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I read this story a few months back and can’t remember where I read it or who wrote it but it really stuck with me! It made me think about what it means to be a follower of God and how I can live that out daily. It will be uncomfortable at times but could change a person’s life and yours in just one moment.

 

A friend and I were at a campfire, suddenly we saw a snake come out of the flames wiggling in pain. My friend reached into the flames and pulled out the snake to save it and when he did it bit his hand. My friends reaction was to shake the snake loose and when he did it fell back into the fire. He immediately reached back into the fire to pluck it out again and it bit him again. He shook the snake free only to see it fall back into the fire. As he started to reach out once again to pull the snake from of the fire I called out to him, “Hey don’t be a fool for a third time, if it bit you the 1st two times it will bite you again”.

His respond stopped me in my tracks. He said, “Just because the nature of the snake is to bite me, that doesn’t mean that I will alter my nature, which is to help”. With that he picked up a stick and reached in to finally pull out and free the snake from the fire and certain death.

 

The moral is simple: Don’t allow the negative nature of some or all of those around you to change the positive nature that God has given you to share with all. Nothing wrong with being smart (i.e. Use a stick), but help, save, support, encourage, and strengthen those around you regardless of their actions or reactions. Focus more on who you are and who you represent than what others may say or think about you….

 

It can be uncomfortable to live how God has called you to live.

As a follower of Christ we are called into uncomfortable situations daily. We still get to choose how we react. When we follow God, He brings richness and fullness to our lives beyond anything we could ask for! Or even know to ask you! He knows just what you need, when you need it. 

 

God has promised us riches beyond compare. We just have to follow Him and live out His love daily. Even when it’s uncomfortable.

A Psalm of David

O Lord, I give my life to you.

I trust in you, My God! 

Do not let me be disgraced, 

or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.

No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,

but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Show me the right path, O Lord;

point out the road for me to follow.

Lead me by your truth and teach me,

for you are the God who saves me.

All day long I put my hope in you.

Psalm 25:1-5

-Tara Bills


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I love a good story.

As a kid, I loved a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure.

These books were amazing!

You read a little of the story then a key decision had to be made. For example, Cindy is at the front door of the neighbor’s spooky house, if she goes inside - turn to page 12 but if she gets scared and goes home - turn to page 30.

Cindy’s fate was in my hands! What would she do? I always picked the scariest choice!

So let’s flip to page 12….here, the story goes on, unless your choice led to “the end” for that story line.  It seems harsh but shoot- between the “Help I’ve Fallen and Can’t Get Up”  lady to Smokey Bear’s stern warning that “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” - I knew life was pretty dangerous. You better make the right choice!

The other thing I loved about these books was you could go back and have a “do-over” by simply picking the other choice. Don’t make the same mistake twice and you could get through to the next chapter. Mess up, go back and pick the other option. Sometimes, the next chapter had three choices!!! But, still you could go back and choose again until you got the best scenario. I look back now and see I was one nerdy but happy book worm.

Fast forward to this week as Toby talked about the phases of becoming a follower. I thought about my books. We are reminded that to follow God we make choice after choice but must keep our focus on the long term rather than how we satisfy what we want in the short term.

Bottom line: We live in our own Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Ultimately, He has the best scenario written for us, but the challenge is for us to choose the same for ourselves.

We are the ones who decide day to day how our pages are filled.

Our stories are not all sunshine and unicorns. Be ready for some major plot twists. In the middle of struggles, we can learn from Moses. Moses talks to God. They hang out together. God reveals his plan to Moses; intimately, think burning bush, stick to a snake, leprosy/no leprosy, restoring Aaron to him.

Moses still questions!. He says, “No thanks”, “Get someone else to do this” and “Hey, this isn’t what I wanted” ….to God. To God, who is literally telling Moses, I am with you.

Moses has every reason to say, “Yes! I trust you. I will do this your way”, but he hesitates. He second guesses. He searches for 40 years in the wilderness.

Learn from Moses.

We have a chance to follow God’s plan for us, to follow our own adventure but to follow Him you have to ask God to steer you from what you want, to what He is calling you to do for Him.

Don’t miss that last part…for Him. 

Not...for your friends – because then you serve your friends.

Not…for your spouse or children- because then you serve them.

Not…for your reputation- because then you serve yourself.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love my friends, my spouse, and my children, but it takes self-awareness to seek out how you serve God in relationships.

If you truly seek out what He wants from you, you’ll find He wants all of you.

Be ready for that part. 100% is what he gave to us on the cross. Why should we give anything less?

*Spoiler Alert* - He already has a story he wants for you, but He’ll wait for you to make those choices, to see that fear grows faith, disappointment turns to joy, sin allows for forgiveness, disapproval births grace, following leads to freedom…

- that’s the beauty of a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

 

-Melinda Bechtel


“It’s your destiny, Destiny.”

That’s a line from Pixar’s Finding Dory. It’s that line that drives my kids into fits of laughter.

Every.

Single.

Time.

It comes at a key point in the story, when a near-sighted whale shark realizes she has the opportunity to help Dory. Her unique skill set is exactly what is needed at a critical moment in the plot. Based on the amount of cackling from my kids, you’d think it was the world’s greatest joke.

It was that same line that replayed on a loop in my brain as I processed Toby’s message this week. For me, when I hear the word destiny, typically, I think of grandiose actions or life changing “light-bulb” moments that will dramatically change the trajectory of my life. But this week, as I listen to the message….

the more Toby taught,

the harder I listened,

the deeper I dug into scripture,

I began to see that our destiny probably isn’t a huge “lightning-in-a-bottle” moment, it’s the everyday things that God has perfectly positioned us to act on. Look to the normal, day to day of our lives and here is where we are dispensers of hope. When we follow God in these small moments, those routine acts are actually what leads us to freedom.

I was reminded about how several of our CT Kids serve team members are actively living out our Forty series inside our kids’ ministry.

Gracie, who quietly leads our Middles area on Sunday, shows our kiddos God’s love with warm smiles and high fives.

Ron, who listens to crazy preteen jokes and prays for math tests, builds relationships with kids so they feel cared for and connected.

Tarissa, who teaches our elementary kiddos biblical truth every weekend.

Kaitlyn, who’s diligently building a community of belonging with 4th and 5th graders.

Oliver who, as a young college student, helps kids learn how to worship and praise like the hipsters do.

Or Dean, who, at 83 years young, can be found most weekdays in our workroom, buys counting stickers, cutting paper, and bagging up glue sticks so all of our kiddos can use their creative energy to learn about Jesus.

None of these things, or the countless others that happen in Kid’s Ministry, are particularly glamorous or all that earth shattering in nature. But, in my heart of hearts, I believe each of these folks was made for this exact moment.

These small moments will lead to big life change.

So, if you’ve been waiting for a “lightbulb” moment to come along to catapult you into becoming the person God called and created you to be.

Consider this your lightbulb.

After all, you may not be an animated whale-shark but…

This might be your destiny, Destiny.

 

-Matt Ferguson


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The Problem with Following

Do you remember playing Follow the Leader as a kid?  The way I played it was most likely close to the way you did.  

The leader would lead you in doing simple things like:
Put your hands on your head
Stand on one foot
Jump up and down on that foot
Flap your arms like a bird
And then you would switch out, and someone else would get to be the leader.  

Simple-easy-basic. 

But for me, the only time I had fun was if I was the leader. Too often, I was not impressed with the skill set of the leader.  They didn't have creative moves; their moves were too dull, and I was sure I could do a better job.

And that is a problem with following.  Not only do we think we are the best leader, but we can also tend to be hypercritical of the appointed leader.  We can slip into believing we don't need to follow because we are our own best leader.  

Bad choices, selfish decisions, and a general disregard for anything from God used to be the soundtrack of my story.  It wasn't until my late twenties that I began the search to find a better leader. Once I found Him, I longed for the ease of standing on one foot and patting my head.  Another problem with following, it is never easy.  And as Toby has driven home these last few weeks, following is almost never comfortable.

The decision to follow will never be as easy as recess on a playground.  But in following the Leader, my life has been much more full, more lovely, more fulfilling, more beautiful.  Notice I didn't say easier.  

Believing saves you but following sets you free.  And I will take that over recess any day.

-Jennifer Day


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Years ago, as I was reading stories in the gospels I noticed that as Jesus taught the people about the Kingdom God on hillsides and by the lakeside, some of
the listeners praised God but some were offended and walked away. I felt a sense of dread in my heart.  I thought to myself, would I have walked away? Now my mind said, why would I worry about that when I believe him now! But, sometimes, only the Holy Spirit can calm those fears in our hearts. 

He ministered to me through the words of a song.  The Lord spoke to me through a song.  then quoting my answers.
 

In this song, the Lord is speaking to me, then quoting my answers.

I said, "Come follow me". 
You said, "I'll follow you"
and you came RUNNING with your arms outstretched to me.
I brought you to my heart, you asked me in your heart.
I said, "Come follow me."
You said, "Lord, I do."

I said, "Come serve me.
It may be hard sometimes, 
the way is narrow and steep, it will cost you some." 
You said, "I'll serve you, I'll bow my heart
as I bow my head, I will serve you, Lord."

I said, "Come live with me, where all my brethren are.
There may be hurt and pain sometime. as well as love and joy."
You said, "I'll come live with you where all our brothers and sisters are,
For where your love is there is always your grace, (strength)."

"Now, don't start to think or say that you can't,
don't shake your head or drag your feet, or tighten up.
Don't think you can't, Cynthia, For You ALREADY HAVE."

I said, "Come follow me." 
You said, "I’ll come follow you"
And you came running with your arms outstretched to me.
I brought you to me heart, you asked me in your heart.
I said, "Come follow me."
And you said, "LORD, I DO."

I have  loved Toby's series Forty about the Israelites in the Wilderness.
I love when we sing old songs like "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus". I've been singing it. And I've thought of another
old song, "Oh I Feel Like Traveling On, O Lord". 

Sometimes I may not be feeling it; I'll sing it anyway.

-Cynthia Kreiselmaier


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During this past week's message, I shared that I believe one of the greatest privileges of my life is the opportunity to pray for my kids and grandkids. 

I thought I would add a post to our Forty blog with a letter that I wrote to Ross and Grant.  I hope it encourages you to write a letter to your kids-to your sons and daughters.  My prayer for you is that you feel empowered to storm the gates of heaven for your kids and grandkids.  It is an honor to pray for the generations to come. 

Comment below and share the impact writing your letter had on you.


Ross and Grant,

This weekend I pleaded with the dads at Cross Timbers to consistently pray for their kids.  I know both of you know that praying for you Ross and Bailey as you were growing up was one of the greatest privileges of my life.  That night you broke your ankle playing football Ross?  I was in your room three times asking God to bring healing to your leg and to your heart.  Grant, I remember Bailey’s 8th grade year being straight out of an episode of “Mean Girls.”  She was miserable.  One night she left the dinner table crying about what someone had said about her.  I started out being extremely angry with the girl who was being such a bully—I wanted to call her dad and give him an earful, but Mika wouldn’t let me do it.  I stood outside her door that night praying for what seemed like forever that Bailey would find peace and joy in the midst of this crazy hard time for her. 

As I look back over that time, there are three areas that I consistently found myself praying for/about in the lives of my two.  As you pray for Gideon, Evie, and Micah, I thought they might prove helpful for you guys:

•    That God would give them the ability to see themselves as He sees them.  Insecurity and identity are issues for all of us.  This was a constant prayer of mine during times of relational stress or pressure to perform on the field or in the classroom.

•    That God would give them eyes to see.  Most of us tend to view our challenges as a much bigger deal than they are.  I was constantly asking God to give Ross and Bailey an eternal perspective about a boyfriend/girlfriend issue or what team they were on that season.

•    That God would give them ears to hear.  Hearing God changes everything.  I want my kids to learn to recognize His voice leading them, comforting them and speaking truth into their lives.

 

Your kids are so blessed to have you two as dads.  Know that their Papa T joins with both of you in storming heaven on their behalf.  I pray for all of you every day.  Love you both more than you could possibly imagine.  I am proud of both of you—you are good men.

Love,
Dad


Think about it, the God of all comfort, allows us to be uncomfortable, in uncomfortable situations so that we can find our promise land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the journey is uncomfortable but it leads us somewhere because the goal is Jesus, not our comfort. It's not a state of being, it is a person.  I thought our word was bold but its bigger than that. To be bold you have to be in a situation that requires boldness and it's not comfortable to be in a situation that requires boldness.  

He comforts us in uncomfortable situations so that we can comfort someone along the way.   The truth is the promise land was never about me or you, the promise land is about someone else. The promise land was not about the Israelites who walked in the promise land.  The promise land was about a mindset that took 40 years of drilling into the DNA and the genetic code to break.

The mindset needed to be broken for the nations that were to come. 
The mindset needed to be broken for the generations that were to come.

We are the generations that were to come.
 

I find myself running from the uncomfortable but in fact that is the exact place that I find Him. Because that is where He lives. 
 


Hebrews 12:1-3
 

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”


 This is the year that I'm going to ask each of us that call Cross Timbers home to do the unthinkable. In 2018 in America, I am going to ask that we all embrace and not avoid the uncomfortable. From day one the mantra of Cross Timbers has been freedom.  Freedom is only going to be found in following Jesus.
 


Following Jesus is not the most comfortable thing on the planet.
 

When you love and bless people that are different than you, make no mistake about it, it's not comfortable. Forgiveness is uncomfortable.  Generosity, no matter how we pack it, at its core there is a little bit of Gideon in every one of us here, and it’s uncomfortable. Every time I choose love over hate, sacrifice over security, growth over inactivity, I take a step toward my promise land. And I encourage you to take a step too. 
 

Believing will save but following is what sets you free.
 

This may not be as big nuisance to some of you as it is to me, which is okay. But I think the big shift in my thinking –the big shift that most likely needs to happen in our thinking is about following.   Being set free and embracing the uncomfortable is not an easy thing to ask people to do!  It’s not a bad thing-but asking others to be uncomfortable may not be the thing to do to fill up church rows!  

Uncomfortable is not a bad thing. But to say that our goal at Cross Timbers moving forward is to help others learn how to follow is a whole different level.  That’s what happens when we decide that our job is to help people learn how to follow.  Once that happens, the mission will come to fruition. This new paradigm won’t be for everyone. Uncomfortable will not be easy.  I'm asking people that will allow me (to the best of my abilities) to teach, lead, equip and guide them in how to follow better. 
 

·      40 years in Egypt to learn how to think like an Egyptian.

·      40 years in the wilderness to learn how to live in the wilderness.

·      40 years of camping.

·      40 years of wildness.
 

God is calling you to something bigger.  And you can’t even imagine what that bigger could really be.   
 

We can tend to think like Moses.

I don’t have enough. 

I can’t speak well enough.

Those people won’t listen to me, I have a lisp. 
 

God doesn’t even respond to that kind of language. He just asks,
 

“What's in your hand?  Isn’t that a stick?”

And that stick got carried into the ark of the covenant and into the promised land. Just an ordinary stick. The slave thinks about what he doesn’t have and a free person is focused on what they do have. They see limitation is innovation. Things that worried me before, things from our early days don’t worry me like they used to.  I choose uncomfortable.  I choose to live in freedom.  I choose to break the chains of slave-thinking.

What in your marriage, in your home, in your finances, keeps you thinking slave?
 

What Egyptian thinking do you have in the conversations in your circles, when your mind goes to what you don’t have?

 

If only we could just hear God say
 

“What's in your hand?”
 

 And know God will use it.
 

He is going to teach you how to follow.
 


He is going to teach me how to follow. and me how to follow. 

When we learn how to follow, we get set free.
 


Let's keep the conversation going~
What's in your hand? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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Maybe you are a believer and you have prayed the prayer of salvation.   But you can be a believer, know Christ as your Savior, know that you are going to heaven but you find yourself living in hell. Not because you don’t believe but because you haven't followed. Believing is pretty comfortable really. There may be a moment of awkwardness.  Maybe you were asked to raise your hand in a service, fill out a card, walk to the front of the church.  There may be a moment of uncomfortable but for the most part,  its’ typically comfortable.


Following is incredibly uncomfortable. When you read the book of Exodus what you find out is that the Israelites wanted to leave captivity, they just didn't want to follow the cloud. 
 

They started building revisionist history. They thought it was better if they went back to Egypt.  How crazy!!!??!  No, it wasn’t better to go back.  It was just more comfortable. When they left Egypt, they were already free they just didn’t know it yet. They wanted freedom at its core.  But their reality was that they were not comfortable.  In this case, like so many times since, comfortable was not best.  Why did the spend 40 years taking left turns in the wilderness? So that God could teach them to be what He had already done for them.   They had to learn to live as people who were free.
 

They followed Him.
 

He taught them how to follow. It wasn’t always pretty, sometimes they got drug along, they made a lot of mistakes. You can take that journey and I can ask everyone to read the book of Exodus and read every word that comes to your mind and none of you would put the word comfortable on the list. 
 

It wasn’t comfortable but it was best.
 

There is no painless route to your promise land. You don’t get stronger without some level of pain.  Nobody likes to hear this but the key to losing weight is if it tastes good you spit it out of your mouth. We get all this in the physical.  We understand in the physical that there is some pain, we teach our kids this. 
 

There is some pain you endure in the moment because of what's coming in the end.  What many of us have is this false belief.  We may deny it.  But there is no denying that we are sometimes operating out of this false belief. 
 

Sometimes, we want a convenient cross. The good news is you get to choose.  We get to choose the goal. But we have to live with our choices. 
If my goal is comfort I can find it.  If my goal is the promise land, I need to expect some pain along the way.  The story of the Israelites, can be broken it down into several parts. In each of those parts, we can see that God's presence is a huge part of this story. 
 

We love to think about how God's presence leads us. Moses gets to the place where he says unless your presence goes with me I'm not going. But have you thought about the fact that you don’t need a cloud unless you know that your lost. We argue with Waze or Google Maps. I hate the feeling that comes over me while in the middle of a big city and my signal get lost.  My app can’t catch up, and I miss a turn all the rerouting ensues. I don’t know about you but I can’t stand being lost. I panic being lost. It's uncomfortable to be lost, to not know where you are going that’s why you need God's presence. 
 

God's miracles.  The big ones, the famous ones, the ones in the Ten Commandments, they're all in there. But you don’t need miracles if you already have everything that you need. It is definitely a story of freedom and learning how to think like a free person but you don’t need a deliverer unless you are being held captive. It's a story of redemption but you don’t need redemption if nothing in your life is broken or in need of redemption.  And those are uncomfortable places to be. 
 


Let's keep the conversation going~
Have you ever thought it would be best to "go back to Egypt?"  What makes you uncomfortable?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

-Toby Slough


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We live in a world, make no mistake about it, that is selling comfort and convenience. I walked into Kroger and sitting in the very front was all of these pre-prepared meals.  One could get an entire meal for their family without every walking down an aisle.  Some stores don’t even need you to come in to pick up the contents for a meal.  You can order online, drive to the store, park in a special spot, text a number and never step foot in the store. In a world that is geared towards and in ways idolizes convenience, we’ve come to believe that convenient and comfortable are better.  Yet, that’s not in the Kingdom. In fact, when God calls us to uncomfortable places, most of the time we sense it’s not Him. Most of the time, comfort is not an indication of God.  When you read the story of the move from slavery to the promise land, it is filled with God asking people to do uncomfortable things.   That is where you find out that sometimes uncomfortable is better. 
 

It all comes down to this.

Believing is what saves you but following will set you free.
 

It is true.  Believing will save you, you are saved through grace by faith only.  This is not of yourself so no one can boast. The narrow way that Jesus spoke of is not what you are reading on Facebook and religious websites. The narrow way that Jesus spoke of is that there won't be many people who will trust in Him alone to declare them righteous, they will think they have to do something else. That's the narrow way, they'll add something to it. 
 

But wide is the road that leads to destruction.  Why? Because you will ultimately be destroyed if you are trying to do what Jesus went to the cross to do for you. 
 

Yes.  Believing saves you. 
 

The best way I know how to trust Jesus with my life, in my heart, my spirit, and my mind is to allow Jesus to be my righteousness.  I live with understanding of what Jesus did.  The good news is that Jesus died was buried and resurrected and now sits at the right hand of God, interceding on my behalf. 
 

God doesn’t see me.  He doesn’t see pitiful me.   He sees Christ in me.  He is declaring righteousness and there's nothing I can do to earn that.  There is nothing you can do to earn it.
 


You are saved by grace through faith alone.
But you may not be free.

Let's keep the conversation going~
What has held you back from being free in the past?  What is holding you back from being free now? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

-Toby Slough


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