…  in us… in our relationships with others… in our obedience to Him!

Have a blessed week!
Jenny Gallion,
Writer, Blogger

To hear the message from this Sunday, “The Humble Path To Happiness”, click this link to listen to our podcast: The Humble Path To Happiness

Partnering with the One

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Back in the late 1990s, I needed to earn some extra income on a part-time basis, but I wanted my hours to be flexible.  I desired to be able to set my own hours and work as little or as much as I wanted.  I became a Licensed Realtor®.  I didn’t quite know how to go about it, but thought that this would be a good way to earn money and meet new people.

The process to be licensed as a realtor is actually pretty easy.  You find a broker who will sponsor you and then you take the necessary classes to be able to pass the state exam.  Fast forward to the end, I passed the state exam and became a realtor.  As I said, the process is easy.  Once you pass the exam, reality sets in and you’re now going to have to put the education to work.  I needed to list and sell houses or find houses for others to buy.

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Let me just say, there are A LOT of realtors.  The numbers were staggering and we were all after the same prospects and clients.  How does a realtor make themselves different from everyone else?  How was I going to set myself apart? I didn’t have a clue or a plan!  But, I did have ears and eyes so I listened and watched.  To make this story shorter, I found that a lot of the realtors engaged in small partnerships.  These partnerships allowed the realtors to expand their impact on the market and allowed the individual realtor to work using his or her particular strength.  Thus was created “The Georges of the North Coast”.  Yes, that was our team name.  We marketed our own names as well.  I was “King George” and “Buy George” was my good friend and partner.  When we worked together, great things happened in our business.

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Like my partnership with George, our relationship with Jesus Christ is empowered by our partnership with the Holy Spirit.  Upon our acceptance of Jesus as the Lord of our life, the Holy Spirit comes into us and makes us spiritually alive.  We become Born Again.  Reborn spiritually.  The power of the Holy Spirit is released as we respond to Him.

Our partnership as “The Georges of the Northcoast” was most effective when we responded together towards a singular goal.  Likewise, when we act with the Holy Spirit in faith, something really powerful happens. The Holy Spirit moves upon us and we act with Him.  My relationship with the “Other” George was sometimes pressure filled.  We both had to perform at our best. The Good News? Our relationship with the Holy Spirit is not so much about the pressure to perform.  Actually, it’s not about that at all.  Rather it is about partnership.  My partnership with the Holy Spirit can be defined as “my desire to listen and hear the Holy Spirit and His wisdom for my life as He guides me”. His desire is to enable me to live a Godly life.  It’s the ultimate partnership.  When we act in faith with the Holy Spirit something incredible and powerful happens every time.  But there was more that I desired from God.  I wanted to be used by Him to reach a world for Jesus.

When I was a realtor, I had to rely on my education and the knowledge of the State Real Estate laws.  I was on my own.  I made mistakes. Actually, I made a lot of mistakes.  Some of those mistakes cost me income and were painful to swallow.  In the real estate business it’s all about image.  You don’t want a reputation of making mistakes following you around.  In my life with Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers me to get through the tough times but also He gives me wisdom and understanding to make better choices.  He works with me and is always there. I’m never alone. I don’t want to live a life outside of the Holy Spirit.  I desire to live out of the overflow of His power.

I need His power to witness to a world that needs to know that Jesus was tortured in our place, that He hung on a cross for our sins, died, and rose from the dead.  Jesus defeated death and sin and is alive forevermore working through His Holy Spirit to enable me to tell the world this amazing hope!

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Friend, I had a very important real estate partnership and “The Georges of the Northcoast” were a successful team.  But that team partnership ended after many years.  We went our separate ways. Now? Now my life is enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a life in Christ and to proclaim to the world that Jesus Saves.

Below is a link to a powerful and high-impact message from Pastor Aaron Taylor entitled, The Power For Life – It’s About Partnership.  Click on the link and learn about the most powerful partnership you can have.  http://painesvilleag.com/power-for-life  It’s definitely a partnership that will impact and change your life forever!  Activate the power of the Holy Spirit in your life today.

God bless and have a powerful rest of the week!

George Leonhardt,
Blogger

Nobody Likes A Dead Cell Phone

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By now I am sure you have heard all about the Holy Spirit. Last week, my fellow sister in Christ, Jenny Gallion, shared about waiting on the Lord to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and how that empowers us to be Christ’s witnesses. But what exactly does that mean? What kind of power are we talking about here? What kind of witness? If we’ve been waiting so long to become spiritually alive when we receive the Spirit at Salvation, how do we know what to do with this new life?

First, let’s tackle the concept of “power”. When you read that word, what do you think of? I immediately think of higher authority, maybe my mind wonders to a scene of kings and queens having the ruling power over a whole kingdom. Power, in my own minute definition, is something that comes from a higher being… no, THE higher being. Power gives us the ability to do things that we cannot do with our human selves because we simply are not God. Power is what opens the door to being used by the Spirit.

Now, let’s look at the word “witness”. What do you think of when you read that word? If you’re anything like me you’ve watched too many investigator type shows like Law & Order or Dateline and think immediately of someone that watched something happen- in these cases it is typically bad. The “witness” knows the story, believes what they say is true, and is willing to confess it to others to “prove their point” or “share their perspective of the account”. In essence, this is how we are supposed to witness to the world for Jesus. We are witnesses of the Gospel – we know the “story” and we believe it to be true because of first-hand experiences of what we’ve “seen and heard”. The next step is to share it with the world who often put Jesus and Christianity on trial. They want “proof” from Christ’s witnesses that this good news is indeed GOOD NEWS. In Acts 1.8 when do we become witnesses? “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you and you will be my witnesses in all of Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. We become witnesses when we receive the power of the Holy Spirit who enables us for this task.

Think of it this way, when there is a big storm outside with 60mph winds, lightening, thunder, hail, the works, you might come home from work and realize that you have no electricity. Sometimes we would then say: “the power is out”. In other words, you are lacking what you need to use items like the microwave, television, washer/dryer, and heaven forbid, your cell phone charger. If you have no power, you cannot do certain things. Simply put, if we do not have the power of the Holy Spirit, how can we do what Christ has called us to do? How can we be a witness to the nations and those that have not yet heard the Good News of Jesus? Just like your home in the middle of a big storm when the power is out and not operating at full capacity, we are not functioning at full capacity.

That, dear Church, is why it is so important to stay charged up with the power that our Heavenly Father has promised us. Staying connected to the power-line of Christ through the Holy Spirit is like the charger to our souls – it gives us life and power. It gives us the power to function and do what we’ve been called to do. When we receive the Holy Spirit, it is an everlasting battery of power that runs through us. The more we abide in the Spirit, the more we will operate in His gifts so we can minister to others. Think of it this way, when your cell phone is at 99% are you more likely to use it than when you get that little notification that it is at 20%? How can the Spirit use us to perform miracles and powerful acts when we are operating at only 20%?

To continue my infamous cell phone analogy… when you got your cell phone, the gift of communication, how excited were you to use it? Didn’t you want to test it out? Play games, call, text, download apps, take pictures, listen to music, the list goes on and on and on of the things you can do with a fully charged cell phone. When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we should be just as excited and ready to communicate with others the greatest news on the planet!

Church, have you received the gift of the Holy Spirit? If you have not, I encourage you to ask the Lord for this wonderful gift! If you have, what are you waiting for? Go and let the Holy Spirit within you be a witness to the world! Pastor Aaron, in his sermon series, “Power for Life,” shares some incredible truths that can happen through us when we allow the gift of the Holy Spirit to operate in our lives. You can check out his podcast here: http://painesvilleag.com/power-for-life  Never forget this amazing gift the Lord has made available to us. Why? Because we can’t live and function without it!

Jenny Bushnell,
Writer/Blogger/College Student

High School Dreams

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When I was in high school I always wanted to be involved in student activities.  I wanted to be a sports star.  I was a fan of baseball and football.  I watched plenty of it on TV, but the reality was I was not gifted in athletics.  It was a dream to play a varsity sport, but I just didn’t have the necessary physical skill.  That didn’t bother me so much because I knew that in advance.  But there were other student activities.  There was student council, student clubs, office aides, and library aides.  None of these really interested me.  I dreamt of being an athlete.  I wanted to be on the field with the crowds cheering.  I wanted that validation that I was somebody.  Our high school was very large.  There were 715 students in the senior class when I graduated.  Those other student activities didn’t excite me.  I thought that there was no way I could fit in with the people that already had positions and served in these activities.  They were “Brainiacs”.  They appeared far smarter than me.  Their skill and intelligence intimidated me.

Here is my point.  I was scared to be in a student activity that was not part of a team.  In a large school, the athletic teams were huge.  The football team included over 100 young men.  I figured if I could participate on that team, I could get lost in the crowd in case I made a mistake or did something wrong.  It was a team sport.  We all would share in the good and the bad.  Being a student admin would put me out front by myself.

Well, God has a way of using less qualified people to serve for His purpose.  Or better yet, God worked in my student life to show me that His plan was not what I thought.  I didn’t have a relationship with God while in high school.  I was pretty quiet.  Just did what I was told.  I had my circle of friends, but I wasn’t very recognizable.

Opportunities began to open up in a young man student club called Key Club.  I looked from the outside and thought that these guys again were too smart for their own “britches”.  I thought for sure I couldn’t fit in.  Until one of my friends, Paul, asked me if I would like to come to the next Key Club meeting.  I thought why not.  I attended and liked it.  I found out this group was very active in the school and the community.  I enjoyed helping others. I enjoyed working with outside organizations to reach the less fortunate in my community.  I was happy.  Well, soon I was finding myself in the Key Club leadership and after 1 year was elected Key Club President and served two years.

God called me into an activity even though I didn’t know it.  God created me and shaped me with a purpose.  God has things planned for us that we don’t always know but we can be assured it is for our good and His glory.

I had a lot of failures in my high school years.  I didn’t live a life at times that anyone would say was good.  “If you knew me, you wouldn’t like me” is something that I would say.  Though I found success in student activities that wasn’t the life I was leading.

The Bible tells us in Exodus that Moses also felt unqualified when God spoke to him from a burning bush.  God called Moses to deliver the Israelites from 400 years of slavery.  Moses had some failures.  He killed an Egyptian soldier who was mistreating one of the Hebrew slaves.  He took matter into his own hands.  But Moses was part of the royal family.  How could he do that?  Moses fled to the wilderness.  (Exodus Chapters 3 & 4)

Had Moses’ failure disqualified him from being used by God?  Absolutely not!  The parting of the Red Sea is pretty spectacular!  Failure is not a disqualification to be used by God.  I too thought my failures outweighed my abilities.  I was quiet and just did what I was told.  I couldn’t play varsity sports because of my physical inabilities.  My dream was shattered.  I thought I wasn’t smart enough for the student clubs.  These fears were real to me.  But thanks be to God, His plan was in fact to use me in life to impact others in a far greater way than I could’ve imagined.

God had His hand on me when I didn’t even know it.  Looking back to my high school years, I see a very quiet and defeated young man being used to touch other’s lives.  What?  That doesn’t make any sense.  In the world’s view, it doesn’t.  From a heavenly perspective it makes perfect sense.  It was always God’s eternal plan.  It was God’s incredible Mercy.

The Apostle Paul explains this very clearly.  Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28 NIV)

 So what’s the secret to being used by God?  I had no idea what it was.  But I have learned some things along the way.

  • It’s all about God’s Mercy. Mercy is undeserved forgiveness and unearned kindness.
  • I don’t have to prove my worth. It’s God’s plan.  It will be fulfilled.  God says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
  • I don’t have to sit and wallow in my mistakes. We all make mistakes.  Because of God’s Mercy, I know I can move on.
  • I must be real. I have to be myself.  I can dream but need to realize that maybe my dream is not God’s dream for my life. It simply may not match who God created me to be.
  • It’s NOT about me. “Me. Me. Me” is pride.  The Apostle Paul said that the message was not about him, but rather Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 4:5)

  • Use my plan to help others. That is exactly what God did.
  • Stay focused on eternity. I must remain usable to God.

Friends, God continues to lead me in His eternal plan.  I have been used to lead ministries, to speak to large groups about Jesus, to touch a community both here and abroad, and to be a part of impacting lives for Jesus.  Who knew that it all began with the quiet kid in high school?  God can use anybody.  My mistakes and failures didn’t disqualify me, rather they were equipping me when I didn’t even know it.

If you want to hear a tremendous and impactful message by Pastor Aaron Taylor on The Miracle of Mercy – God Can Use Anybody, click on the podcast below.

http://painesvilleag.com/the-miracle-of-mercy

God didn’t want me to lead our high school football team to victory.  He had better plans.  Which is good because I would have had a hard time beating Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.  He’s pretty good. 😉

Have a great rest of the week!
George Leonhardt,
Writer, Blogger