Friday, November 13, 2015

Is Church optional?

Is Church optional?

I think so many people misunderstand the Church or the role of the Christian as the Church.  The Church is not the building, it's the people. The Church isn't just worship services and programs you attend, those are things the Church has or does, but not who they are.  The Church is you and me. We are the Church.  The Church is the body of Christ, that God established after Jesus resurrected to represent Him on this earth to share the gospel message with the world, so we can reach the lost with the message and disciples followers to grow in their faith.  That is the Church.

Yet, we've turned the church into anything but what the church is supposed to be.  People claim to be Christians, yet do not attend, worship, serve, or aren't members of any local Church.  Some people who are supposed members attend on Sunday mornings only, as if attending a service once a week fulfills an obligation to God.  Some Church members are so sporadic and inconsistent in their Church attendance and involvement, you wonder why they even come at all? You have those who are faithful in attending church services, yet they won't life a finger to help serve, volunteer, or be involved in the ministries of the Church and leave the burden to the faithful few who do all the work.  Then you have those who just have to be busy doing "stuff" so they are always involved, yet they aren't allowing themselves to be fed spiritually.  That's not even counting those who aren't being transformed and who haven't totally surrendered to the will of God.

Friends, the Church isn't optional for the Christian.  It's necessary.  It's mandatory.  It's commanded from God.  The Church was created to be Jesus on earth and to share His message of salvation and then once people are saved, help them grow in their relationship(discipling).  Being a part of the Church body comes with being a Christian.  Wanting to be a Christian yet you don't want to attend church services, or  serve or give in the church, or be involved is like saying I want to have a job and get a paycheck but I don't want to show up and work.   It's like saying I want to lose weight, but I'm not going to diet, exercise, and participate in the process, but still expect to lose weight.  It's not going to happen.  You're not going to lose weight and you're not going to have a job. You're not being a Christian or acting saved when you aren't faithful to God and His Church.

Christians can't survive without being connected to the Church and the Church can't function without it's body parts(members) being present, active, and involved.  I've never really understood why someone would want to be a Christian, yet not be faithful to God's church?  It doesn't make sense? It's like saying I want to be married, but I don't want to be involved or faithful to my spouse?   A marriage is nothing but a piece of paper without a relationship, involvement, and faithfulness of both parties.   God even used marriage in Ephesians 5 to describe the relationship between us and His church.  That's how vital and important it is.

If we want God to save us, if we want to go to Heaven, and if we truly love Jesus and want a relationship with Him, we have to take His church just as serious.   While attending services won't save you, they are meant to help you, give you an opportunity to worship, fellowship, and serve, so you should take advantage of them and be faithful and committed to attending and being involved in the church services your local church provides.  If you church has bible studies, small groups, or sunday school classes they are providing you with opportunities to study God's Word with other church members and you should have a desire to want to learn and study God's Word.  While we need study alone, we also need to study together.

God has gifted you with a variety of talents and abilities that He wants you to use through the Church.  Serving God through the church isn't optional either, though many live like that.  I think part of the reason many of our churches are stagnant, dwindling, dying, and complacent is because so many so called Church members aren't actively involved in serving and giving back to God through the Church.   A small percentage of the church members end up having to do ALL the work and serving in areas they are not gifted, but their mentality is "someone has to do it".   The Church isn't optional.  Do you want a God whos part-time? Inconsistent? Unfaithful?  Do you want a God who's salvation is optional if He feel likes saving only some?  I doubt it.

We need the Church, but more importantly, we need to be the Church.  We are the Church. We are the body of Christ if we are Christians and its' time we start acting and living like it.  Be faithful to God and His Church.  Be a faithful commitment member.  Make a commitment to attend
Church services more faithfully than just once  week or here and there when you feel like it.  Get involved in a bible study.  Volunteer to serve without having to be begged or sign a sign-up sheet, see a need and fill it.  Invite people to church look for opportunities to share the gospel, serve, give, and be the Church out in the world.

Church isn't optional.  The body of Christ isn't optional.
 
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
 
Ephesians 5:31-32niv
31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Friday, October 23, 2015

What matters

What Matters

It seems in Christian or religious circles we tend to focus on non-essentials or things that don't matter as far as salvation is concerned.  What I mean, is when we look at any subject, topic, or doctrine, we have to ask ourselves is this a command or instruction in God's Word or is this a preference, tradition, or a place where we have individual freedom to decide.

There are things in the Bible that are black and white, but there are also things that were cultural or social at the time of their writings.   There are also differences between the law of the Old Testament and the new covenant of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  The problem we face in any case when discussing what is sin and what is no sin or what is right and wrong is our "interpretation" of scripture or sometimes our "lack of interpretation" of scripture.

It's easy to pick and choose bible verses out of the Bible forgetting that the bible wasn't originally written in this book and chapter and verse format.  Also, not all books of the bible are written the same, meaning some are historical accounts, some are letters, some are poetry, and some are eyewitness accounts, etc.

We also forget that when we read God's Word we need to read it in context, meaning we can't just pull out random verses to defend our arguments, justify our actions, or back up our doctrinal stances. We need to look at the text as a whole and ask the Who, What, When, Where, and Why and stop taking individual verses out of context or trying to use or misuse certain scriptures to defend or support our beliefs.

Sadly, many people don't study the Bible as they should, they rely on others to tell them what it says or they are influenced by their parents, a preacher, an author, their own agendas, or someone else to tell them how or what to believe. They are indoctrinated by their particular denominational or church group as to what or how to believe and reality and truth is these groups aren't all teaching the truth or biblical doctrines correctly.

Even more sadly, is the fact that many of us judge, condemn, condone, or support things based on our skewed  or ignorant view of scripture based not on actual study of scripture, but on what we are taught about scripture from our parents, family, preacher, or church group, or what we do on our own We look down on others faith, will not fellowship with them, or even like to argue/debate with others in a negative way, none of which honors or glorifies God, even if you were correct.  You can be right and still have the wrong attitude.

We are lying to ourselves if we don't think the devil is using Christians and churches to do his bidding.  Satan is the father of deception and confusion and he wants Christians and churches splitting, fighting, arguing, dividing, and fighting amongst ourselves, so that the world will see that and not want anything to do with God or His Church, but also if Christians are busy always fighting, arguing, or on their personal crusades with their favorite doctrinal issues, then you aren't focused on busy on things that really matter, which is reaching the lost, making disciples, and serving others.

It's time we all get back focused on what matters.  Don't be known for what you're against, be known for what you're for.  Instead of boycotting, picketing, debating, or blasting people on social media, how about praying for others, sharing your faith with others, serving in your community, and finding ways to love people, or read your bible.

When we stand before the Lord someday, I don't believe He's going to be asking us if we sung with or without instruments, if we sung hymns or contemporary songs, used the King James or NIV bible version, if we went to the Baptist or Methodist Church, or how many religious debates are arguments we won.   He won't asked us if we dressed up for church, or accepted changes is society and culture. Yet, many of us live like this is the case every day.

We've got to get back to reading our Bibles and studying God's Word.  In it, is how we should be living, how we should be acting, what our attitudes should be, what we should be doing , and what really matters.  We need to ask ourselves in any situation, is this really a salvation issue? Is this really essential or non-essential to mine or others salvation? Is this a command or personal preference?  Is this truth? God is God, and He desires our obedience and faithfulness to Him and His truth, but at the same time he's not as fundamental, legalistic, liberal, and narrow-minded as we try to make Him out to be.   The truth is we don't really know Him, we are just doing what we've been taught, modeled for us by others, or we've allowed satan to use us to hurt the church.

Let's all get back to being people of the Bible and being people who focus on the things that really matter. 

Romans 14:1
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.

2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Easily Offended

Easily Offended
Proverbs 19:11(NIV)
A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense .

We live in a world that is so easily offended.  People sit around looking and waiting to be offended by something.  They troll the internet and they listen intently at conversations looking for something to be offended about. On the side of every issue or topic, there's a party waiting to be offended by the other.

It's in our homes, in our schools, at our workplaces, and yes, even in our churches.  People offended.  If someone doesn't speak to me, or act friendly to me, I'm offended.  If someone doesn't invite me or ask me to do something, I'm offended.  The list is really endless of the things people get offended over and that's not even counting all the stuff going on in our culture and society today. 

There is a time and place to be offended.  We should be offended when sin. We should be offended if someone is done wrong or treated bad.  We should be offended if someone attacks God or His Church or His Word, but those aren't the things that usually offend us.  What offends us is usually selfish or self-centered things.  Our easily offended is usually because we are insecure, moody, angry, hurt, or have a bad or wrong attitude to begin with.  So, we are basically just a person sitting around waiting to be offended by something.  If you look for trouble, you'll find it every time.

My goal today is for us to understand that many times our "being offended" is not  because of the perpetrator, but a lot of times its us, because we have a wrong or bad attitude or underlying issues that cause us to be upset because we didn't get our way, we misunderstand something someone said, or we simply are overly emotional and sensitive and get our feelings hurt, or we're "looking" for things to be offended about. 

In my line of work, working in churches, I have had my share of dealing with the easily offended.  I'm not saying I don't put my foot in my mouth at times or make someone mad, Lord knows anyone who knows me knows I'm an expert at that, but people are offended because you don't ask them to do something, or you didn't invite them to something, or you didn't mention them from the pulpit, or you forgot to give them credit for something, etc...even though it may be because they have a wrong attitude or something else, I think we come to church or serve in the local church we need to never be "offended" because everything we are doing or a part of in the church should be for God and His glory and not our own in the first place.

I've never understood people getting upset, offended, or feelings hurt within the body of Christ? Why? Because everything we do is supposed to be for God and about God, so if our feelings are getting hurt or something is offending us, its because we're making it about us and not about God.  So, maybe we need to have some folks get the focus off themselves and back on God where it belongs?

Also, in the world, there are going to be legitimate things that offend us or go against our faith and convictions, but that doesn't give us a right to be mean, ugly, or hurtful towards those outside or inside of the church.  Whatever we do or say to defend God or His Word we need to do out of love and represent Him well in this world.

I think the best advice I can give anyone, is "Chill out!"  Stop being so easily offended by anything and everything.  Put your energy and focus on being the best person and child of God you can be and pick and choose your battles wisely and make sure your "offended" is legit and not because of your own ego, pride, feelings, failings, or sin.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stability

Stability

Proverbs 12:3(niv)
No one can be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted.

Last night in Bible study we talked about "stability" as a Christian and in order to be righteous in God's sight, we need to be firmly grounded and rooted in our faith. In other words we need to be firmly planted and stay consistent in our faith in order to continue to grow and please the Lord.

I think many folks have a problem with being consistent and have stability and balance in their life, especially when it comes to their faith and that is why their faith is all over the place.  One week they're praising God and think He's awesome and the next week they're blaming God and don't understand why He's not answering their prayers.  

The problem is not God and His consistency or stability, the problem is us.  People want to be inconsistent in their church attendance and involvement, their bible study and reading, their prayer and devotional times and then they won't why their faith is unstable?  Most people who lack stability in their personal lives is because they lack direction, goals, purpose, or discipline and the same can be said for the "Christian" who is all over the place in their faith.

Christianity is a 24/7 365 personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  You can't love God on the good days and blame Him on the bad.  You can't just come to church or be involved sporadically or whenever you feel like it.  You can't just pray when you need something or read your bible occasionally. Do you see how the inconsistency has your life out of balance and that is why you're faith is so unstable?

God requires faithfulness of His followers, to receive the rewards or salvation and eternal life, we must be and remain faithful.  Salvation is a free gift, but it does require great sacrifice on our parts to be and remain consistent and faithful because the sacrifice for our salvation was great on Jesus' part. We aren't going to grow, mature, or be what God wants us to be if our lives lack direction, no purpose, no consistency, and all over the place.

People wonder why they struggle, don't feel God, don't see God, or their lives are a struggle and not blessed? I'm not a detective, but I bet I can trace it back to that person having no consistent or stable relationship with Jesus. We all have got to truly surrender to God, make a commitment, and
be faithful to God. This includes creating a stable environment in our lives that will cause us to grow, mature, and know God on a deeper level. 

We have got to be consistent with our Bible reading and study both individually and then with our church body.  We have to be consistent in our church attendance and involvement and getting connected to God and His church Body and doing our part as a body part in the Church.  We also need to be consistent in our service to God.  That is how we create stability in our lives is by having spiritual goals, direction, and purpose and by creating consistency in our lives.   All of this will help us know God better, become more like Him, continue to grow our faith, be used by God, and lead us to a better understanding of God so that we won't drift away, but up and down and all over the place, or in and out of church, or always struggling in our faith.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Deal with it or blow up

Deal with it or blow up

Everyone is human and we're fallible and make mistakes.  We also all have different personalities so we may handle situations different.  How do you handle when your upset with someone? Get your feelings hurt?  Disagree with someone?  Don't get your way? Offended? Let's be honest sometimes in these type of scenario's we're the problem, because we're easily offended, looking for something to be mad about, insecure, jealous,  or other reasons.  But, sometimes it's legitimate and how we handle it makes all the difference in the world.

Our goal in situations like this should be resolution.  Many times the offender or the person you may be hurt or angry toward might not even know you're upset or they did anything wrong.  Sometimes it's a matter of perspective and we're too sensitive and need to get over it and sometimes it's legit and we need to address it. 

However, what happens many times is we don't address it or deal with it.  We keep it inside and we might act different toward the person, being cold  or rude or unfriendly to them subconsciously or even more dangerous we let it build up inside of us until we blow up on that person or someone else.  That is not healthy and I also believe it can lead to sin.  In the Lord's prayer it tells us to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." 

I also think the Bible backs ups the fact that we shouldn't allow things to fester on the inside and that when we have problems or struggles or issues that we need to deal with them while they are small before they become bigger or out of control and take on a life of their own.   So many conflicts and problems could be avoided if people would just be honest and talk to each other when things arise, instead of ignoring them or letting them build up and before you know it, there's tension, a fight, argument , hard feelings, etc...and for what? Many times for silly, stupid, or unknown reasons.

I would encourage everyone to first make sure you're not the problem and your own worst enemy, making sure the reason you are mad, upset, hurt, offended, or angry isn't because you've got issues going on.  Secondly, if it is a legitimate case of it, then deal with it at the lowest level, is it worth talking to them or letting it go?  Thirdly, if you do decided you need to confront or talk to them, do it in love, sincerely, and with your goal being resolving or finding resolution.  

Whatever you do, don't let those negative feelings build up in you because they will cause you to sin and not be a very good person and they will cause you to have strained relationships if you're going around blowing up on everyone because you let it fester.

So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.
 
Ephesians 4:26
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry

Friday, September 11, 2015

Its about people

It's About People


I heard a saying a long time ago, "you can have nice things, or you can have children" and if you've raised kids you understand that children have a tendency to break, scratch, tear up, and stain furniture, carpet, the walls, and everything in between.  Most of the time its by accident or by children being rambunctious, hyper, or playing a little too hard or careless.  If you want to have nice things then you better not have children or live in your house because things overtime are going to become used, tattered, torn, stained, scratched, knocked over,  dented, or worn over time.

Sometimes we take this same mentality into our church buildings.  We treat these places like they are holy shrines.  I am not sure exactly where this practice began, but the truth of scripture is God's presence is no longer in a place, but in a person.  God dwells inside of each and every believer and the church is people, not a building or a place.  There is nothing special or holy about a church building other than when the "church" meets there to worship. Holy is God and Holy is His people. 

While I understand churches use God's money collected to provide places of worship, learning, and fellowship, and we want to take care of these facilities and take care of them like we would our homes or personal belongings. At the same time, they are meant to be used for ministry, service, fellowship, and worship and are not be worshipped or too much emphasis put on material things.

I've been in churches where it looked more like a museum than where ministry takes place, and it was treated like a shrine that couldn't be used or touched. In the bible they met in homes and local places and so they didn't have this type of distraction or problem. Its sad, but many folks care more about the carpet than they do lost souls, they care more about marks on the tables or dings on the wall then they do about loving people where they are with the love of Jesus.  Do you see how easily it is to lose our focus and get distracted by worldly things?

I know many would argue, we paid a lot of money or that or this is God's house or something to that effect, but remember the things we spent God's money on were bought or built,  so that they could be used by people for people.  The house of God is each of us, not buildings or facilities.  I'm all for taking care of our church properties and making them look good.  We need to make good first impressions to people when they full in the parking lot, look at the outside of our buildings, or go in our auditoriums, classrooms, or gyms. We want our church vans and buses to be clean and taken care of, but again remember all these things are to be used to minister to people.  God is to be worshipped, not things.  People matter over things. 

Even though we may try to keep our facilities updated, clean, looking fresh, or honor God with them, we also need to realize God is within us and that our focus should be all the people young and old who enter our doors. We want them to feel welcome, accepted, and loved.   And yes, sometimes they are accident prone, thoughtless, or messy.

I will always work as a Minister to have updated, nice, and useable places to worship, serve, meet, gather, fellowship, and study. But, I always pray those things will only be means to reach the lost, make disciples, worship, fellowship, and gather as the church family. 

Always remember church and ministry are about people and when you deal with people things will get worn, stained, broke, scratched, dented, used, ripped, and have natural wear and tear because of being used.  Things can be replaced, repaired, or fixed.  Souls and people cannot.  Let's be the church and use our buildings, properties, vehicles, and whatever else we own to share the gospel and minister to people as we worship and serve the Lord.

For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Where do you turn?

Where do you turn?

[ No Other Gospel ] I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—
 
for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
 
Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan

Where do you go for hope? Purpose? Meaning?  Where do you go when times get tough, you struggle, or have problems?  Where do you go for strength, comfort, and encouragement?  We have to turn somewhere.  For some, they turn to alcohol or drugs.  Others turn to hurting themselves or others.  Some turn to a needle, a bottle, or a pill.  Others turn to their own ego, strength, or power.  Some look to one night stands, the internet, and using others.  Others turn to the world, money, position, titles, and control.

The truth is we turn somewhere in both good and bad situations and times.  We turn somewhere or to something or someone when we are looking for healing, forgetting, to bury, or to celebrate something.  The problem with all the things we turn to in this world whether its ourselves, someone else, a substance, activity, event, or thrill, they all are temporary at best and only mask the pain, hide the hurt, fill the void, or make us feel good for a bit. Then back to reality and possible more problems because of where you turn.

We were designed by a creator and that creator is God.  God created us and therefore is the only one who can give us purpose, hope, meaning, and value.  God is the only one that can heal us, protect us, comfort us, give us strength, or unconditional love.  God is the only one who understands our needs, feels our pains or joys, and knows what we need and how we need it.   God is the one who created us with feelings, emotions, expressions, and needs.  Therefore, creator knows His creation in both good and bad times, in both need and want, and both happy and sad circumstances.

God knows our strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, struggles and temptations, and our past, present, and future.  God knows all, is all, and is everywhere all the time.  He is God after all, and He created me and you, so creator knows His creation.

There is no problem, struggle, temptation, or sin that God can't help you overcome.  There is no past to big for God to forgive.  There is no tragedy, depression, sadness, or pain that God can't give us hope, comfort, compassion, love, and strength to endure.  There is nothing on this earth that brings joy, peace, and hope like an honest and sincere relationship with the creator.

But what happens?  We don't turn to God, we don't stay in touch daily by talking to God in prayer.  We don't study, learn, and grow because we don't take time or make effort to read and study God's Word He gives us alone or in our church.  We don't tap into the gift of the Holy Spirit, that God gives all baptized believers so we have an unlimited resource in God's Spirit that we neglect to use to draw strength, guidance, and power.  We aren't faithful to God's church in attendance or involvement, so we are disconnected and out of touch with God and because of that the body(church) suffers, but you also suffer  because you are not attached or connected to the body.

So I ask you again today,  Where do you turn?  No matter the situation, no matter the issues, and no matter what turn to God.  Let God be the first and only place you turn.  No thing, no person, and nothing in this world will take the place of God, so stop trying to fit the round peg in the square hole and turn to God in all things in all ways and for all times. 

Psalm 121:1-2

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

 
 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What's it gonna take?

What's it gonna take?

What motivates you?  for some, it's money, for others, it's power.  Some, it might be recognition or the limelight or others it could be trophies and awards?  But, what about your faith? What motivates you?  As a Pastor of a church, I can tell you that not all the supposed members or Christians at your church are motivated to attend, serve, give, or be involved.  It's a sad fact in many churches.

Something at sometime motivated you to give your life to Christ.  To ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, you confessed His name as son of God and Lord of your life, you were baptized and given the Holy Spirit, and you received grace, mercy, forgiveness, and hope in that moment, but what happened or changed?

You used to attend faithfully, serve faithfully, give generously, be involved, and actively being the church and now what? You attend sporadically and aren't consistent.  You don't attend any bible studies? You don't volunteer or serve in any place, and you seldom give of yourself or you time let alone financially.  What happened?

I know different things cause different people to be this way, but the bottom line is they are all excuses and those excuses don't match up to the gift God gave you through His son Jesus Christ.  He deserves your worship, attention, service, giving, attendance, involvement, gifts, time, abilities, and you!  There is no excuse to not living or being a Christian if you claim to be one and there is no excuse for missing Church or not being involved in your local church if you are supposed to be a member.

We make lots of excuses and blame a lot of people why we don't like our church or serve or go like we used to.  We make a lot of excuses about being busy, or working too hard, or the kids, or the job, or your age, or something, but the truth is there isn't a legitimate or good enough excuse you can give God to why you aren't "being the church" or worshipping or serving Him like you are called to do.

I've been there, many of us have been there, and we don't need to stay there and we need to avoid allowing ourselves to get in a place where our faith and our church commitment becomes a thing of the past.  We are risking, jeopardizing, and gambling with our eternity.  Do we seriously think we will stand before the Almighty God someday after what He has done for us and given us through Jesus Christ and think our selfish, lame, no good excuses for not being a faithful Christian or member of His Church body are going to be accepted by Him?

So the question i'm asking today is, "What's it gonna take?" What's it gonna take for you to get serious about your faith and be and remain faithful? I think a God creating me,  a Jesus dying for me, and a Holy Spirit given to me should be enough to motivate us to be faithful.  That's not counting the Bible He gave us and the Church He established for us and all the other blessings and benefits that come from being a Child of God. 

We need to start seriously evaluating our priorities, routines, schedules, and lives and see if God is truly first in our lives. We need to remove and get rid of all excuses we make and give and get off our backsides and get back to worshipping, serving, giving, leading, being involved, sharing our faith, and all the things we should be doing because we Love God and love others and for all the things God has done for us!

I pray that God is enough to motivate me and you to live for Him and remain faithful to Him and His church. 

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
 
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
 
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Do you Listen?

Do you Listen?

There is a big difference between not hearing and not listening.  Not hearing usually has to do with being hard-hearing or having trouble hearing. However, listening is a skill that must be developed and practiced.  You can hear and not listen. 

It is important for Christians to listen to God. We need to listen to His voice.  He may speak to use  through His Word(meaning you have to read your Bible regularly).  He may speak to you through the Holy Spirit who lives and dwells inside of you and acts as a conscience and guide. He may speak to us through prayer. He may speak to us through a person or an event.  He may speak to us through your small group leader, Sunday school teacher, or through the preacher's sermon.  God speaks to us in a variety of ways, but are we really listening?

It's easy to have God's voice drowned out by our busy lives, the distractions around us, by the undealt with sin in our lives, our bad attitudes, narrow minds, or own opinions.  Maybe we don't listen to God because we are too busy talking or trying to control our lives or situations?  Truth is God is always speaking to you and me are we listening?

God isn't always speaking to us like a scolding parent or boss.  He speaks to us to encourage us, remind us of things, comfort us, strengthen us, give us wisdom and discernment, and all sorts of things.  Yes, He may speak to us to warn us of danger, remind us of consequences, or convict us of sin, but God desires a relationship with us and in order for us to have a healthy relationship with God it has to be through Jesus Christ.  We have to truly surrender to God and His plan of salvation.  We have to allow God to transform us and work in our lives and we do that by listening to Him.

Many of you continue to struggle in your sins or faith because you refuse to listen to God in order to develop or grow your faith.  Many of you try to do your own thing and have become set in your  religious routines or ways and refuse to listen to God's guidance and promptings.  It's time you truly learn to not only hear and recognize the voice of God, but to look for it.  To be sensitive to it and not only hear it, but listen to it and respond. 

We have too many churches and too many Christians who do not listen to God and who are missing out on truly growing and experiencing God because they refuse to listen or don't take the time or know how to listen to God.  If you learn to listen to God in your daily lives you will experience greater peace, purpose, healing, love, contentment, hope, forgiveness, and wisdom.  I encourage you to start practicing better listen skills so you can fully experience the power and love of God in your daily lives as we prepare for eternity.

 Proverbs 1:5
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Seriously

Seriously


I've been told before "you're never serious", because I like to laugh and joke a lot, and truth to told I enjoy laughing and making others laugh.  But just because I love humor, being funny, funny things, laughter, making others laugh, etc...doesn't mean I'm not serious about certain things. I am serious when it comes to my faith. That doesn't mean I don' t fail or struggle in anyway, it simply means my eternity isn't something to joke about and not take serious.

I have noticed however, that a lot of folks don't take their salvation, eternity, Christianity, or their part in the church body very serious.  You can tell in their lack of commitment or consistency.  Being a Christian is all about totally surrendering yourself to God and becoming a devoted follower to Him. It should mean transformation for our lives. Change.  Commitment. Devotion. Service. Yet, most church I've been a part or have seen  lacks serious committed members. 

Churches are full of those who claim to be Christians and church "members" yet, they aren't consistent in their attendance, giving, or serving.  They are hit and miss and aren't consistent in their faithfulness to God and the church.  This is why churches attendance numbers fluctuate up and down because of inconsistent worshippers.  People don't give of their time, talents, or finances to the church like they should.  They are not using their gifts to serve God faithfully through the church.  People aren't willing to step up and lead. Yet, they will give all of these things to little league, their hobbies, social organization, and other things? Why? Is something temporary suddenly more important than something eternal?

I think the truth is many just don't take their salvation and faith seriously. Many think if they've been baptized or "saved" they have secured their place in heaven and they can go back to living their normal earthly lives that is primarily about them and their wants and little about God. This is the wrong attitude to have and one of the tricks satan uses to blind us to the truth and reality.  We need to take our faith serious and getting saved or baptized isn't just a free ticket to heaven at the end of your life, its only the beginning of your faith journey as you should be preparing for eternity.

We need to take our faith serious.  We need to take our church attendance/involvement  serious. We need to take our giving to God through the church serious, whether that is financially, our time, or our service.  We need to realize that while salvation is a free gift from God, it's not a free ride to heaven.  It requires us to follow Jesus daily and grow in our faith and mature into a growing Christian.  We need to take our faith more serious than we do anything else, it's not a joke. Hell isn't a laughing matter. 

If you take your faith seriously, then you'll be taking time to study your bible regularly, you'll develop a serious prayer life, you'll be a faithful member of the church and be committed to being there faithfully for services, bible study, small groups, Sunday school, worship services, special programs, or whatever your local church does.  We all take vacations and get sick and sometimes our jobs take us away but that should be the exception not the norm,  otherwise we should be committed to being involved in our local church.  So, yes going to church services, being involved in the local church, and being the church does matter and should be taken seriously.

Finally, we need to take ourselves seriously when it comes to our faith. We all have talents, resources, and abilities we can be using for God.  Why should our jobs, hobbies, or kids sports get all of our money, time, and talents and then give God little or nothing?  It really means we really don't take God or His church or salvation all that seriously or we misunderstand the importance of it all? This world we live in is temporary and while we are here for a little while, it's about being the church, serving, growing, maturing, giving, and doing for the Lord through His Church.

I pray you start taking your faith serious.  You get real about your Christianity and be faithful to God. Be faithful to His Church.  Be committed and consistent in your walk with God, and take it serious and be and remain faithful. We don't want to be like the christians God mentions in the book of Revelation. Eternity is coming, are you taking it serious?

Revelation 3:16(NIV)
16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Church camp

Church Camp

I recently spent a week at our local church camp during a High School Week of camp and just had a great time.  As I get older, my body physically doesn't like the lack of sleep, but my oh my how my spirit is strengthened by the experience there!

I had the thought and I've had it before I wish our churches were a lot more like church camp.  It's really sad to me that students and adults have to go somewhere else to experience the type of fellowship, worship, and spiritual renewal you get at a week of church camp.  Wouldn't be nice if our local churches had this type of atmosphere, attitude, or experience? 

I know their are differences between being away somewhere and enjoying time away from your normal routines and buys lives, I still think the local church could implement and adopt some of the things we experience at church camp.  First, the worship is typically intimate and awesome. We settle for traditional,same ole same ole, predictability in our worship services at the local church and even in our children and youth ministries at our local bodies. We should learn to have worship services at our local church like camp, that are more touching, involve the worshipper, and move you.  After all, worship is about God and for God anyway, not us.

Secondly, I think the relationships you build at church camp are more authentic and real.  We really open up and make ourselves more vulnerable and accessible, while at the local church we come in and sit on our pew, closed off, silent, guarded, and go home without allowing someone to get truly close to us or us getting close to someone.  We need each other and the Bible tells us to carry each others burdens.  We need to rely on the body of Christ and be someone others rely on when we hurt, struggle, or have problems. 

Thirdly, the spiritual aspect of camp is always something I think we need to experience more back at home in our local churches.  While church camp typically has a great setting and you're away from your world, I think the local church should be an oasis too for the Christian and those seeking God.  Our churches have become too much business as usual, and doing the same things the same way for decades, and really becoming more religious social clubs and gatherings, and not the true body of Christ and a place for people to find refuge, healing, love, and change. I think we need to do a better job as a church at being relevant, practical, realistic, and loving.

Finally, I think church camp is a little glimpse of what the church is supposed to really look like and be like. While, we need our church camps and should support them, use them, and be involved in them, we also need to have the same type of attitude/atmosphere for both our members and visitors at the local church.  When they walk in our churches they need to sense the spirit of God there. They need to feel welcomed and loved.  They need to experience God in a variety of ways. 

I pray that all of our churches can learn to be more like we are when we go to church camp.  For most us who go to camp a lot, we love camp, miss camp when gone, and can't wait to go back.  That sounds like the way church should be.

Galatians 6:2(niv)
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Vacation from God

Vacation from God

Well it's that time of year June-August where many folks will be taking a vacation somewhere or someplace.  Vacations are great, we all need time away, time off, and a vacation from our busy lives, our jobs, our normal routines, etc.   I think many people would benefit from taking more time off and not being too busy, or workaholics, or burning themselves out.

However, one thing that we should never take a vacation from is God.  If you need a vacation from God then your doing Christianity/Church wrong.  We need God 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You are also a part of His Church that same amount of time.  While you may need a break from teaching a class, or leading a church program, or something, that doesn't mean you take a vacation from God or His Church.

We always need to be striving and working toward growing our faith.  If we get burnt out, discouraged, or frustrated with Christianity and/or the Church, remember it's not really God or His Church that you have those feelings/emotions with.  It's probably because you've allowed satan a foothold in your life in someway to discourage or upset you, or satan is using someone else to cause you those feelings/emotions.  Our God does not bring about those type of negative feelings/emotions that would cause us to want to take a break from Him or His Church. 

We as individual Christians have to be very careful to protect our hearts, keep our thoughts pure, and strive to for holiness like God.  We need to find balance in our service to God and not do too much.   We also need to not get so busy doing "church stuff" that we neglect our own personal spirituality.  You need to take time to be in church worship and bible studies too and not always being teaching a class, or with the children or teens, or whatever it is you do.   Make time to be in worship and Sunday school class, a small group, or bible study and participate.

I would also encourage you to that when you do go on physical vacations somewhere or weekend getaways that you don't skip church.  I know there are cases where you may be camping or in a place where going to church isn't possible, but more the most part wherever you are traveling there are churches.  It's very good for us to visit other churches  and see what they are doing and how they do things. It's also great just to go somewhere and be a visitor and enjoy worship. I would encourage you to take advantage of going to church somewhere when you are out of town, traveling, or on vacation somewhere.   Most importantly, don't take a vacation from your prayer life, or reading/studying your bible, your devotional time, or reading some good Christian related books.

God never vacations and we weren't designed by God to take a vacation from Him.  You will find the more time you spend with God if you're doing it right, the more rested in Him you'll be. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Yo Yo Christianity

Yo Yo Christianity
What is Yo Yo Christianity?  Well, a yo yo goes up and down and a lot of people who are Christians or claim Christianity are like that in their faith.  They are in and out of church.  They are not consistent or committed in their relationship with Christ and they go back and forth being involved and not involved, reading and studying their bible and not, attending church services faithfully and then not, and they are in and out of church and their faith.

I think the Bible speaks about how God desires us to be once we become Christians and a part of the body of Christ(The Church) when Paul wrote to Timothy in His 2nd letter (2 Timothy 4:7 ) "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Paul was near the end of His life on this earth and He was able to write with confidence these words.  Can the same be said about you?  Will you remain faithful to God all the days of your life and stop yo-yoing in and out of relationship with God or in and out of His church?

I think the problem for people who "yo-yo" is that they either never really took their salvation serious in the first place, so i'd question whether you are even saved? Or it could be that when you become a Christian you never got involved or plugged into your local church and because you weren't focused on serving the Lord you continue to put yourself first.   Maybe the devil still has a foothold in your life and because of that you seem to always struggle because you live for the world, yourself, and not God. 

Faith is like anything else, it needs attention and nurture to grow.  Your Christian walk can be neglected, ignored, put on the back burner, or only used when you think you need it.   What if you have a spouse that wasn't committed to their relationship with you and they were in and out of your life, always in turmoil, and inconsistent would that relationship be healthy? Last? Bring joy? Give you peace? Grow? Absolutely Not! Then why do we think we're going to grow as Christians if we treat God this way?

Being a Christian is a commitment and an eternal one at that!  It means you, yes you, has to make the to read/study your bible, develop and grow your prayer life, and be faithful in attendance, service, giving, worship, and activity in the body of Christ(that is your local church).  If you don't make an effort and a commitment to Christ and His Church you will always struggle, be in and out of church, blame God, make excuses, and be just like a yo yo.

That is why Paul also told the Philippian church members in Philippians 2:12 "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" because your faith and eternity are your responsibility.  Our salvation is solely based on what Jesus Christ did for us and not anything we've done or can do.  However, our salvation is always based on our faith and faithfulness.  We should not gamble away or give up our salvation because we lack commitment, we won't truly surrender to Jesus, or because we won't take the steps necessary to grow and mature in our faith.

Don't be a yo yo Christian,  be faithful, stay faithful.  Be proactive and productive in your relationship with God.  Be committed and stay committed.  Your salvation and eternity are too valuable to not stick with it!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Competing with the World

Competing with the World

Whether we realize it or not, we are in a competition.  We are in competition with the world.  The world wants our time, our devotion, our money, our talents, our children, our marriages, and our families.  The world wants it all.  Sadly, most many of us choose the world over God, our faith, our church, our marriage, children, and family.    We may not think we do, but sometimes the world can be subtle and deceiving. 

Whatever we put in front of God is an idol.  Whether that is our job, our hobbies, our kids sports, our bank account, our relationships, etc...anything can become an idol when it is more important than God.  We have so many things competing for our time, our money, our attention, and our lives we have to realize we are in a competition and compete for our very souls and the souls of our spouse and children.

It doesn't take rocket science, an engineering degree, or the skills of a brain surgeon to see that in many places the world is winning.  People are more committed to their jobs than they are their personal relationship with God.  Many people are more devoted to their social lives than they are their part in the body of Christ(the church) and many folks are more interested in their children's sports teams than they are their children growing up to know and love the Lord first.  While some of you will be quick to get defensive and make excuses the proof is in the pudding.  All we have to do is check our schedule, our monthly calendar,  and our checkbooks and see where our treasure and devotion is.

We spend a lot more time, energy, and money on our hobbies, our worldly possessions, our kids athletic quests, or our toys than we do on or with the Lord and His Church.   The sad truth is none of these things are necessarily wrong or sinful, but when they take the place of God and His Church they become sin because they separate us from God and they become wrong because they get more attention than God.  God doesn't call us to be monks and deny ourselves things in the world, but He does tell us to "deny ourselves daily, and pick up our cross and follow Him"(Luke 9:23),  He does tell us to "have no other God before me" (Exodus 20:3) and to "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness." (Matt. 6:33)

So, if you can have relationships, careers, jobs, hobbies, activities, and material things that aren't selfish and aren't ahead God or become Lord of you life, then I think those things can be good, enjoyable and healthy. However, we must all always make an effort to keep God first, priority, and work on our relationship with Him for ourselves, our marriages, and our families.  If we don't, then all of them will suffer.   We must began to look at things in temporary (the world) and eternal (heaven) perspectives. 

Scripture tells us this world isn't our home and this world isn't what should guide us
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2)  I think that is great advice for us, but more than advice, I think it's a command.  No matter what we do, where we go, how we do it, we need to put God first in this world and realize the world is in competition for our souls, but the world has nothing to offer beyond this life.  God offers both life in this world and for all eternity with Him.  We need to choose wisely, remain faithful, always put God first, and prepare for eternity. In order to win the prize. "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)
 

Friday, May 08, 2015

Building up

Building UP
 
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
 
Does the things you say and do build up others or tear them down? Better yet, if you're a member of a Church are you representing Jesus and His Church body well by letting the things you say and do build up others or is it tearing them down and in the process tearing down the Church and the God's work?
 
We live in a world where people have lots of things to say, lots of opinions on what they think others should  and shouldn't be doing, yet while they are negatively criticizing others they are doing little positive to help others or the church.  I've found most of the time when people are grumbling, complaining, or criticizing they are the ones who have the issue not others and even more important  is instead of grumbling, complaining, and criticizing they need to  look in the mirror and ask  what are they doing to help or serve or make things better? Why isn't your job too? How can you do your part?
 
We have lots of supervisors and bosses, but very few workers in the harvest.  People love to tell you what the church leaders should be doing, the preacher should be doing, the sunday school teachers should be doing, the youth minister should be doing, the worship team should be doing, while they are not doing anything constructive or positive themselves.  It happens in churches and really any organization or work place, but the problem is these negative people are tearing down the morale, influence, and health of that organization and when it comes to it happening in the church body, it's more costly and dangerous.
 
That is why I want to encourage you today to be a positive and productive part of your church, team, workplace, or organization.  Don't spend your time focusing on what you think others should or shouldn't be doing, but focus on what you can do and should be doing or not doing. If you are busy working, serving, or giving you're not going to have time to have your nose where it doesn't belong or even complain about things, and most of the times we complain about things we don't even know or understand or have all the facts anyway and that's not fair or right or  most of all Christ-like. 
 
I also want to encourage you to be reminded God is in control, not you and not everything is going to be to your liking, the way you'd do it, and truth is not everything is the way it may appear or seem to you.  So  as the old country song goes, "mind your own business, and your won't be minding mine".  But, more importantly use your time and energy focusing on what you can do to help, encourage, or build up others, and help your church, business, school, or team.  If we had more people doing good and less people flapping their jaws the world would be a better place and so would the church.
 
I also want to encourage you to keep quiet.  You know the old saying "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."  Whether you realize it or not your words and comments may hurt others, cause dissension, trouble, discouragement, drama, or stir up things that don't need stirred. If you have legitimate concerns take them to the right folks, but don't spread gossip, slander, untruths, and problems in your organization just because you're miserable or unhappy or don't get your way.  When it comes to the church the ramifications are a lot more serious because we are talking about the body of Christ and if we hurt the church or the name of God, we will answer to Him not some earthly person.
 
So be an encouragement wherever you go, serve, volunteer, worship, or work.  Encourage others and build others up. Use you time and energy positively and wisely and focus on what you can do to do better and be better and help others be better. As a church member build up your other church members and make your church a better place by being a positive member and avoid being negative or hurtful to the church of others.
 
May we all strive to represent God well and His Church well both in the church and outside in the world.  God needs people who BUILD UP and not tear down.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Who you around?

Who you around?

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
 
Whether we admit it or not or realize it or not, the people we choose to spend time with and hang around do have an influence on us. It could be a boyfriend or girlfriend, a group of friends at school or work, a spouse, a sibling, a parent, or someone else.  Influence works both ways, we can influence others and they can influence us.  It also works both ways in the sense that it can be positive or negative, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. 
 
It is important that we surround ourselves with people who love us and care about us and our best interest. It's also important that we are the same to others.  We need people in our lives who are going to make us better, be positive, be truthful, be honest with us, and keep us accountable.  On the same token, we also need to not allow someone to bring us down, influence us with negative behaviors, or who sucks the joy  from our lives.
 
While I know we can't always pick our parents, our children, or family members, we certainly have a choice in who we pick as friends and who we decide to date and marry.  So in places where we have choices, we need to choose wisely.  I know every situation and circumstance is different and I can't place a blanket statement across this, but I think we should seek God's counsel and pray for God to help us choose whom we have in our lives and whom we don't. 
 
I can certainly look back on my life and say if I didn't hang out with that person or group of friends or if I didn't date that person I could have avoided a lot of regret, heartache, or bad decisions.  But, hopefully we can let the past serve as a teacher to us, so we don't keep making the same poor choices when it comes to who we surround ourselves with.
 
How many people especially young people dress a certain way, wear their hair a certain way, listen to a certain type of music, or watch certain tv shows and movies, all based on the circle of influence they have in their friends at school?  We are allowing others to influence us who do not have our best interest in mind and who may not be making the best choices themselves and hanging out with them could be effecting your grades, morals, values, and decisions.  
 
You should never have to change who you are or what you believe in order to be friends with someone or date/marry someone.  We also should never abuse or use our relationship with someone whether spouse, parent, child, relative, or whatever to negatively influence someone else for our own selfish reasons.
 
My challenge today is simply that each of us strive to be the best person you can be today for yourself and others.  That me and you make wise choices in who we let in our lives and who we choose to hang out with and spend time with.  That we care what God thinks more than we care what others thinks about us.   God is eternal and what He thinks matters, what your friend at school or at work thinks doesn't and they are very temporary.
 
The key for us is to find our self worth and value in God and not the opinions or influences of others and that we are strong enough and wise enough to choose wisely who we spend time with and surround ourselves with and we are able to discern good and bad and positive and negative people.
 
May we all first and foremost surround ourselves with God and Godly people who love God and love us unconditionally.  Secondly, may we be a good and positive influence to others, and thirdly, may we always be wise in our choices and influences in this world.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Relationship

Relationship

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
 
When God created the world in the beginning, he created everything, including mankind.  We were created for relationship with God and with each other. We were not meant to be alone. Though some of us are introverts and some of us are extroverts or some of us are people persons and some of us are not, I think we all were created to not be alone and/or lonely.
 
Now you can be in a room full of people and be lonely and you can be by yourself and not be lonely, I think it all depends on your attitude.  But, my point being is we were created for relationship.  First, God created us to have a relationship with Him.  Even if you don't claim a relationship with God or never have had a relationship with God, that doesn't dismiss the fact that God created you for relationship with Him. 
 
 I believe all created beings have a God shaped void in their hearts that can only be filled with God. Now many folks spend their whole lives trying to fill that missing void in their lives with all sorts of things like alcohol, drugs, earthly pleasures, popularity, material things, titles, sex, earthly relationships, careers, and you name it, people have tried filling that missing part of their lives with all kind of things and truth is nothing works and nothing will fill it, only the creator. God. God is what's missing, because we were created by a creator who desires a relationship with His creation. 
 
Secondly, we were created for relationship with one another.  Now, don't misunderstand this, people can't replace God.  God is the first and most important relationship we can and should ever have, but God also put us on this earth with other people for us to also have a secondary relationship with others.  Now, people screw this up a lot, they try to replace God with earthly relationships, or the mistake sex as love, or they seek the wrong kinds of attention from others, but God's desire is for us to have healthy relationships with others.
 
Our relationship with God should be our model for all relationships and God wants us to have healthy relationships with others. Of course there are different types of relationships, parents, siblings, children, relatives, friendships, marriages, etc...but the point is that these relationships be healthy.  Now not everyone born is born with a good mom or a good dad, and we can't pick what families we are born into, but even if you didn't grow up with a good mom or dad or good grandparents, or whatever, there are still people out there who will love you and accept you and whom you can do and be the same things for.
 
The key to having healthy good relationships is having a good model.  God is our model in order to know that model we have to know God.  Which means, we have to read his Word(the Bible) and get in touch with his Holy Spirit (be baptized) and become a part of His body (the church) and through these things we'll learn from unconditional, healthy love is.  We then can learn to model that love in our relationships with others.  Too many people who no idea what loving relationships are or what love looks like because they don't know God. 
 
I want to encourage you to know God.  Know His love.  Experience His love.  Have a loving relationship with Him.  Love God.  Love others. Love others the way God loves you. 

Friday, April 03, 2015

Mediocrity

Mediocrity

Revelation 3:16(NIV)
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

These were God's Words to the Church in Laodicea because they were lukewarm, meaning they weren't hot for God or cold for God, but just kind of average and going through the motions and God said in the verse before(15) I wish you were one or the other, but your neither. 

I believe God is an all or nothing God, He says in other scripture "you're either for me or against me", which means pick a team, choose a side, and either live for me or don't, serve me or don't, worship me or don't, but I can tell you mediocre, average, riding the fence, isn't going to cut in in my kingdom.

There's an old saying "You aim for nothing and you'll hit it every time", and I think that is true, so many folks want the benefits of salvation and not "going to hell", but yet they want to coast by on this world, only wanting God or the Church when the need something and making little or no effort or commitment to grow spiritually.  That was the problem with the church God mentioned in Revelation, they were just "lukewarm" neither hot or cold when it came to their faith and that my friends doesn't honor God.

We have too many church bodies where a few body parts are doing all the work in the body, a few of the body parts are doing all the worship, serving, and giving while the majority just sits by on cruise control being spiritually lazy and settling for mediocre religion instead of thriving relationship faith with Jesus Christ.  God deserves better.  Jesus didn't die on the cross for our sins and to give us hope of eternal life in Heaven for us to just be mediocre followers. 

Mediocrity gives less than they can, mediocrity does less than they should,  mediocrity is inconsistent in their worship and participation in the Church,  mediocrity makes excuses and blame shifts, mediocrity is lazy, mediocrity is the devil's playground, and mediocrity is lukewarm.

As the Casting Crowns song says "We were made to thrive" and we need to thrive and be above average, red hot, and healthy for the Lord.  God can't use us if we aren't available, God can work through us if were not willing, and God can't teach us if we never come to church, or bible study, or open our bibles, pray, or listen for His voice or Holy Spirit guidance in our lives. 

It's time to stop making excuses and stop settling for a mediocre faith.  The truth is mediocre faith is no faith at all, you're only lying to yourself and fooling yourself or satan has blinded you to the truth that you are not growing, you are not giving, serving, worshipping, or being used for the kingdom of God.  It's time to thrive!  It's time to step up!  It's time to get involved! It's time to take some ownership of your salvation. It's time to be above average and get on fire for the Lord.  Don't settle for mediocrity or the same old same old.  Thrive. Excel. Grow.

Friday, March 27, 2015

It's Just a Game

It's Just a Game

Really, it is!  For a sports fan whether you like college or pro sports, or whether you like baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or soccer, or whether you play, officiate, or coach little league, jv, or varsity athletics there's a tendency to go overboard in our love of sports and sports teams.

I understand when you play in a competitive game, the goal is to win, and you certainly want to play your best, practice, know fundamentals, and play to help you team succeed.   I'm for competition and wanting to win. I also understand that we all have our favorite teams that we root for, buy their merchandise, have loyal devotion to, and like to trash talk with our friends, family, and co-workers over rivalry games, but my question is when do we cross the line or when do we take sports so serious that it's unhealthy?

I think there are those who get angry, depressed, argue, fight, and some even get into physical altercations all over a game, that was meant to be fun for those playing it and entertainment for those who are fans.  I think there is something wrong when sports or rooting for our favorite team becomes a priority in our lives or causes us to have negative behavior or character.

You don't have to troll social media very long when there are games on to see all the passion for sports. But, not all that passion is healthy, appropriate, or good for you when you lose touch with reality or it changes you in negative ways.  It's great to cheer for your team and it's ok to be bummed out when they don't win, but when we get so angry, we cuss, argue, fight, and lose self-control it has become more than just a game.

There have been coaches, players, fans and game officials who have been hit, attacked, and in extreme cases people hospitalized or even died over a game.  That is beyond sad and pathetic to me.  I have seen personally people harassed, threatened, and cussed out at games just because they were wearing the other teams colors or cheering for the opposing team.  We all have seen on the news or ESPN fans getting injured or killed because they were from the "other team".   Even years ago when I officiated basketball I was threatened at both a biddy league basketball game and at a JV game because "their team" didn't win.   We've all seen stories of parents or coaches or players getting into altercations over games.

How many friendships have been ruined, how many parents/children have bad relationships, how many people have you unfriended or un-followed on social media because of differences in sports?  I think many people take sports  way to serious and to the extreme and to the point where they lose touch with the bigger picture and that is no matter how you twist it, in the end "IT'S JUST A GAME!"

It might be business and big money in professional sports, but it's still just a game. It may be state pride or bragging rights or even money for colleges, but it's still just a game.  You may love your local high school or middle school teams or local little league teams and like to play or want your kids to play, but it's still just a game. Never forget that.

I'll admit I am a big sports fan, my closet and drawers are full of my favorite teams t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and my walls have sports teams stuff hanging on them, and my cupboard has coffee cups, mugs, and cups with my favorite sports teams.  I love my teams, spend a lot of time watching their games and supporting them, but I've always tried to keep it in perspective, it's for fun, it's for entertainment, I enjoy them, but at the end of the day, it's a sport, and it's just a game.

Out of all the priorities in my life, sports aren't even in the top 10.  My faith, my wife, my daughter, my family, my church, my ministry, my friends, etc...take a front seat to sports.  I don't need to turn to a pill or alcohol if my team loses, my self-worth and value is not wrapped up in my favorite teams.

I also think I need to point out that as Christians, there are way too many folks who put sports in front of God and His Church.  They teach their children that team and sports are more important than faith, they may say they don't, but the proof is in the pudding, we skip church services or things for ball games and practices, yet say God is first?  We spend countless hours and money on sports and hardly nothing on serving or giving in the church?  Or better yet, what do we teach our children when God and church becomes 3rd or 5th down the priority list above our beloved sports? Or we consistently miss church services or serving for ballgames.  I know on rare occasions it may happen, but  I've heard all the excuses, but truth is people are in denial, they love their sports and./or their kids sports a lot more than they do God and His church and you have to answer to God not me.  

Also, as Christians I think we forget our character matters no matter where we are? I've seen "Christians" yelling and acting a fool in the stands over a "call" or something, where is their Christian example? Is it on hold while the game is on? I don't think so.  We represent God wherever we are, at the stadium, at the field, and in front of the TV. Also, as Christian athletes and coaches we should se the example that sports are just a game and we play with class, dignity, integrity, sportsmanship, and respect.

The bottom line is no matter how you spin it, sports are just a game and they shouldn't be your life or diminish your character and take over your life to the point where you lose touch with the things that are really important.  Remember no matter how big the game, it's just a game. It's not life. It's a game. It's certainly not more important than God. It's just a game.

1 Corinthians 9:25(NIV)
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Matthew 6:33(NIV)
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Being Called

Being Called


If I was being honest and I will be, it wasn't my idea to go into ministry.  As a matter of fact, I've tried to run away from ministry and this "call" on my life.  When I first felt called into ministry I never imagined it would be into "full-time" or "located" ministry.  I was a teenager at church camp feeling God telling me this is what He wanted me to do, but at the time I just thought it was to preach or work in youth ministry as a volunteer or part-time, but later on I felt He was saying this was what he wanted me to do with my life as a living.

I transferred to Bible college after one year at a state university, and started classes and was doing ministry when I had opportunity, but I still was resisting the call, to the point where I eventually dropped out of Bible College and tried to run form God.  I even joined the US Navy, I guess in same way Jonah boarded a boat to run away from God, I was doing the same thing, but luckily, I wasn't thrown over board and swallowed by a large fish.  But, eventually through my time in the military God molded and shaped me and got me back His track and after getting out of the military I went into full-time ministry. 

I would like to say this was the end of the story, but it wasn't a happily ever after. After a successful 5 year youth ministry, I tried to walk or run away from my calling again, whether it was burnout, satan, or whatever, I was close to not even being a Christian let alone in ministry.  But, by God's grace He didn't give up on me and though I tried to run away from God again and His calling on my life, I could not escape it.  I am thankful that God gives us second and third and sometimes more chances to get ourselves together.

God had a call on my life that I didn't ask for or really want, and even though I tried to run away and hide or walk away and rebel, God was patient with me, because He had and has plans to use me for His will.  I guess like Moses in the old testament I wanted to make excuses or like Jonah I wanted to run away, but when God "calls" you to do something for Him there is no excuse that is going suffice and no place to hide from God. 

Even today there are times where I don't want to be in ministry and I have taken a couple breaks from ministry since all these past times 15 and 20 some years ago, but this time whether I have matured or God has made me wiser, I realize that it's not about me and what I want, it's all about God and what He wants.  My life is not my own.  God paid a heavy price for me and my sin, like He did all mankind.  He also puts "callings" on all our lives so that He can use us for His will, His kingdom, His church, His ministry, and His glory.  Some of us are called into church leadership roles as Elders or Deacons, some of us are called into children, youth, worship, missions, or preaching ministries, and many are called as missionaries out into the world working regular jobs because He needs Christians doctors, teachers, bus drivers, coal miners, railroad workers, bankers, and whatever skills God has gifted you.

God also "calls" us to serve in the local church as Sunday school teachers, nursery workers, sound technicians, greeters, with the teens, or lots of other ministries that go on in the local church.  It is no accident or mistake that we are all gifted with different gifts and talents and that God wants us to use them for Him and not just ourselves or the world.  Do you every pray for God to use you? Or do you make excuses?  Do you ever ask God to show you want He wants you to do or do you run and hide? 

There are days where I just want to be a normal Christian and go to church and sit on a pew and do nothing but complain about the preacher and all the church is doing wrong that I don't like, haha only kidding, but I do at times want to just be a regular Christian serving in a local church and not being the Preacher or Pastor, but that is not what God called me to do or be.  He called me to preach and minister.  It's always for Him and about Him. Never about me or you.  It's about the one who does the calling, not the called. Our role is to listen, be available, be faithful, remain faithful, and be obedient to whatever God calls us to do.  Whether that is full-time, part-time, or volunteer ministry.  Whether that is doing ministry for a living or whether it's just being a faithful part of the local church body and serving God in our careers or lives.

May you listen to the voice of God and follow your calling.  I want to be and remain faithful to God and His calling til the finish.

[ Confirming One’s Calling and Election ] His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.