Tag Archives: church

God. Is. Always. There.

The following is the testimony of a childhood friend of mine, I pray that no matter what perspective you are reading it from, your heart will be touched.  God loves us, enough to send His son for us.  When we come to Him in recognition of that fact, He will always beckon us back to Him.  This is an anonymous story, mainly because some of the details are very personal and are better left nameless.

God has been so good to me in my life and has brought me out of so much and delivered me from more than I could ever tell you. I began my walk with God when I was 15.  I was headed down the wrong road, and the youth pastor of a local church stepped in and showed me Gods love. I got very involved and threw all my energy into my youth group, and all that I could do for God.

Throughout high school, I dated a guy off and on for three years but things began to get out of hand and I called the relationship off. My senior year a met a guy that loved God and liked me for me, not for what most teenage boys wanted.  We had only been dating for a few months when we had a horrible wreck.  God saved our lives but my faith was shaken. I finished my senior year at an alternative school, and was home bound for some time and that amounted to too much idle time. My parents had been having problems for some time and the stress began to get to me, and I broke up with my boyfriend.  I did this even though we both had known that God had called us to be together. I began to hang out with the wrong people, and stopped going to church.  One day my first boyfriend came back into town, so I decided to spend the weekend with him and his family. That was the decision that caused me years of pain. Just a crack in the door of sin, and the whole world began to drown me.  In a matter of two weeks, I started drinking and smoking, and began sleeping with my boyfriend. Things started out on the wrong foot.  Soon after he proposed, I found out he had cheated on me, and the young woman was pregnant. But I was so desperate for a way to hide my pain and lonesomeness, I “forgave” him and we were married just five short months of dating, I was only 19.

Our first baby came with in the first year of our marriage as did a move that took me 1,500 miles away from everything I had ever known. We had the typical arguments that all newlyweds experience, but soon they turned to him pushing then slapping me.  The first time it happened, I was so shocked but he told me it was my fault for pushing his buttons. The abuse got worse over the next year, as did his addiction to pornography and video games. I learned that he was having an affair over the internet and over the phone with the same girl he had cheated on me with before we were married. Despite all of this, we had our second child just a year after our first child was born. My life revolved around my children, and at times, I felt so helpless.  He would get angry and hurt me over stupid things, and demand I performed as his pornography girls did.  I was trapped. Over the next two years, there were good times. But unfortunately, the bad outweighed the good by far. It got to the point I didn’t care anymore about making him happy, only my girls. I truly hated that they lived in a house where their parents fought. But there was one light in my dark world…a friend…the guy I had dated when I had my wreck.

He had moved on and gotten married, but we had remained friends. No one but him knew of the abuse, and one day I had had all I could take.  So I wrote a note to my sister telling her what had been going on, and I had a bottle of pills.  I sat down and prayed for the first time in a long time asking, “God where are you?” At that moment my computer went off telling me I had a message. When I looked up it was a message from my friend telling me how much God loved me and how special I was to him. My heart cracked just a little that night, and as I knelt beside my children’ s bed and began to pray, my oldest who was about 3 years old at the time, asked me what I was doing.  When I told her I was praying to Jesus, she asked, “Who is Jesus?” All I could do was hold her, and ask God to forgive me. From that night on, I decided I was going to try to “find” God again. I began to pray for my husband, and ask God to change me or change him or give me a way out.  Those 6 months seemed to be the hardest, but one day my husband received orders to be gone for 6 months, and I thought that might gives us the time apart to heal. I was wrong.  The night before he left, he got angry with me and punched me. He then went to punch again, and I ducked as he put his arm through a door up to his shoulder.  Had he hit me, I can only imagine what would have happened.  That hit cut the last thread of love my heart had for him. I had been used, threatened, and made to do things even when I said no.

When he left, I left for my home town with my girls. My heart longed for someone to love me.  I felt ugly and stupid for what I had allowed my kids to go through, and I thought no one would ever want me because I thought I was used goods. I had two children and no clue what I was going to do. I had talked to my friend through all of this, and he had been through a very rough time as well.  His wife had left him while he was deployed to war, and we had been praying for each other. Though my heart still loved him, I felt ashamed because of the situation being as it was. I got a lawyer and told no one what was going on till the last minute, and I was legally separated from my husband in January. My friend had also moved back to our hometown and in April we had begun to spend time together.  He was divorced, and I was in the middle of mine. Everyone, including my family, was under the impression I was leaving my husband for another man.  I spoke with my soon to be ex-husband, and told him I could not live the life I lived anymore. I was tired of being scared, and wanted a better life for the kids.

When he got back from his deployment, he went to my parents and begged them to help him, and he ended up telling them an abbreviated version about what had happened, about the abuse, but only that he had hit me. My family turned on me and told me I was wrong and needed to work things out.  But I had been so hurt, and there was no going back.  My friendship turned into a relationship, and I was afraid to love again.  But he loved me, and loved my children and he gave us a place to call home. We knew that the way were where living was wrong, but we could not get married until my divorce was final, and my ex was making that as hard as possible. We had gone to a few churches trying to find our way back to God, as we had both walked away from God in our own way. We both desperately wanted God in our lives, and in our soon to be marriage. He had grown up in a church that was different from what I was brought up in.

So we visited another church in our town but some of the people made it very clear they didn’t want us there (not many churches welcomed a couple like us), so we visited another church. This one we liked, but one day the pastor asked to talk with us.  When we came to his office, he sat on the edge of his desk and looked at my boyfriend and said “How dare you raise your hands to God and call yourself a man of God, and walk in to the church with an adulterous woman?” He looked at me and told me I was going to condemn my children (then 2 and 3) to hell if I got a divorce. He then began to explain how divorce had damaged his life, and his children’s. This pastor never picked up his bible, nor asked for an explanation. The little faith I did have began to shake, and I didn’t know what to do.  After that “meeting” my boyfriend told me we could not see each other for two weeks, until we both had time to pray. Again, I was alone and scared. I went home and prayed, and ask God to show me what to do. The next day, the same pastor asked if he could meet with my ex-husband and me. We went to his house and he took my ex to talk to him, and I spoke with his wife. We came back together and I began to tell my side of the story, during which he stopped me and told me to stop lying!  I was shocked!  The pastor told me he knew my (ex) husband and he would never do that, and that I was just looking for a way out to be with the “other” man.  Again, he told me I was going to condemn my children to hell. My heart was shattered I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go back into the prison of my marriage, but I didn’t want to condemn my children.

I began to pray. I felt led to call the pastor of the church I had visited with my friend. I was afraid of what their view might be, but still I felt that is who God was leading me to talk with.  I went and told the pastor what had been happening, and I told him my story. He had already known how we were living, and that I was in the middle of a divorce. He looked at me and told me the other pastor was mistaken, but that he too did not agree with how we were living.  He let us know that it was not his place to condemn. He reminded me that although God did not like divorce, my husband’s infidelity and abuse had released me from being bound to him any longer. He told me God loved me, and that He hated the sin but LOVED me.  I was precious to God and that I would not condemn my children to hell, that nowhere in the bible did it say that.  My last hope, my last grasp at God had been answered through this pastor.

The road to divorce was hard, but in November of that year, I was finally divorced, and in December I married my best friend. No, we didn’t start things right, but since that day we have done our best to live for God and raise the children to know and serve the loving God that turned a horrible decision of my youth into a wonderful blessing. God has blessed us with more children and a church that loved us even when it was hard to.

All during those hard years I would ask God “Where did you go?” But I have realized since it was me that left God, and when I was ready, He was waiting with open arms to take me back, love me, and heal my heart that had been shattered. I went from a young woman who felt hopeless, used, ugly and unlovable to a woman of God who knows she is the child of The King, and is loved beyond words by a loving God and Godly husband.  God has done so much for me in my life, He has delivered me, brought me back from the dead (literally), and shows me every day through simple things -HE loves me!

If you take anything from this please let it be this, don’t judge someone walking through your church doors by what is on the outside, instead, take the time to get to know them and see how you can show Gods love to them. I can only imagine were I would be had my pastor not shown me God’s True love…. God bless, and remember:

 

“You may be the only bible someone reads”

 

It is amazing to me that our churches sometimes can push those who need to hear the love of Christ most away and out the doors.  Not all churches are like this, and those that show love and embrace people no matter who they are, are doing as the church in Acts did, loving and caring for everyone that came in the doors.  Be careful if you are part of the church, love everyone the same, and share the love of Christ endlessly.  Be encouraged that you can come running back to the Father if you’ve strayed away from Him.  You have to intentionally make that choice to come back, He won’t force you.  Praise God, for He alone is worthy!

 

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No More Conforming, Be Authentic

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Him (Christ) with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelivable.”  –Brennan Manning

Everytime I hear that quote, I shudder.  The thought that Christians, such as myself could be the greatest cause of atheism just breaks my heart.  That means that science, natural disasters, tragedy and other things we think cause people to turn from God are but a glimmer compared to the effect we have as Christians.  That’s not to say that people’s lives aren’t being changed and saved by the Holy Spirit as a result of us sharing with them and setting a Godly example, but there are many instances where we cause people to wander away from faith or just not consider faith at all.  When I sit back and think about how a statement like this could have an validity, I am brought to Romans 12:1-2, which says

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve of what God’s will is-His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

We are called to live a life of excellence, and the pattern we are called to follow is the one set for us by Christ, not the one(s) that our culture and society tell us we should follow.  Sometimes we fall into the thought that we have to fit into a certain mold to be a “real” or “good” Christian.  The world has created that thought, and we end up believing it if we aren’t careful.  Some of these molds are:

  • We have to go to church every Sunday
  • We have to wear the right clothes
  • We have to say the right words
  • We have to smile the whole time
  • We have to act like nothing is wrong

When I delivered this sermon, I came to church and made sure to do something that I don’t normally do.  That was to be dressed in a suit with a tie and slacks, keep in mind, my normal Sunday morning attire is jeans and either a polo shirt, or a button-up shirt, so you can imagine the comments that ensued.  Many compliments about my dress, and of course, several questions about a funeral.  Here is a picture of my pre-sermon getup.

I will admit, it was quite nice getting the compliments from my fellow church members.  I actually fit into the mold that our churches have expected the preacherman to be wearing up in the pulpit, as opposed to how I wanted to dress, which was in my blue jeans and polo.  Now, there is nothing wrong with dressing up nicely, especially to bring the Word of God, so please don’t take me as meaning that you should never dress up nice, I think it’s a matter of preference personally.  But I dressed up this way to be the visual aid part of my sermon, more on that a bit later.

Back to before…we weren’t created to fit into some kind of mold in order to be a Christian, but the world sure does want us to fit a mold.  So, we feel like we have to fit into it, but what were we created for?

We were created for worship, more specifically, we were created to worship God.  We were also created for fellowship, to share the love of Christ with those around us all the time, not just occasionally on Sundays.  In the passage prior to Romans 12:1-2, we are given a look into what Paul was writing to the Roman church about.  I will give you a quick Philliphrase version of that passage.

  • God is all-knowing!
  • God is beyond our comprehension!
  • None of us know His thoughts!
  • He doesn’t owe us anything!
  • He created all, He gives all, and we owe Him all of our love, passion and commitment!

How does this fit into our lives?  Knowing what the passage says about God, we are urged to give Him everything.  Our lives are to be spent, presented, offered, and freely given completely to God for His use and glory.  By doing this, we are living a lifestyle of worship.  In this passage in Romans, the end goal is to know the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.  In order to do this, we have to do a few things.

First of all, we have to have that relationship with the Father.  Meaning, we have to acknowledge we are sinners and that Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave as a sacrifice for those sins.  After that, and let’s work backwards from what our end goal is, and examine what Paul described we have to do.

We need to experience a renewal of mind.  What does renewal mean?  Well, according to Google, to renew means:

  1. Resume (an activity) after an interruption
  2. Reestablish (a relationship)

Why do we need a renewal of our minds?  Just like we need a vacation sometimes to refresh our bodies and restart, our minds need a renewal from the old thoughts and focus we have before we experience Christ.  We can’t earn our way to Heaven, but our thought process before we know Christ is that the nicer we are to people or the more money we give to charitable causes.  This mindset is contrary to what scripture teaches, more specifically what Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us.  In a time where our culture feels as though not believing in God and believing in science means we are living in an age of reason, a renewal of mind sometimes seems unfathomable because of the social repercussions.  When the Holy Spirit beckons us, and we respond, our minds become renewed by faith.  By trying to figure out God with worldly reason, we completely avoid the aspect of the faith we are saved by, and called to live by.  When we try to live without faith, we begin to conform to the world around us.  Instead of conforming, we are to be transformed.  Which brings us to our next topic, transformation.

According to Google, to transform means-

  1. Make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.

When Paul writes the word transformed, he is referring to how our lives are to be changed to be completely different than before.  In order to do this, we have to fight the innate and selfish nature we are born with, and instead rely on the renewal of mind that we have upon receiving salvation.  The transformation comes when we recognize who God is, and give up all of the control we desire to have over our lives.  When we make the thorough and dramatic change in the form, appearance and character of our heart and soul, we have transformed from being selfish and ungrateful.  When that change comes, our new attributes are appreciative and redeemed.  Think about what Optimus Prime looked like before he would transform into a superhero robot.  Before we can call ourselves transformed, we have to look and live differently than we did before salvation comes.  This transformation is made possible only because God loves us, and He has given us the opportunity to be renewed and transformed.  In order for us to be transformed and renewed, we cannot conform any longer to what the world says is acceptable.

In order to know how not to conform, we should first understand what the word conform means.

  1. Comply with rules, standards, or laws.
  2. (of a person) Behave according to socially acceptable conventions or standards: “the pressure to conform”

When we are living and striving not to conform, we strive to live against how the world lives.  This can be anything from what we watch on TV, what we listen to on the radio, how we speak, treat others, and the list goes on and on.  Sometimes when we are striving the live a life that isn’t conformed, the world labels and categorizes Christians in ways that are sometimes fair, sometimes not.  Some of these categories are that we are all judgmental, we are all fake, or we are all hypocrites.  When we get put into one of these categories, we have a choice in the way we respond.  We can either be completely offended and fight back in a way that doesn’t represent Christ, or we can do as I’ve had to learn the hard way to do, and sit back and examine how I am perceived and why.  Some questions I have found useful are:

  • Do I exemplify Christ by the way I treat people?
  • Does my attitude reflect the love of Christ, or does it tear people down?
  • Do I act one way at church on Sunday and Wednesday, and when I’m not at church, do I act a different way?
  • Do I worry about the speck of sawdust more than I worry about my plank?

In the sermon on the mount, Christ taught the attitudes we ought to have to live a life that exudes that we are his followers.  Meekness, gentleness, compassion, mercifulness, peacemaking, and righteousness are all some of those characteristics.  Do we live these everyday?  Or do we just act like we have it all together and continue on with our lives, unchanged?  When we act like we have it all together, we have a tendency to put on a front, or a cover that looks great.  Underneath it, we can be so tumultuous, confused, and disgruntled we can lose our focus on Christ.  When this happens, we keep the front up and begin to conform to what is expected of us, and we forget what the transformation and renewal of mind felt like when we experienced Christ.  This can lead to the pressures of our society taking over, and we begin to marginalize things that would never have been an issue before, and our life becomes an unauthentic mess.  God knows what’s beneath that cover, He sees the mess that is covered by that shell of smiles.  We can’t hide our ragged insides from God, and it won’t be long before other people start noticing something is wrong with us, and then we hide.  Are we transparent, or are we hiding behind something fake?

When I got all the compliments yesterday morning about my suit, it drove home the point to me that even though I was dressed nice and looked very confident, I was still scared to death about preaching.  But, the best part about the suit was that it was just a facade.  My intention with wearing the suit was to cover up what was underneath.

Now, I know I’m cheesing in this picture, that was mostly because I had the intention of sending this picture to my mom to get a reaction from her.  The suit jacket covered up my cut up, sleeveless shirt and tattoo that became exposed when I took my jacket off.  How many times do we cover up our mess with something fake so people won’t think badly of us?  When we do this, we tend to act in ways that we wouldn’t if we were being authentic.  When we have turmoil in our lives, we have to look to Christ for that comfort and for that guidance through the murk and hopelessness that can come up when we are fighting spiritual warfare.  My encouragement to you and to myself, is to shed the desire to throw up that front and try to do everything on our own, and instead come to our family of believers for support and give everything to God.  I’ll leave you with this passage as an encouragement and reminder about what we’re supposed to be when we give it all to Christ.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”            2 Corinthians 5:17-21

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Put All Your Eggs In!!

 

In September, I quit my job after almost 7 years of employment.  I had great benefits, pretty decent pay, and tons of opportunity to share the gospel of Christ with co-workers.  I also have 3 kids, a mortgage, at the time we had 2 car payments and the everyday costs associated with being a family man with a home and two vehicles.  So why did I quit working somewhere so stable and consistent?  God told me to.

It tends to sound either so cliché, or so crazy to people sometimes when I tell them that God told me to quit my job.  But it’s completely and honestly the truth!  My wife and I had been praying for between 6-9 months about what direction God was leading us in ministry, and the answer came through an unforeseeable avenue.  You see, my wife is an amazingly talented photographer, and has been building our business for the past 4 years.  She has done this, all while caring for myself and our 3 kiddos, and keeping our house from caving in on top of itself.  God has blessed her with a talent that many go to college to hone.  He also gave her an incredible mind for business and absorbing knowledge that just overwhelms me.  So after months of prayer, and seeking what we were supposed to do, God told me to quit my job and join my wife at home to run our business as a team.  Along with running the business, we felt very lead to begin home schooling our children.  Wowsers!

How do I know He told me to quit?  Here’s the really cool part of the entire deal.  When we seek His desires over our own, He will bless us beyond measure.  Where does this come from?

Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely.

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.”

                                -Psalm 37:3-4 (HCSB)

In the past 7 years of marriage, my wife and I have been through many different trials.  Some have been financial, some have been emotional, some have dealt with past sins, some have dealt with sins that carried in from the past, and some have dealt with preferences as fickle as which way to hang the clothes in the closet.  The times that we have been caught not seeking to honor Christ with our marriage have resulted in some of the most chaotic seasons in our lives.  The times that we have sought to honor Him through all of our being, first individually and second, as a couple, He has blessed us beyond measure.  The decision for me to quit my job wasn’t an easy one to come to, but because I had been disobedient before and knew what the outcome was going to be, I decided to follow where He was leading us.  Our heart’s desires during the chaotic times, were for our selfish desires to be fulfilled.  When we were seeking Him, our heart’s desires were those that He gave us.  In order for us to know what His desire for us was, we had to follow what the next verses in that passage in Psalm say:

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act,

 making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday.”

                                                -Psalm 37:5-6  (HCSB)

You see, we can’t expect to fulfill God’s calling in our lives if we’re not seeking what He has for us to seek.  If we are chasing the “American Dream” of making a ton of money and living to glorify ourselves and give ourselves credit, we honestly cannot expect God to bless that!  I’ve been volunteering as the youth pastor at the church we attend for the past almost 3 years, and I love it!  However, I haven’t felt as though I’ve been serving in the capacity I’m called to because I was seeking to “make enough money” to sustain our household.  God made clear through the ever increasing antsyness of myself at my job, as well as the increasing busyness of our photography business, that I needed to leave my job.  As a result of taking that step, I have been able to focus more on that ministry at the church, and I have been able to focus on teaching and loving on our students more.  Along with that, there is time I have gained by being home with my kids and wife, and have had the absolute privilege of getting to know them so much more!  God’s blessings have been spiritual, emotional, physical, and yes, financial, and have been all but limitless!

Now, some of you may be asking “So basically I need to quit working at my job and God will make me rich?”  NO!!!  I’m not saying that at all!!  First of all, we aren’t rich, far from it.  We are, however, being blessed with His provision that all of our needs are being met and we are working toward becoming debt free.  God may be calling you to take the step of faith He called us to take, and He may be asking you to sacrifice something smaller in your life so that you will follow Him closer, and make your desires the ones that are His instead.

First of all, we must commit our ways to Him, never forsaking His grace and mercy on us, and understanding that He will never give us a scorpion instead of an egg (Luke 11:12).  Secondly, we have to rely fully on His providence and put all of our eggs in the basket of faith that He will provide!  If we put some eggs in the basket of faith, and put some others aside “in the off chance” that things don’t pan out as we hope, can we really say that we are following Him fully?  So to answer the question about what I’ve learned from being self-employed, I’ve learned that I can’t even begin to depend on my own ingenuity, provision, or most-especially, my own wisdom.  Everything must come from God.  I have to rely fully on Him, not putting some faith forward and saving some hope for just in case.  So basically, quit being selfish and faithless, and put all your eggs in God’s basket!

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Christ Forgave

It seems as though my blog posts have become about as commonplace as the Dallas Cowboys’ chances of winning the coveted Lombardi Trophy lately, apparently, I don’t manage my time very well (or as David Crowder’s Twitter account put it, manage myself around time effectively).  God has been working on my heart in so many different ways lately, it’s never a comfortable feeling when He does that, especially when He’s working on breaking down the areas of my life that I know I struggle with daily and don’t want to put a lot of effort into dealing with.  Our pastor asked me a while ago to preach on a Sunday night, and that was right in the middle of when God was wrecking shop on my heart on the subject of forgiveness.  So here we go!

When I read this one verse in the book of Luke, I see so much that I need to learn, so far I need to go, how much I need to grow in my relationship with Christ.  That one verse is Luke 23:34.  “Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

Now, we all know that Christ was a very humble and compassionate man.  We also know that he taught forgiveness during his years of ministry, so what makes this verse so profound to me?  Let us consider what all was going on during this time.  At this point in time, Christ was on the cross between the two criminals who were being crucified for crimes committed at an earlier date.  Prior to this, Christ had been through 4 separate trials and was flogged and beaten with a flagellum, had a crown of thorns smashed into his brow, was mocked and forced to carry his cross through the streets. Following that, his hands and feet were staked to the aforementioned cross.  With all of that in mind, also remember that Christ was sentenced to this predicament by Pilate at the requests of the Pharisees and the chosen nation of Israel.  For Christ to ask his Father to forgive them, to us, is crazy talk.  Not only did he forgive them at that moment, but his death upon that cross was for their sins, as well as for everyone’s sins.

How many of us could say that we could forgive in that situation?  How about in

  • Forgiving a disobedient child?
  • A spiteful neighbor?
  • A schoolyard bully?
  • A betraying friend?
  • An entire nation, of people you love, trying to kill you?
  • A friend denying they knew you, even after they swore up and down they wouldn’t and couldn’t?

Christ could, and did.

The closest we come to seeing Christ not go through with his crucifixion and death is in Luke 22:42.  He is praying in the garden and asks God to take the cup if it is His will.  What we see is Christ asking God to let him have a pass on this one if it was in His Divine Will, but if not, then let His will be done.  Christ wasn’t questioning God here, he was simply asking if the possibility existed for another way to grant us forgiveness for our sins, and if there wasn’t, then he was willing to proceed with what the Father was asking.  He put his personal comfort and preferences aside, and was obedient all the way to his death on the cross.  If he can do this, and not question the reason, who are we not to forgive without questioning?

As Christians, we sometimes like to have a bit of a double standard when it comes to forgiveness.  I’ve seen the saying “I’m not perfect, I’m forgiven” on bumper stickers, T-Shirts and banners everywhere, as well as heard and said it myself many times.  How is this saying in any way glorifying or honoring God?  It makes us feel okay about ourselves when we get caught in our own sin, but shows the world that we feel like it’s okay for us to sin because we’ve got our “fire insurance.”  I cringe every time I hear or see that phrase now, because of how much leverage it gives those who despise Christ and are looking for a reason to not believe in him.  We are called to accept that accountability when we sin, and repent and apologize to those we have led astray, or cast doubt into their hearts.  We have to flee from that pride that doesn’t allow us to grow.

Another area I struggle with, and I see other fellow believers struggling in, is feeling like a person is “too far gone” to be redeemed.  The recent shootings in Colorado brought about two ugly sides of humanity.  The shooting, and murder of so many people is one side of the ugliness.  The other is the fact that so many people, even believers, were so quick to condemn this man to Hell (something we have no business doing).  I was convicted by the enormous amount of people that were so publicly calling for his demise, once again, many of these people were believers.  In our carnal minds, we can’t get past the fact that this man killed people, so he deserves to die right now.  My heart was, uncharacteristically for me, sympathetic for this man to know Christ.  Upon vocalizing my feeling on this subject, I received mixed replies from believers and atheists both.  I do enjoy the occasional debate, and this turned into just that.  I feel as though, even for a murderer such as Holmes, until a person has died, we should desire to share the love of Christ with that person, so that they may have the chance to have salvation through Christ’s sacrifice.  Some responded with the same feeling, some were undecided, and some were adamantly against this thought.  If we look at the teachings of Christ, his example shows us that no one is exempt from the forgiveness through his death.  How are we honoring and glorifying God through our condemnation of a person who has sinned?

Are we showing the characteristics of forgiveness and love by defending a right to free speech?  I’m reminded of the situation that arose with Chick-fil-a after founder and CEO of the company was asked about his views on marriage.  His response was not derogatory or inflammatory in any manner or fashion, but he was attacked, however unfairly, by the media along with other special interest groups.  As a result of his response to the question, his company lost toy endorsements for kid’s meals, and endured countless character attacks because of his stance that marriage should remain defined as between a man and a woman.  Upon this reaction, Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is known for his conservative and Christian beliefs, organized “Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day” for August 1st. He encouraged all of those who supported traditional marriage to eat at Chick-fil-a as a response to the attacks on freedom for Dan T. Cathy to express his beliefs and convictions about this subject.  This idea, in theory, was a good one.  However, it quickly became a Christians vs. Sinners fast food theme day.  Not all people who were eating at the fast food restaurant were going with the mindset to be pointing a finger at those who were homosexual or supported same-sex marriage, but those who were going with that intention turned the event into another reason for people to call Christians, as a whole, bigots and hatemongers among other things.  My question through all of this situation is, are we showing the love and compassion of Christ through taking this type of stand?

Are we loving them for their public sin as Christ loves us for our private sins?  Homosexuality is such a hot topic lately, not only because of the media attention from Chick-fil-a, but also because it has been such a battle for Christians to express their beliefs on the matter.  As a Christian, I believe marriage is to be between a man and a woman, no other way, this was the example defined in Genesis.  The bible also refers to homosexuality as an abomination, and defines it as a sin several times throughout the Old and New Testaments.  One of the most prominent references is Romans 1:18-32, and this has been a verse that has caused many debates between myself and others who don’t see things the way scripture teaches.  Simply because homosexuality is a sin, should we hold that sin to a higher level of punishment or seriousness?  Some would argue yes, that it is a lifestyle and that is why it is worse than having a bad temper or using profanity.  I argue that sin such as a bad temper or pride is a lifestyle as well.  We, in our carnal minds, can’t look at sin the same way God does.  We want to categorize it as our justice system does, and put it on a scale.  Romans 3:23 tells us that we all sin, and Romans 6:23 tells us that the consequence for that sin is eternal death.  How can we honor and glorify God if we categorize sin?  How can we honor and glorify Him if we can’t forgive people for their sins and understand their need for salvation, as we needed it too?  The short answer is, we can’t.  We have to be able to put ourselves, as close as we can, into Christ’s mindset and love beyond human fallibility.

Too many people have been “won” by saying a prayer that was prayed out of guilt, overt pressure, peer pressure or a sense of security.  If that prayer was prayed out of insincerity, or there wasn’t a heart change, can we really expect that person’s life to have been changed?  No one knows if a person has truly made that change with the exception of them and the Lord.  One thing is for sure though, if we led that person in a prayer that they didn’t understand, or gave them a false sense of understanding of salvation, we are as accountable for that as we are for the person we pushed away because of their sin?  Their sin is their own, we are called to share the Gospel with them regardless of whether or not we think they deserve the grace we didn’t and still don’t deserve.

We are called to hold other believers accountable for sins, not overlooking our own sins first, in a loving and Christ-like way.  We also like to point out that Christ went into the temple and kicked out the merchants and livestock in righteous indignation, which he did.  Those people that got kicked out of the temple knew better than to be doing what they were doing.  They were knowingly doing things dishonestly inside the temple, and that is why Christ went in and wrecked shop. They had made the temple a place of disgrace and business, instead of a place of worship.  Can we expect a non-believer to automatically know the standards of the bible?  Can we expect them to jump right along and be perfect the first time they are informed of sin?

How soon after your salvation experience did you get everything lined up perfect and quit sinning?  Still working on it?  Yeah, me too.  I’ve been a believer for 20 years now, and I’m still one of the biggest busts when it comes to evaluating salvation expectations met.  If ESPN had one of their Top 10 lists of salvation busts, I’d have to be pretty high up, if not the top guy, and I’ve been at this for more than half my life.  How can we expect a non-believer to just know what sin is?  Our culture isn’t telling him or her what sin is, in fact, they are being informed just the opposite of what biblical standards are for right and wrong.  I liken this concept to parenting.  You parents will appreciate this, I just know it!  How many times did you have to, or have you told your child not to run in the house?  Did they listen the first time?  How about the 2nd?  Did the third, fourth, or fifth time do the trick?  My 5-year-old is still figuring out this one, and I’m pretty sure we’re on number 4,543 for the “DON’T RUN” warning system.  Sometimes it takes kids a long time to figure out they need to obey.  To do this, they have to first go against their selfish human nature they are born with, then, they have to have a clear understanding of why the issue is wrong.  The same applies to us and sin, especially when the surrounding culture condones and approves of sin and tells us it is perfectly normal and acceptable.  That being said, what sin(s) do you struggle with daily?  How easy is it for you to avoid that sin?  The only reason I ask, is because I deal with stuff EVERY SINGLE DAY!  We all do, Paul says that there is no sin that is uncommon to man, and it’s true- we all deal with sin every day, even if we won’t admit it.  What’s the most effective way for you to learn how to move past that sin and grow in the right direction?  Is it with someone continually reminding you of that sin and hammering into your psyche that you are a mess up?  Or is it with someone who encourages you and loves you, and corrects in a loving way?  If we’re talking about my kids, it’s going to be the latter.  If I stand in the doorway of their rooms, threatening to spank them for not cleaning their rooms, you can guarantee a meltdown is on the way.  Part of the meltdown is that we’ll be fighting all night to get 6 blocks picked up off the floor.  The nights that the spoon collects dust, and I get on the floor and help pick up some of those blocks and clothes, and encourage my kids, the room takes no time to get clean.  If we have the spirit of love and forgiveness with new believers, non-believers, and fellow believers, how much more can we help grow and strengthen each other in our walks?

None of what I’m teaching about, or talking about has to do with tolerance or acceptance of sin, by any means, because Christ did not teach that.  He taught tolerance and acceptance of the sinner, which is US! Think about that. He accepted us. You. Me. Everyone.  Can we have friendships with those that our convictions don’t match up to?  Certainly, but we have to let our convictions be known from the start, so we aren’t deceptive in our friendship with them about those things.  Is it our responsibility to share the Gospel with them?  Most definitely.  Is it our place to change their minds about Christ and salvation?  Nope.  Well, if not us, then whose place is it to change their minds?  It is the Holy Spirit’s place, yet we are called to plant the seed into the hearts of people.  When that seed germinates, we are called to nurture that seed to maturity.  The seed we plant has to emerge, or germinate from that hard shell, and the Holy Spirit causes that emergence.  The non-believer becomes a believer, the spiritually dead heart emerges and begins new life.  After that emergence, we begin the process of nurturing, which is discipleship.  We don’t just pray and leave it there with them on their own. As a gardener constantly waters and feeds his plants, we must also constantly water and feed the new believer.  We will fail this process if we cannot have a forgiving heart and accept that they will not be perfect from the word “Go!”.  Christ understands and knows that we all will continually mess up daily, but he also knows that his death on the cross covered that mess up.

So when we look at Luke 23:34, we know that Christ was showing yet another example for us to follow.  No matter what a person does, no matter what they think, no matter what they say, we are to forgive, because Christ did.  He forgave without discretion, and in order for us to glorify and honor our Father, we must forgive without discretion.  Nothing else matters, because when it’s all said and done, Christ Forgave.

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Worship Part II

Wow, ok, it’s been a loooooong time since I’ve really updated anything on here, actually, just a hair over 2 months.  As with most of you, the past two months have been a time of growth, emotionally, spiritually, and yes…physically : (  Something about the holidays just makes me hungry, and this year the hunger never left me…

So, in light of the areas of growth, I will be continuing on with the Worship Series on the topic of social worship.

How many of you have participated in watching an awards show this year?  Go ahead, admit it, I won’t tell anyone.  How many times during those awards shows did you find yourself critiquing the people our society tells us are glamorous, sexy and should be viewed as role models?  Where in scripture are we commanded or even suggested to spend so much time idolizing another human?  As scripture tells us “there is none righteous, not one.”  Where do we get that it’s okay to put these people, who are as flawed and sinful as we are, up on a pedestal?  Our worship of people in our society is not even remotely a new concept.  People have been idolizing other people since Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and it’s gotten nothing but worse since then.  In my own life, I have idolized athletes, pastors, friends even fellow classmates throughout school.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked back with embarrassment at some of the things I’ve done and some of the ways I’d idolized people.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with looking up to someone or having a role model that you refer to when going through something you’re not quite sure how to handle.  What I’m saying is that when we put so much attention, so much thought into considering what that person would do, that we mimic them completely as if to try and become that person, we lose sight of what we are called to do.  The only one we are supposed to idolize is Jesus Christ.  End of story.

Along with the dangers of mimicking these people  in everything we do, we run the risk of leading others astray from what God has called them to do. Luke 17:1-2 talks about leading others astray:

1 He said to His disciples, “Offenses will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” (HCSB)

If I as a parent spend hours upon hours watching football film and don’t spend time with my kids, what does that show my kids?  Not that I care about them as much as I care about watching football, my attention and focus is on that film instead of with them, therefore showing that my attention is on something other than them.  When we spend more time worshiping movie stars, music icons and other social royalty instead of spending time with our Savior and King, we will never grow to the potential that we have in Christ.  My encouragement to myself and to you guys is to monitor what you spend the majority of your time on, and see if we can work our way to spending more time with our Savior through reading scripture and prayer instead of with trivial reality shows that encourage and condone hatred and spitefulness.

I will hopefully be a little more consistent with this thing from now on, just working on getting a routine figured out that will allow for more type time, as it is a source of stress relief for me, and hopefully a time of some form of entertainment for you.  Thanks, and as always, I look forward to and enjoy any feedback I get on this blog!

Phillip   <><

 

Missed Worship Part I? Read it here

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Worship: Part I

Worship.  The context of the word varies greatly from culture to culture, religion to religion, and generation to generation.  I took the liberty of looking up the definition of worship on the Merriam-Webster website, and this is what it had to say worship meant:

As a noun-

1

chiefly British : a person of importance —used as a title for various officials (as magistrates and some mayors)

2
: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence
3
: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
4
: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>
As a verb-
1
: to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power
2
: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion <a celebrity worshipped by her fans>
I find it incredibly interesting that in both forms of the word, the examples the dictionary used were for very surface level things.  One was worship of the dollar, and the other of a celebrity.  Kinda points to the foremost thoughts of our culture as Americans, doesn’t it?  This series will probably get some of you to raise an eyebrow and wonder “what in the world is this guy talking about,” and for others it may be an opportunity to see things through the eyes of a guy who was raised in church and has seen the good, the bad, and the horror of this thing we call religion.  Some of you who may read this may be familiar with how we have seriously mangled what worship is intended to be, and some may not have even thought about it before.  My intentions with anything I type in here are, as always, not intended to create dissent or to bash on the church, they are simply to help me and others to grow and learn.  I realize that some of my prior posts haven’t been the most positive things to read, but I do try to keep an honest and objective point-of-view, especially since I know that I’m nowhere near the perfect example of what a Christian is supposed to look like, sound like, behave like, and just be like in general.  With all that mess in mind, let’s begin!
Worship, to many, is the attention we give the object(s) of our desire and focus in life.  One needs not to look long at the corporate sector of our country to see that the dollar is an object of affection for many.  Another example, would be the attention we give to celebrities and dignitaries.  The main thing I can see pointing people in the direction of materialistic worship, is  the lack of Christ in culture and life.  The current president of our country made a comment that “We no longer consider ourselves a Christian nation…”  As much as has been made of this quote by the president, I think he inadvertently hit the proverbial nail on the head with this statement.  He meant the comment to promote religious diversity in our country, which there definitely is, but I agree that we can no longer consider ourselves as a Christian nation.  If you take a step back and look, at what our nation’s focus is on, you cannot honestly say we are a Christian nation.  When the majority of our nation makes the dollar, celebrities who live in and promote a sinful lifestyle the focus, we cannot say that Christ is the center of our nation.  The very label “Christian” implies that one is a follower of Christ, a “little-Christ” if you will.  There are areas and groups of people in our country that are definitely focused on following Christ, and that rebuke those who claim Christ but live directly and intentionally in darkness.  What does this paragraph have to do with worship?  Keep reading…
The only reason I used the president’s quote was to give a litmus of our nation’s status, not to begin a political firestorm, as I’ve really begun to separate myself from politics as much as I possibly can.  To determine what worship is, what it’s supposed to look like, what it’s supposed to sound like, we have to go to scripture.  All throughout the Old Testament, people worshiped God through sacrifice for sins, through praising Him for provision, protection, wisdom, etc.  This, with the exception of sacrifice of animals, still held true throughout the New Testament.  Worship in Biblical times was a lifestyle lived out through giving praise to God and to Christ for our salvation and His grace and mercy.  Too often we have substituted that lifestyle for just Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night programs and corporate fellowship.  The church has become a club that we attend so we can be counted on the roll and noted as “being there,” as opposed to the intention of a gathering of believers to praise THE Almighty God in recognition of the grace we have in our lives because of His great love for us.  I really have to think that if Paul came to any one of our churches nowadays, he would be like Christ in the temple, tossing over tables and saying “What are you guys doing?!?!?!?!”  Since when does praising our creator get limited to learning about the stories in scripture by coloring pictures and gluing animals to a paper ark, and then going to “big church?”  When we get to “big church,” we sit for a few minutes, maybe make some rounds saying our howdy’s and shaking a few hands.  Then, we have the introduction and announcements, followed by some hymns/contemporary songs that we either sing or don’t sing, based on our preferences on music, then we have a pastor come and deliver the Words that have been laid on his heart by the Lord.  After that, we have an invitation/alter call where people can come down and pray with the pastor or at the steps in front of the stage about things God has spoken to them about.  Then, we all shake hands, say a prayer and go eat lunch and take a nap.  Where in here is worship?
I’ve been a born again Christian for almost 20 years now, and I can almost count on two hands the times that I have truly felt the Spirit of God in worship on Sunday mornings.  How sad is that?  Some will attribute this, and sometimes rightfully so, to the lack of focus on my part to be included in the Spirit moving.  Others will attribute this, and sometimes rightfully so as well, to the lack of focus on those who are leading the body of believers in corporate worship.  The example of worship that we are to follow is lined out for us in Romans 12:1.
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.”
We don’t attend church to “get something out” of the message brought by the pastor, the Bible is not for our benefit.  That’s right, you read correctly.  Our pastor made this statement several months ago, and it really got me to thinking about how I had always looked at scripture.  To be honest, it really brought about a totally different perspective on how I need to be reading scripture.  The Bible is not for our benefit, it is for the Glorification of God!  What does this mean?
It doesn’t matter how much music we play or sing, how many programs or activities we organize, how great our choir sounds, how many people we attract because we have such a cool “worship experience,” if our hearts are not tuned into where God is leading us, it is all for naught. If we are not seeking to bring glory to the One who has created us and given us life through His son’s sacrifice, we are nothing but noisy busy-bodies.  I will be taking apart different aspects of our culture’s view of worship as churches and as a society throughout this series.  I have no idea how long it will go on, but I hope you’ll join me for the duration, as well as adding some feedback and opinions along the way.  I always invite any differing opinions on things I say, as it provides a way for me to learn more, and possibly have my perspective changed.  Thanks, and I look forward to continuing this series!
Phillip
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The Worship Series Prequel Part ii

Ok, so it was brought to my attention that maybe I should post an open ended question without a poll so that anyone who would like to can leave their opinion and feedback and not be limited to my answer choices.  So, here goes…again…

 

What is worship to you?  Leave an answer on the blog for further discussion, and all that good stuff!  Thanks!

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The Exciting Finale to the 3 Deadly C’s of Today’s Church

In this post, we will be utilizing the imagination sector of your brains as we look at the Corporate mindset of today’s church, so flip the switch on for just a few minutes…thanks!

Imagine this, one Sunday morning you are heading to visit a church you’ve heard some amazing things about from friends at work and just around in general.  As you pull up to the campus, you see an HD Marquee announcing two new worship experience times, immaculate landscaping, gorgeous aquatic features (fountains), and an incredible building complex.  You’ve heard that the entire thing cost in the double digit millions to build, so half of what you came to see was just the structures themselves.  As you walk inside, some guys pull open the doors for you and immediately you are greeted with some information requesting propaganda, and directed to turn it into the offering box as you get a chance.  As you peruse the expansive lobby, you see a bookstore with some of the lead pastor’s books displayed.  After you snoop around there a minute, you walk a little further down and come across the church coffee shop and decide to get a little perk before the service.  As you head into the worship center, you see smoke and lights emanating from the stage area as the band takes the stage to perform a welcome song.  Through the music time, the fog machines continue to run and the band disappears from the stage as the lead pastor enters.  The teaching from the pastor is good, and the band re-enters the stage to some more fog and lights and you leave feeling a little unsatisfied, unchallenged, and unchanged.  Why could this be?  The church has all the elements that we think a church should have to provide an experience worthy of a life to be changed for God.  What’s the problem here?  The problem, in my personal observation and opinion, is that we have exchanged intimacy with Christ, humility in ministry, and the real need for evangelism with the need to entertain a generation.  With the need for being “relevant” to the modern culture, comes the lack of humility in ministry and a loss of the need for evangelism.  Some churches like to disguise the fancy stage and concert atmosphere as evangelism.  I know it sounds an awful lot like I’m pointing my finger at certain churches within this post, but I know the church where I serve is missing on many aspects of effective ministry as well.  Sometimes we let the fact that our churches are experiencing massive growth, which isn’t a bad thing, overshadow the fact that the Gospel and message of Christ isn’t being shared as it needs to be.  Christ never put on a show as He was teaching, the closest thing to a show that He put on was the “Triumphal Entry,” and even that was more about the children praising God and His humble appearance as He arrived into town on a donkey.

Where does this leave the church?  Are we so worried about being portrayed as “cool,” or “awesome,” or “off the hook” that we miss the fact that worship isn’t the band playing music, and everybody having a good ‘ol time at church?  The time at church is for teaching, for fellowship, and for getting deeper into the Word with other believers.  Worship isn’t just an “experience” as some churches have advertised, it is a lifestyle, an everyday ongoing occurrence of our lives to glorify God through our lives.  I think the intentions of these churches that have the bands and stages and elaborate facilities may have started out in the right place.  Francis Chan once said that (and this is a paraquote) if Jesus or Paul started a church in the town where he was, his church would probably be bigger than theirs.  He says this not in a bragging way, but in a way to show that the truth of the Gospel is something that is hard to swallow sometimes, because it is always life-altering and convicting, and we don’t like that.  To be honest, that is all there really is to that conversation.  If Christ were here starting a church in America, would it be this magnificent building with a ton of all the newest stuff?  I feel as though the money that would be used for those things, would be used to help others in the surrounding community.  When we have these extravagant things, even if we do help those around us, we give off the impression that we are in fact worried about the aesthetics as opposed to the ministry of the Gospel.  My encouragement to myself, as well as everyone, is to focus on sharing the Gospel no matter where you are, because a building is just a building that will decay and wither one day.  Christ will not wither, He will not fall away, He is always there when you submit yourself to His will.

We cannot run a church as a business, because it is a ministry.  There can be structure to the fellowship, but rigidity has a tendency to stifle effectiveness due to the lack of flexibility.  On the other hand, if the church is run as though it is and entertainment group, the ministry is put aside then as well amongst the efforts of the church to fit in with the world around it.  There is no perfect church, except the one which all believers and followers of Christ will attend on that Glorious Day, but there is a lot we can do to strive toward the church Christ intended us to be a part of.

This is has been a 3 part series that I’ve been pondering for a while, and I am pleased that many of you have read the posts and some have even followed them.  Please let me know what you think, I am always open to discussion about anything I post. I will not disrespect you or your opinion(s), so don’t worry about all that, thanks for reading!

Read Part 2 HERE.

Read Part 1 HERE.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE CD GIVEAWAY CONTEST! RULES ARE STATED IN THE PRIOR POST, SO GET BUSY!

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Part Deux of the 3 Deadly C’s of Today’s Church

So the next segment of this series is all about compassion, and where it fits into our lives and churches. Now, I know that compassion isn’t deadly, but the lack of it is, so that’s what I’ll be talking about. As I’m finishing up studying for this evening’s Bible study time with our youth, compassion is something that is irreplaceable in ministry as well as everyday life. Here’s my heart, try not to stab it, hehe.

Compassion is something that I struggle with in my life, both as a believer and as a husband and daddy. I sometimes have this thought that my kids (4,2,6m) should automatically know what’s right and wrong. I have this mindset that the youth I teach and counsel will listen to my “wisdom” from life experiences and avoid doing the things they are doing and walk away from destructive life decisions. Along with those perspectives, I also sometimes think that my amazing wife should just know what I am thinking and expecting without voicing anything. These expectations, when not met, very often create a mentality of no compassion inside my heart when things end up badly. Christ lived a life of compassion, He knew that people were sinners, knew that some would not come to know the saving knowledge of His existence and purpose, and that people would deny Him after they said they loved Him. How did He respond to these things? With grace, mercy, and incredible compassion. One of the key things in my life that I need to improve on is compassion, especially because Christ set the example and standard of compassion. People always pray for patience and things like that, but you can’t have patience without compassion. If you are compassionate with your kids, then the times they go crazy, your patience will be heightened and increased because you understand they are just kids. If I am compassionate with my youth at the church, then my ability to minister to them is increased because I remember that they are still learning, and that I didn’t really apply what I was taught at church until after I was out of high school. As for my wife, well, that’s always going to be a work in progress, especially because I’m usually the offender in that area, I often miss subtle and non-subtle hints, and I pay for them in the end.

As a minister, we are called to be compassionate to those in our congregation and to those in our community around us, irregardless of what they may have done, said, or thought about us. Paul writes about the requirements for ministers in his first letter to Timothy. Among the requirements for overseers(pastors), is the ability to be temperate, self-controlled, respectable. So many times we find ministers who don’t have those characteristics, I believe it is due to a lack of our ability to have compassion on others. Pride is another factor that I have seen that drives congregates away from churches. A pastor or youth minister who is constantly bragging about himself or his accomplishments stands a great chance as being labeled arrogant, and arrogance pushes people away from the church. Christ set the example of humility that we should follow, no matter our position in church, whether every Sunday morning attendees or lead pastor at a church of 900 members. If we are not able to think of ourselves as no better than those who come to be taught, we have no right to be doing the teaching. The very first requirement that Paul writes about in 1 Timothy 3, is that the overseer must be above reproach. Compassion is a necessary characteristic of ministers and followers of Christ, because it comes out of humility, which is a key characteristic of Christ. All that being said, I realize daily that I have a looong way to go to get where I need to be in terms of being an effective minister.

So, to commemorate some compassion I will be giving away a free copy of Shane and Shane’s newest album, called “The One You Need.” I will not lie when I tell you that this album has changed my mindset and perception of my role as a father, and when used in conjunction with the movie “Courageous,” the two will bring you to tears…not even joking.

So here are the rules to the game:

You will have the ability to gain 2 entries.

1) Comment on Part 1, 2, or 3 of the “3 Deadly C’s of Today’s Church” series and tell me what you think. (Part 3 will be posted next week.)

2) Post this link by copying and pasting the following text to your Facebook or Twitter account and then leaving a comment telling me that you have shared it: Behindthecross is giving away Shane & Shane’s new album, “The One You Need”. Check it out here! http://wp.me/p1KLvl-H

The deadline for the contest will be next Thursday(Nov.16th) at 11:59pm. The winner will be chosen on Friday by random.org and the winner will be posted on Saturday, the 18th. Comments will be numbered in the order that they are posted, beginning with Part 1 of the series, with the comments on Part 3, being the highest numbers.

I look forward to seeing who wins!

Thanks and God Bless!

Phillip

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Part 1 of the 3 Deadly C’s of Today’s Church

It has been a bit of time since I’ve updated the blog, seems everytime I get it updated and get ready to post again, life gets itself into a huge busy mess and the blog takes a backseat to the aforementioned life.  So, naturally, since it’s been over a month, there is a lot to update and share.  This is the start of a 3 part series that will have my point of view about conformity, compassion and the corporate mindset of the modern church.  So sit down and buckle in as I spend some time with some things that have been on my heart for a good while.

The first issue I would like to discuss is about conformity.  Everywhere we look in our modern day culture we see the effects of conformity.  From federal laws to entertainment, from school policies to church structure and operation.  Throughout scripture, we are given the example of how to live, how to love, and how to fellowship as a body of believers.  So many times people in our country want to tell the church how to exist, what to say, and what is ok to preach.  The sad thing is, that many churches are falling into the mindset that the only way to get people in the door is to fall in line and just make everyone happy by preaching and teaching what I call “fluffy bunnies and butterfly theology.”  We conform to the point of telling people that Hell is a figurative place, and that a loving God would never send people to a place of screaming, fire, and pure misery.  Well, they are partially right about that, as it’s been said before, God doesn’t send people to Hell, people send people to Hell.  You may be asking what on earth am I talking about.  God created us to worship and glorify Him, but we were also given free will to choose how we will live our lives.  When we choose sin, as Adam and Eve did in the garden, we choose a punishment of death.  Hell is a very real place, people who think that it is not are misleading and misinforming.  It is an unsettling and unfortunate trend to see how many churches are turning toward that mindset.  The only way to avoid this punishment is to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Christ is Lord and that He was raised from the dead.  Period.  No exceptions.  You can’t be good enough as Jehova’s Witnesses and Mormon’s would have you believe, you can’t have salvation because you were baptized as a baby, and salvation doesn’t come just because you were baptized.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift, of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9, these verses spell it out exactly.  When churches won’t even speak the name of Jesus, but instead want to preach about how coming to church and singing songs and having a dandy time are what saves you, we have conformed.  These are the churches who experience exponential growth in short periods.  Joel Osteen is an example of a pastor at a church who has said that Christ is not the only way to Heaven, and in his sermons has said that if you are a christian, you were not meant to live a hard life.  This is what we call the gospel of prosperity, and he has a following of about 6000 members in his church as well as several book deals and televised services each week.  Now, if his ministry was founded on Christ being the only way to heaven, do you think he would be as successful as he is now?  I believe that he would not, and let me explain why I feel this way.  The gospel of Christ will turn some away.  Paul writes about this in 1 Corinthians 1:18-19, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'”

The thing that these ministries overlook is a pretty big thing; the teachings of Christ.  They like to point out that Christ was compassionate, but they overlook the fact that Christ also kept those who followed Him and believed in Him accountable.  Accountability is something that I see a huge lack of in many of today’s mega-churches.  These churches a lot of times will have small groups that meet throughout the week, but I see the facebook status updates and pictures of those people who were at their small groups on Tuesday, out bar hoppin’ on Thursday and Saturday nights.  Now, before you all start saying “Phillip, are you casting stones?,” let me say that I have no right to judge, but I do have a responsibility to hold those who claim to be believers accountable as Christ did, and I expect no different from those who are believers to hold me accountable when they see me living contrary to the Gospel I proclaim.  The conformity we see now is that of our culture’s norms.  We are urged by Paul, as was the Roman church, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.  This means to die for the glory of God every day, everywhere, and in everything.  The next part of that verse is to consider that Paul says not to be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  What does it mean to be transformed by the renewing of our minds?  We are born with a sin nature, anyone who has kids can tell you that we are born sinful.  Our minds are not focused on what God has for us and we are not trained to look for His guidance in our lives from the time we are born.  We have to be shown, or led to the knowledge of who Christ is, and only when we give ourselves to Him and choose to believe and know that He died for our sins. Once that happens, our minds can be renewed, and then and only then we can discern what His good, pleasing, and perfect will is for our lives.  So, in summation, when we have true salvation in Christ, we will not conform to what our culture says is ok, we will choose to look to the cross for our guidance and wisdom instead of that which comes from our peers.

I know this is a potentially controversial topic in many areas, but the fact of the matter is that it shouldn’t be.  Scripture is very clear about how we are to live our lives, when we decide we don’t like what scripture says, or that we want to pick and choose scripture that meets our needs for each different situation, we are putting God in a box and trying to make Him our pet.  God is God, He is all-powerful, almighty, and we will have no idea what His plans are for our lives unless we seek Him continually and wholeheartedly.

I will be releasing the last two segments of this series within the next week to two weeks, and be sure to be reading because there will be a CD giveaway contained in one of the posts.  Thanks, and God Bless!

Phillip

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