Jesus Sees Your Suffering

In Mark chapter 6 starting in verse 45 we find the story of Jesus walking on water. Often when we hear this story we hear it preached form the book of Matthew. We often focus on Peter walking on water or on Jesus calming the storm. BUT, there is something that Mark includes that I think we need to remember. Jesus saw their suffering. Mark 6:48 says, “He saw the disciples straining at the oars.” The disciples WERE struggling, but Jesus knew it. There are a few things that we can learn from this passage.

Jesus sent them out. Verse 45 of this passage tells us that Jesus, “made his disciples get into the boat and go.” If Jesus sent the disciples out then we have to ask two questions. Either Jesus didn’t know the storm was coming or he sent them out knowing that they were going to struggle with the storm. If we say that Jesus didn’t know, then we have to say that He is not God. If we say that He is God, then we have to admit that He knew. The same is true in our lives. There are times in our lives when Jesus will send us into difficult times. Even in these times He knows what is coming. It does not catch him by surprise, even if it does us.

The Disciples were obedient. Jesus told his disciples to “go on ahead of him.” This tells us that Jesus intended to meet them on the other side. The Sea of Galilee is several miles across and any more miles around. The disciples had to have wondered how Jesus intended to get there. Despite this the disciples set out. Even though they didn’t fully understand his instructions, they obeyed them. All too often we receive instructions from God that we don’t understand. We strive for an understanding. We pray, we study, we search for truth. Faith means we must trust God, even when the instructions don’t seem to make sense to us. We must trust that God knows what is coming, even if we don’t. We must trust that God has better plans for us that we have for ourselves.

Jesus prayed. Verse 46 tells us that Jesus went up on a mountain to pray. We are not given any indication as to what he prayed about. However, Romans 8:34 does tell us that Jesus “is at the right had of God and is also interceding for us.” While we don’t know exactly what Jesus was praying for in that moment, we do know that he pleads with God the Father on our behalf. Perhaps Jesus was praying for the disciples in that moment. In the midst of our struggles Jesus IS interceding for us with God the Father.

He saw their struggles. As the title and the introduction states, Jesus sees our struggles. The disciples could not see Jesus. It was late in the night, the sky was dark and they were in the middle of a storm. However, even though they could not see Him, Jesus could see them and was watching. He sees you in the midst of of your struggles, even if you can’t see him.

Jesus went to them. In the midst of their struggles Jesus went to them. Not only did Jesus go to them, but He rescued them from their struggles. Understand that I am not saying that he will always rescue you from your struggles. Jesus is not a night in shining armor that is going to rescue you from ALL of your problems. Jesus even said that “in this life you WILL have trouble.”  Jesus WILL rescue you from your sins and from your Hell, but life is still hard at times.

Life is hard some times. We WILL struggle in this life. But, this passage teaches us that even in the midst of our struggles Jesus sees us. He will save us from these struggles when the time is right.

Matt Norman

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#OC12 – Game Changers

In April 2012 I had the privilege of attending the 2012 Orange Conference as an official Orange Blogger. This post was written from my experience there and originally shared on www.kidmin1124.com. Enjoy.

Have you ever seen the movie, The Blind Side? In the opening scenes of the movie we see the video of the devastating injury that ended the career of football legend Joe Theisman. This injury forever changed the game of football. Prior to this few people paid much attention to the position of left tackle. After this event this became one of the most important positions on the team. This event was a Game Changer.

The theme for the 2012 Orange conference was Game Changers. Reggie Joiner defined this as an idea or person that changes the way people see something. The injury to Joe Theisman forever changed football. According to the movie prior to this injury the highest pain person on an NFL team was the quarterback. After this injury the position of left tackle became a real close second.

So, what are the game changers for our ministry? What are the game changers for our church? What are the game changers for the communities we serve?

What can we do in our ministry, in our church, or in our community that will change the way people see things?

There is little question that the church could use a game changer. Many people outside the church have a view of the church that needs to be changed. In many cases this is our own fault. The church has not always done a good job of BEING the church. We were so busy doing church that we forgot to take the time to BE the church.

Matt Norman

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Greatest Parenting Struggles: Contentment

3d illustration: Mobile technology. mobile phone“I think with most parents they have to keep the world from raising them. Which is a daily battle. They see commercials and other kids with things that they think they just have to have. Little Johnny or Suzy has one, so why can’t I have one? the correct response would be an old as old as the hills, continue to stand your ground and say, if Johnny jumped off a cliff…”

 

For the first installment in this new series I want to look at contentment. I must first confess that this was something that I struggle greatly. It wasn’t until God called me to ministry and I began to focus on him that this changed. In America most of us are consumed with this desire to have the latest and greatest, the best of everything. We often refer to this as “keeping up with the Joneses.” Well, prior to God calling me to ministry, WE WERE THE JONESES. We had it all, new cars; big, fancy house; and the latest electronics. You name it, we had it. So, what changed?

 

What lessons are YOUR habits teaching your kids? Our kids will learn more from what they see us do then what they hear us say. Are we teaching them contentment with our words, but teaching them something else with our lives? How old is your car? How big is your TV? Do you have the latest electronics? If you don’t have them do you WANT them really bad? I’m not telling you that you can’t have nice stuff. When the Bible tells us not to covet it isn’t saying that we can’t have nice stuff or even that we shouldn’t want it. Rather it is telling us that our desire for such things should not consume us. If having the

newest, best, most fancy stuff is important to you, it WILL be important to your kids. Learn to be content and you can begin to teach your kids to be content.

 

Where is your focus? As I said before, the change came in my life when God called me to ministry. At that point my life became about seeking Him and serving Him. Previously it had been about seeking and serving materialism; but, when I started focusing on seeking and serving God I found that I was less interested in STUFF. I still love electronics and power tools, but I no longer build my life around the acquisition of such things. Rather I build my life around seeking a closer relationship with God and with my family and serving God with my life. Focusing on these things helped me no longer focus on material things.

 

“For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) This is so true, if we have spent a lot of money on something, then we tend to care more about it. In my life I have found that tithing has been the best way for me to break free of materialism. Giving God the first 10% of the money that I make serves as a constant reminder of what is really important. We could discuss Biblical mandates. We could discuss Old Testament Law versus New Testament grace in regards to tithing. We could discuss many things in regards to tithing, but know this it WILL help you to conquer materialism and will help you to find contentment. If it works for you, it will work for your kids. Granted most of our kids don’t have jobs, but they do receive money at Christmas or birthdays, encourage them to tithe from this. If they receive an allowance, or if you pay them for certain chores around the house, either way encourage them to tithe from these earnings.

 

Awareness is the key to contentment and, at the same time, the enemy of it. I am a tech junkie. Hello. My name is Matt and I’m a techaholic. I love gadgets. In the past this was a BIG problem for me. It led me to big debt. I had a contentment issue. You see I would be completely happy with each new gadget I got, until the next one came out. As soon as I was AWARE of the new model, then the one I had was no longer good enough. Slowly, over time I would convince myself that the one I had wasn’t doing what I needed or wasn’t performing like I needed it to. I would talk myself into getting the new version. When I was not AWARE of the new one I didn’t have a problem.

 

Awareness can work the other way too. When we are aware of people who have less than us then we become more content with what we have. We cannot seclude out kids to the point that they are unaware of the latest thing, but we can help them to be aware of people that have less than us. Search out opportunities for your kids to serve people that have less. Point out people around you that have less. Maybe it’s the man on the street corner begging for food or someone in your church, or neighborhood, or someone one work with. Help you kids to be AWARE of people that have less and you will help them to develop contentment.

 

 

Matt Norman

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Defining Moments

In January 1986 The Space Shuttle Challenger was set to launch. Moments after it left the platform something went terribly wrong. The space shuttle exploded,killing all seven astronauts. On September 11, 2001 four planes were hi-jacked and flown into the Twin Towers in New York and into the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The forth was heroically taken over from the terrorists by other passengers and flown into an empty field in Pennsylvania, killing all aboard, but saving countless other lives.

For my generations these were defining moments.

Throughout our lives there are events that serve to define us. Often times we don’t even see these “defining moments” coming. These defining moments are ordained by God. We can not plan for them and we can not prepare for them. In my experience they usually come when I am not expecting them. Defining moments come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they look different for each of us.

There have been many moments in my life that have made me the man I am today. But, when I think of my ministry and where It is now there are some moments that stand out.

Passion 2007. Prior to January 2007 I had not felt any specific call on my life, but I did feel a need to get more involved in what God was doing at my church. After talking with pastor about this desire he made arrangements for me to accompany some of our young adults on a trip to Atlanta to attend the Passion Conference. Our small group joined 26,000 others that week as we took over downtown Atlanta to worship God and received great preaching from His word. During one of the sessions Beth Moore spoke on PRIDE and totally rocked my world. During that session I became completely broken. I realized how great a problem I had with pride. This started a change in me that has been a major part of bringing me to where I am today. I will not say that I have completely conquered pride, but I have beaten it down and it is not the problem that it once was.

My call. I didn’t know it at the time, but the message that God sent me that day, through Beth Moore was setting me up for the biggest defining moment of my life, my call to ministry. I don’t think that I will ever forget it. It was just a regular Sunday like any other. It was during the invitation time at the end of the service. I stood in the same spot that I always stood, and still do. I had not previous had any thoughts of full-time ministry. Then, while we sang I found myself compelled to go up from and talk with pastor. I had not previously spoken to my wife about it. But, in that moment I knew that HAD to go up from. I was unable to stay in my spot. I knew that God was calling me to ministry and I had to respond.

Orange 2012. Something really changed inside of me during the 2012 Orange conference. From the amazing worship, to the people I met, to the great speakers it was one amazing moment after another. I also believe that it was ordained by God because it was only in the weeks prior to the event and from a casual comment made to a friend that I was even able to be there. But, perhaps more that anything else it was the time spent sharing a hotel room with someone that I had never met that had the greatest impact on me. You see, in order to save my church a few bucks I put out a message looking for someone to split the cost of the hotel room. Each night Joe Mcapline and I sat in our hotel room and talked. We would recap the main sessions and talk about the different breakouts we attended. We spent some time getting to know each other and shared a little about our different ministries. It was during this time that Joe took the time to pour into me. He offered words of encouragement that served to convince me that I had more value than I was giving myself credit for. This started something building within me that gave me the confidence to finally step out and seek what God was calling me to. I believe that this conversation lead me to where I am today.

Defining moments come in all shapes and sizes. They look different for each one of us. Each of us needs to be open to these defining moments. We need to look for God to bring us to these defining moments in our lives. We need to watch for them and, when they come, we need to remember them. God provides these moments to build us to who He wants us to be. Don’t run from them. Sometimes the moments will be great moments in our lives. Sometimes they will be painful. Let’s learn to embrace these moments and allow God to use them to make us who HE wants us to be.

As ministry leaders we need to work to create opportunities for God to work in peoples lives. We need to seek God’s guidance and follow His direction in how we run our ministries so that the people we minister to can be in a position to experience these defining moments. We can not create defining moments, but we can set up environments that God might use to create defining moments.

As parents it can be really hard to let our children out from under the protection of our wing. BUT, we need to be willing to step beyond what is comfortable so that our children might experience defining moments. I have seen many youth experience defining moments during youth camp. This required that their parents allow them to travel hours from home, to stay in a hotel room, to ride in a van or bus. This required that, for a few days, these parents let go of there child and trust God to keep them safe and to work in their lives.

We never know what defining moments might come. Often time, even in the midst of the moment, we don’t realize that defining moment is happening. Pray that God will bring defining moments to your life. Pray that He will help you recognize it and grow from it. What sort of defining moments have you experienced.

Matt Norman

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Year in Review: 2013

2013 has been a pretty crazy year. I got to attend CPC2013 for FREE and nearly got arrested; along with two other children’s pastors while driving home from the event. I attended the Orange conference, again. I got to do some great ministry . Oh and I step down from my position as Children’s Pastor at The Rock. Overall a pretty incredible year. I think that it is an important exercise this time of the year to take a look back and see what the past year has been like.

New Years resolution’s don’t work. That’s not what I’m building up to. I mean let’s face it, we take a brief look at where we are at as we approach the end of the year and decide what we are unhappy about and then we decide to do something about it. The problem is that we don’t set any real goals. We don’t make any real plans. We set out with great enthusiasm, but we quickly fizzle out. Let’s resolve this year not to set any New Year’s resolutions this year.

Setting goals is one of the things that is missing from most peoples New Year’s resolutions and is part of the reason they fail. People look at the weight they have gained over the holiday season and decide to lose weight. They then set a New Year’s resolution to lose weight in the new year. They join a gym and for they work out for all they are worth. They eat right and maybe even start taking vitamins. Then about a week and a half later they have stopped working out, they are back to eating the same way that they used to and they can’t even find the vitamin bottle. By March they are tired of donating money to the gym and they cancel their membership. Just 3 months into the new year and any evidence of the great RESOLUTION that they made is gone. Instead of making a resolution, set goals. Here are some things that are required for successful goal setting. Goals must be:

  • Attainable: Chance are if you set out to lose 100 pounds in the new year, you are going to fail. I am not saying that it is not possible to do so. What I am saying is that if you HAVE 100 pounds or more to lose, then you are probably not gonna make all the changes needed to lose that weight in a single year. But, you can lose 20 pounds, or 40 pounds or 50 pounds in the new year. If you were to lose just 1 pounds per week then you would lose 52 pounds in this year. Imagine how you would look and feel if you faced the beginning of 2015 50 pounds lighter than you are today. That’s a goal that is attainable.
  • Sustainable: It is very common for people that lose large amounts of weight to gain some, most or even all of it back. I remember one guy that had won The Biggest Loser. He started out over 400 pounds and lost over 200 pounds of that. Some time later, in a later season they visited this guy. He had gained nearly all of the weight back. This is not true of everyone that has come from that show. Many of them have experienced life change and have developed healthy lifestyles that have lasted well beyond the end of the show. When setting your goals think about how well you will be able to sustain the life change required to reach this goal. If reaching the goal you have set requires that you never eat anything that you enjoy, then it is not sustainable. You might reach the goal, but you will not sustain it. If reaching your goal requires that you spend 4 hours in the gym 6 days a week, then you might reach your goal, but you probably won’t be able to sustain it. 
  • Measurable: Simply saying that you want to lose weight is not good enough. By this measure you could end the year one pound lighter and be successful, but you really have not achieved anything. Or, you could start out the year great, losing 10 or 20 pounds. Then you gain back what you have lost, the whole time patting yourself on the back saying, “I set out to lose weight and I did.” Your goals have to be measurable. It has to be something that you can count, or measure. If not, then you can not decide if you were successful. Furthermore, if it is not measurable you are less likely to be successful.
  • Incrementable: Ok, I know that I just made up this word, but stick with me and hear what I’m talking about. Goals have to be measurable, but they also have to be something that you can break down into smaller chunks. Suppose you set out to lose 50 pounds by the end of 2014. This is about 1 pound per week. So, it is now easy to look over the year and see about where you should be in relation to this goal each week or month. If you are 4 weeks into the year, then you should be 4 pounds lighter. 16 weeks into the year = 16 pounds. 32 weeks = 32 pounds. I think you get the idea. Make your goals such that they can be broken down into manageable chunks. There is a saying that goes like this, “What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Make sure your goals are incrementable.

Now, I have used weight loss as a point of reference in this discussion of setting goals. This is partly because this is one of my goals for 2014. It is also because it is something that most people can relate too. BUT, the principles that I have shared here can be applied to setting goals in ANY area of our lives. As we look back on 2013 and look forward to 2014 let’s not make New Year’s Resolutions, let’s set goals. Let’s set goals that are attainable, sustainable, measurable and incrementable. Let’s set these goals, share then with someone who can hold us accountable and then let’s get about achieving these goals.

Matt Norman

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