These are the days indeed. The new experts in the human behavior are raising their voices to proclaim every way that is right in their site. Christianity, for them, holds little value. It’s no longer in step with popular opinion or their opinion. The little “g” needs to be capitalized. Why? We are no longer “gods” of our own lives… we have formed doctrines, theology and arguments that cannot be refuted. Now we are wiser than our creator. As the serpent in the garden of Eden we have declared…
“You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4)
Our opinions have become Law in our own minds. We are not “gods” we are “Gods”. We creatively write and post blogs, tweet our not so sound doctrine, as the ancient biblical writers wrote scripture. Our blog followers agree with our writings and repost them as gospel to their followers. They save them, quote them, retweet them and sometimes print and frame them.
They have been declared experts in the fields of philosophy to which they adhere, not due to rigorous pursuit of truth, or the multitude of hours in scholarly research, or even that their arguments are solid and stand the test of criticism. They have been declared experts by their feelings and emotions and the fact that others agree with them and hold the same opinions. Their gift for turning a phrase as a wordsmith helped them say it better, but their followers believed it all along because they too are big “G’s”. Now they can sit back and relax. The world is so much better off for having heard from them the gospel of the new experts.
The sad truth is that the new experts will not be around when their disciples experience the consequences of the bad doctrine and theology they espoused. They will find little comfort in the blog post when the curtain is pulled back and the lie exposed. The authors will not be around to counsel them through their grief or comfort them with a deeper explanation of how you can trust as truth what they wrote and in the end their words will be vindicated. No, if you follow the new experts advice, you will need to plan to suffer alone.
Perhaps in that moment you may see a dusty Bible sitting on a bookshelf. Could this book that has stood the test of time, critics, doubters, reveloutions, burnings, wars, popular rebukes and lethargy, hold any value for life? Thumbing through the pages, it is easy to recognize that this book speaks with authority. This book addresses the current issues of society. It has something to say, but it also says it with authority. You find yourself intellectually agreeing even when your emotions run counter. This is more than a book of words it is a book of life.
If you have ever felt empty you are in the company of all humanity. You can feel empty even when you are surrounded by people. Even when you have everything you thought you would want out of life…A loving spouse, supportive parents, children, a dream job, the car you wished to own when you were younger, a beautiful home you thought you may never be able to afford, great friends, the respect of your peers. Yet for all of this you can still feel empty.
Empty is a surety of life for everyone. It is a part of the human condition we are all born into. No home will every really be home, no look in the mirror will every completely satisfy, no compliment will last for more than a few days at best, no rung on the career ladder will suffice, no love but one will last a lifetime. There is only one thing that fills the void and gives life the kind of meaningful purpose that will cure the empty.
We attempt to fill empty with a lot of things but empty is a black hole that cannot be filled by people, places or things. Our efforts to fill empty are worthy of applause in many cases. We work, educate, apply every self-help principle we can find but empty will not be filled. A lifetime legacy of empty might read:
He/She was determined, ambitious, athletic, talented, loved, often quoted, on time, great work ethic, set record for diet and exercise weekly, a person of good character, kind, willing to help others, remarkable skills in many arenas, inclusive in language and relationships, great cook, amazing driver, admirable parent, enjoyed hanging out with friends and motivating them to succeed….but he/she would often complain of being empty.
Just fill in the blanks with whatever fits your life skills the best. The reason we chase the people, places and things we chase is because we honestly believe one or more of them will fill the empty. Social media has increased our appetite for filling the empty. We look at what others are doing and think we see a person or persons who has figured out how to fill the empty.
Maybe that beautiful place can fill this empty, or that perhaps if I get married, or get my body and mind in better shape. Maybe a new job or career that I would enjoy will be the answer. The rich, the poor and the middle class can all testify that the empty is near impossible to fill. There are moments and brief seasons where we forget the emptiness, but all too soon it returns.
We can point to all the good things around us, talk about all our success but somehow we wind up facing the empty and it reminds me a bit of this passage of scripture in II Kings
“Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.” (II Kings 5:1)
A great and honorable man, a commander of the army, a man who had experienced great victory. He is described as a mighty man of valor. But he was a leper. That was a death sentence in his day and it also meant he was isolated from others because leprosy was contagious. For all the good things about this man, he had contacted a dreadful disease that would overshadow all his accomplishments.
That’s our story. We can’t fill that emptiness with all our trophies, accomplishments, relationships or anything else. That empty place is reserved for the Jesus. If is useless to try to fill it with anything else. Running on empty is no way to live. In fact it is not life at all, not the kind of life God intended for you.
He alone can give you fulfillment, peace, contentment, rest, purpose and vision to accomplish it. Jesus is waiting for your invitation.
26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
This was the text for Owen Carr who preached at my credentialing ceremony in 1985. In every way it was a memorable message and has stuck for a lifetime in ministry. The passage above reminds me of my calling. It also reminds me that God did not have a lot to work with when He chose me. Over the years the Holy Spirit has worked overtime to make me a vessel useful for the glory of God and I am so grateful.
There have been many opportunities to walk away from ministry in the 37 years I have served. At times it was very tempting. I have questioned many times over the years if I should have pursued teaching over preaching. I enjoy so much the classroom environment. In fact, this May I will finally finish my Masters degree in Practical Theology, an effort I began in 1997. For many reasons I had to push pause on my education but recently had the opportunity to finish it and I am so excited.
The call of God on my life was clear from the beginning and that is impossible to deny. He called me to be a Pastor a shepherd leader. In 37 years I have served only 3 congregations. I’ve preached about 5000 messages. Led worship in 2800 gatherings, served communion over 1000 times, made approximately 900 hospital calls, had the privilege of personally baptizing near 700 people. There have been baby dedications, weddings, funerals, counseling appointments and church business meetings.
At times I had to do accounting work, yard work, maintenance of all kind, cleaning, painting, building and demolition. I have driven large construction machinery and busses, negotiated lease and business contracts. I have held the hands of dying saints as they pass from this life into eternity. I have grieved with parents who have lost their children. Prayed over mothers,fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles and friends whose loved one committed suicide.
No two days in ministry have been the same. Very little of what I have done in ministry was taught to me in Bible School. No one told me about the late night emergency calls from people experiencing a life crises, the heartache you would experience when people left your church. The many hours required to prepare a message to preach, the last minute “call outs” from volunteers that would stretch your family and force them to serve many weekends.
There has been laughter and tears, celebration and correction, surprise and reward. Overall I would not trade it for anything. In all that I have done in ministry over the years by far the most fulfilling has been leading people to Christ. Assisting them in making their commitment to Christ and discipling them to grow in Him. It energizes me for ministry in ways I cannot describe. Ultimately it is the WHY! The Why I am in ministry.
3 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people
Are we living in the times prophesied in the book of Timothy?
The tolerance for Sound Biblical Doctrine is on cultural thin ice. Consider the plight of Bob Eschliman, the former editor-in-chief of the Newton Daily News in Newton, Iowa. He was fired in May of 2014 for comments made on his personal blog daring to defend what the Bible teaches about marriage between a man and a woman. In that piece, Eschliman criticized the “Queen James Bible,” a new edition of the King James Bible in which liberal editors rewrote eight key verses that speak against homosexual practice.
Another high-profile example of alleged discrimination involved Dr. Eric Walsh, the former public health director for the city of Pasadena, Calif., and an associate pastor. Walsh was placed on paid leave in May after some of his sermons surfaced, expressing his views on homosexuality and evolution. He subsequently resigned from his public health position. The sermons came to light after Walsh was invited to be Pasadena City College’s commencement speaker. Students researched his beliefs, published them on social media and sent them to media outlets in protest. Walsh’s saga took another negative turn when the state of Georgia two weeks later retracted a job offer made to him after learning that Walsh had been put on leave in California.
All across the nation there are examples of intolerance for the Christian world view. Although the Bible has withstood the rise and fall of every empire the world has known, it is constantly under attack because it clearly identifies man is separated from God by his own sin. The Bible is politically incorrect. It too clearly defines right and wrong. In the age of moral relevance there is no tolerance for one truth. In culture today every man and woman wants to decide for themselves what is truth, what is moral, what is right.
It equates to an attempt to silence the lamb of God. Jesus is that lamb. Jesus claimed to be God and he established a pure definition for truth when He declared:
”6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Jn. 14:6)
This definition for truth reveals that truth is not an abstract set of facts but is in fact the person and work of Jesus Christ. Whither you are a believer/follower of Jesus or not when you embrace “truth” you are embracing Jesus. The universe was set in motion by God’s spoken words…
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1: 1-5)
Take a look at this passage from the gospel of John…
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
Among the many things that we cannot change as human being is: Change Truth to make it more acceptable or relevant to our beliefs. In other words we cannot change God’s established truth. That should be good news. Why? Because if God did not get it right, if we are wiser than him, if our opinions, ideas and suggestions are better, then he would not truly be God. The fact that He is God is also proof that we are not and that He knows more, He knows best and He is God of the entire universe and that includes planet earth and each individual who lives here.
Truth cannot be silenced…
Men and women have sought to do away with truth they did not agree with since the beginning of time. These people have come and gone and truth has endured because it is contained not in historical records but in the person of Jesus Christ. We have two choices as human beings we can embrace Jesus or reject Him. But we cannot change truth to fit our sin. He will not bend or break.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You. (Ps. 139)
The News account read: “The New York State Assembly has approved a bill that allows third trimester abortions using procedures such as a shot of poison to the baby’s heart by medical professionals. The medical professionals do not necessarily have to be doctors.
The bill AB 6221 was passed with a resounding vote of 94-49. It will allow abortion up to nine months in pregnancy and will make it legal for a woman to have an abortion for any reason relevant to her well-being, be it physical, emotional or psychological. The bill was sponsored by Assembly woman Deborah Glick.”
It’s deeply troubling to watch the celebration of murder. New York legislature passed a law that allows for an abortion at anytime a woman chooses to end the life inside of her. Ignoring the science of life at conception, flying in the face of morality and the Biblical command not to murder. These are people who know better but shake their fists in the face of the authority of God. They will be their own god and decide who lives and who dies.
How will God respond?
First, through His church! The church will raise the crimson stained banner of Jesus Christ who became the final sacrifice so our children would not need to be sacrificed. If you decide to march on Washington do it because you intend to share the GOSPEL not condemn the sinner. The judgement that awaits those who shake their fists at God and refuse to submit to His authority will be swift and final but that is the function of God not of man. The Mission of the church is the seek out those who are not in the household of faith and share the good news! As you look into the faces of those who celebrate death over life pity them don’t hate them. They do not know “love”. They have no hope. They celebrate death because they do not understand how precious is “life”. The Church must respond in three ways: 1. PRAY! We always over estimate what we can do and underestimate what God will do. 2. REPENT! Take an inward look and repent of your own sin. Ask God to cleanse you and make you a living example for others to see His glory. 3. TESTIFY! Tell your story of God’s Grace! Tell of the goodness of God. Share HOPE, LIFE, LOVE like the world around us does not know. Live Jesus!
Second, God will receive each precious life. The apostle Paul stated “to be absent from he body is to be present with the Lord.” Each abortion ushers a precious life into the arms of a loving savior. God has plans for every life on earth, but when those plans are cut short through the act of abortion, God welcomes that life eternally home. Is there a nursery in heaven? Maybe. That would be a wonderful site and the noise of laughter from children is something that brings a smile that lingers all day. I have known mothers who had abortions and later repented of them and are longing to see their children when they get to heaven. That will be an incredible reunion for mother and child.
Third, God alone will judge. Individually every person will stand before God. The question of judgement will not be how much they sinned, the nature of their sin, all of that is recorded and known to God. The question of Judgement will be “what did you do with my son Jesus?” The measure of Judgement is centered on who Jesus is in our lives. Is He Lord over our life or just an ancient teacher. Did we believe in Him or consider the stories of him fantasy, fiction and folklore? Those who applaud sin and rejoice in immorality will face a just Judge. It is important to remember that while Judgment may be in the future the consequences of sin are in the present. Sin brings, guilt, shame, it leaves scars visible and invisible. Those who celebrate now will likely experience personal suffering connected to their sinful life. The pleasure of sin is short lived. The aftermath of sin destroys personal peace.
You are unique. God made you for Himself. He rejoiced in your life and enjoys each moment and every breath you take. God planned for each life. It is our responsibility to tell the world how much God loves every life even life still in the womb. We were all Made by God!
We pray “whatever” but we live “whatever works best for me”. We say “God I will go where you want me to go, let me just lay out for you the conditions for my surrender.” Does whatever really mean whatever?
Almost 20 years ago now, God spoke to Michele and I about a church plant in a brand new community in far north phoenix. Very few people know this story I am sharing with you in this post for the first time. We knew God had something in store and it would involve us leaving our current pastorate position. I felt so strongly about what God was saying that we begin to examine the community and purchased a home in that community. I met with the developer and was given inside information of seven locations the developer had set aside for church plants. They ranged in size from 10 acres to 1 acre. It was an incredible opportunity.
After gathering all this information I took it to our district leadership and shared with them we believe that God was asking us to lead this church plant and at this point we could pick whichever acreage site we wanted. It was almost a faith test of sorts. Could be believe God to fill up a church on 10 acres, 7 acres, 5 acres or 1 acre.
Michele and I were asked by our leadership to go to a church planting week long training class in Texas. The Church Plant class was incredible we learned so much. Church planters from 5 states were present. During the class each church plant team was asked to put together their strategic church plant plan. At the end of the class the winning team would be awarded a financial gift to help them purchase supplies for their church plant. We were surprised that our plan won. It seemed everything was falling into place. Although we were sad to think about leaving our church we were excited about the opportunity in our new home community.
Shortly after we returned to Phoenix it became apparent that the project would not go forward. It was a Whatever that seemed to big for that moment. We were extremely disappointed but in fairness to our leadership it was a very difficult season and some big transitions played into the decision making. All that said, I know an opportunity was missed. We missed a Whatever moment.
When we say “yes” to God’s Whatever’s for our lives we find ourselves in a powerless position. We lose control and must learn to trust. God taught me some powerful lessons through this experience and revealed issues in my life that needed to be addressed for me to grow spiritually.
First, I was able to see my own fear of following God’s Whatever’s for my life. There is no doubt in my mind that I could have had a bigger impact on our leaderships decision if I had not been fearful of moving from the comfort of a pastorate where I was secure financially and respected as a spiritual leader to a new community where I was unknown and had no promise of a congregation. As I looked at our young family of five it was difficult to think about taking such a risk. It would be easier, I thought at the time, to stay where I was comfortable where my family was secure.
Second, it revealed I had trust issues with God that needed to be dealt a death blow. God is my provider as long as i can see the provision coming. Honestly facing this truth about myself set the course for the next step in my life. It was season to learn to completely trust God. Over the next several years God placed challenges in my life that required me to trust Him completely. In truth it has been the highlight of my life. Learning to completely trust God has removed a great deal of daily anxious thoughts. He is so faithful.
Are you ready for the “whatever’s” God has in store for you in 2019? If not you will miss some great opportunities.
JOY is a Suddenly kind of thing. I don’t think I have ever heard someone say, I am starting to get early feelings that may or may not lead to joy. Joy is so Sudden it often takes your whole body by surprise. JOY is an uncontrollable. We squeal, shout, cheer, jump, wave our hands in funny ways. We laugh out loud.
When we are joyful…Our eyes light up, our heart starts beating faster and we breath more shallow and more often. There are measurable physical changes in our bodies.
“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 1:8-11)
GOOD NEWS and JOYare synonymous. On that first Christmas night, the angels appeared to shepherds on a hill near Bethlehem. Alfred Edersheim, the great 19th-century Jewish-Christian scholar, wrote in his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah that the shepherds and the sheep to whom the angels appeared near Bethlehem were no ordinary shepherds and sheep.
The sheep were those bound for the temple sacrifices. The shepherds were outcasts because of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances. It was a Suddenly event when the angels appeared to them—the doomed and the outcast.
How good is the good news to those who are doomed and outcast? It is the kind of news that brings JOY. Christmas means we have a Savior. Christmas is the fulfillment of true Hope, Peace, Love and Joy.
Join us on Dec. 24th for a special Candle lit Service to celebrate what Christmas means for every person in every nation.
You have been deceived by your own pride
because you live in a rock fortress
and make your home high in the mountains.
‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’
you ask boastfully.
But even if you soar as high as eagles
and build your nest among the stars,
I will bring you crashing down,”
says the Lord. (Obadiah 1:3,4)
Gratitude is a seed that is being deprived the opportunity to grow in our current cultural environment. The hot sun of a “Me” first culture is beating down on the seeds of gratitude bleaching out even the tiniest drop of moisture. They fall onto the prideful hard ground of opinions of man. We have come to value our opinions higher than God.
If God were open to it, we believe we could be His advisor. Perhaps a good start would be a rewrite of His book, bring it up to date, add in our wisdoms and learnings. Why not? We have mastered destroying marriages, elevating corruption, redefining marriage, short term pleasure with long term regrets. We know how to get what we want and then not want what we got. We can be a bigot while calling others a bigot.
Surrounding ourselves with those who agree with us is a good way to live blind. We traded the seeds of gratitude for the beans of PRIDE. If we are going to worship anyone it might as well be the one in the mirror. We have arrived, even our phones are smart. Everything at our fingertips, we know what is best for everyone on the planet. We have the power to reshape the language and make it near impossible to define sin. We do what is right in our own eyes and defy anyone to stand against us.
The ability to be truly grateful for the things in your life requires a core of humility. You can’t make this journey without God. Oh yes, you can say thank you and truly mean it in the moment. You can show flashes of benevolence, generosity, grateful posture but it all ends when your world view is challenged. There is a reason people do not want to talk about their politics or religion. Those things are sacred to them. It’s easier to like you when I don’t know those things about you.
God is not impressed with your politics and He never sanctioned any religion. Politics is your opinions validated in a vote. Religion is mans attempt to connect with God by using a prescribed set of actions.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.”At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad…(Mark 10:17-22)
This young man came to Jesus trying to strike an deal. He wanted to know what HE could do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus challenged his PRIDE, this young man, from an early “ME” first movement, went away sad. The young man wanted Jesus to change his mind and become one of his converts. Foolish PRIDE in us that convinces us, we can accomplish anything even talking God into going along with our sin.
Gratitude needs the soil of Humility to grow. God knows how to deal with our pride: “I will bring you crashing down.” Call the baby a “fetus” and end his/her life. Shake your fist in God’s face as your declare your “rights” and deny your responsibilities. Shame those around you who value God’s commandments more than your opinion. March on Washington and rage against authority. In the end we all come crashing down. You can humble yourself before God or be humbled by God.
Your standing in a long line of generations who thought they knew better than God. Conceived in pride they raised empires but in the end every empire crumbled and all the people became the salves of their own sin. Bitter in defeat they lay blame and justify but their empire will never rise again. Humbled by God but refusing to live in humility, they offer the next generation suggestions on how to tweak the philosophy of man so as to get a better outcome next time. The next generation picks up the failed habits and beliefs of the fallen one and begins to build another castle on the sand, while in the distance a storm rises from the throne of God. Yes, your kingdom will fall too.
Only in true Humility can we see truth. It’s why the 12 step program begins with “Admitting powerlessness”. The beginning of freedom from addiction is defeating your own PRIDE. Admit you can’t do it on your own, Admit HE can and lastly Let Him do it! Let Jesus help break your pride. You need to know that the only thing that is keeping you from an intimate relationship with the living God is your pride.
We are living on His planet, in His solar system, in His universe, breathing His air. warmed by His sun. Don’t you want to know why He gave it to you? If you are tired of pounding sand there is something you can do…Build your life on the Rock.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (Matt. 7:24,25)
I started my day today with a post on social media about our Sunday service and before I exited to go back to my word document I noticed in the feed a post that caught my attention. It caught my attention for two reasons: First, I know the person and a little bit about their recent story. They had been deeply saddened by a lack of relationship or maybe better said, they were lonely and wanted a relationship wth the opposite sex. At the time I spoke with this person they were deeply frustrated in past relationships and possibly even a bit upset that God had not brought the right person into their life.
Second, I remember praying for them about the situation and the focus of the prayer was that God would be first in the life of this person I was praying for and that the person God would bring would be a believer, someone who was deeply devoted to Jesus. Fast forward several months later and I see this post:
“I can’t get enough of h__, sorry not sorry ...i love knowing I get to see h__ face first thing in the morning & at the end of each day”
I am not using any names or even giving out the identity of this individual but as a follower of Jesus and a spiritual leader/Pastor, I am alarmed at how often what we want is more important than obeying God. We value our opinions, our feelings, our emotions, our judgement higher than God’s. We believe we are right and have the right to do what we want to do.
“I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come.
I reached out to you, but you paid no attention.
25 You ignored my advice
and rejected the correction I offered.
26 So I will laugh when you are in trouble!
I will mock you when disaster overtakes you—
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone,
and anguish and distress overwhelm you.
28 “When they cry for help, I will not answer.
Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me.
29 For they hated knowledge
and chose not to fear the Lord.
30 They rejected my advice
and paid no attention when I corrected them.
31 Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way,
choking on their own schemes.” (Proverbs 1:24-31)
We are unimpressed by scripture like the one above. Why? Because we want what we want we believe we deserve to have our longings fulfilled and who is GOD to deny us anyway. As a pastor I feel as if most of my teaching time is spent trying to convince people they need to obey God’s Word. That should be a given! He is GOD and we are not. He created everything that “is”, including us. How is it that we think we know better than Him?
As a pastor I see, on a weekly basis, the train wreck sin brings to humanity. A young woman with two small children who has taken a beating from the father/boyfriend and finally mustered the courage to leave. A man or woman who does not love God cannot love you. The man who came into my office last week whose addiction has crushed the love out of his wife. He is broken and now homeless.
I fear we have convinced ourselves that God is our emergency fall back plan. What we neglect to recognize is that God does not work for us. He is not our employee. We are His creation. We breath His air. We live on His planet. We are subject to His commands.
Why does everything happen to me? Why can't I get a break?
A recent Harvard Business Review article titled “9 Habits That Lead to Terrible Decisions” cited as the number one bad decision making, The Habit of ”LAZINESS”.
Laziness leads to a sagging roof; idleness leads to a leaky house. (Ecc. 10:18)
If people were homes, you would see sagging roofs and leaky houses all around you. Before we tackle the truth of this scripture I think it is important for us to deal with some myths about laziness.
Myth # 1: I am tired all the time, my life is jam packed, therefore I am not lazy I am working too hard and can’t keep up with everything. FALSE
There is a huge difference between being productive and being busy. Busy is a cultural code word meant to deflect from introspection and close examination. You can work hard or you can work smart. The former will exhaust you and set you up for frustration the latter will refresh you and set you up for peaceful living.
Myth # 2: I can’t deal with stress so I try to get things off my plate as soon as possible, that’s delegating not lazy. FALSE
There are things we can and should delegate to others who may be better equipped to fulfill an assignment from time to time. However if you find yourself delegating constantly to remove stress from your life it may have become a coping mechanism that feeds into bad decision making. There is a difference between pressure and stress. Pressure is a part of life: meeting deadlines, problem solving, conflict resolution, relational challenges, daily tasks that may frustrate us, car repairs, unexpected expenses, anxious moments. If we are to mature in a healthy way it is vital that we develop a habit of finishing. Passing off tasks because we feel pressure or anxious or we just don’t want to be responsible for them is a sign of laziness.
Myth #3: I wait for others to move forward first because I don’t want to get it wrong or get into trouble, that’s smart not lazy. FALSE
Taking the initiative is important for our development and learning. We learn best by doing not watching. I don’t recommend being reckless in initiating tasks. Reckless is when we: Usurp authority to move things in a direction we want to go. That’s not initiative, that’s rebellion. There are many opportunities for us to take initiative daily. Our failure to do so exhibits laziness on our part. Taking initiative in a helpful way requires that we are students of our leaders, we learn their habits and we understand the vision and mission of the organization. When they are late or absent we can step up and initiate action that will honor them and likely lead to rewarding us down the line.
A life of saggy roofs and leaky houses is a life lived LAZY! Poor decision making begins with lazy living. When we are living lazy we lay blame and justify. Nothing can change for us until we take responsibility for our lives. We are where we are based on the decisions we have made or refused to make.
That is actually very good news. How so? Well it means if we change our decisions we can change our destination. Saggy roofs and leaky houses can be repaired and often less painfully than we first thought. We can turn painful living into peaceful living by reordering our priorities and developing a good work ethic. We can work smarter rather than harder. If you are really tired of lazy living results here are some key steps to take:
First, own it! Admit to yourself and to those close to you that you have a saggy roof and a leaky house. Accountability is what you need most to get started. We need people around us who will hold us accountable for our decisions. Invite and empower good Godly counsel into your life. Your pastor, spiritual leaders, mature Christian believers. Stop making choices and decisions in isolation. You will constantly be tempted to revert to bad habits of laying blame and justifying if you do not put accountability structures in place. Work with your church to help create groups that will be supportive for you and others who want to make life changes: Singles, Single moms, Addiction issue groups, Parenting groups, Financial planning groups, Senior Citizen groups etc..
Second, Commit to Finish what you start! From the small to large things in your life, learn to be a finisher not a delegator! Several years ago I heard John Maxwell speak at a conference in Atlanta. He told the story about joining a group from his church to climb to the top of a large mountain in Colorado. It was a challenging climb. At the halfway point there was a little cafe that they stopped at and had lunch and hot coco. When they finished their meal about 8 or so decided to stay at the cafe and let the others finish the climb. He talked about the beauty of the rest of the climb and the euphoria of reaching the top. The finishers celebrated, took pictures and as they descended the mountain they were laughing, and sharing stories. He told about the moment when they got even with the cafe. He could see the faces of those who had decided to stay behind, pressed against the glass looking out at them. In their faces he could see the regret that they had not finished. As they rejoined the group they were shown pictures from the summit and you could hear some say they wished they had finished. Finishing is difficult but it is always rewarding.
Third: Work smart and work hard. Take pride in putting effort into your life. Part of working smart is establishing life priorities. As Christians we are not trying to work God into our lives we are measuring how much of life fits into God’s purpose for our lives. We recognize that we are stewards of the things we have in life and not owners so we look at all these things though that lens: Home ownership, Finances, Time, Possessions and Careers. When your priorities start right everything else begins to fall into place.
Fourth: Set goals and put dates to them. It is one thing to say, I want to start saving for emergency needs that arise. It is another thing to say “I am setting aside 100.00 a month to start an emergency fund. In sixth months from today I will have saved 600.00.” Pull out your calendar and put dates to your goals. Post reminders and set up people who will help you be accountable for those goals. We can all do more than we think we can but if we do not have a way to measure our progress we do not know how much we are accomplishing.
Time stealers are all around us: The TV, Internet, Social Media, over napping, just fill in the blank. Time management is important to breaking the lazy habit. Start a journal for one month. Keep track of the hours of your day and what you are doing. You will discover you have more time than you think.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth,and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. The third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Over the years I have heard hundreds of people begin a sentence with "I Believe". Because I am a minister many people want to set the record straight as to what they believe about God, religion, the supernatural and sometimes even aliens. Once after a service a man ask me if I believed in aliens and UFO's. We can talk about my answer in another post but for now let me ask you...What do you Believe?
From the age of 9-17 I grew up in a couple of small copper mining towns in Southern Arizona. Because the most common religion in these two towns was Catholic most often when someone would talk about religion and what they believed they began by saying "I am Catholic". I came to discover over the years, that very often this opening statement "I am Catholic" was to establish two ground rules for religious discussion.
1. To establish their religious position and support their arguments
2. To disarm me from talking about my church if it was not Catholic
Even at a very young age I understood that Catholics were Christians too. There was really not a lot of difference between a practicing Catholic and my home church when it came to the basics of Christianity. In fact the apostles creed listed above establishes the foundations of Christian faith and we would all be in agreement on this foundation.
My question was, why would a Christian want to distance themselves from me a Christian? What I discovered is that often when someone was defensive about their faith it was because they were not practicing it. I learned to ask one followup question that helped bring clarity for me and the friend I was speaking with. At the point in the conversation where they would say " I am Catholic". I would follow up with this question are you a practicing Catholic? In other words are you going to church regularly? About 90% of the time the answer was NO.
I am in no way picking on wonderful faith filled Catholic believers. If the towns I had lived in were primarily made up of Baptist I would have expected most people to preface their religious conversation with "I am Baptist". My point is this: You may not be practicing what you say you believe! No one is born a Catholic, a Baptist or in my case a Pentecostal. No one is born into their family a practicing Christian. We all need to make an individual decision for Christ. We must surrender to his Lordship/Leadership over our lives. We must confess our sins we must Believe for ourselves.
You do not Believe what you say you believe you believe what you are putting into practice. Belief is not collection of theories, and opinions belief is a practiced way of life. We are practicing what we believe because we settled the questions and we are applying the principles of what we firmly believe.
What do you believe about Jesus? Put your belief into practice. Christianity says Jesus is God. The implications of that truth are life altering for all of humanity. But for those who believe it, we need to put our beliefs into practice.
My wife Michele and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary this past August 5th in beautiful Miami Florida. What an adventure it has been for both of us. I love her so much. She is an amazing woman of God. She is my best friend and encourager. Together we have raised three children of our own and a host of wonderful kids who have adopted themselves into our family. It is rarely quiet in our home and that's how we like it.
Our anniversary fell on a Sunday this year. The picture above taken just 30 minutes or so before we joined the Christ's Fellowship church in downtown Miami, for their morning worship service. We both love God and His wonderful church so much that it was fitting that on our 35th anniversary we were in His house with His people. Both of us were raised in the ministry. My dad and Michele's were pastors and at one time or another both men were my pastor.
In January of this year we rolled out the theme for our church for 2018 "52 Hours with God". There are 52 Sundays to gather together to worship Jesus and the challenge is what can happen if we give those 52 hours to God, if we make coming together to Worship Jesus a priority in our lives? There is nothing more powerful than a committed disciple of Jesus Christ!
All 35 of those years we have dedicated ourselves to serving as pastor leaders wherever God places us. 23 years in Phoenix, 4 in Las Vegas and now 8 in Texas. JP Moreland’ author of 23 books on the Bible and life of Jesus once explained what he was looking for in a wife:
“What I was looking for in a wife was a woman who could not stand to see Jesus ridiculed in culture.” (JP Moreland)
I could not say it better than that and I found exactly that in my wife Michele. We have weathered storms of all kinds in the past 35 years. How have we made it 35 years? We anchored our marriage to the Rock who is Jesus Christ. We love Jesus and put Him first in our lives, it really is as simple and as complex as that.
Over the years we have witnessed the marriages of some of our friends and family members fall apart and end in divorce. In every instance they put themselves FIRST and Jesus last. Christianity is not a religion. It is a personal relationship with God through Jesus. It is a daily surrender of your rights and a daily acceptance of your responsibilities. In our marriage we submit to God FIRST and we share in the responsibilities of the mission He gave to us. I am half of the ministry God has given us and she is the other half. We are committed to Jesus and to one another.
What advice do we have to offer for long happy marriage?
1. Put God first in your life!
2. Be faithful in Church attendance and get plugged in to serving His mission
3. Laugh together and enjoy the life God has given you.
4. Do not lay blame or Justify when you make a mistake "Take responsibility" and ask for forgiveness.
5. Show each other the highest respect in private and public.
In 35 years of marriage I have learned never to take any gift for granite. If she made my lunch today, she is not obligated to do it tomorrow, it was todays precious gift and I am grateful for it. If I wash the dishes today, it is not my life responsibility it is todays gift. I want to do wonderful things for my wife because I am so grateful for her and I want to show it and she feels that way toward me. Neither of us feel as though we deserve these gifts but we are grateful for big and smalls ones we receive from each other everyday. Looking forward to 35 more if God chooses to grant them. Happy Anniversary Michele.
Some of you may know I have been working on a book that will help tell the story of the Grace Place. It is a labor of love. The book will be more than our story it will be the story of How God's Grace works in advancing us into His presence as a full fledged disciple of Jesus Christ. On my end there remains a great deal of work to bring this book to completion. To that end I would be grateful for your prayers over me in this effort. I believe God wants to say something through me to the church in this book and I am grateful for the opportunity to be His conduit.
Below are a excepts from the book.
As I started the invitation following the morning sermon, I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to clarify the difference between a fan and a true follower of Jesus. On any given Sunday gathering, there are those who are committed disciples of Jesus and those who are big fans of Jesus and all He historically accomplished.
Among His fans there are those who are deeply moved and overwhelmed by the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, the code of ethics He taught, the way of life He lived, the miracles, the love He demonstrated. Sunday, for them, is a meaningful reminder an opportune encounter, an emotional and intellectual stimuli. There big question each Sunday is “What is in this gathering for me”? They are hoping that something happens that will get them through the week, inspire them to change, clarify some of the why questions of life.
The fans of Jesus are wonderful people. They see real value in the Christian life. Their primary struggle is Lordship. They are struggling to make Jesus Lord of their life. They easily see how He is Lord over all things. They longingly want what they see in true disciples of Jesus Christ but they do not know how to get there from where they are now....
After service Greg came up to me. Greg would often confront me after service with points of disagreement about my message, so that is what I was expecting this time as well. To my surprise he said “This is the first time I have really understood my own struggle. I have never heard it that way…Fan or Disciple. Thank you for helping make it clear”.
A happy ending to the story of Greg and me would have been that he took that next step and asked for prayer and made full surrender to the Lordship Jesus Christ. Unfortunately that’s not what happened. Greg turned from me and walked out the door. Years in the pastorate ministry told me that if Greg did not surrender soon he would leave our church. Why? Because now there was clarity in truth. You cannot continue in the lie when truth exposes it. When we refuse to apply revealed truth in our lives we get uncomfortable, like trying to sleep on a bed of nails. After "truth" we can never again get comfortable with the lie.
Greg became more and more frustrated with the church and with me over the course of the next few weeks. It was as if he were working overtime to invent problems with the church and my role as leader. Finally he sent me an email message that stated he and his family had discussed it and they would no longer be coming to our church.
In all my memory I cannot remember a time when I was at church and communion was served but not to me. This past Sunday it happened! It was a strange feeling to watch but not participate. The entire worship team also missed out on communion. I did not speak to them individually but I am certain we felt the same about missing out on communion. It's happened before to them so they may be somewhat more used to it than I.
How strange it felt. Knowing the sacrifice made on my behalf by Jesus and not being able to participate in this sacred moment of remembrance. So why was I left out? No big conspiracy it was just a simple over sight. I was seated in the front row by myself in the middle of the auditorium. It was "first serve" Sunday which meant our Youth were helping dispense the elements for communion. They were focused on doing it correctly, effectively and quickly. It was the quickly part that took the nearest youth usher past me and into the rest of the auditorium. I am certain they did not even notice me.
In one respect I am glad they missed me. For the first time I was able to experience what some on our worship team routinely experience and it was no fun. A few times over the past year I had remembered to celebrate communion with our worship team before service started during our morning meeting time. It was a really great experience and a nice way to make sure they were included and given an opportunity to celebrate the Lord's Table. I am determined to make sure this is done each Sunday we receive communion.
Our church habit is to receive communion the third Sunday of each month and yesterday I missed it. My wife was scheduled on the worship team so she missed it too. I started thinking about our Sunday School teachers and our media team as well. I am not sure all of them received the elements for communion. Our teachers, media team and worship team serve in rotation so they are sometimes in the auditorium when we receive communion. My experience on Sunday makes me want to be more diligent about making sure everyone has an opportunity to receive communion on communion Sunday.
In about an hour I will be leaving the office to head home. I am stopping by the church kitchen to prepare two servings for communion. When I get home my wife and I will receive communion together. How grateful I am for the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf. Jesus paid it all!
A real encounter with the living God changes everything! Have we lost our first purpose? In an effort to message the current generation, make them feel warm, comfortable, accepted and understood, have we sacrificed what Christianity is all about? As we target the missing people groups: Men and Millennials is it possible we forgot why we are targeting them?
I am calling for a WAKE UP in American Christian churches! Our church started the year by asking if each member would be able to commit to God 52 hours over the course of the year. Just 52 hours during the 365 days that make up 2018. Most of us work 40 plus hours in a week. Could we give God just 52 of those hours to gather each Sunday to put Him first over the course of the year?
Currently we have spent 27 of those 52 hours this year. If we were graded as a church on our attendance we would currently receive a C minus. That's not bad considering what is happening in churches across America. What does it say about the church if we struggle to make the most basic of commitments to our faith...SHOWING UP?? That's one reason why I am calling for AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO WAKE UP!
Let's face it would you be interested in joining a weekly program, gathering, school, club...where the attenders were going to show up about once or twice a month. Think about it. If you joined a group like that you might well be there a year or more before you even meet all the people who say they belong to the group. I remember seeing a bumper sticker on a pastors car several years back and it read:
"CH CH...what's missing? UR"
The church is MIA. Why? I contend it is because things are OUT OF THE NATURAL ORDER. What do I mean by that? The priority of GOD FIRST is missing. We say it but we are struggling to live it. We daily push the pause button on prioritizing Jesus as LORD and LEADER of our life. He is more the God of crises help than the Lord of our daily life. We remember Him but we don't know Him. We like Him but we don't Worship Him. We talk about Him but we don't trust Him completely with our lives.
At a time in History when the church is needed most we are least able to respond. Moral confusion, identity crises, suicide, sex trafficking, political corruption, murder, terrorism, hatred, domestic violence the list could go on and on. The church of Jesus Christ is the answer but will we BE the CHURCH.
The church gathers weekly to worship God, to recalibrate our motives in life, to surrender our will to God, to unite together as the body of Christ that we might accomplish HIS mission on earth! The church gathers weekly to restore HOPE, to preach the gospel because it changes lives, to restore broken relationships to make heaven our HOME! The church gathers weekly to bring the lost sheep to the only true shepherd who is LORD of the pasture. The Church gathers weekly to respond to the depravity of man in culture and to point to the only one who can change an evil heart!
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Gen. 2:2-3)
Is there something about rest that we are missing? The fact that God rested should give us pause to think through a "theology of rest". I don't believe we are talking about just a nap, we are talking about a RESTful season that is needed so desperately that God was willing to model it. God did not need a nap. He did not need to rest his muscles so they could regenerate. He was not exhausted from working on the universe.
How do I know this?
"My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you!" (Ps. 121:2-5)
God does not need rest in the way we need it. It appears God knows something about rest that He wants to impart to us: "The Joy of Rest." On the day after his creative work was complete, God took time to see His handwork and enjoy it. Yes, it was all good and worthy of a day of rest.
Contrast this with how we live our lives today. We wear busy like a badge of honor. We drag our children from pillar to post, enrolling them, testing them, working them out, introducing them to everything but REST. Rest is a byword of our culture. It lives too close to lazy. Life is short there is no time to waste. This would be good advice if rest were wasteful time, but it is not.
Rest is an opportunity to enjoy what life is all about. Rest is the peace that accompanies the understanding that life is best seen through the lens of eternity. When we live with eternity in focus we live differently. We work smarter, rather than harder. We play to enjoy rather than conquer. Our spiritual formation is a primary focus along with the mission given us by our God: proclaim the gospel and make disciples.
Draw a picture of what REST looks like for you. Challenge your family to make Sunday a Day of family rest. A day to be thankful, to worship, to play together: silence and put away cell phones. Turn off the TV. Read a passage or chapter from the Bible together, enjoy a meal that everyone helps prepare. Take time to listen to each others hopes and dreams.
Join us this Summer at the Grace Place Church for our Leisure Days series. www.gp.church
6 David was now in great trouble, because his men were all very bitter about losing their children, and they were threatening to stone him; but the Lord his God gave him courage. (I Sam. 30:6 GNT)
Have you ever just had one of those days…weeks, months, years, lifetimes when things just seemed to get worse the harder you worked to make them better? Things were looking very dark for David in this passage of scripture. The back story is this: David’s enemies the Amalekites had attacked his hometown while he and his men were out on patrol. The Amalekites burned the city and took all the women and children captive and rode off into the sunset.
David’s 600 soldiers, who had been so faithful to him and trusted his leadership up to this point, now were in deep grief and despair to see their homes burnt and their families missing. They turned on their leader blaming him for the crises. If David was such a great leader why did he not see this coming, why not leave behind a small army to protect the town and families?
What is your first response in difficult times? Life is filled with moments of crises, dark seasons, difficulties and impossibilities. What is your first response when you crash into one of these? David could have tried to defend his actions to the men, he could have run away, he could have tried to persuade the men that their real enemy was the Amalekites not him.
David was not just a good leader he was a good follower of a good God. David asked God what he should do. When we suddenly face a crisis, we immediately go into shock. Our thoughts are clouded, our fears rise to the surface. Even the brightest and best of us are hard pressed to make good decisions in the middle of a crisis. David was willing to do whatever God required. If God had told him to step aside and let someone else lead, he would have done that, but instead God encouraged him to go after the enemy and all the people would be saved. David’s first response to dark times was to reach out to God.
When we face dark times, it is not only difficult for us but it is also difficult on those who love us and follow us. It is hard on our spouse, our children, our friends, our co-workers. How we respond to difficulties we face will have a huge impact on many lives. David allowed God to encourage him and he obeyed God. As a result David got back everything his enemy had stolen.
Read the entire story: I Samuel 30:1-20)
What is your first response in difficult times? In the last crisis you faced what might have gone differently if you had responded as David did?
God places the lonely in families;
he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
Upon arriving at my office for my first day on the job at the Grace Place Church, I found myself surrounded by quiet. I was alone. There was one other part time employee but they had the day off that day so it was just me and the unbroken silence of a very large portable that houses 7 offices. The church was recovering from a very difficult season that left all but two of those offices empty. In fact until that faithful day I arrived even my office had been empty. It remained quiet throughout the day: no phone calls, no doors opening and closing, no footsteps in the hall, no laughter, no muffled conversations, nothing.
When you are alone for an extended period of time you start to miss the noise of life. Amazingly enough you do not need to be without people or noise to feel alone. All of us have felt alone in a crowd. Maybe you have sat in a busy airport or a downtown mall and wondered if you were to yell out loud would anyone even notice? "HEY I AM HERE DOES ANYBODY SEE ME?" This kind of "alone" is a warning sign. It indicates that we are disconnected. Disconnected from people, purpose and self worth. Most importantly it reveals we are disconnecting from God.
We need to listen to the warning sings of "feeling alone". Our feelings do not always tell us the truth but they do tell us what we are feeling in that moment. You can be surrounded by a loving family and "feel alone". From the beginning God established that "It is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18) Bad things can happen to good people when they are alone.
"God places the lonely in families". He gave Eve to Adam and family to Adam and Eve. God did not want man to be alone. God has given all of us the "family of God' in the church for fellowship, encouragement, direction and to assist in helping us find our purpose. Here are three things you can do when you feel alone:
1. Do not ignore the warning sign. Recognize you are disconnecting.
2. Get reconnected: reconnect with your church and church family, reach out to your Christian friends and spiritual leaders, make friends not excuses.
3. Ask God to help you reconnect. Invite Him into your daily life in worship, prayer and study of His Word.
What could happen if you were to reconnect with God's family? Invite God's family to share in your life? What holds you back?
Read: Romans 8:35-39