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Friday, October 24, 2014

stay in the race

Raceway Ministry tent at Martinsville Speedway

Twice a year the world comes to our city through the world of NASCAR racing, and it is an honor to be part of this event through Raceway Ministries.  Almost 100 volunteers from several churches come together to serve race fans and have conversations about Jesus.

I’d like to share with you a portion of a devotion I wrote in the spring of 2008.  I pray that God will help each one of us stay in the race of life and find the abundance God offers…

43 drivers started the race, but only one of them was the winner.  Does that mean that 42 of them lost?  You have to answer that for yourself.  Yet I have some thoughts for you as the race traffic heads toward Martinsville, Virginia.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Thousands of people are said to show up in Martinsville on race weekend.  Not sure about the exact numbers, but I am sure that each one wants their driver to win.  It is tough competition.  Fans wear their driver's number with pride, put it on their car or tent, on their clothes or even spelled out in tattoos and the like.  This can be a strange world.  The fans are committed, passionate and watching.  It really is kind of like that great cloud of witnesses.  What do you think?

They love a good race, and so do I.  Close finishes are amazing with all the race happenings and wrecks.  Doesn't help much when you see the enemy (or the driver you don't like leading) out in front for too many. 

Are the 42 drivers who didn't win losers?  I don't think so.  Some people say they are.  Not because of who they are but because of how they finished, behind the winner of this particular race, whoever it may be on Sunday.  Yet I think all of them are winners.  It takes drive to keep on and to even get in the race.

If in life we have an attitude or think that only one person could win or only a few people could win, I would be so depressed (and many people are every day).  God tells us what winners do.  Think about it:

Winners get in the race

Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!  All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.

Winners stay in the race

So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.

Winners know that God is the only real official in the race

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Winners enjoy each and every part of the race

The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Last, winners finish the race well

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

Whether you win or come in dead last in whatever race you enter, remember that life is all about God.  He has called us to enjoy life, to live it to the fullest and to know and crave His purpose each day.  That means we have to get in the race (know and love God), stay in the race (even when it is tough), glorify God (even when that is not the most popular thing to do), enjoy life and finish well.

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Community's volunteer of the week KATHY CLEMENTS

This week The Community’s volunteer of the week is Kathy Clements!!!

Kathy Clements has been attending The Community Fellowship for over a year and became a member of the church about 3 months ago.

She and her boyfriend, Greg Reyes, own a lawn care business and began donating their services of mowing the lawn at our new campus almost as soon as they started attending worship with us.  They also generously purchased and donated a beautiful sign for our new property.

Kathy is a Leader of REACH Ministry and is instrumental in showing the love of Jesus to those she ministers to with the free meal at the Martinsville Hotel. 

During back2school Kathy volunteered in the Pack the Bus Ministry and is also on hand to count and sort the donations we receive as well as filling the book bags with school supplies to be given to the children blessed during this event.

Kathy is a regular volunteer at our Fall Festival and will be actively serving others at this year’s activity on October 31st from 6pm till 9pm in the parking lot of The Community Fellowship.

Last year Kathy used her creative gifts to design a float to represent our church in the Christmas parade and hopes to do that again this year’s parade.

Kathy is gifted with a true servant’s heart and volunteers much of her time to serving and blessing the elderly in our area.  In April she regularly organizes a party for senior citizens in the Community Room at Spruce Village with live music and cloggers for entertainment.  She is now busily preparing a Costume party for them where she will be dressed as Raggedy Ann.  Kathy speaks before each party and strives to spend time with each person there telling them about Jesus and building a relationship with them.  She also joins in by calling the numbers at their Bingo games.

During the week Kathy volunteers her time to running errands, cleaning homes and taking elderly friends to Dr.’s appointments and to the grocery store.

In Kathy’s spare time she enjoys being outside, walking her little dogs, praying for her church family and spending time with her grandchildren, Armin 4, Malachi 9, and Lily 3. 

Kathy’s favorite Bible verse is John 14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me.”

We are indeed honored to recognize and celebrate Kathy Clements as our Volunteer of the Week!  Kathy, you exemplify our motto of demonstrating the love of God to our community with your selfless acts of kindness and through your generosity of freely giving of your time and talents to family, church family and community.  Thank you!

*** for more information about The Community Fellowship or Dream Center call 276-647-8231 or email  To give online click on this link  ***

the Word of God

God’s greatest gift to us was His son, and near to it is the Bible.  The word of God is an incredible part of what we have in our weapons.  It is even mentioned in Ephesians 6 where God tells us about the armor that we can put on.  I’ve been taught ever since I can remember that the Bible is the only offensive weapon we need.

I heard John MacArthur years ago share the following Scripture as the most insightful part of the Bible about the Bible:

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.  The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever.  The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. 10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold.  They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. 11 They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.

Look at the things that is says about the Bible, the word given to us by God.  It took a part the various aspects of the Bible and said they have great value.  These words have stuck with me and undergirded what I read, study and hold about the Bible.

The instruction God gives us in the Bible dig deep in to our souls bringing life by reviving us.  Remember that for something to be revived it had to have life before.  Therefore God brings refreshing, strengthening and powerful truth to stir what is already in us.

The decrees God gives us brings wisdom to us.  It gives wisdom to anyone who will go after the nuggets of the Word of God.

God’s commandments bring us joy.  That is right.  The commandments are right and will turn us from wrong to right and bring a sense of satisfaction or peace that is evidenced by joy.

What clears things up for us in a great way are the commands God gives us which help us live a good life.  Maybe you have lived in a fog at times as I have.  It is awesome when literal fog is removed by better weather or by something being cleaned.  Our lives and path clears as we believe and claim and live by God’s commands.

To honor God brings purity in to our lives.  Purity keeps us from attaching ourselves to wrong, to sin and to even deeper issues that take us the wrong direction.  Purity will take us further than we can get with self-righteousness.

The laws of our God are fair.  They point to the fact that all of us have failed in one point or another, but these laws level the playing field for everyone.

These verses leave us with the reminder that the Word of God is a big deal.  This truth is desirable for any one that wants to live well and to follow God.  They give us warning and direction.

I pray that we will fall in love more and more with the Word of God which will give us a great desire to follow our Savior.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

the side of Calvary

Romans 5:8  NLT
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

It was a day that is very hard to forget.  The town had been busy all week as family members come home to celebrate what God had done in the past.  There was more going on that most people knew.  It was sad, but it was so real.

After hearing about Jesus coming to town what else we heard was almost unthinkable.  Not only way he arrested, but he was going to be killed.  The difference from one weekend to the next was huge.  In the distance there was a commotion.  Unsettling to say the least but reality.

Jesus was nailed to a cross.  Onlookers were amazed.  Many were certainly pleased with what was going on, yet others were crying uncontrollably as their hearts were broken as Jesus was on the cross.

Hearing what Jesus said from the cross left people questioning and even amazed.  He shouted about forgiveness.  He spoke to God which seemed foreign to most people.  He had conversations with the people on the crosses to His sides.  One was arrogant and mean.  The other was broken and in need.  Jesus spoke courage even in the midst of death.

This act, this day broke history wide open.  This side of the cross, of Calvary, leaves all of us utterly change.  Our sin is dealt with.  Our pain is relieved.  Jesus did it all.

by Hillsong (on the album “No Other Name”)

The Savior alone
Carried the cross
For all of my debts
He paid the cost
Salvation complete
Now forever I'm free
Calvary covers it all

Calvary covers it all
My sin and shame
Don't count anymore
All praise to the One
Who has ransomed my soul
Calvary covers it all

No power on earth
Not even the grave
Can separate us
From mercy and grace
He is faithful to save
Oh His blood never fails
Calvary covers it all

No one but Jesus
Can make us pure as snow
We stand in Your freedom
Calvary covers it all
Place in body part

Calvary covers it all.  What happened on Calvary covered my sin and the sins of all who come to know God.  No one else could make such a difference and deliver such freedom.

This side of Calvary leaves me shaken and grateful.  Calvary leaves me new and ready to share with others.  Calvary covers it all.

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.

I pray God will help us understand the sweet truth of what happened as Jesus died on the cross for us.  Calvary was a God moment where humans couldn’t kill the Son of God.  He may have physically died, but they could not contain Him. 

This side of Calvary allows us to experience God sized portions of mercy.  I am grateful for Calvary!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

leading together

Every one of us has people in our lives that are important.  All people are important, but these people are the ones who mean the most and take on more value in your life.  Yes, I am talking about family.

When one of our family members has something going on, great families come together.  Yesterday was one of those days.  No, it wasn’t about someone who got sick or someone who had some great thing happen.  It was an important day because it was my precious wife’s birthday.

My job was simple.  I was let her know that she is special to me and to our kids.  I think we do ok.  The day began with us singing to her and giving her some surprises.  The day held several other great moments as well.  Julie means the world to me, and I am honored to have her as my partner in life.

In the past few months another big connection happened between myself and Julie, and it was when she stepped in to lead the children’s ministry at The Community.  That was a great day for us as well.

Leading isn’t easy.  In fact, leading can be down right risky.  I am grateful that she chose to take this risk.

Psalm 27:14   NLT
Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Often we want to make a move and fast, yet the best and most important characteristic of a great leader is waiting in God.  I believe that waiting on God takes bravery.

Julie taught me this a couple years ago by diving into getting her Master’s Degree after believing that God led her to do so.  It was evident that was true by how it came together, and we are still seeing that evidence as well as praying for more open doors.

Now it is the proverbial “waiting game”.  Trusting God means waiting on God.  We can live and lead in our own strength, or we can live and lead in His strength.  The difference is the doing things on our own will get weak results that won't last.  Doing things through trusting God brings eternal results.

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.

Being patient also means that we cannot hide our head in the sand, but we are to watch and be ready when God shows us the way to go.  That is what Julie did by joining me in leading in the children’s area of our church.

We've seen God work in the past.  He will do it again.  We are firm in our faith and not going to waver from this.  Our own thinking will lead us in the wrong direction.  By not trusting God we will find ourselves questioning and losing our confidence.

Strength comes through obedience.  I am not talking about my Julie obeying me.  That might get me in hot water, but what I am talking about is Julie and I obeying the voice of God.  It is risky to follow what God says, but it is right.  It is also going to bring about the very best for us, for those we lead and for all the people we will be able to serve.

Joshua 1:7  NLT
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.

Courage is not only an option; courage is a command.  God expects those who follow Him to live with courage, to take risks and to lead with confidence.

God didn't make us puppets where He is the almighty puppet master.  He is a gracious, compassionate God leading us to do what is right, but you and I have to make a choice as to what we are going to do.  Will we follow God or do our own thing?

When we leave the truth of God to do something else, the evident or trouble will be something that we find.  In the opposite direction, when we do what God leads us to do, there will be success.  That is what I am expecting and pushing toward.

Julie and I have learned that following God isn’t easy, but following God is always right and brings the best results.  Over 21 years ago we began to learn as a married couple to follow God, and her birthday yesterday reminded me of why we are together and why we follow God together.

Living by faith takes courage, and leading together makes us much stronger!

Monday, October 20, 2014

some things about our God

Sunday at The Community Fellowship we finished up the EVERY 1 MATTERS series.  In the last 8 weeks we have talked through the truth of Scripture that declares we have value, we are important and we belong to God.  Facts are facts.

There were several pieces of being the people of God that stuck out to me in this last message, and I would like to share some of those with you.  They not only stand out to me, but they declare things true and must be responded to.

My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.

There are lots of things going on in this verse, and one of them stands up and shouts at me.  It is about the shade.  I like the idea of shade as it reminds me a hot day that seems to be melting me with the heat of the sun.  Yet I step under a tree with branches, and there seems to be a breeze as I step under the tree.

The shade gives relief and the ability to think further about the day.  Shade gives protection and reminds me of the protection that God gives me.  Then it happens.  When I chose to step out of the shade, the sun is hot and bearing down on me once again.

By doing life without God and outside His protection I miss God’s best for my life.  We lose perspective and protection when God is not part of the equation.  That is awesome truth that gives us reward by making the best choice.

Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.

This is good stuff.  In the Old Testament God spoke through the times God blessed people through the priest as seen in Aaron and his sons.  We do the same thing today.  As we bless people God works through us to bless those same people.  We become a conduit that God uses.

We don’t speak for ourselves.  We speak for God.  It is vital that we allow Him to work through our lives.  By connecting ourselves to God we are used by Him to bless others!

In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.”

But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Both those verses speak to the covenant that God makes with us, His people.  His promises cannot be broken, and they go deep in to the future.

Our future is clearly set by God and fully secure.  We can enjoy His protection and peace each day as well as bless others in big ways.  To be His people and for Him to be our God is a big deal.  Claim it.   Live in it.  Share it with others!

I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly.

Friday, October 17, 2014

walking on water

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.

When we follow Jesus, we will have many opportunities to exercise our faith.  We will also have opportunities to allow fear to keep us from going where God leads.  It takes a great deal of courage to set fear aside and to live by faith.

Peter was ready for the next step.  He was in a boat with his fellow disciples late one night after a long day of ministry.  Jesus told the guys to get in the boat and go to the other side of the sea (Matthew 14:22-33 is the story).  As it often happens, the weather changed suddenly, and the disciples feared for their lives when the wind got bad.

They were way out in the middle of the sea as the disciples see someone walking toward them, and they thought it had to be a ghost.  It was Jesus.

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

The story continues to unfold as Peter asks Jesus to let him walk to Jesus.  Then it happened.  Peter walked on water.  He actually took steps.  We don’t know how many.  While the rest of the disciples were in the boat, Peter got out of the boat.

Jesus walked on water.  He is God.  Peter walked on water, and he is not God.  This story often gets us caught in the fact of what Jesus did, and we miss what happened with Peter.  Don’t miss this part of the story as there is much to learn from what Peter experienced and what Peter wanted.

I don’t believe Peter wanted to do something miraculous or to become a hero.  I believe that Peter wanted to be with Jesus.  The way that Peter dealt with fear was to spend time with the one who brought him comfort.  That was Jesus.  Peter learned to trust and stop leaning on his own resources and strength.  He saw Jesus do miracles like healing people and now walking on water.

Yes, Peter sank.  When Peter realized that as he was walking on water and that the storm and the waves and the wind were bad, he began to sink.  When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he sank.  We will do the same.  Take your eyes off of Jesus, and you will sink.

How do we deal with fear?  Do we run in faith to the one we trust, or do we cower and let our focus move off of God? 

To walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.  To trust God, you have to live by faith and live with courage.  God is ready to help us take the next step.  He is ready to empower us to live lives with meaning and strength that changes us and will lead to others being changed. 

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to step out of the boat and see what God is going to do next.  Despite the fear of looking foolish or failing; despite the question of finances or of fighting; despite my lack of resources or confidence, I will step out of the boat and trust God.

May our lives count as we follow God’s lead.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

NOTE: this devotion was first shared in June of 2012