Cultivate your life in Him

by Ryan Haddox

Matthew 13:3-9

3“He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

At any time, how receptive your heart is will determine your response to God’s word. If your heart has been trampled, and harden by bitterness and unforgiveness, then receiving God’s message for you will become more difficult. If your heart is like shallow soil on top of a rock, then your mind comprehends God’s truths, yet these truths do not penetrate your heart to make a real difference in your actions. Or if you are concerned about the riches of this life, then your focus is on the here and now, and these pursuits prevent God’s Word from taking hold and producing quality fruit. But a heart that is on good soil, receives the Word, applies the Word, and in due time bring forth abundant fruit! This is God’s desire for you — to have a heart cultivated on good soil!

How do you cultivate a heart on good soil? Repent of any bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, or any other sin that is hardening your heart! Seek the power of God to search your heart thoroughly and completely to root out all the weeds that hinder cultivating good soil. Cultivating good soil is a daily task — weeds spring up out of nowhere to hinder our growth. But , you are not ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). So break up your fallow ground, sow yourself in His righteousness, and soon you will bring forth abundant fruit fit for the kingdom!

Cultivate your life in Him — and He will produce His fruit through you!

Thoughts from Our Youth Pastor…

Throughout the Bible we read about the great joy we can have in the Lord –

“…the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy.” (Psalm 5:11)

“… in your presence there is fullness of joy…” (Psalm 16:11)

“Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous…” (Psalm 32:11)

“Then I will go to … God my exceeding joy…” (Psalm 43:4)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy … in believing” (Romans 15:13)

“The fruit of the Spirit is… joy” (Galatians 5:22)

“Rejoice in the Lord always…”  (Philippians 4:4)

But what exactly is this joy?

Pleasure and Satisfaction in Christ

Many passages show that this joy is an emotional feeling of pleasure and satisfaction (Psalm 4:7, for example).

But this joy is not pleasure and satisfaction in our circumstances; it’s pleasure and satisfaction in God as he is revealed in Jesus Christ (Habakkuk 3:17-18 and 1 Peter 1:8, for example).

So why is it that many Christians don’t experience this joy?

Why so Little Joy?

One answer dawned on me yesterday as I was praying about my lack of joy.

God does promise to give this joy to every believer (Psalm 63:7;Psalm 68:3; Luke 2:10; John 16:20,22; for example).

But he also tells us how he will give it to us – through faith.

Notice how joy and faith are connected in these verses –

  • “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” (Psalm 13:5)
  • “You make him glad with the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the LORD (Psalm 21:6-7)
  • “For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.” (Psalm 33:21)
  • “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13)
  • “I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:25)
  • “Though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8 New American Standard Version)

So there is a cause-effect relationship between faith and joy.  God promises to pour out this joy when we turn to him in faith.

So maybe one reason we don’t experience this joy is because we don’t pursue it by faith.

Getting There by Faith

If someone told you that the way to get to your destination was by bicycle, what would you do?

You would not start walking, or get in the car.  You would hop on your bicycle, and start peddling.

So when God tells us that the way to get to joy is by faith, what should we do?  We should turn to him in faith.

But so often, when I lack joy, I don’t turn to God in faith.

Instead, I languish in spiritual dullness, or busy myself with activity, or complain to my wife.

But what I should do is turn to God in faith.

But How?

Faith means trusting all that God promises to be to us in Christ Jesus.

So how do I turn to God in faith?

First — I turn to God just as I am, in my dullness and sinfulness, knowing that because of Christ’s death I will be loved and welcomed.

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

Second – I confess all known sin to the Father.  I confess whatever I am seeking joy in besides Christ, and ask him to help me turn my heart back to him.  I am assured that through Christ I am completely forgiven.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Third — I look to God, trusting him to give me what I need.  All that I bring to the table is neediness.  But in Christ God promises to give me everything I need.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Fourth — I earnestly ask God to give me joy in him by strengthening my faith, overcoming my sinful blindness, and showing me his glory.

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18)

Fifth – I notice whatever worries or desires are keeping me from joy in the Lord, and work on slaying those with promises from the word of God — the sword of the Spirit.

… and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God … (Ephesians 6:17)

Sixth – I pray over passages describing God’s glory until I experience the Spirit enlightening the eyes of my heart so I once again see and feel the all-satisfying glory of God in Christ.

… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened … (Ephesians 1:17-18)

Try This

As soon as you can, set everything else aside, and take time to turn to God by faith.

As you do, notice how the Holy Spirit strengthens your faith, shows you God’s glory, and gives you joy in beholding Christ.

And notice how that happened — by faith.

It’s by faith that God promises to give us joy in him.

So seek him — by faith.


Grace and Peace,

Ryan Haddox

Peek-a-boo Bunny

When I was a little boy I had a stuffed animal called Peek-a-boo Bunny. You would squeeze his stomach and he would fling his ears from off of his eyes and shout with a cheerful sound “Peek-a-boo! Happy Easter!” This bunny, along with the song “Here Comes Peter Cotton-tail” created and fueled my love of Easter and all the candy that came with it! I would destroy boxes of Whoppers and Butterfingers weren’t safe, but I wouldn’t come near the peeps. This momentous occasion that I looked forward to as a child because of the copious amounts of candy I would consume, I look forward to it as an adult for a much greater reason; however, I do still consume said candy.

As an adult and as an observer and follower of Christ I can say that Easter, while ever so slightly, edges out Christmas for me. I say that because Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is beyond comprehension!

No one today would willingly go to prison and be killed if they were a king or from some type of royalty.

Yet Jesus, GOD, took on flesh and came to dwell amongst us. He not only suffered and died on the cross. He not only was wrapped in grave clothes and thrown in a tomb. He not only was stuck behind a boulder to ensure His death and captivity. More than ALL of that; Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ arose from His grave and that tomb became the stage for Heaven’s Glory!

We take heart in the knowledge that our sins are forgiven because a King decided to leave His throne and die in our place. Although it seems beyond comprehension, we are to always seek deeper and deeper to understand and comprehend our Heavenly Father. We will never be finished doing so, but we are always to seek wisdom.

May God Bless you this Easter and open your eyes even wider or maybe for the first time to the sacrifice and love of God the Father and God the Son over us. May that knowledge be ever pervasive in our thoughts and may we, in return, be willing to spread the love of God and make disciples. Amen.

Grace and Peace,

Ryan Haddox

It’s Almost Spring Time!!!

by Ryan Haddox

It’s almost Spring time!!! This time of year is exciting because not only does the sunshine and warmth visit us a bit more, but also because it means Summer is just around the corner!! Summer being around the corner means that our ministry for the youth goes into full time! Camps are going on, trips are being taken, and our youth don’t have as many outside influences around them.

While this is an exciting time for youth ministry, this can also be a patience testing time for our parents out there. The kids are home from school and expect lunch to be fixed, want you to drive them everywhere, and the dreaded “I’m bored” come three days after school ends! Although the summers can seem to drag on, we as adults are actively discipling our youth. Whether we’re their parents, youth pastor, head pastor, or just a friendly face in the church, we are discipling these youth!

Summer should be viewed as a time to rejuvenate our youth’s spirits, spur on their relationship with Christ, and strengthen the foundation of their lives. We do this in many ways, but the best way is just being there as a beacon for our youth. Parents; You have more time with your children so make those moments count! Make Christ evident to them and give them every opportunity to meet God. As a youth pastor I have more time with them as well and I have to be intentional about how I share Christ with them. The hope is to build them into better students…better Christians then they were the school year previously.

We must take a vested interest in the lives and minds of our youth. The world is a dark, dark place and we MUST be the light for them to find and follow. If we don’t set the standard of life in Christ for them,  then they will find other standards from the world. Our time with them is precious and we must use every moment we can to reach them.

Some Words about Love from the Illuminate Group

Love is in the air! February brings about thoughts of flowers, chocolates, hearts and, most of all…love. That’s right…the “L” word! Valentine’s Day is typically responsible for engagements, lots of expensive dinners and the giving of gifts, but why do we celebrate love this way? Why do we link the word “love” with giving?

I believe this can be better understood by looking at a very famous and well known verse…John 3:16:

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

This verse is not only the foundation of the Gospel, but this verse also explains what “love” is. Love is the giving of or giving up of something for someone that you love. God loves His people so much that He wanted give us his Son, but it didn’t end there! He not only gave us his Son, but He gave up his Son, Jesus Christ, and led him to the cross to die for our sins. 1 John 4:10 also explains to us that God loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins

Just the same as we should love others and ourselves more than just one day a year, so should it be for loving Jesus. We don’t just save our love for Christ for Sunday mornings; rather we’re to express our love for Him every moment of every day with every word that comes out of our mouth, every thought that runs through our head, and every action we make. Obviously that’s a lot easier said then done, but God allows us to work through our mistakes and He is patient with us!

We don’t need Valentine’s Day to remember that Jesus loves us. My prayer is that you acknowledge that reality many times a day.

Grace and Peace,


A New Year and Interesting Mindsets

A New Year brings about some interesting mindsets; there’s people making resolutions to work out more, lose weight, eat healthier, etc. A New Year gives us the feeling that it’s a fresh start; like the beginning of a football game, the score is “0-0”. With this new beginning and fresh start, it’s easy to see why people get so set on changing their habits from the year before, but we all know what typically happens, right? The gym membership is only used for the first couple months, your high school jeans still won’t button, and the donuts look so much tastier than the salad!

With this knowledge, we have to do our best to combat the easy ability to fall back into bad habits from the year before. To do this, we must rely on Christ as our strength…not ourselves. Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us to not be anxious, but to cast our burden and requests on God and He will uphold us. This is a huge comfort for me when I think of how capable I am in maintaining good habits, whether it’s remaining healthy physically or spiritually (I’m not very good at it).

As the New Year approaches, think about what you want to bring into it and what you want to leave behind, but always remember that God is ever present with you and will always be with you. He only asks that you bring Him with you as you walk through this life in all of your years.

Grace and Peace,

Ryan Haddox

Christmastime is here!

Christmastime is here! I don’t know about you, but I wait patiently all year for just this time: the lights, the music, the cheer in the air, the goodness swirling all around people because of the season…it’s all quite amazing. The splendor of well thought out Christmas lights atop a beautiful house can make anyone fall in love with the season, but too often I’m afraid we celebrate the season instead of the reason. More times than not, we get too caught up in the lights, music, presents, food, etc. that we forget why this time of year is so significant.

Christmas is special for all people, no doubt, but as Christians and followers of Christ, we MUST remember why this season is so important and we must put celebrating the birth of our Messiah above all else. Without the gifts, music, lights, and everything else…we would STILL have Christ and that would be enough. That’s the fact of it, but how would we respond in that situation?

Pastor Doc tells us time and time again that “God is enough”, but do we believe that?? And if we do, are we making that belief evident in all of our ways? We see people spread goodness and kindness throughout the Christmas season, but why does it have to stop there? We, as Christians, should be spreading joy and hope and love to all people during all of the year…not just when the music makes us happy or the lights brighten our mood.

This Christmas season I encourage you to share joy, hope, and love: share the joy that Christ has given you, share the hope that He buried in your heart, and share the love that He covers you with and will extend to anyone that believes in Him. Let’s do our part in putting CHRIST back into Christmas!

Grace and Peace,

Ryan Haddox

Illuminate and Glow Kids: November Update

by Ryan Haddox

The month of November always brings about great things in my mind. The leaves are changing to all the vibrant, beautiful colors that make Fall time what it is in our great state. Along with the leaves changing, another wonderful memory and tradition is Thanksgiving dinner! You may not be able to tell from mine or Anna’s size, but we both LOVE to eat and will put ourselves into a food coma at Thanksgiving.

This year though, as I sit back and ponder on the months and days flying past, I think about everything that I’m thankful for. So much has changed in my life this past year and one of those many things has been coming to this church. This has possibly been, beside getting married, the greatest thing to be thankful for. Anna and I have felt and experienced more outpouring of love from this church then we could have ever imagined. We receive support when we need it and direction/words of wisdom when we need it and that means the world to us.

We have so much to be thankful for in our lives, but so many times we just pass by them and take them for granted. I challenge you, this Thanksgiving season, to acknowledge all that you have to be thankful for. But don’t stop there…Carry that thankfulness into Advent season as we focus on the birth of our Savior and learning just how much we have to be thankful for in Him.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Ryan

School is back in full swing!

by Ryan Haddox

School is back in full swing and the leaves are starting to change! Fall is upon us and we have A LOT of things planned for this season!

On October 7th, Illuminate Ministries will be representing the church for the annual Chili Night! We will be meeting at the church at 3pm on Saturday, October 7th to get things ready and prepped for the big night! Everyone is welcome to come and spend time in fellowship with friends and the community!

October 25th is our Trek-or-Treat Halloween Party for the Glow Kids! This is an exciting time as the children make their way to the top of the church, collecting candy along the way! Ages 5-5th grade are welcome!

Illuminate Ministries will also be having a “haunted house” on the 4th floor for the children and we are welcoming all donations of Halloween decorations and help in putting it on!

October 28th…THERE’S A LOCK-IN! That’s right…our second lock-in is planned and ready to go down! Our goal is to double the amount we had last time and I’m needing some chaperons to help with the madness! If you would like to hang out with the youth for the evening and spend time getting to know our students, then please let me know so I can get your name down!

Both student ministries are so very blessed to have a loving church family that pray for them and encourage them, as well as giving them positive role models to take after! Thank you for all you do, big or small, for the student ministries!

Youth and Children’s Ministry – September

The time has come once again for the students to sharpen their pencils, as well as their minds, and head back to school! As a Youth Pastor, that’s music to my ears! Vacations are over, kids are consistent, and schools are a mission field! As I look at this upcoming school year and the opportunity it brings for our Youth and Children’s ministries, there’s two words that come to my mind; sustainability and growth.

Sustainability is needed in our walk with Christ in many ways. We need sustainability in the ups and downs of life. When things get hard and we need to have that faith that, no matter what may come, God is for us. Sometimes life might feel like a desert and you can’t “feel God” and you feel alone, but the sustaining faith in Christ Jesus can hold you in those dry times. Sustaining faith is something I pray for in the lives of our youth, as well as my own. God is enough, in ANY situation.

Growth is something that comes with time put in. As Christians, we are to serve as if we are serving the Lord and give Him our very best. We have to be willing to put in the footwork in order to reach people for Christ. Youth Ministry is all about meeting kids where they are. You have to be a part of their world before they will become a part of yours. Growth is also a gift from God. We put in our best and God puts in the rest and makes it happen!

As our students go throughout their new school year, be praying for them. Be praying for the strength to bear the name of God no matter what is said, be praying for uplifting groups of friends surrounding them, and be praying    for students that need to know Jesus. There are so many hurting students that need to know Christ and the gift of eternal life.


Ryan Haddox