Wednesday, June 22, 2016

4 Ways Christians are not Disicples

                     And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the  
                                             breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42

In the pages of the New Testament Jesus is quoted as saying, "follow me" to various people.  Sometimes He is speaking for them to follow him at that moment and other times He is speaking to them eternally. Ultimately all of his directives have eternal ramifications and from this, we can surmise that Jesus is calling us to follow his actions, character, and way of life. To follow Jesus truly, means we are acting like Him, copying his attitude, actions and lifestyle.  Another word for this is, "disciple".  We have been called to be his disciples, but the more time I spend in the ministry, the less disciples and disciple-makers I seem to find.

Here are a few ways that believers in Christ are not living as true disciples:

1) Devotion to Teaching
                 Although a person may attend church, even regularly (twice or more a month) being devoted to teaching is not just sitting in the sanctuary and listening to the preacher.  Nor is it just sitting in the Sunday School or Small Group room and following along in a study guide. I have found that many people, especially millennials, are devoted to attendance (and even that can be sporadic at times) but being devoted to the teaching means studying it during the week. Whether it is preparation for the class, a review of material covered, or both, there needs to be more devotion to the Word of God to truly be a disciple.

2) Devotion to Fellowship
               Some would argue that fellowship is not an issue in the church.  I would suggest that biblical fellowship is missing and this is what it looks like. Gathering with the saints of all ages, races, backgrounds, etc, not just "us four and no more."  It is easy to attend church with a desire to see your friends and there is nothing wrong with this, unless the only fellowship you do is with the people in your inner circle.  The church is the family of God and we must begin to act like it.Oh! And no gossiping allowed.

3) Actively Participating in Ministry 
               This is a tough one for me to address, simply because it is one of the single most frustrating things I have seen in my short nine years of ministry.  However, it is glaring at us from across the denominational spectrum.  For many, simply going to church should be enough.  I mean, how dare the pastor expect us to be active and use our God given gifts and talents for the ministry. It's not like the pastor is supposed to equip us for ministry, why would he dare suggest such nonsense. /sarcasm off.  We need a lot more doers of the Word and a lot less talkers about what they are going to do.

4) Making Other Disciples
               I am starting to understand why it seems there are so few workers for the harvest. It must be because the actual number of disciples is relatively small to begin with or at least in comparison to the number of self-proclaimed Christians. There must be follow up and action, a desire to see the lost come to know the Lord as savior. Yet, sadly enough, I recently heard a statistic that stated about 92% of people who considered themselves Evangelical Christians either had no plan or definitively were not going to share the Gospel with someone in the next year. A sad statistic, indeed.

You might wonder why "prayer" didn't make the list. The simple answer is, I don't know who is praying or who isn't.  At least, not as easily as these four. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Top 3 Reasons for Cancelling Services During the Summer

While on vacation this week, I have enjoyed time with my family, the beach, amusement parks, and most importantly, the Lord.  Leaning towards my pessimistic side however, I have started counting down the days until the vacation is over.  We returned home on Tuesday and Wednesday morning Heather (my lovely wife) had things for me to do around the house. She didn't push, because we went on a 10 mile bike ride on Monday that nearly killed me and I'm as sore now as I have been in a long time, if ever!  Nevertheless, I did help out a little and found myself focusing on the few days left instead of the rest of my vacation.  In fact, one of our church leaders texted me this morning asking a question about church and then quickly followed up with "you're on vacation, never mind."  I tried to answer his question anyway, and he simply said, "I said you're on vacation." I smiled and texted "thanks."  As I sat here thinking about the upcoming weekend, services, music, sermons, the leadership training that starts in a few weeks, and Vacation Bible School this thought occurred to me...."We should cancel services for the summertime since people will be on vacations anyway."  Hence, here are my top 3 reasons to cancel services this summer.

3) People Will Be on Vacation 
                     I already said this in the long-winded introduction, but it stills holds true. It's summer and the kids are out of school.  It's hot and people need to hang out by the beach, pool or in their air-conditioned rooms. They don't need to be bothered with singing songs of praise and worship, getting up on a Sunday and going to church, volunteering in VBS or sharing the Gospel with the lost. I mean sure, those things are important for the Christian life and yes, they are expected of us, but really, what harm can 8 weeks off do?  Okay, okay, that's not the best reason to cancel services, but the next one is perfect!

2) People Will Read and Study on Their Own
                   Christians are commanded to read and study outside of their regular church attendance, right?  I mean, we know that it is up to us to make sure we are getting the "meat" of the Word, learning and growing, away from the church!  So it makes sense that we can expect people to do this during the summer on their own. What could go wrong?  I mean, many have trouble doing this during the year, so surely the time off will allow people to find more time to spend in God's Word and in prayer, right?  No? Ok, number 1 will convince you.

1) Numbers Will be Low
                   This may sound a little like number 3, but I assure you it is completely different. It is simple and right to the point.  The "Summer Slump" is inevitable. It begins around Memorial Day and doesn't go away until usually sometime in mid-August.  Since people won't be coming anyway, let's cancel services. Just think of what we could save on electricity and cleaning crews.  Of course, don't cut the salaries of the staff, they are still on call!  What's that? What about the faithful few or those who show up during the summer looking for Jesus?  Well, okay, I didn't think about that.  Forget this, it was too much like number 3 anyway!

Well, I tried, but try as I might I can't come up with any good reasons for letting our faithfulness and attendance wean during the summer.  I guess it comes down to priorities, so take your vacations and enjoy the beach, rivers and lakes. Just don't let those wonderful gifts that God has allowed us to have, become our Summer Idols.

Monday, May 23, 2016

5 Reasons Why Some Pastors May Seem to Not Care (and what you can do!)

      In my heart of hearts, I am saddened that places like Google and FaceBook treat their employees better than churches treat their pastors. Perhaps today, I can share with you how some pastors might reach this point in their ministry. 
First, it is important to acknowledge that there are some pastors who don't care anymore.  It may seem hard to understand, but for a variety of possible reasons (some not their own fault) they don't care. 

5) Spiritual Dryness (give your pastor time)
                       Many church members fail to remember that the pastor is human too. The pastor falls under the same need for forgiveness of sins, through the redemptive relationship with Jesus Christ.  The pastor is not any different in this area, but instead what may separate them is the high calling to lead God's sheep. This does not make them better than a church member, but instead it makes the target on their back much bigger. This is why it is important for your pastor to be in the Word and in prayer, much more than the average Christian.  It's not that your private time with God is less important, but in the ministry, the attacks are constant and come from all directions. If your pastor isn't prepared every day, how can they hold your hand and guide you when you're attacked?

4) Unnecessary and Continued Criticism  
                                                   (only take to your pastor, the spiritually important issues)

                     While this definitely applies to all forms of leadership, I have never been in a position quite like being a pastor, when it comes to criticism, let me explain.  The same people who smile to your pastor's face, invite him out to eat and love to show him off to friends as "My Pastor" when they run into him in town, are often the same people who will make life harder and call for him to be fired, or gossip and spread lies, when they don't get their way. In some cases, members of the church will get angry at their pastor for preaching the Gospel. Along with this are the people who bring every single little issue to the pastor. If your pastor has been called to this position, it will be natural for him to take your concern to heart and want to help you.  If you take every single little issue to him, however, you will overload him and burn him out faster than you can imagine. Also consider this, your pastor is probably his own biggest critic. So when you bring unnecessary criticism, it tears him down, even if he doesn't show it. When you have to bring necessary criticism to him, do it with gentleness, the way you would want him to come to you.

3) Lack of Support  (Think outside the box and do something special)
                      If your pastor is still in love with the ministry, then he may be throwing everything he can at it.  Unfortunately, some churches have come to expect that of the pastor. After all, they "pay him" to be there and do that. While your pastor needs encouragement from time to time, he may also need your help.  Before you call your pastor and say, "hey, anything I can do?" you should realize that he will probably say "no."  That isn't because he doesn't want your help, it's because he is so used to doing everything, he may not know how to delegate. Instead, pay attention to what it is he is doing and try to take the pressure off.  For example, offer to come and answer the phones so he can concentrate. Offer to pay for and deliver lunch by on a day that he will be in the office working.  Go pick up his vehicle and take it to the car wash, put some gas in it, and return it to him while he continues to study and work.  Make sure he takes vacations, observes the Sabbath and doesn't feel guilty for taking time away from the church/ministry. If you are thinking "we pay him, why should I do that?"I want to encourage you to try being different than the world.

2) Unrealistic Expectations (don't expect your pastor to do more than you)
                  Prep for 2 (sometimes 3 sermons), prep for a Sunday School class, lead a staff or volunteers, be prepared for any spiritual emergency that may come up, be involved in discipleship and evangelism, visit the sick and shut-in, respond to emergencies, be a husband/parent, disciple his wife and children, study (be ready in and out of season), plan for the direction of the church, implement that direction plan, train leaders, answer when you call, listen when you gripe, encourage you when you cry, perform weddings, funerals, counseling and attend every birthday, family reunion, and important event in the lives of the members.

                 All of these are reasonable in the life of a pastor. What many fail to realize is that no one person can do all of them.  It can't be done without sacrificing something and usually what ends up being sacrificed is the most important in the pastor's life.  His prayer life won't complain and gossip, his family usually takes a hit without making him miserable, and his rest and sleep can be reduced if need be.  These are the most important things that God has given your pastor, but he usually will sacrifice it first, because he knows that God loves him and will forgive him if he doesn't pray or read his Bible today.  His family loves him and they will understand if he can't be there tonight, for the fourth night in a row.  He loves himself and can sacrifice his extra rest, in order to do what needs to be done. What he might be more afraid of than letting those things suffer, is the barrage of attacks that will come from his church, if he fails to stroke their egos.  When this happens, the pastor may not only lose his church, he may also lose his joy, his family and sometimes even his life.

1) Apathetic Members (return to your First love)
                 If a church is made up of people who truly love God and will do whatever He has commanded of them, then they will despise apathy, from themselves and from other members.  Sometimes, the pastor finds himself in a situation where he is blamed for the apathy of the members.  I was going to say that perhaps it is sometimes his fault, but honestly, that's baloney. Now, the pastor can be a part of it, but it is up to the individual to obey Christ. If a member is apathetic, it is because they have forgotten the transforming love of Jesus Christ. Their own spiritual journey has suffered for, some reason, and tradition and temporal things are more important.  Some pastors are excellent at leading a church back to the Throne, but it can be a very exhausting and daunting task and with so many pastors quitting each year, it seems it is easier to give up and let God deal with them than be their leader into the "promised land". If Christians would find their First Love and get serious about their relationship with God, the struggle of the pastor would not be so hard.

These are just a few reasons that pastors might seem not to care anymore. What do you think?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Man! I Feel like a Woman!

     Before you begin reading, I probably should go ahead and warn you.  If the picture above makes you feel uncomfortable.........GOOD!!!  I know, you probably thought I was going to suggest that you turn away and stop reading. Well, honestly, that was my intention until I began typing. If you turn away from what I am about to share with you, you will either be in favor of this tragedy or you will be willing to turn a blind eye, thus being partially culpable. 

            Over the last year on my radio show, "Change 4 That!" I have given a lot of time to the issues of Gay Marriage and the SCOTUS ruling on the definition of marriage. It has been, and still remains, my opinion that as Christians we must be willing to look beyond the sins of the individual and share with them the life changing news of freedom from all sin and a life full of Grace that can only be found in a genuine, trasnformative relationship with Jesus Christ.  I did not bash GA Gov. Nathan Deal when he vetoed the Pastor Protection Act nor have I gone on the attack against the left-wing liberal minded administration that continues to infringe on the rights of Americans.  Furthermore, I have not taken up a pitchfork and charged after the RINO's on the right.  I have really tried to make sure we are staying focused and reaching people in spite of their sin, because we all have a struggle with sin in one way or another and it's by God's grace that believers are forgiven. We can't be good enough to earn God's forgiveness (Romans 3:10) (Ephesians 2:8-9)

              I am not afraid to say what is true and I am not afraid to share my opinion, but I am afraid, at least for now, that even I have to take a hard stance and call a spade, a spade, even if that means that I offend you. It's a risk I am willing to take.  Why? For the sake of my children and wife.

              The Family Research Council in Washington D.C. is only one of many who reached out through articles, emails, texts, and Facebook early this morning to inform me and others that "The Obama administration is ramping up its efforts to force public schools to allow students to use the restroom and locker rooms of the opposite sex. Boys who are clearly boys would be free to use the girls' facilities and vice versa. And if parents and students object? They are either ignored or vilified as bigots." (Follow that link to read the story)

              Although there has been a lot of crazy things to happen in recent years, I never thought we would see a day where something so asinine was suggested as if it were a normal and correct approach to fixing a "problem." Until recently,  I didn't want to believe that there are people in Washington who are really that hellbent on destroying Christianity.  I know there are some, but I could not find it in my heart to consider this a pressing issue.  Call it denial, call it naivete, call it what you will. Critics will call me a bigot, hypocrite and judgemental. They will ask me "where is the love that you preach, for the transgendered? Where is your Jesus in all of this??"

Let me break it down for you as simplistically as I can.

              If Jesus were walking on this earth, right now, and he had to use the restroom......he would go to the Men's room. Listen again, What would Jesus do???  Use the urinal.

               Now before you get all high and mighty on me, just save it for someone else. It's time we stopped pandering to the political correctness in this country and turned back towards God (2 Chronicles 7:14) 

               What we are dealing with is the issue of whether a biological and anatomically correct male should use the bathroom or dressing room with a biological and anatomically female.  What?! How in the world can this even be taken seriously?  Because the man says he feels like a woman?   No, I'm sorry. That is just plain stupid. It sounds like a high school excuse that some ne'er-do-well came up with after being caught in the girls locker-room.

                 I'm not suggesting that he really doesn't feel like a woman. I don't know what it's like to feel like a woman. Heck, some days I don't really feel like a man either (like when I see a spider).  And if he feels like this (or vice versa) it's not a bathroom he needs, it's a psychological evaluation.  Don't laugh, I'm not being funny.  That was a very politically incorrect thing to say, but guess what, it's the truth.

                  I will close with this extremity disturbing mental image....

  • If you were born with a penis = male
  • If you were not born with a penis = female
  • If you were born with both, then I'm sorry. I don't know what to tell you, but I am sure there is a Christian doctor or a Christian therapist that can help you figure this one out.

                  By cutting funding from public schools, the Administration will effectively control whether a man, woman, boy or girl legally enters the bathroom with you, your child, your family, etc. What's next? National parks, post offices, city hall........your home?

                  So, fellow Christians.....those of you who have rode the fence for far too long, it's time to take a stand. And for those of you who don't know whether they feel like a man or a woman and refuse to get professional help or to the person who think they can leverage this to follow a child into a restroom, let me warn you, the administration is not interested in seeing that you are treated "fairly".  It's primary focus is to continue to dismantle this country and it's Christian foundation one idiotic issue at the time, while hiding not behind the cross, and not behind the flag, but behind the banner of Political Correctness, Racism and Fear.

This country had better decide who it's going to worship. Soon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I'm back.....but you know how that goes....

       Well, I as the title suggests, I am back. Since it has been almost a year from my last post, I think I should clarify something.  Since last year I have learned a lot about myself and I thank God for showing me some painful things.  One of those painful revelations is just how bad I was at starting something and once it became "old hat," I didn't want to do it any more and I went on to something else. While there is nothing wrong with recognizing the change in a season of life, it is important to be honest and know when the season is changing vs. you just don't enjoy the snow any more.

So as I begin to write on my blog again, I encourage you to do this.....follow it, subscribe to it, get alerts.  Because who knows??? It may be another year before I post!  Oh, and what will I write about?  Well, that depends, but it will probably deal more with what's going on. You know, either what I am personally dealing with or what someone else is dealing with. That kind of thing. Maybe it will be about what you're dealing with! 

Keep the feedback coming and share with your friends...or don't.....yeah, please do.   See you soon.....or maybe not!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Top 5 Suggestions for Saying Up in a Down World

With all of the negativity surrounding us on social media and the news it seems we are in desperate need of something positive.   I, like many of you I would imagine, have considered closing down my Facebook account in an effort to stay away from the constant bickering and fighting that seems to permeate the site.   Each time I think about doing this, another thought comes to my mind and that is, "how am I using Facebook to glorify God?"

Here are a few suggestions on how you can move through life with a positive outlook, beginning with the issue on Facebook:

5) Facebook: This is difficult for many people, myself included, because with the creation of sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter....heck, even Blogger, society has bought into the idea that every voice should be heard.  That's a little silly and yet here I am posting on my blog thinking that "my voice should be heard." The beauty of my blog is that if you want to read my opinions, you are free to do so, but if you don't, you don't have to.  Many would argue that the same goes for Facebook and while that would be a good argument, Facebook allows for an immediate soapbox in response to someone's opinion or post, whereas my blog doesn't provide such a quick and direct response.  Simply put, we don't "have" to respond to everything that makes us mad or offends us and we surely don't need to fill Facebook with such negativity.  A great way to stay up in this down world is use Facebook for good, positive and encouraging posts and un-follow the negative stuff.

4) Read God's Word Daily: It may sound like legalism, but it really isn't. It's filling yourself with the good news and blessings that God has in store. How to read and when to read may become legalistic and there are a lot of suggestions out there as to how this "should" be done. As for me, I do it as the Lord leads me.  That may not be as easily discernible for some, but the key here is that the more good news you fill yourself with, the less "down" you will find yourself.  Whenever I am feeling down, those closest to me will ask, "when did you last read God's Word?"  What a wake up call that can be!

3) Pray Unceasingly: There is a reason 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray without ceasing and I believe that the more we pray, the better we will feel.  There are a lot of other reasons to pray, don't get me wrong, but in this post it is important to focus on staying positive. Praying about what God has done, giving thanks and focusing on his goodness can really be great medicine for the mully grubs.

2) Do Unto Others: I don't know about you, but whenever I do something nice for someone else it really lifts me up. It feels good to help others and see their reaction when they realize someone has done something for them. Wouldn't the day be a little different if each day we were looking for someone to bless?  Be creative and think outside the box! If you go out of your way to bless someone else, that's 365 people in a year that you have touched in a special way!

1) Share the Gospel: This may sound like "preacher stuff," but I am always uplifted when I spend time telling someone about how amazing God has been to me, my family, our church and our friends. There is something special about sharing God's love and the stories of His blessings with others.  Sometimes it may be other Christians and then again sometimes it is with people that don't know Jesus.  The key is share the good news as much as you can with anyone and everyone. As the good news leaves your lips and hits your ears, it has a powerful way of reminding you of His love for you and that can lift up anyone's day.

I hope you have a great week!  What are some ways you encourage others and yourself this week?

And now.....Off to the lake!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Top 5 Ways to Handle the Thorn in Your Flesh

As my ministry assistant aptly pointed out today, I have missed two weeks of blogging!  I apologize for doing so, but two weeks ago was camp and last week I was having major back troubles.  Now, as she also pointed out, "no excuses!" So, I don't offer those as excuses, but actually as a way to lead into today's blog.

For almost six years I have been battling spinal stenosis and degenerative disk disease, both of which are advanced. Advanced, in this case, means that I have the spine of a 65-75 year old with normal progression. This causes disc problems and bone spurs, both of which can really slow me down. I live with a daily dose of pain and the only real question is, "how bad will it hurt", not merely "will it hurt."  This has definitely become the "thorn in my flesh" like Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 12:2-10.

With that in mind, today I will offer you 5 ways to deal with the "thorn" in your flesh, if in fact it doesn't seem that God is going to heal you right now.

5) Keep Praying:  Just because I haven't been healed today, doesn't mean I won't be healed tomorrow. I keep praying and regularly ask God to heal me. Countless times God has healed me, though they have been temporary. I have found that when I needed it the most, He has always come through.

4) Don't Get Mad: This is easier said than done, I know. There have been times that I have sat in anger and pain, tears in my eyes, and cried out to God to deliver me from this disease. Over time, I have learned how to deal with this in a more productive way and when I feel myself getting down or angry, I turn it back to praise by recognize how God is carrying me through it. Just like Paul, in my weakness, He is made stronger.

3) Praise God:  There are times when I don't feel as bad as others. As I type this today, my pain is at about a 5 on a scale of 10 and it's been increasing all morning.  Typically, by the end of the day, it is at an 8 or 9 and I find it difficult to even eat dinner without wanting to go lay down. When my pain level is at a 5 or below, I try to praise God for that!  It helps me remember how good it feels to not hurt as bad. When it is above that, I reflect on those times when it is less than a 5 and give him praise for I know healing is coming in one way or another.

2) Use it for His Glory:  Facebook is an amazing thing. Unless, you use it for a stage to vent from. Then it can be depressing and irritating to view.  I try and often post about how God is carrying me through the pain or going to get me beyond where I am at that moment. I try to remain positive in my posts and although I ask for prayer in many of them, I try and stay away from sounding defeated. Those posts can help others, encourage my readers and give God the glory and ultimately, they make me feel good too.

1) Don't Give Up: Just because God hasn't taken that thorn away from you, doesn't mean He won't.  We don't know how or when, but eventually, God will work it out for his glory.  Many times when things are going well, we tend to forget how much we need God. It is during these tough times that we depend on him greatly, so do just that. Depend on Him because it will be God and God alone that brings you the healing. Take it one day at the time and remember, don't give up and keep on living!

I know many thorns are in many of my readers and I hope these tips have helped you!  Do you have any ideas? to the lake!  That’s right, the lake! I found that I enjoy the lake much more than the river, now that I have a 1985 Lowe Pontoon boat! Never stop living!