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About Jeff

I am the pastor of Start Baptist Church. I have an amazing wife and four wonderful children. God is so good!!!

This morning I went running in preparation for a half-marathon event that I have coming up in a couple of weeks.  My goal this morning was to run about seven to seven and a half miles in about an hour or so.  My prize is to finish the half-marathon in a couple of weeks with my personal time record.  After about two and a half miles this morning, my left calf muscle began cramping.  It wasn't absolutely terrible pain, but it was pain and it was annoying.  For the next fifty to one hundred feet, I actually thought about turning around and heading back toward the house and even slowing down my pace to a brisk walk.  However, I decided to press on.  Why?  On Tuesday night, I was watching a girls' basketball game.  A young girl was playing really well, but her leg began cramping early in the game.  She came off the floor and rubbed her leg down.  She got some fluids in her body, and she decided to get back on the floor.  With the game up for grabs late in the fourth quarter, this young girl hit a three-point shot that put her team in the lead for good.  She later stepped to the free-throw line and hit a couple of free throws to seal the game for her team.  She pressed on.  This morning, I made a decision to press on even though my leg was hurting.  I picked my head up and looked forward.  I began to thing about my goal...to run seven to seven and half miles within an hour or so.  The more I focused on my goal rather than focusing on my hurt, the better I ran.  I began to think about the prize - running that half-marathon in my personal record time.  I can't tell you that the pain completely went away, but I can tell you that the pain wasn't as bad as long as my focus was on my goal and the eventual prize.  I did run my seven and a half miles, and I did hit my goal of just over one hour.  And as I write this blog, my left calf muscle is still hurting.

I've always tried to be as transparent as possible in my blog writings.  I want to be transparent today, for sure.  In ministry, I have had many great days.  To be honest, I've had many more great days than I've had bad days.  However, bad days do come along in ministry.  Sometimes, I do or say things that hurt others.  Sometimes, others do or say things that hurt me.  In other words, there is pain in ministry at times...and it comes from all different directions.  And if you are like me, I don't like pain; I don't like to hurt or to be hurt.  Pain is not something I would choose on any day of the week.  However, as I have learned time and time again, pain and hurt will happen, and pain and hurt can be useful.  I love what Paul says to the church in Philippi.  In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul says, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Paul was talking about sanctification - becoming more like Jesus on earth.  Paul strained every spiritual muscle he had in moving toward the goal for which he was chosen by the Lord.  He was chosen to be more like Jesus, to be conformed into His glorious image.   Paul said, "I press on."  He focused on the goal of being more like Jesus on earth, and he focused on the eventual prize of being made like Jesus in heaven.  Paul said, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on."  Paul made a choice to forget about his past accomplishments and good works; Paul made a choice to forget about his past failures and sins; Paul made a choice to forget about the distractions, the hurts, and the pains in his life.  In other words, his focus was on what was in front of him not what was behind him.

It is so easy to give up.  It is so easy to give up when things aren't going your way.  It is so easy to give up when you hurt someone or when someone hurts you.  It is so easy to give up when your focus is on distractions, when your focus is on the hurts and the pains in your life.  DON'T GIVE UP!  PRESS ON!  Remember to keep your focus on the goal for which you have been called by God.  As a Christ follower, the goal on earth is sanctification...to be more and more like Christ.  As a Christ follower, the prize in heaven is glorification...to be made like Christ forever and ever.  Focus on the goal.  Focus on the prize.  This will keep you moving forward, even when the hurt is there, even when the pain is there.  PRESS ON...TOWARD THE GOAL...TO WIN THE PRIZE!

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people.  Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.  Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."   Ephesians 6:18-20

Prayer is a gift from God.  I thank God for the gift to pray to Him on behalf of others and for the gift of others praying to Him on my behalf.  Paul was a man who exercised his faith daily, a man who exercised his prayer life daily.  Paul believed in prayer.  Paul believed in constant prayer.  Paul believed in praying for others in the Spirit "with all kinds of prayers and requests."  I love what Pastor Tony Merida says about "praying in the Spirit."  He says, "All true prayer is by the Spirit.  We come to the Father, through Christ, by the Spirit.  And because of the gift of the Spirit, the Christian warrior has constant access to God in the midst of the war."  What a gift from God!  By way of the Spirit through Jesus Christ, we have constant access to the Father.  He hears us when we pray.  Paul goes on to say to the church in Ephesus that he needs their prayers, as well.  He wasn't asking for personal gain or physical comfort; he was asking for boldness and faithfulness to the gospel for which he was an ambassador.  Paul wanted to make Jesus known to everyone in every circumstance.  He wanted to make Jesus known with his words and with his actions fearlessly.

As Christ followers, we need to exercise prayer...all kinds of prayers and requests for all people.  We need to pray in the Spirit, and we need to pray constantly.  We need to pray for our spiritual leaders within the body of Christ that they may proclaim the Word of God boldly and faithfully with everyone in every circumstance.  As Christ followers, let's make every effort to pray for one another.  Prayer makes a difference because God is a difference maker!

"When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah.  After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters.  Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years.  Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away."   Genesis 5:21-24

We don't know much about the man named Enoch in the Bible; however, we know enough.  Genesis 5 spares a few short verses to describe Enoch for us.  This is quite different from someone like Moses, whom we read about in many verses and chapters, even books, of the Bible.  Yet, both of these men are listed in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11.  The key description we find over and over again about the men and the women in Hebrews 11 is "by faith."  They lived their faith out loud, and they honored and glorified God by faith.  I love what it says about Enoch in Hebrews 11:5.  It says, "By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: 'He could not be found, because God had taken him away.'  For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God."  Not once in Genesis 5 or Hebrews 11 does it mention any service or work Enoch provided...not once.  It only says, "Enoch walked faithfully with God (twice in Genesis 5)," and "He was commended as one who pleased God...by faith (Hebrews 11)."  I'm sure Enoch did do many great acts of service and works for God, but he was commended for walking faithfully WITH God, not just working FOR God.  Maybe as Christ followers we should spend more time focusing on God the Father through our relationship WITH Jesus Christ than we do focusing on our services or our works FOR God?  Maybe as Christ followers we should focus on walking WITH God the Father daily, enjoying His overwhelming presence in our lives, more than focusing on doing something FOR God.  I'm not saying our acts of service and works are not important; in fact, James says in James 2:17, "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."  I believe the acts of service and works God calls me to do will mean so much more when I am enjoying my walk WITH Him.  I also believe that I will serve and work from a heart that understands I can never earn more of God's love in my life.  He loves me unconditionally.  I am not serving and working FOR God's love; I am serving and working FROM God's love because of His overwhelming presence that I get to enjoy through walking WITH Him.  My prayer is that we can be known as Enoch was known - as Christ followers who walk faithfully with God...as Christ followers who are commended as ones who please God.  May our focus be on Him today and each day we live...for His glory and His honor.  Amen.