Be Better

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“I press (strive) toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

I was a young boy at the age of 13 when the Lord called me into ministry. I began ministry at the age of 21. I was married at the age of 22. We had our first child at the age of 23 and now our second child at the age of 27. God has been good to me and my family, but I know my life isn’t finished.

Paul in Philippians 3:14 said, “I press on toward the high calling of Christ Jesus.” Some other translations say, “I strive toward…” Paul never reached a point in his ministry where he claimed to know it all. Paul said his better days were ahead of him.

My better days are ahead of me. My families’ better days are ahead of us. Our ministry’s greatest days are ahead of us, but one thing we need to recognize is that in order to get to greater and better things, you must first go through some stuff.

There was no need for Paul to press unless there was something in front of him trying to push him back. Paul always wanted to be better, gain more knowledge, and win more people for the Kingdom…and so should we.

A prayer that I pray every single day is, “Lord, make me into a great husband, father, and student pastor. (in that order)” You see, I want to be better and continue to become better, because the moment I stop becoming better, then I will eventually die. There is always room for becoming a better person…a better co-worker…a better spouse…a better preacher…a better learner…a better YOU!

As you go through life, you will always meet people who play the blame game, kind of like David’s brother, Eliab, before he went to defeat Goliath. Eliab, in other words, told his younger brother David, “I know who you are. I saw you when you were potty training. I saw you when you fell off of your first bicycle without wheels. You are a failure, David! You can’t defeat Goliath! What are you thinking?!?! You are a disgrace to the family!” But David knew who was in the Lord.

You becoming better is not something you will find in a book, or paying more money for with a doctor to get a prescription. The better you is not found in a book by Joel Olsteen with eight simple steps to become a better you. A better you is only found in the deep heart of God. Do you want to be a better husband? Then submit to the Lord and get on your knees and ask God to help you become a better husband. Do you want to become a better father? Then listen to the heart of the greatest Father and get alone with him, Dad. One on one. Heavenly Father with Earthly Father. Do you want to become a better pastor, student pastor, music pastor, children’s pastor, laity? Then empty yourself completely of yourself and get so full of God to where there is nothing in you other than Jesus.

Your walk in the flesh is only as deep as your devotion with God. God is for you. He wants you to succeed in every area of your life. He loves you with an everlasting love and His mercies are new every morning. It’s never too late to start over as a husband, father, or student pastor. God meets you right where you are and will never leave you nor forsake you. Put down the phone. Leave work at work and get alone with your Creator. Because your family, your ministry, and your life depends on it.

Be Thankful For What You Have

“You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring – what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.” James 4:14

Growing up, my parents used to tell me, “Be thankful for what you have.” Those words never meant much to me as a young boy, because as kids, we think money grew on trees, but you will learn as you grow up, your parents were always right. The beatings I used to get and mom would say, “This hurts me more than it hurts you” are now words that I say to myself when my two year old son is acting up.

I was laying in bed last night, reading something on my phone, when something caught my attention. It was an obituary of a 16 month old that had passed away early this week. I clicked on the dad’s Facebook page and began to read posts about their son and how thankful they were to have such a happy baby and what God did for them in those 16 months. My heart broke. I wept. I prayed for God to protect my family.

We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we do know Who holds the future. Though we hold back trust in God because of past hurts, regrets, mistakes, etc., God can always be trusted.

Today, I am thankful for my family, my job, my co-workers, my friends, my students, and opportunities God uses to teach me how to be a better husband, father, and student pastor. I am thankful for healthy children and a beautiful wife who does more for me than I deserve. I am thankful for my boys, Kason and Preston. I am thankful for God saving me and calling me into ministry, because I don’t see myself doing anything else.

You might be in a place today where you are your lowest of lows and there seems to be no hope, but let me encourage you today, even when you hit rock bottom, Jesus will always be the rock at the bottom to pick you up.

David cried out, “I lift mine eyes unto the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and of Earth (Psalm 121:1-2).” Look up, Child of God. Hold on to God’s unchanging hand through this time of transition. God is near to the broken hearted!

Today, I am thankful. Are you?

Rooted

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“Therefore every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:10

     One thing I love to do while living in Mobile, is driving through Spring Hill or Dauphin Street under all of the trees on the way to do hospital visits. There is nothing like good shade! How rooted are those trees? How old are those trees? Are they new trees that grew after a hurricane? All of these questions I have myself, but here lately, God has been challenging me about how “rooted” I am. What do you mean? Let me explain.

     Jesus cursed the fig tree for not producing fruit. We can look at a tree and see beautiful leaves, but Jesus did not call us to grow leaves. He called us to grow fruit. You and I cannot grow fruit if we are not connected to the main source – Jesus. I don’t care how many times you go to church, because just because you go to church does not make you a Christian, just like you standing in a garage doesn’t make you a car.

     The only way you and I will every bear fruit is to stay in the Word and stay on our knees. But, one of the things the Lord has challenged me with lately is if I stay rooted, my children, my family, and my students in my youth group will also be rooted. God did not call me to bear fruit so that I can eat my own fruit. He called me to grow fruit so that the people around me could eat my fruit. I can bring in the greatest food trucks every Wednesday nights, have 18 fog machines, 100 moving lights, the greatest youth band, and the biggest events (nothing morally wrong with any of those things) and still have surface Christian students. I’m sorry, but I want my family and students to experience the real, authentic Presence of the Almighty God.

     God has called my family, my students, and myself to go deeper. I choose to lead with integrity and authenticity because when storms come, I want my Source to be by my side. I choose to have a family that is dedicated and raised in the admonition of the Lord. I choose to teach my students, using techniques, sermon analogies, videos, and by my life, the truth that the world needs to hear without forsaking my beliefs in what God has taught me and shown me no matter what people say. I choose to not be another statistic. I choose not to follow the broad way and teach those around me to take the easy way out. God has called you and I for greater things. It’s time to hit our knees again and live in the Presence of God. Get rooted in the Lord, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord!

Quality Time

Andy-Opie

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8

Something very near and dear to me is my family. I love my parents, my in-laws, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc., but I love my wife and son more. I’ll quote one of my favorite preachers and say, “If you really want to make me mad, start messing with my family.” I have always been a man who cares for the sake of his family. By all means, whatever action is necessary, I will protect them and provide for them, as any man should.

Pastor Box preached an outstanding message Sunday morning from his new 7-week series entitled, “The Believer’s Checklist” and this week, he spoke on the subject of “Giving.” Pastor said something in his sermon that has really struck me and stuck with me this week. He said, “The average working dad spends 8 minutes with their children; and the average working mom spends 11 minutes with their children.” It broke my heart when I heard that.

There are 1,440 minutes in a day and if the average dad spends 8 minutes a day with their children, that means the average dad only spend 0.5% of their day with their children…not even 1% of their day. That is disgusting to me. God intended people to work, and I know some people work multiple jobs, and I thank God every day for the job I have and my wife has, but family time is important to me.

In order to experience great things, sometimes you have to say “no” to the good things. I look forward to coming home to my wife and son every day. I look forward to teaching him how to change the oil in his car, throw a baseball, shoot a basketball, ride his bicycle, and more. Why? Because God has put in me to be a father before anything else.

I pray today that you would be encouraged, no matter how hard or long you work, remember to tell your kids you love them, pray for them daily, and love your spouse. A successful life does not mean all the riches and money in the world. Success means balance between family, faith, and finances. May God bless you today!

Remembering The Days of Old

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“And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm…” -Deuteronomy 5:15

What has God delivered you from? Has there ever been a time in your life where you saw God move and work, but now, it’s almost as if everything is at a stand still…your prayers are hitting the walls, you feel like you’re not making any effect for the Kingdom, etc.? My one question to you is this: what has God brought you from?

This morning, I caught myself looking at some old pictures on my computer in the office and as I sat looking at them, and I began to think about everything that had happened in the past few years of mine and Lindsey’s life – marriage, Kason being born, new ministry opportunities, growth, the valleys, the mountain tops, the highs, the lows, the good, the bad, the ugly, etc.

Here is one thing that I am confident of: If God did it before, He will do it again. He is faithful to His people. I think sometimes we forget the goodness of God and get our focus on the negatives of life and ministry, but this morning, I can’t do anything but praise Him for His goodness and faithfulness to me and my family.

In John 6:1-14, Jesus had just performed a miracle to the people in front of the Disciples. He had fed 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two small fish. Now tell me something…how can you feed 5 people with that much food? You can’t. It’s impossible, but remember: with God all things are possible. Jesus had just shown the Disciples that nothing is impossible to those who believe. Jesus tells the Disciples to “gather the scraps” and go to the boat as He goes afar to pray.

Next, a storm brews up from out of nowhere and all of a sudden the Disciples had lost faith and forgotten what Jesus had brought them out of. The “scraps” Jesus told them to gather was to be a reminder to them that, if He did it once, He will do it again! There was a storm before, deliverance came, then another storm came, and the Disciples lost everything amount of faith they had and focused on the storm instead of the One who controls the storm.

Listen to me today, readers: If you are going through a battle or a storm right now, remember that what He did before, He will do it again! It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but what we do know is that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!” (Psalm 30:5). Your darkest hour might be upon you, but have faith, your deliverance, whose name is Jesus Christ is on His way! You are not forgotten, nor alone. He is with you always! Hold on to Jesus today!

A Generation That Seeks His Face

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Who may ascend into the hill of the LordOr who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LordAnd righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face.” Psalm 24:3-6

This past weekend, about 55 of our students and leaders took off in a charter bus and church van to head to Winterfest 2015 in Knoxville, TN. Winterfest is a yearly conference held in the Thompson Bowling Arena in Knoxville where anywhere from 20,000-30,000+ meet to hear God’s Word, and worship together.

I believe as time gets old, times change, people change, things change. That’s just life. But…there is One who never changes. “How do you stay relevant in a time of trouble?” “How do you love kids who are never loved and don’t know what love is?” When you preach Jesus, relevancy goes out the window. Relevancy is not a worry to me. I will not wear a flat bill hat backwards with skinny jeans, and a mohawk, but I will be who God has made me to be and I will lead a generation into revival!

This year at Winterfest was honestly the best I’ve been a part of. I saw kids lay things down that only God can empower them to lay down. I saw relationships form. I saw doubt and frustration leave when the Presence of God came down. I saw kids on their faces by the power of an Almighty God.

Friday night was phenomenal, but Saturday night was my favorite of all nights. Samuel Rodriguez brought an incredible, powerful word that night. Altar call was great, but it didn’t stop there. We got back to the bus and one after one, kids were still weeping on the bus. One by one, they came up to the mic and gave a testimony. Testimony time started when we got on the bus and ended when we pulled into our cabin an hour and a half later.

We walk in, eat pizza, and have worship time. Service for us that night didn’t end until 1:30am. So, again, I ask…why have we doubted a generation like this? No, it’s not just “another conference”. No, it’s not just “emotion”. Stop with the excuses in your life to make you not believe in this generation! What we saw and experienced Saturday night could only be the product of parents and people praying for these kids on a daily basis. It was only a God thing. It was not an emotion. It was not another conference. It was not fake. It was real. What I saw was real. It was God in action!

There is still a generation that prays and seeks His face! There is still a generation on fire to do the will of an Almighty God. There is still hope! A teacher in our church went with us this weekend as a chaperone and she said Saturday night, “I have been in public schools my whole life and have watched how kids treat each other and their elders. I had lost all hope until tonight. These kids showed me that there is still hope!”

So, what is the point of this blog today? For one, I have wrote a blog in a while and needed to get back at it! Secondly, I ask that you would pray for this generation. Pray our youth group. Pray for our church. Pray for your youth and church. Pray for revival! Lastly, and maybe the main point, stop doubting this generation. As a Student Pastor, hearing people’s doubt doesn’t help anything. Am I defending my youth group and kids? Absolutely! This world needs more people like what I saw on Saturday night and less doubters.

I beg you and plead with you as I write this. Let God have control over your life. Sex, drugs, alcohol, fill in the blank, whatever it is you deal with, will never fully satisfy you like the love of an Almighty God in your life! I am praying that this generation would be a Jacob generation…a generation that prays and seeks His face…a generation that will be an overcomer in the darkness…a generation that loves their Jesus! It’s our time. It’s your time. Rise up and go to the next level with Jesus!

Called To Be An Example

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“So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15

Lindsey and I just recently watched the newest “Left Behind” movie. It was overall a good movie, but there was one scene that I really was intrigued by. After some of the people were raptured, there is a scene where the daughter walks into the church and sees the pastor at the altar standing there. I’m paraphrasing, but she looks at the pastor and says, “Everyone was taken, so why are you still here?” The pastor then looks at her and says, “I guess you need to believe what you preach.”

In John 13, Jesus shows the perfect picture of acting on what you believe on. Did Jesus have to believe in what the Father was doing? Absolutely! Jesus cried out, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will. (Matthew 26:39)” 

Just like Jesus, we have to believe…and show what we preach! For Jesus, it wasn’t enough to just tell the people about Himself. He had to show them! Jesus went to places and told them about Christ and people would ask, “well, where is this so called Christ?” And Jesus would say, “He is right in front of you.”

Before Jesus could ever tell the Disciples to do something like wash someone’s feet, He had to first show them. And before Jesus could ever tell the Disciples about laying down their lives for someone, He had to first show them!

Before we can ever tell people about the goodness of our Lord and Savior, we first must believe it ourselves! Too many times in our lives do we miss an opportunity to tell and show someone about the mercy and love of God, because we lack the belief in our own lives.

Yes, it was a tradition in Palestine to wash the feet of your guest in your home. Yes, it was shown as an act of honor, but the true meaning of this is that Jesus was the ultimate example of how we are to live our lives! How can you tell someone that sex, drugs, and alcohol is wrong if you yourself don’t believe it? How can we as Christians tell people about the provision of God if we ourselves don’t believe it in the first place?

Your words are powerful, but your actions speak louder! Yes, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for the sin of the world. Yes, I don’t believe that its just another myth. I believe it is a present reality that can still take effect on the lives of the people today!

God is so real and I pray today as you read this, you would pray, search the Scriptures, and allow God to have full authority over your live today. Yes, following Jesus is hard, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, because what I have learned in my 25 years of living so far is that God knows exactly what He is doing…and even when I doubt Him and think everything is all lost, God shows Himself time and time again. Believe Jesus died for you. Make Heaven your future home today and go show the people in the world today that Jesus really is the Lord and Savior of your life!