Monday, August 30, 2010

True Hospitality

I was studying the word "hospitality" today. It comes from two words: "philos" meaning to show mutual love to one another and "xenos" meaning stranger.

Hospitality is showing mutual love to strangers. It means displaying Chrit's love to strangers. How do we do this? We are all called to do this, not just those who work in a ministry called "hospitality".

Who is a stranger?
A stranger is someone you do not currently know. It can be someone you meet today. A next door neighbor. A stranger can be someone you see every day but do not know. You work with them. You live beside them. You go to your kid's ballgames with them. Strangers are closer than you think.

How can we show hospitality to a stranger?
Matthew 25:35 says, "I was a stranger and you took Me in." Providing food and shelter are basic ways. But is is much more than that. We have to be attentive to the needs of those around us. If we hear of a need and help meet it, we are being hospitable.

What keeps us from being hospitable?
You name it. Time, fear, busyness, lack of compassion. There can be numerous things that keep us from helping others. It is also hard to help those you are not connected with. Building a relationship with those around you is vital for hospitality.

How can I be more hospitable?
LISTEN! Listen for situations in other's lives today that you can offer advice, assistance or acceptance. We have to get our eyes off our own little world so we can see others.

Jesus said Matthew 25:35 and others asked when they had ever done that? Jesus said, "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25:40)

Remember these words in Hebrews 13:1-2: "Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

10 Random Thoughts

1. I read this in a book yesterday: "Presenting the Gospel with the wrong attitude is like serving an incredible steak dinner on the lid of a trash can." The "meat" is fantastic but the delivery is pathetic. We have to display Christ well!

2. Titus 2:10 says we should, "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things." The NIV says, "we should make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." How do we do that? We are not trying to make God something He isn't. He is Majestic! It is our unholy lifestyles that can misrepresent Him as unattractive. Our lives should be arranged or set in order to bring glory to God. We should "decorate" and "embellish" our lives with the character of Christ. We need to be people of holiness, mercy, kindness, integrity, forgiveness, unselfishness, patience, repentance, and gentleness. When these qualities are present in our lives, we garnish the message of Christ and make Him attractive to the unsaved. The hypocrisy of man can turn people away from the sincerity of God.

3. Evangelism and discipleship are not in competition with each other. They go hand in hand.

4. MEN - If you are not there for your family, satan will be. We cannot relinquish to him what God has given to us.

5. Sometimes we can't enjoy God's blessing and favor in our own lives because we are too consumed and envious of how He is blessing others. Rejoice in how God has blessed you and how He chooses to bless others!

6. My pastor told me Sunday night that real men of God should be risk takers. The New Testament church was full of risk takers. They didn't play it safe. They didn't form committees to pray about things and then never do them. They did huge things for the Lord to see huge results for Him. If I play to the crowd as a pastor, I'll only be interested in how many people I can keep instead of how many people I can reach. We've got to do all that we can to reach all that we can.

7. People will criticize you for what you do for the Gospel and it will hurt. But like my basketball coach in Jr. High said, "Are you hurt or injured? If you are hurt, you can play. If you are injured then you are out for the season." We must not give up - we must continue in what God has called us to do. We must play hurt. God will heal our hurts.

8. I read these verses today and prayed them for church as it reaches Jefferson County and every county that touches it: "I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt." (Ezekiel 36:9-10)

9. Lord, teach me to balance family and ministry. I cannot sacrifice my family on the alter of ministry. I must also fulfill my calling in ministry.

10. As a staff, we are talking about how to define the culture of our church. How do we make it the kind of church that honors the Lord and reaches the greatest number of people? I was thinking about a couple of questions: "Is there anything that we are doing as a church that I wouldn't be excited about if I was not on staff?" A similar question is, "would I attend Family Church if I were not on staff." Those are tough questions for every pastor. It helps us look through the eyes of our people and guests. By the way - I LOVE FAMILY CHURCH AND ALL WE ARE DOING AND PLANNING TO DO TO ADVANCE GOD'S KINGDOM! What an amazing place to pastor!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

10 Random Thoughts

1. I love kids. I love Children's Ministry. I don't need anyone to motivate me in that area. This doesn't me that I'm not in need of leadership. I need leadership. Why am I self-starting in ministry? It is overflow of time spent with Him. I am continually spending time with the Lord and because of that I am growing in Christ. When I grow and spend time in Him on a consistent basis, my ministry reflects it. I worship every day. I pray every day. I read the word every day. I listen to Him every day. We try to grow our ministries all too often by concentrating on what we don't have instead of concentrating on what we do - THE HOLY SPIRIT living in us. Yes we need tools for ministry but the same Holy Spirit that formed the early church and grew by leaps and bounds (with no resources, no budget, no classrooms of their own, no creative games, no technology and no All-Star children's ministry staff) lives in me and is ready to do the same in our church. They were desperately in love with the Lord. They were His fuel that burned and ran the early church because they were being renewed and changed daily in Him. We should use every resource available. We should search out the best tools and greatest games. But we desperately need to seek the Lord first. If we don't do that then everything we try in the flesh will fail.

2. I hate it when people say my job as a pastor is not a real job. Because it isn't a real job then they say I have all the time in the world. After all, we just sit at home all day and do nothing. Right? Wrong! My entire weekend is filled with ministry. I go to work every day and work 9-10 hours a day, come home (maybe) THEN spend 4-6 nights a week away from my family doing ministry in meetings, counselings, etc. I sometimes don't see my kids during a day. The phone never stops ringing. My job doesn't cut off at 5pm. I make sure I make my family a priority but sometimes it is tough. And you know what---I love it! I love the ministry. I'm called to it and have the best job in the world. Why? Just take today. Today, I visited and prayed for two families who had new babies in our church at the hospital. I led a guy to the Lord in his driveway. I counseled with a couple having marriage issues. I talked on the phone to 3 different guys today and encouraged them. I helped a lady find a job today. I met with a young man this afternoon and helped him find clarity for his calling in life and how to take things one step at a time. I organized some things for two different chidlren's ministries today to make them function and serve our kids and families better. I served some people in our church today for about an hour to help grow their new business. I wrote a lesson for our life group ministry. I met in a group of children's workers tonight and dreamed about elementary ministry. Today was packed! I look back and realize I made a difference. I didn't just punch a clock. I didn't just make come cogs and sprockets. I didn't just make the donuts. I was an instrument used by the Lord in a wonderful calling to bring about real life change. Today, I fulfilled my purpose. Not a real job? You are right. It's not a job to me at all. It's a lifestyle that I just happen to get paid for. It is a joy, not a job. It fulfills me, not burdens me. I look forward to it every morning and wake up in the middle of the night dreaming about it. Pastoring is the greatest job and the pastors I serve with are the hardest working people I know. They sacrifice so much to see so much happen in the Kingdom. Thank you Lord for the greatest job of all.

Sorry. Now that those are out of the way the rest of these will be shorter.

3. I heard another pastor say this, “Becoming obsessed with what others think about me is the quickest way to forget what God thinks about me.”

4. God will take care of His people. He shows us what we are to do. He isn't always as upfront about how to do it. We should always obey and do the "what" before we know all of the "how to". As we seek Him about the "what" he will reveal to us the "how to".

5. The two biggest questions parents ask their kids about church is: 1) did you have fun? and 2) what did you learn? We have to do both of these well.

6. I led a guy to the Lord today. Not in my cozy office or after a message I preached but in his driveway. Nothing will put a pep in your step for ministry like evangelism. When was the last time you asked someone if they have given their life to the Lord? Do it tomorrow. Hang around lost people. Get out of your Christian circle.

7. I want to live my life for the Lord like Jeremiah talked about in Jeremiah 20:9 - But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot."

8. If you are truly called by the Lord to something, you will sacrifice for it. You will have to in order to see the fruit come to pass. Things that are important to this world must fade away if we are going to see Him show up.

9. Don't do ministry out of obligation. Do it out of desperation.

10. Apart from Him (John 15:5) I can do nothing. If I want much fruit, I must abide (live, move and have our being - Acts 17:28) in Him. I can't snack, I must feast! I can't dabble, I must devote. I can't catch the highlight reel, I must be in the story!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Luke 22:38

I was asked by someone this weekend why Jesus told his disciples to sell their cloaks and buy a sword in Luke 22:38? Was Jesus promoting violence? Did He want them to kill or hurt others in order to carry out the will of God?

Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: `And he was numbered with the transgressors' ; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied. (Luke 22:35-38, NIV)

Was Jesus advocation violence? We see that later that same evening, when Peter uses a sword, Jesus tells him to put it away. Matthew 26:52 says, "Put your sword back in its place. Then Jesus said to him, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." Luke 22:51 records Jesus saying, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him." In John 18:11, Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"'). Mark only notes that while one disciple used a sword, Jesus allowed himself to be arrested peacefully.

So, why did Jesus tell them to buy swords and then would not let them use them? Why did Jesus rebuke Peter for using the sword He told him to purchase? Buy them then don't use them? Take up a sword then let me rebuke you for using it?

For one, there wasn't enough time between Jesus telling them to purchase a sword and Peter using a sword. In Luke 22:38, the disciples tell Jesus they already have two swords. Jesus said that was enough. Enough? For 11 people? Everyone didn't have one Jesus. How could they fight with only two swords? This is exactly my point. Jesus wasn't telling them to take up arms to fight all who resisted or oppressed them. That would go against everything He had already preached and would live out on the cross. But there could be times, although none are listed in scripture, that they may have had to personally defend themselves from robbers, etc. If Jesus had wanted them to fight everyone that opposed them, He would have said that two swords were not enough. He would have also taught this throughout His entire ministry with the disciples.

One thing that proves this point is that none of the disciples (including Peter) resorted any further to violence to build the Kingdom. In Acts, we see, they consistently accepted persecution peacefully. (Acts 4:25-31, 8:1-3, 9:1-2, 12:1-5).

Does Jesus promote the use of violent self-defence? I think only as a last resort. While I think that, there is no record of Jesus or the apostles ever resorting to it, despite the extreme persecution they all faced. Would the disciples face attackers? Yes. Should they have defended themselves? Maybe. What kind of attack was it? If they were attacked for furthering the Kingdom, then no. If they were attacked by a robber or random thug that could prevent them from preaching and carrying out the will of Jesus, then possibly yes. Never because of preaching but if there was a chance that a thug would harm them and prevent them from preaching the next day, then maybe.

As in all cases, if we are defending ourselves from attackers, we have to love them (Matthew 5:44). I think this means in the extreme situation when we are trying to protect ourselves and family, we try to minimise the harm needed to carry this out on the attacker.

But, as Jesus demonstrated on the cross, violent self-defense must never be against a ruling authority. Even if we don't like or agree with it. Violent self-defense must only be used in a violent attack on ourselves when life is at stake (i.e. if someone breaks into your home or if someone attacks your wife and kids). This kind of death is not martyrdom, but crime. Justice must be carried out by the courts and police. You are only seeking to stop the harm done to you or your family until the authorities arrive and can take over to carry this out.

So, does Luke 22:35-38 promote self-defense? I think only as we apply it with all of Jesus' other teaching. It cannot be separated from all His other commands to love our enemies.

Monday, August 9, 2010

10 Random Thoughts

1. You'll always have more to get done than you can possibly do in a day. Especially when you are in the ministry and especially when you are passionate about what you do. BUT - you have to prioritize your family. Leave time to eat dinner with your family. Spend time with your kids at night. Don't pack your day so full that your family suffers at night. Trust me, the work and ministry will be there in the morning.

2. If you don't, you should hate it when people don't plan. I do. Usually this happens and they expect you to drop everything you've planned and help them not look so embarrassed (or embarrass you also). Come on people - PLAN THINGS OUT WELL!

3. A day of rest is something the Lord requires us to do. Someone once said, "the devil doesn't take a day off, neither will I". Sounds good, but the devil isn't our example. God spent more time on "Remember the Sabbath..."

4. In Luke 8:37, after Jesus had healed the demon possessed man and sent the demons into the pigs, the people gathered together and asked Jesus to leave. What? Leave? They were fearful it says. I think it was because they feared he'd cause more pigs to die and hurt the pig farmers more financially. They were more interested in their finances than Jesus' ministry. We should be willing to let all of our finances and possessions go for the sake of the Gospel and ministry!

5. Everybody should be discipling somebody! You should be sharing what you learn during the message, your quiet time, etc. with somebody on a consistent basis. When we don't, we disobey the commands of the Lord to go and make disciples - Matthew 28:19.

6. Yard sales and flea markets are great things to get up early for. I did both this past weekend. Found a tackle box for a quarter that has a flashlight built into the handle - yes, I'm a nerd. Bought some blueberries at the flea market and made some muffins from scratch Sunday morning! Yummy! But, nothing beats getting up early and spending time in the word and hearing from the Lord. If you get up early for anything, make sure you get with God first!

7. I believe God has great things in store for Family Church! Our best days are ahead. Haggai 2:9 says, "'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty."

8. I think one of the ways to kill what God is doing in your church is to wait until everything lines up perfect before you make a decision. Just believe God, pray big prayers and GO FOR IT! Also allowing people who have never done anything for the Lord to dictate how you run church will kill God's plan for your church.

9. 9 out of 10 people who start out in ministry full time don't retire in it. 90%!!! Pray for your pastors and leaders. Encourage them and lift them up! Help them accomplish what God is calling them to do.

10. Don't just expect people to do what you think they should do and then talk bad about them after they fail in your eyes. Speak your expectations to them and build a team that accomplishes great things for the Lord.

OK, 11 - eat at the Woodshed Restaurant! I recommend the turkey salad and ribs! Let them cater your next event. Go Bryan and Kassie.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Talented Young David

When the young boy David said that he could kill the enormous man Goliath, some religious people may have thought he was being arrogant, even prideful. His brothers did. Saul did at first. After all, could a small boy who wasn’t even in the army kill a seasoned veteran that was bigger than any of the Israelite soldiers? None of the Israelites dared challenge him.

David’s brothers were jealous of him. They remembered how Samuel had chosen and anointed their brother instead of them to be the next King of Israel. They were literally rejected by Samuel. When David showed up at the battle to serve his brothers, his oldest brother Eliab asked him where he had left the few sheep he was tending. Few sheep? He took care of a whole flock - the livelihood of his father Jesse! It was no little task. It was one that took all the brothers before they left for war. When someone is jealous of you, they always make what you are doing look small and insignificant. His brother also said to him, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is” (1 Samuel 17:28).

This just can’t be true. Was David arrogant? Was he prideful and full of himself? Let’s see. He was anointed and chosen by the Prophet Samuel to be the next king. King Saul was looking for someone who played the harp well. Out of everyone in the kingdom, young David was chosen. He must have played an awesome harp. One of Saul’s servants said about David, “He knows how to play the harp, he brave and a warrior, he speaks well and is very handsome, and the Lord is with Him.” (1 Samuel 16:18). This young man had a lot going for him.

His brothers probably had heard the story he would soon tell to King Saul about the time he killed a lion and a bear. It would be easy for someone who wasn’t close to the Lord to be jealous of such a talented, handsome, man of God. He could play a mean harp and toss a rock with supreme accuracy. Later on, Saul would be jealous of Him and his ability, turn on him, and try to kill him. Even Goliath despised him for his good looks and boldness as he looked him over.

Here’s the point: if God has called and gifted you for His purposes, don’t give up doing what you are doing because someone is jealous of you. Usually, those doing what the Lord requires meet opposition. Make sure your heart isn’t full of pride or conceit because of the talent you possess.

I’m thinking of a particular young person in our church with extreme talent. They also possess good looks. Don’t try and guess who it is, you will most likely be wrong. They serve the Lord and I hear them talk about Him often. There is no doubt the Lord has chosen them to do some great things. When this person displays their talents and gifts, many are blessed. I have heard some people make jealous statements and call this person prideful and arrogant. Really? Just because David displayed his great harp abilities, great battle skills, was promoted fast through the ranks to armor bearer of the King, lived in the palace with Saul, and was anointed to be the next King of Israel doesn’t mean his brother was right when he said he was conceited. Just because he listed his qualifications of being able to kill the bear and the lion by himself doesn’t mean he was arrogant. He was using his God-given abilities and talent for the Lord. After all, no one else in the army had stepped up - not even the King. David’s brother had jealousy and contempt in his heart. Sin. David kept following the Lord and kept getting promoted. We never hear of his brother getting promoted or using their talents for the Lord.

Why did King Saul let this boy go into a man’s battle? Because David lived with and served Him. Saul knew him. Saul had seen that God’s anointing was on his life. It would be irresponsible of Saul as King to let someone get killed - especially a boy. David’s consistent witness of God’s greatness in his life assured Saul that victory would be certain.

God’s people must promote the people God promotes. We must pray for them, disciple them one on one, and help them - not keep making claims that they are arrogant and prideful. If those making those statements know how to overcome pride and arrogance so well, then why aren’t they discipling the “conceited person” one on one and helping them grow in the Lord. Why? Because those who don’t help someone overcome a hint of pride and arrogance but just merely talk about it are more guilty of a greater pride and arrogance. Everyone who is very talented and uses it for the Lord must deal with pride. It will come up and they will be tempted to give into it. Pride can be a giant in itself.

If God has chosen and anointed you to do His will, do it. If you have talent and ability, especially great talent and ability, use it for the Lord. Don’t let the naysayers keep you from doing God’s purpose. Make sure you have a heart like David - fear the Lord. Keep yourself humble. But humility and hiding God-given talent don’t go hand in hand. Play your harp. Sling your rocks. Slay those giants and bears. Do it for the Lord. When you’ve done it for the Lord, don’t have a “I told you so” attitude toward those who said negative things against you. Only praise the Lord and let Him promote you. Don’t do it yourself. You will have naysayers. Jesus did. They said, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?” (Matthew 13:55). Be sure to give God credit like David did.