Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 - The Year My Life Changed

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. - Jeremiah 29:11
Do you have your list of New Year’s resolutions yet? Everyone has at least one thing they want to change about themselves. Most people attempt change at the beginning of a year. It could be losing weight, quitting smoking, or finishing a degree. Some will even try to gain more peace and self-control. Getting a grip on things like worry or a short temper are great as well.

Many will start new things January 1st but few will follow through with them. Health clubs love this time of year. But are you resolved to make a change or is it just another “good idea” that will never come to pass? Resolution means determination and strong will. It is having boldness, courage, and fortitude. It is being relentless and dedicated. Some have good intentions but “bite off more than they can actually chew.” I encourage you to progressively make changes in your life. Start small and gradually increase in the area you would like to see changed in your life. Find people who can hold you accountable in your endeavors. Whatever good habits you attempt to form, do not neglect the spiritual ones. These are the most important and can help fuel all the others.

Only God knows what 2012 has in store for you. He has great plans for you! His thoughts are of great peace, a good future, and guaranteed hope (Jeremiah 29:11). We cannot be scared of the unknown when we serve a known God (Corrie Ten Boom). Trust in God this year. No matter what happens, keep your eyes focused on Christ (Hebrews 12:2). If you do that, 2012 will be successful for you even if things do not go as you had planned.

I challenge you to grow spiritually this year. Start going to church. Begin praying about everything you encounter. Find Scriptures that deal with your situations and apply them. Discipleship is about regularly and steadily growing in Christ. Developing spiritually is done little by little, bit by bit, and step by step. It is about an unhurried and continuous progress in the Lord. Now is a great time to resolve to grow closer to Jesus Christ. Here are some resolutions of Jonathan Edwards that I believe will help you this next year.

(1) I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration. (2) I will do whatever I think to be my duty for the good and advantage of mankind. (3) I will not lose one moment of time but improve in the most profitable way I possibly can. (4) I will live with all my might while I do live. (5) I will never to do anything that I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life. (6) I will never speak evil of any one. (7) I will study the Scriptures steadily, constantly, and frequently so I may grow in the knowledge of the Lord.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Greatest Gift Of All

How many of you wait till the last minute to do your Christmas shopping? I have to raise both hands on that one. I look for one store to buy all my presents for everyone on my list. This store has to gift wrap also. One stop shopping as close to Christmas as possible is pretty risky. There are sometimes few selections and long lines. Last minute shopping can feel like you are going through the motions or even an afterthought. Putting thought and purpose into our giving can show love and appreciation for others.
When God sent His Son Jesus to this earth to be born, creating the first Christmas, it was on purpose. God’s gift of Jesus was no last ditch effort to give a gift. It certainly was no afterthought. Long before God put Jesus in a manger He purposed Him to die for our sins. Jesus was born in a manger so we might have a home in heaven. God thought of sending Jesus long before He thought of creating Adam and Eve. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” God send Jesus at the perfect time to save man from their sins.

The old covenant, or time before Jesus’ death and resurrection, was a picture of what Jesus Christ would do. God was not short-sighted or ignorant. Genesis 3:15 prophesied to the first people ever created that Jesus would come. The first covenant’s purpose was to expose sin. Jesus’ purpose was to defeat sin. Jesus came to fulfill the laws of the first covenant, not to destroy them (Matthew 5:17). He became our High Priest (Hebrews 6:20) and ultimate sacrifice for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
God decided from the very beginning that Jesus would come to earth to be born, live, die, and rise from death for our sins. God’s gift of Jesus is the true meaning of Christmas. The gift of eternal life is no last-minute afterthought. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
God’s gift is far better than any gift we could ever give or receive. This gift was undeserved and unsolicited. We are not worthy of it nor did we ask for it. God saw in advance our need of salvation – “while we were still in our sin, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). This gift was unlimited and unspeakable. Hebrews 2:9 says Jesus by the grace of God tasted death for every man. 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for us only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

God never gives anything but the best. That’s why He gave His only Son for our sins. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God gave the most costly, precious, and timeless gift of all – Jesus. Human gifts will eventually disappoint and disappear but God’s gift will eternally satisfy and sustain.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't Miss Christmas

While Christmas can seem so far away all year long, it is here and gone before you know it. If you are not careful, all you could be left with this Christmas is lots of shredded wrapping paper, a wrecked house from all the Christmas parties, and credit cards that need to be paid off. After December 25th you can be left asking yourself, “Where did Christmas go?”

The activities of Christmas can be so hectic that “The 12 Days of Christmas” should be rewritten to say, 12 tangled light strands, 11 gifts to wrap, 10 days till school starts, 9 crazy in-laws, 8 AAA batteries!, 7 hours of driving, 6 play rehearsals, 5 hours of baking, 4 easy payments, 3 kids with fever, 2 office parties, and a fruitcake from two years ago. All kidding aside, it is easy to miss the real meaning of Christmas. Many good things can crowd out the one great truth that Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin, to save people from their sins. Jesus is the reason Christmas even exists.

People today are not the only ones who miss Christmas. Most people missed the first Christmas as well. People went about business as usual, even in the same city and on the same street that Jesus was born! Luke 2 tells us about an innkeeper who had no time for the birth of Jesus. Joseph and Mary came looking for a place to stay but his inn was full and all he could give them was a dark, smelly, animal-filled cave. If a pregnant teenager came to you looking for a place to stay would you make her stay in the barn or your dog house? You would if you were preoccupied with other things you thought were more important.

How could you miss the first Christmas? There was a HUGE star in the sky! Angels appeared to shepherds, who I’m sure couldn’t keep quiet. Could you be quiet if an angel appeared to you? I’m sure it wasn’t a silent night. There was lots of chaos that night. A pregnant teenage girl claiming to be a virgin came into town to pay taxes with a man fifteen years older who was not her husband. She said, “The Holy Spirit did it.” Would you have believed her? They placed a newborn baby just where cows and pigs had been eating slop. She was nine months pregnant riding on a donkey. I’m sure that was a sight to see as well. People had to have seen them.

Most people don’t miss Christmas today because they truly hate God or are anti-Christmas. They are distracted. Preoccupation with holiday preparations and immediate satisfaction of physical instead of spiritual needs causes people to miss Christmas. Have you made room for Jesus in your house? Are you saving the best for Him this Christmas or giving Him a backseat to human holiday traditions? It is not too late to prepare for Christmas. Jesus is no longer a baby in a manger but a risen and ascended Savior! He is seated at the right hand of God and His Holy Spirit is longing to be the center of your lives, not just your Christmas day celebrations.

Don’t miss Christmas! The best way to not miss Christmas is to not miss Jesus the other 364 days of the year. Make Him first in all you do and not only will you celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, you will fulfill God’s divine purpose for your life.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Virgin Birth? Really?

Science tells us that it takes both male and female reproductive materials to conceive a baby. Then why do Christians believe in a “virgin birth” when it comes to Jesus? Is it possible to be a Christian and not believe in the Virgin Birth? I would say the answer is no. Why? Scripture foretold this miraculous event. Isaiah tells us, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:30-35, “'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and His Kingdom will have no end. And Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be since I am a virgin?' And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.’” You must believe the entirety of Scripture. Believing in the Virgin Birth is essential to believing that Jesus was God and man and that He was the Savior. The Virgin Birth doctrine was never meant to stand alone as a random truth. The story of Jesus’ birth is like a seamless garment woven by the Holy Spirit. Take out the miracle of His birth and you rip it to shreds.

Doubting whether a virgin can give birth could lead to doubting whether a man could come back to life. If you doubt the Virgin Birth then it could lead to doubting the Resurrection. Doubting either means doubting Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who deny the virgin birth reject the authority of Scripture. They also deny the supernatural birth of the Savior and undermine the Gospel’s foundation. If one claims to deny the Virgin Birth then they discard the very deity of Christ. That person is either Scripturally ignorant or theologically incompetent.

Jesus was truly and fully human, being born from Mary. He was also truly and fully divine, being conceived of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not originate at His human birth but is eternal and sinless with God (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 2:14-17). Jesus’ birth was caused by the working of the Holy Spirit inside Mary. The Spirit and Mary were both involved. Mary could not impregnate herself. God performed the miracle of the Incarnate Christ through Mary. We don’t worship Mary because of all of this but Jesus who came to be our Savior and King.

Christians must see that denying the Virgin Birth is denying Jesus as the Christ. The baby conceived by the Holy Spirit, born in a manger, grew up and died for our sins. This is why He was named Jesus, “for He will save the people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Virgin Birth is essential to the person and work of Jesus and on it the Gospel hinges.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When Your Nets Are Breaking and Your Boat Is Sinking

Ever feel like you have so much on your plate that you are about to go crazy?  I'm there.  Not crazy (I keep reassuring myself) but crazy busy.  Tonight when I got home I reflected on my hectic day and instantly ran to the Lord in His Word so I could bounce the last 15 hours I've been busy with ministry on Him.  I thought of Luke 5 where the disciples had a huge problem - they had fished all night and their nets were empty.  Talk about disappointment and frustration.  Busy, busy, busy, but no fruit to show for it.  Honestly, I think I'm in the same boat (no pun intended) sometimes.

But then I remember that today I tried extremely hard to put Jesus first in everything I did.  I started my day in Him, asked for His help numerous times, cried out for wisdom very vividly once, and remembered the disciples didn't spin their wheels forever.  The Lord showed up and instructed them and they caught what they geared up and said they wanted.

Luke 5:6-11, says they followed Jesus’ instruction to put out their nets again.  They didn't give up in the middle of frustration and discouragement.  They soon faced a different problem - their nets were so full, they started to break and their boat began to sink. 

Ever find yourself in overwhelming situations?  In those times it is easy to let a bad attitude creep in.  You can start to feel sorry for yourself, and even get a "who cares anymore" attitude.  It can stress you out!
Tonight I cried out to the Lord, "Lord, I am stretched, busy, and in need of You.  My nets are breaking!"  Vividly I heard his reply, "Be thankful your nets are full with the right stuff.  Breaking nets are a sign of blessing."  I had forgotten that living a life entrenched in the mess and chaos of ministry was actually a blessing!  A lot of victories happened today.  A few people were helped and changed today as I met with them.  I got the opportunity to share Christ today. 

Loaded? Yes. But loaded with the right things.  Breaking?  Yes, but what joy it is to be busting at the seams instead of coming up empty all night long!  I've been fishing before when we caught absolutely nothing.  That's no fun.  But when you get that bite, and then another, and then another, what a rush!  I'm sure the disciples' night of seeming failure was quickly forgotten when their nets exploded with more fish than they could ever imagine.  No one complained that day.  No one threw any fish back.  They rejoiced in breaking nets and a sinking boat.

Simon (later renamed Peter) continued to fish at the Lord's request.  He said he did it "because You (Jesus) say so."  Why do I continue to do ministry even when nets break and boats begin to sink?  Because He said so. 

What we complain about sometimes is what others would give anything for.  Whether it's a hectic ministry schedule, a full family life, a growing business blessed by the Lord, or whatever, be glad your nets are breaking from blessing and not rotting from being empty.

I'm sure the disciples strained and worked hard to pull in all those fish. Wouldn't you be tired after staying up all night fishing with no action!  But straining to pull in a heavy load hands down beats catching nothing at all!

Be thankful for your breaking nets.  Why?  Because the Lord showed you where to fish - His Holy Honey Hole! And His burden is easy when kept in this perspective.

I'd rather be loaded with the blessing of breaking nets than wandering aimlessly, bored, with nothing to do for His Kingdom.  Bring on the fish!  How can I get in the boat, put on the fishing gear, and complain about catching fish?  I know He'll never put more on me than I can bear.  Glad I'm not in this alone but have other disciples ready to help bring in the catch. When the nets are full and the boat is loaded we have to signal to our partners in ministry to join in the catch of a lifetime.  I'm thankful for breaking nets and overloaded boats.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Been Hurt In Church Before?

Ever had a bad experience at a really good business?  Me too.  I've come to realize this - one employee in a bad mood or having bad service one night doesn't represent the entire reputation of the business.  I don't quit going to restaurants or businesses based on one person having a bad day or out-of-the-ordinary service.  After all, people make mistakes and we should all have a little grace in these situations.  People can let one bad experience keep them from ever going back to a good business. 

From being in the same church for the past 18 years, I've noticed the same thing can happen when it comes to church.  People will attend, serve, and be members of a church for years and then all of a sudden for whatever reason just stop because one thing happens.  Someone will be at a church for a year or even five and let someone not call them when they are sick for one weekend or not agree with one thing the preacher said and they are out the door.  (No, I'm not writing in reference to any recent incidents either so just get that out of your mind).  Maybe they don't like the way the youth did something or possibly someone said something to hurt their feelings (what?  surely CHURCH PEOPLE wouldn't do that) and they choose to leave it all. 

Let me tell you something - Satan wants to use one thing that goes wrong or that may not be your preference to steal you away from years of ministry.  If you don't watch it, a decade of destiny can be stolen away by a moment of murmuring or second of sulking (I can run with this one - fraction of faction, a bit of a split, a wink of a stink, a jiff of a tiff, a flash of a bash, etc.).

Want to know something else - now this may come as a surprise to many - but if you stay in a church long enough a few things happen:  1) You'll hear something you don't agree with, 2) you will see some hypocrisy, 3) you will be hurt by something someone says or does, 4) you will not like all the decisions made by leadership, 5) you won't always agree with all the preaching, and 6) someone will let you down.  Why?  I like to say it this way: "Our church isn't perfect because it has people in it."  Eventually people will fail or disappoint you.  You won't get your way all the time and even won't be considered in every decision that is made within the church. 

But one thing is true:  Jesus is still building His Church.  Jesus used His words carefully when He said, "I will build My Church".   He is not building us a church and we are not building Him one.  He is building His own.  He is (if we let Him) at work perfecting us into His image.  It is when we starting building our own church or stop letting God use us to build His that we usually do things wrong.  This is usually when someone gets hurt, mad, offended, or separated from the unity of the body.

Why is Satan at work trying to get you to walk away from the church over one incident (over something someone said or did)?  He knows getting you away from the church is the first step in getting you to walk away from the Lord altogether.  I was vividly reminded of this as I went through about 500 photos recently from our church's past.  I saw hundreds of faces that are no longer here.  Some have moved because of jobs.  Some have passed away and gone to heaven.  Others, many others, had gone because of either sin, offense, or stubbornness.  Not only had they left the church over a petty offense or reason, they were no longer following the Lord AT ALL!  I actually began to cry when I saw those who had wasted their relationship with the Lord and the Church because of silly reasons.   We must protect the unity of the body of Christ.  How?  Repent, forgive, choose not to pick up offense, realize not everything has to go your way, things can happen without your approval, let it go, work together, value principle over preference, and value relationships over being "right". 

Remember this: every church has made (and will make) unwise decisions at some point.  People sometimes get hurt inside the very church that Jesus desires to be a safe place for them.  Don't quit church because someone made a mistake.  You'd be making a bigger one! 

Another thing is the grass is not always greener on the other side.  Changing churches will not fix your problems because other church have people in them too.  Every church has issues because, again, every church has people.  Switching churches will just switch problems and cause you to run from reconciliation.  Usually if it looks greener on the other side, it is because the other side is on top of a septic tank!
Never forget God and how big He is!  His Church will always be built!  Jesus is building His Church.  If we believe this we will show it by how we forgive, repent, mend relationships, protect unity, and love one another. 

If you've been hurt by church realize this - Jesus will never hurt you.  You can't discount or throw out the church and its importance in your life as a believer.  You need the church.  You need those imperfect people who come together in mission and vision to do the Lord's perfect will.  The church is God's primary tool for reaching and impacting the world.  It is His plan for healing and helping the poor.  It is still His plan to further the Gospel. 

The next time you think the church or the people in it is imperfect ask yourself this:  "How perfect am I?"  The church is not perfect and neither are you and I.  That's why we need the Holy Spirit and a Christ-centered life.  God uses imperfect people in his perfect plan.  Sometimes the church gets it wrong and can even hurt those they should be loving like Christ.  Don't let one wrong thing (or even a few) keep you from the goodness and purity of all of it.  Stick in there.  Ask yourself, "is this one wrong thing the nature and character of the church (or person) or did they just make a mistake?"  "Am I blowing this all out of proportion?"  "Is Satan trying to wedge an offense between me an another believer?"  

If someone else isn't representing the true nature of Jesus' Church then you step up and do it.  This means if they don't repent, then you go to them and try to work it out.  If they hurt you, get with them and mend the relationship.  Don't wait on them.  Maybe they don't know they hurt you.  Maybe you, too, can be wrong.  At all costs protect the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.    The Church isn't perfect but Jesus is.  While this isn't an excuse, I pray we truly represent His true character and Church.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Let God Be Your Shield

While I was driving my daughters to the dentist this past week a huge rock flew into my windshield. It caused all three of us to flinch and my youngest to say “Whoa Daddy, what was that?” I explained that it must have been a rock from the big truck in front of us. My oldest said, “That was close. Good thing we have that windshield. That could have been my head!” She was right. I realized this was a teaching moment about the Lord. I said, “Yes, that windshield protected us. It allows us to drive unafraid of whatever may be thrown at us because it will deflect and protect. God is our shield.” I quoted Psalm 28:7, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”

The word “shield” appears over forty times in the Bible but only once in the New Testament. It is first mentioned in Genesis 15:1, “The word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." It is an amazing thing that God is our shield. When the world around us throws evil our way, the Lord envelops us. He will protect us.

We must use Him as our shield. What good is a shield lying on the ground? We must hold Him high and, like the windshield in our vehicles, He must go before us. A shield will do you no good behind you. When you go in reverse you are only trying to look out for yourself. He must come before our preferences in life. He must precede our desires and passions. His presence and truth must introduce and lead every area of our lives. We must trust Him because not only is He our shield as we go forward in faith, He is also our rear guard. Isaiah 52:12 says, “For the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Stop worrying about yourself, trying to save your own rear. God will protect you!

In another sense, the word “shield” refers to our faith in God in Ephesians 6:16. Shield, here, means “an oblong door that is wide in width and long in length”. A shield could cover an entire soldier. God has given us enough faith to ensure we are completely covered for every situation. A Roman soldier’s shield was made of many layers of thick animal hide, making it strong as steel. But over time a shield would crack and become vulnerable. Failure to care for your shield was inviting the loss of one’s life. We must maintain our faith in Christ by being refreshed and maintained on a consistent basis. Our faith must be developed, nurtured, and enriched in Him.

In Psalm 3, David assures us of the Lord’s protection. While some were saying God would not deliver David, he believed the Lord was a shield around him. He lifts our heads high. We can call out to him and he answers us. We can have rest, endurance, and peace even in the presence of many foes. God will deliver and bless those who trust in Him. What an amazing Bible passage! Even when you are having “one of those days” you can count on God because He is your shield. That is such a blessing and encouragement!

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Heart Hurts...

Tonight, my heart hurts.  My best friend and roommate from Bible college was arrested allegedly for multiple voyeurism accounts.  Shocked and speechless I know I must reach out, forgive, help to heal, and stand by him.  Guilty? God knows. Innocent? I pray so. Regardless, I must hate the sin that has wrecked him, his family and his ministry but love my friend like Christ does.

I pray if anyone who reads this is in a secret sin that they would repent, seek help and accountability, and flee sexual sin before it finds them out.  Better to expose the sin and be cleansed than it expose you and be destroyed.  If you are in a secret sin, let me help keep you accountable and the Lord heal and set you free.

Tonight, my heart hurts...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ten Random Reasons I Wish People Would Just Shut Up, Do What God Says, and Stop Making Excuses, Step Up and Be the Body of Christ...

Ok, that is probably the longest title I've ever had for a blog or anything else but it doesn't get any more down to earth than that.

There are too many people in the Church who say they just can't do what God has called them to do.  Why is that?  Stop making excuses, surrender, and as someone once said "shut up and put up."  Here are ten reasons I think keep people from doing the Lord's work.
1.  People think too much about their inabilities and not enough about God's ability.  Stop saying you can't when God can!

2.  People think everything needs to make complete sense before they act.  Almost nowhere in scripture do God's instructions make complete sense. Stop waiting for all the answers and just have faith.
3.  People think God is going to give them easy tasks if they just wait around long enough.  What?  Almost nowhere in scripture are God's tasks easy.  Stop waiting around for perfect conditions and just obey.
4.  People don't think God could use them to do something great.  Mostly because they don't think they are greatly created, God is great, or He has great purposes for them.  What about the awesome things God dis throughout scripture through simple, every-day people? 

5.  People are more afraid of what others will think than what God thinks.

6.  People think they can't do what God says they can.  Stop calling God a liar.  Why would He keep bringing it up if He didn't think you could do it?

7.  People think someone else will do it.  If so, why isn't it getting done and why does He keep bringing it up in your mind?

8.  People think there is plenty of time to accomplish it.  Why get started today?  There's always tomorrow?  Have we forgotten that life is like a vapor - we are not promised tomorrow.  We must live in the now!

9.  People think they can never be as great as "such and such" Christian leader who has done huge things for God.  Why bother!  Remember, you are the next Billy Graham.  You are the next Apostle Paul.  One day, they will say, "If I were only like ___________ (put your name in the blank) then I could accomplish great things for God.  How do you do make this happen?  Live for Christ all your days, striving hard in reckless pursuit after Him, keep saying yes, trust and obey Him with great faith and then people will be adding your name to the list of those who did great things for Christ.

10.  People think too much.  Stop thinking and start trusting.  Stop analyzing everything and start accepting it.  Stop spinning your wheels and revving your engine.  No one is impressed until you actually burn rubber and get going somewhere. 

Think about this:
  • What if Noah had said, “I can’t build a boat that big.  Maybe if I took a few boat building classes first?”
  • What if Moses had said, "I can't lead all these people out of Egypt.  They'll never follow a murderer like me!"
  • What if Abraham had said, “I can’t relocate at this stage in my life.  What about my retirement?”
  • What if David had said, “I can’t fight that giant.  Someone else should step up and do something about this.”
  • What if Daniel had said, "I can't because I'm allergic to cats."
  • What if Jonah had said, "I can't because..."  Oh wait, he did say he couldn't.  See what happens when you make excuses?
  • What if Nehemiah had said, “I can’t build a wall around an entire city.  I don't know where to begin.  I'm not even a carpenter.”
  • What if Peter had said, “Remember me, I denied Christ to a little servant girl.  I can’t preach to all of these people on the Day of Pentecost.  Someone else should do it.”
  • What if Paul had said, “I can’t write all this stuff down.  No one wants to read what a murderer has to say."
We have to stop saying we can't because of us.  We have to start saying we can because of Him. 
God is able.  He will do it.  It is time to shut up with the "I cant's" and obey the voice of God.  Life is short.  Hell is hot.  Heaven is real.  God is able.  We are called. Victory is certain! 
Repeat after me, "I can do ALL things through Christ who give me strength."  Now, get off your fat excuses and start living on purpose for the Kingdom!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Discipling My Kids

God didn't give me kids so I would raise nice girls who make good grades, love cheerleading, and are social butterflies.  I have to say proudly that they are all of these.  I don't want to raise nice girls.  I want to disciple young women who look like Christ and will do great things for Him.  That's it.  Cute hair bows and pink and purple rooms aside, I must raise girls who look like Jesus and not just blend in the crowd of 7 and 4 year olds out there.

I want girls who will not just survive this crazy world but girls who will change it by invading it with the light of Christ.  So, how am I doing this?

About a month ago Kylee got up after the 2nd, no 10th time after being put to bed on a  school night.  It was a long weekend and it was getting late.  She asked, "Can you get me up early tomorrow so I can read the Bible and pray?"  "Good cover," I blurted out giving her props on not getting in trouble for getting up again.  She said she was serious.  I thought about that for a moment.  What would she read?  What would she pray?  Did she know how to study the Bible?  Sure, I have been helping them memorize scripture since they could talk but did she actually know how to get up and get in the Word? 

I asked her those same questions the next morning.  She said she didn't know where to start - imagine that?  A new believer in Christ who didn't know where to start studying or praying (can you pick up on my sarcasm?).  She needed to be discipled.  Who was going to do it?  Me!  I had prepared a short Bible study on true beauty the night before.  I thought about what a 7 year old girl should know.  After a week on faith, compassion, beauty, etc. I let her start picking the topic.  She picked worry, self-control, patience, love, and a host of other topics.  We have been studying the early ministry of Jesus this week - His fasting and temptation, His baptism, His meeting with Nicodemus, etc. 

Tonight, as I put her to bed, she said, "I'm the luckiest girl in the world!  I have a big warm bed, I had lots of yummy treats tonight from momma's party, and I have lots of cute things to wear (thanks to her mom's sense of style)."  Then she said, "Some little girls aren't as lucky as I am."  I agreed and said we would study how to be giving and help those in need tomorrow. 

So, I sponsored a 7 year old girl from ecquador named Melannie from Compassion International.  I want Kylee to experience giving and helping others that are less fortunate than she.  I printed out her picture, a map of where she lives (in relation to Arkansas) and her bio so Kylee could hang it on her wall and pray for her.  She'll correspond with this little girl several times a year till she's 18.  Wow!  Now that's cool.

I desire Kylee and Abby to change the world through the power of Christ working in them.  I want them to change the world around them before the world has a chance to change them.  I pray, as I have prayed before, they have a "boring" testimony (one without their lives falling apart - you know, one of those Christian horror stories).  I want to show them a life full of Christ that is not just great to come back to after you've strayed away but one that is worth never leaving in the first place.

God, help me to disciple my girls.  Teach me to be like You so they can see You in me.  Help them love you with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Transform them and renew their minds so they will know Your will and be your disciples.  If they are going to look like You, it is up to me and Haley to teach, model, and point them towards You.

Friday, September 23, 2011

God Made You Beautiful

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom it.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

God’s creative beauty needs no digital enhancement. Whether it is a sunset or field of tulips God created everything beautiful. While we seldom feel the need to enhance God’s creation in nature or the world, we go to great lengths to make His greatest creation appear more beautiful. We sometimes feel far from beautiful. Some of us even feel insignificant or useless. Remember, God saved the best for last in His creative order. When he spoke the universe into existence he said it was good. But when he created humans in His image (Genesis 1:26) He said they were created “very good” (Genesis 1:31). You are made in the image of God – His most prized creation! You are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8).

The world has defined beauty by mere outward appearance and has set the bar so high that really no one can reach it. There is an illusion of beauty that is illusive in this world. The fantasy-like images the world portrays as beautiful are in actuality far from what God calls beautiful. For example, ladies, God calls a woman who fears and loves Him beautiful. Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Peter goes on to say, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4). That doesn’t mean you should avoid jewelry, nice clothes, or the beauty salon. It simply means these things do not make you beautiful. Real beauty comes from a relationship with Christ and having His characteristics. You are precious in God’s sight.

Listen, God had a plan in creating you. Even if you feel useless, ugly, or undeserving of his love, He finds you beautiful and useful. He has a plan for your life every day. Maybe you are not happy with what you see in the mirror but God is. As someone who is created in God’s image, you should take care of yourself, whether it is good hygiene, eating properly, exercising, or improving your outward appearance. But all of these cannot enhance your inward beauty. God loves and values you beyond any shortcomings or inadequacies you may feel you have. Because you are beautiful in God’s eyes, you should feel beautiful in your own eyes.

Stop trying to live up to the fleeting and false beauty standards of this world. Stop trying to mirror the beauty of those the world depicts as beautiful. You are never more beautiful than when you look like Jesus. God said in Isaiah 44:2 " I am your Creator. You were in my care even before you were born." Psalm 139:13-14 reminds me that God, “Created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” You are God’s masterpiece! God intricately formed every detail of you. Your worth is found in Him! You are made wonderful just the way you are. I pray you know that full well.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Just Say No

By my post title you may think I'm advocating a resurgence of an old anti-drug campaign.  Granted, you should not do drugs but this post is about something that can bring greater devastation in a subtle way.  I recently watched a video online of a circus performer spinning 25 plates on poles. While not is was not something you see everyday, it was quite entertaining to watch as he went from one pole/plate combination to another trying to keep them all spinning.  He had his work cut out for him.  I guess he got tired after he had accomplished spinning all 25 of them for several minutes.  He eventually gave up and let them all fall one at a time as they lost speed.  One by one plates hit the ground and broke into many pieces.

As I watched it I couldn't help but think, "This reminds me of my life."  It seems like all I do is spin plates.  Most of the plates are fine china.  In other words, valuable projects or tasks.  Others, at times, seem like the inexpensive paper goods that won't hold anything home cooked.  You know the kind.  They are almost worthless but somehow end up on spinners row.  By the way, the world record for spinning plates is by a guy who spun 108 simultaneously.  I think beat him last week. 

I could run on and on or put more "spin" on my illustration but I think you get the point.  How do you balance all life and ministry throw at you and not feel like a circus performer?  Sure, you accomplished (sometimes halfway) many great things for the Lord and for the Kingdom but how do you balance it all right?  How do you decide what to spin, what to say no to, and what to take off of spinning row? 

It is different for all people.  I know one of my weaknesses - I can't say no.  I don't ever want to "disappoint" anyone or not be there when someone needs me.  I also have a huge heart.  It is hard for me to say no to anyone remotely in need.  I'm a sucker for the poor, a good cause, and tear-jerker situations.  I'm also a big dreamer, but an average delegater, which is usually an odd couple.  Sometimes it is hard to say no because the need is real and immediate.  There is also part of me that desires to accomplish great things for the Lord.  I am not the kind of person who lays around on my day off (whatever that is).  Heck, (did I just Christian cuss?) I feel guilty turning my cell phone off - as though the world would fall apart when I hit the off button.

So here's what I've come to.  We all have plates to spin, but I've been spinning too many plates that don't deserve to be spun by me.  Some of them are to be spun by others.  Some of them should have never been on my spinning row.  Others need to simply left alone and let hit the floor and break in to a bazillion pieces - never to be spun again - by anyone - especially me again.

My resolutions?  I don't know them all but here are a few:

1.  My kids.  I will not neglect my family any longer, sacrificing them on the altar of ministry  They seem to be the first ones I tell to wait.  I refuse to have a long-distance relationship with my family 10 minutes away.  What am I going to do about it?  I will take my kids to school.  I will be home to eat supper with them.  I will not keep telling my daughter "tomorrow".  I will not walk in the house with a black talking box glued to my ear anymore and ignore their pleas for attention from the most important and influential man in their lives.  I will listen to their silly stories and watch peppa pig no matter how much I dislike talking cartoon animals.  I will tuck them into bed every night possible.  I will not miss their games, award assemblies, and fixing cereal in the morning for breakfast that never gets eaten.  If anyone is going to get cheated with time it is not going to be my girls.

2.  My wife.  The one who so patiently and lovingly understands all of the times I have been away from home day and night fulfilling my calling as a pastor.  Only she knows the demands of my ministry.  I will put my kids to bed on time, turn off the TV, and engage her.  I will not leave her out of the loop.  I will date her once again.  I will say no to those who drop their name and number (i.e. demands of ministry) my way as I keep my commitments to her. I will not give her leftovers, only throwing her the scraps of my time, conversation, and focus.  I will not answer the phone everytime it rings and put her on hold in the process.  She will be my best friend, a crown to my head, and lover forever.

3.  My ministry.  I will fulfill all God has called me to, even if it means disappointing some who call me to other things God has not.  I will say yes to what I can do, delegate to those who can and should share the load (equip and train the saints for the work of the ministry), and no to the things that are time stealers.  I refuse to meet with anyone else receptively who will not take my counsel seriously.  I will win souls and make disciples.  I will meet with people one-on-one for discipleship, training, and equipping.  I will not involve myself in meaningless busy-work that anyone can do for minimum wage (not to say I am above any manual labor or task - I have done and will continue to do my share).  I will not care the next time someone tells me pastors don't do anything anyway only as a shot at my character. I will be a pastor.  I will lead and grow my church.  I will be an elder, pastor, and teacher and let the Word and Spirit define those callings.

4.  My friends.  I will spend time with people for friendship sake.  I will not misuse or abuse my friendships for "easy ministry volunteers" but I will always challenge them to be involved with Kingdom priorities.  I will not neglect those God has called me to.  I will laugh more.  I will be a friend they can depend on.  I will not feel guilty or be made to feel guilty about going to the occasional Razorback football game (at least I'll keep up my current pace of one every eight years).

5.  Me.  I will spend time daily in the Word and prayer.  I will memorize more Scripture.  I will grow as a leader and fulfil my commitments, being careful not to over-commit.  I will take time off.  I will give 110% at whatever the Lord has called me to and steer clear 110% of what He has not.  I will out-work, out-serve, out-give, and out-love others - not in competition or boasting but because to whom much is given, much is required.  I will not burn-out or be unproductive in ministry.  I will look like Jesus.

6.  You.  I will challenge you and ask you to step-up.  I will never ask you to compromise family.  I will ask you to lead your family and involve them in ministry.  I will shepherd those entrusted to me, leading them to green pasture and still water but not to fields of idleness or streams of self-indulgence.  I will never ask you to do what I am unwilling to do.  I will work as a team.  I will thank, exhort, and encourage you. 

I know I'll have more to add here and hopefully I didn't just create another row of plates to spin.  These seem worth the effort though - the fine china that I refuse to allow to shatter as I relentlessly pursue them.  I'm not sure how many plates I can or should be spinning but I want every turn and every plate to count.  We all have plates to spin in life.  Just remember the goal is to spin the right ones and not to let them spin you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do EVERYTHING Without Complaining and Arguing

Do EVERTHING Without Complaining

Paul gives us some wonderful advice in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.”

How much do you complain? Most people would say they complain very little but have you stopped to take a count of how much you complain and how much you rejoice? Granted, we all complain about something once in a while but a habitual complainer is someone who needs to remember Paul’s words. Adhering to Paul's words will keep you blameless and pure, looking like God’s child. When we complain, we don’t look like Christ but like the crooked and depraved generation around us.

A complainer is someone who always has something negative to say. They could be at the grocery store shopping and notice the cost of peas have gone up 20 cents. They say, “That’s ridiculous. Peas used to be half that price. I’m not buying peas or shopping here anymore!” Or, they could be driving down the road and someone is going ten miles under the speed limit. They say, “Why is this jerk going so slow? I’m in a hurry and he is so inconsiderate. People cannot drive anymore!” Sound ridiculous? Actually, sometimes people complain more than they think they do. When Paul said do everything without complaining and arguing, he meant EVERYTHING - shopping, driving, working, parenting, marriage and every aspect of life.

It sure is easier to focus on negative things instead of rejoicing about the good. I mean Paul was, in his words, being poured out like a drink offering (v. 17). In reality, he was imprisoned and about to be executed for his faith. Did he complain? Not even about the prison conditions, the “cruel and unusual punishment,” or the quality of the food in prison. He understood that his time was limited on earth and he had better get busy rejoicing about everything (Philippians 4:4).

Are you rejoicing or complaining more? There are many wonderful things the Lord has done to rejoice over. If you spend your time on them, you’ll never have time to complain. So how do we restrain the way we complain? How do we gain the voice that loves to rejoice?

Paul said to joyfully serve the Lord NO MATTER WHAT comes our way or doesn’t go our way. Did Jesus complain on the cross? We should “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame.” Paul does not say to do what you like without complaining and arguing. He says do everything. While that seems hard, God will give you the strength and the Holy Spirit will help to shape you to the image of Christ in your words, attitude, and actions. When you stop complaining and arguing, not only will you grow to be more like Christ, the people around you will have a better day as well. I pray the words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart are pleasing to the Lord (Psalm 19:14).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Commissioned or Decommissioned

We as the church are commissioned to preach the Gospel to all nations.  We should share it with those around us every day - our local mission.  But we should also share it with the world - our global mission.  I have been deeply burdened by this one lately.  The church is and should be on fire in its local community - aggressively and passionately seeking to save those who are lost right next door and down the street.  But the commission from our King goes beyond the borders of our city, past the curbs on our streets, exceeding the boundaries of our contacts.  It is a global mission and sadly churches are not living out the full commission of the Gospel but have decommissioned themselves to only local evangelism efforts.  It is a world-wide commission thus establishing it as truly great and us as truly humbled in need of the Holy Spirit to accomplish it.

Absolutely, make no mistake about it, the local church is to reach out to those around them - those they see and engage daily.  We must make these our main priority.  After all, if we do not sense an urgency to share the Gospel with those closest to us we will never share it with those far away.  Our efforts to plant churches locally must increase, especially as the church in the U.S. is in great decline.  We have become one of the biggest mission fields.  We are empowered first, as Acts 1:8 tells us, to our immediate areas.  Then, we stretch beyond that.

I can't get past this verse lately - Matthew 24:14: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."  The Gospel WILL BE proclaimed in the WHOLE world to ALL nations - then the end will come.  Then Jesus will return.  Could he come back today?  Of course.  This verse does not tell us we can predict the return of Christ, only that when God the Father authorizes Christ to return, He will.  And reaching people in every nation has a part to play in it.  How do we know if all groups are reached?  What is the defining percentage that equals "reached"?  We may not know the full scope of the terms "reached" and "all people" but one thing is for certain - the end has not come so our mission is not over.  I can't get past it because I am not doing it.  I am burdened - repentant and humbled by those in need of Christ around me and those Christ calls me to go to globally.

I desire to share Christ with all I come in contact with.  Today, I did that as I ran errands around town and came into contact with a guy at his business and another as I waited on bologna to be sliced.  Tomorrow I will pray, "Lord, show me someone today who I can share You with."  But I want to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth as well. 

Some will say, "well, the resources, time, and energy used to go somewhere else far away will be wasted when you could just reach the masses who are not reached here."  Yes.  That contemporary logic is right.  It will take longer, cost more money, and require more effort to go beyond us.  So why not let someone else, maybe who is closer to the unreached people groups do it?  Sounds like good logic but the problem is God has told me to do it and I can't ignore that. 

So what do I personally do about it?  Of course, I'm going to continue to lead, share, and devote my life as a pastor in this area to which I've been called.  But what about those who do not know?  What about those who have never heard?  How will they hear unless someone tells them?

I can't get past this.  My heart aches for the lost here and worldwide.  There are currently over 8,500 unreached people groups in the world.  These have never heard about Christ even once.  About 3,600 of these unreached groups are closed meaning no one can get to them to share Christ either legally or in threat of danger/death.  What about them?  Can I sit idly by as they continue to be unreached, hoping someone else will do it?  I can't reach them all.  I can't do everything - but I can do something.

So, what am I to do personally?  I'm investigating options right now (who can I support financially, who can i pray for, where am I to go, who can I partner with, etc.).  I'm doing this at the same time I am sharing Christ with the locals and making disciples of people I can call by name and meet with weekly.  My life and energy is given over to Christ as His pastor to those in my city and neighboring cities.  This calling is sure.  But Christ bids me to expand my local vision to His global one.  While my local vision must expand more and more to as many cities around me, it must also reach into the uttermost parts of the world.  He is Lord and King of Jefferson County and every county that touches it.  I will live for Him and give everything to see that happen.  I just can get past the "Go make disciples of all nations," "being witnesses to the ends of the earth," and "proclaiming the Gospel to the whole world and all nations." 

What about places like Northern Yemen?  It has 9 million people in it with only about 30 or so that are believers.  That's the equivalent of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana combined with only those in my Life Group who are saved.  If that comparison doesn't move you to see the state of urgency of world-wide evangelism/discipleship and the unsaved people groups of the world turn to Christ I don't know what will.  What do we do?  Who do we send?  Who can we support that's going there?  Where else am I supposed to go while I maintain my mission and calling locally?  Our hearts and efforts must be about reaching the masses here - only when we see those around us as valuable and eternally lost without Christ will we be able to see the masses world-wide in the same way.  We cannot merely go after the world when our next door neighbors and co-workers are lost.  Christ has called us to those we know by name and our kid plays soccer with.  These are first and foremost.  But we cannot turn a blind eye to the world around us, as though only our city and locals will be in heaven (or hell).

Let me make this disclaimer that has almost lessened and crippled evangelism in the church worldwide.  We don't need to merely get people anywhere, local or global, to just say a prayer and count them as saved as we pat ourselves on the back as they go live anyway they want.  We must make disciples.  This is only done through the local church.  We must plant churches here and abroad.  We must make disciples locally and globally.  Then the end will come.  How will we know when our task is over and we have reached the masses?  Our King will return.  The Sovereign Lord Who demands our glory and praise and wants all men to be saved (none to perish) will return in all His splendor and a great multitude of every nation, tribe, people, and language will stand before the throne of the Lord and give Him praise.  I don't know about you but that pumps me up!  I want to share the Gospel to obey Him and to see more people everywhere (locally and globally) give Him glory.  This is what we were made to do.  This is what we were commissioned for.  How Great a commission it is!  Help us Holy Spirit to do it all the while we say, "even so, come quickly, Lord."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

We Need Preachers, Teachers, and the Local Church

“The Bible says I don’t need anyone man to teach me. I can learn the Bible on my own. I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” I hear those words in various forms frequently from people, mostly those who are not willing to listen to the counsel or advice from someone else, those who have been hurt by someone in church and therefore refuse to go again, or from those who just simply are not up on the idea of committing themselves to the local church on a consistent basis. Usually, they will make reference to 1 John 2:27, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” The problem is they usually do not quote all of the verse as it is written nor do they use it in the context in which John wrote it.

False teachers were a problem in John’s day as they elevated their teachings above those of Christ and Scripture. They arrogantly thought they alone possessed a special and secret anointing – a divine knowledge that no one else was privy to. John’s response to the church and rebuttal to these false teachers comes in 1 John 2 declaring that all believers in Christ had an anointing from the Lord. Believers could have personal understanding from the Lord because they are in Him (2 Corinthians 4:6). Colossians 2:3 says this about Jesus, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Believers do have the Holy Spirit living inside them, giving them insight, wisdom, revelation, and truth through Scripture (John 14:26, 16:13, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). While this is true, it does not mean that people do not need teachers and preachers or that they can live the Christian life apart from the local church.

John was reminding these believers to recognize erroneous teachings and to grow in their personal relationship with the Lord (1 John 2:20-21; Corinthians 2:10-16). After all, Jesus was the truth and believers should recognize when people are teaching them wrongly (John 14:6; Acts 4:12, Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 1:9-11). John was not saying that believers did not have to attend church or learn from pastors and teachers. Yes, God’s truth is all-sufficient (Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) and free from error. As the end of 1 John 2:27 says, His anointing “teaches about all things, and is true and is not a lie.”

John was not saying that believers did not need teachers or the church. They did not need false teachers so they should discern the truth already given to them. The Lord has given the church pastors, elders, and teachers, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, 1 Corinthians 12:28). For John to write that believers did not need the church or teachers would be contradictory to all of Scripture (Hebrews 10:24-25, 2 Timothy 2:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Acts 2:41-47; Colossians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:21-24; Romans 10:14-17). Study the Word for yourself while you grow in a local church that preaches and teaches Scripture. Then you’ll be on your way to growing in Christ in a Biblical manner.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Managing Chaos

"Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2).  If this were not Scripture, I don't think I'd believe it.  I mean who, in their right mind, considers the endurance of trials pure joy?  Well, that's the catch - it is not our mindset we should have (one of self, flesh, pleasure, etc.) but His (Philippians 2:5).

There is a raging river of chaos all around us.  We are surrounded in our raft of ministry and life by rapids, rocks, and dangers that want to "flip our boat and drown us."  What do we do?

1.  You can turn in your raft and paddles and call it quits.
2.  You can learn to guide yourself through the rapids and attempt to avoid the obstacles as best as you can.
3.  You can build a dam.

Since quitting for most of us is not an option because we know to Whom and what we are called, we attempt number two.  While option two works, it leaves us constantly fighting the rapids.  We must learn to build dams to set boundaries on the chaos.

Here is a "dam":  Ministry is joy-filled but has some trouble spots.  Count on it.  Someone who says they don't have any trouble in ministry are not in the ministry.  Jesus said, "in this world you will have trouble."  But He didn't leave it there - "Take heart!  I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)  Instead of expecting zero trouble in this life why not know that there will be some trouble but majority peace.  After all, Jesus said he wanted to offer us peace in the previous verse.  He works all thing together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).  So those few issues you are facing shouldn't surprise you when they happen.  What you should be looking to is the Father, not the problem.  Fix your eyes on Him (Hebrews 12:2).

Another dam is leaning and trusting in God's Word.  Don't let troubles talk you out of God's Word!  Another dam you must build to battle the raging rapids is know God is for you and not against you (Romans 8:31).  Other dams you must build to settle the rapids and bring peace is knowing who you are in Christ, walking in the Spirit, walking worthy of your calling, and being prayed up.  It may be tough now but hold on, don't give up.  Don't quit because 5% or 25% of your ministry is trying.  Think about all the good, all the blessings, all the riches you have.  Don't let a temporary problem cause you to make a wrong long-term decision.

I want to encourage you - do not quit when things get tough.  Stick in there.  Believe in God.  "Do not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest - IF WE DO NOT GIVE UP" (Galatians 6:9).  Fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith, and a crown of righteousness will be in store for you and to all who do the same (2 Timothy 4:8).  Ron Kenoly sang a song that told us to go ahead and don't stop.  The lyrics said, "If you catch hell don't hold it.  If you're going through hell don't stop.  Remember no weapon formed against you shall prosper and every tongue that rises against you, you shall condemn.  Lean on this because greater is He that is in you than he that it is in the world."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Being Verses Doing

Any dead fish can float downstream, but if we are going to swim against the current present in our culture, we must be alive spiritually. The New Testament is clear that life in Christ is countercultural. The world’s system says to get even if someone wrongs you. Christ says we should love and pray for our enemies and bless those who curse us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:38). The world’s system says get what you can now because stuff is what gives us our identity. Christ says to store up treasures in heaven, not earthly ones that rust, break, and are stolen (Matthew 6:19-20).

The world also defines who we are by what we do. If someone says, “who are you?” we tend to respond by telling them what we have done. The Bible centers in on who we are in Christ. We are to express our identity in Christ by what we do but what we do does not make up our identity. We are not human doings, we are human beings. While being and doing are interrelated the order of them is very important. Our worth and identity cannot be determined by our achievements and accomplishments. Why? When we stop performing and producing then we would be worthless.

Here is a bold statement: you are not what you do. If that were true, then when you cease doing, you cease to be significant or important. You may work as a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or accountant but these are not who you are. After all, who were you before you did these things? Wearing many “hats” (doctor, coach, father, husband, friend, etc.) can leave you feeling schizophrenic. You may have many titles and responsibilities in this life (many hats) but you only have one being (one head). What you do must flow out of who you are.

Having your identity in Christ brings security and stability (Galatians 2:20). This brings true worth and meaning because who we are is founded on what God has done for and through us. Our external actions should stem from our internal being. To accomplish this, we must spend intimate time with Christ, allowing Him to restore, shape, fill, teach, and correct our old way of doing things (Acts 17:28). We need the inner power given only through the Holy Spirit to respond and deal with the outer world and pressures around us. When we spend time with Jesus and become more like Him, we gain power and right perspective to live and respond to the world around us.

How is your “being” when it comes to the Christian life? Is your “doing” shaped by your “being”? Your Christian life is not made up of your deeds for Christ but your relationship with Him. Deeds must flow out of relationship or you will be left empty. Your relationship with Christ precedes the works done for Him. Read and Romans 12:1-2 and allow Christ to shape your being. Your meaning and purpose is not found in the quest of self but in a relationship with God.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

10 Random Things I Thought About While Playing In The Sand

What a vacation at the beach!  I couldn't help but see God in everything while I was there.  Here are 10 random things about God that I thought about while playing in the sand (and no I'm not going to talk about any footprints).

1.  Building your life on material things is like building with sand - when the tide rolls in (and it always does) it will wipe you out.  Build on the Rock! Matthew 7:24-27
2.  God made me out of this stuff.  Wow!  What a Creator!  Genesis 2:7
3.  I made an octopus out of sand.  I worked hard on it.  Here is what I learned (besides that I can count to 8):  I worry too much about the end result sometimes.  I am way too focused on the product and not the process.  I was working so hard on making a octopus that I didn't take time to enjoy the process of doing it. 
4.  Dry sand won't stick.  It needs to be wet so it can be shaped.  I must be washed by the water of the Word or I'll be dry and unshapeable by the Lord.
5.  Everyone on the beach had a bucket and a shovel.  They all made the same things - castles.  I made an octopus.  I must not follow the crowd and do the norm.  I have to branch out, be creative, and use my giftings for Him.  Who likes mundane and uniformity anyway?
6.  The sand and buckets were only means to an end - time well spent with my kids!
7.  I buried Kylee in the sand.  When she got out, she was filthy with sand.  She was trying so hard to brush the sand off with her hands.  I said, "just get in the water and you'll come out clean."  Wow - when we try to get rid of the dirt and sin by ourselves, it is as useless as trying to get every grain of sand off our bodies.  When we immerse ourselves in God's forgiveness, He washes us clean!!!
8.  The Lord promised Abraham that He would make his descendants as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.  God will bless us beyond our ability to count, interpret, or fathom.
9.  God's thoughts toward me outnumber the grains of sand in the world.  How could I ever count them?  O how He loves me.  Psalm 139:17-18
10.  Digging into the wet sand with my hands was an awesome sensation.  The more I dug, the more I found and created.  I also had more and more fun.  Soon I got tired, but the benefits (fun, experience, time with family, etc.) outweighed the work and I was right back at it.  Digging into God's Word is a lot like this:  rich and rewarding.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Help! I'm a Single Parent!

A family with only one parent used to be an exception, not the norm. Now, it seems lots of children are growing up in a single-parent home. Most of them are fatherless. Single parents can sometimes feel hopeless as they struggle to raise their children alone. Does God have anything to say to single parents?

Listen, God is for you as a single parent. Regardless of how you became a single parent you must realize that God loves and cares for you. David says this in Psalm 27:10, “My father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.” That’s good news! God will take you up and care for you when a parent is absent. God can and will meet your needs. He’ll be a dad when there isn’t one. He’ll be a mom when there isn’t one. He will be whatever you need Him to be because He is all-sufficient. He is, as Psalm 68:5 says, “a father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows.” God acts on behalf of the woman who has been abandoned and abused. Psalm 146:9 says, “He supports the fatherless and the widow and prevents the way of the wicked.” If you are struggling as a single parent then run to the Lord for your strength, wisdom, defense, and comfort.

Let me also remind you of this: God has not forgotten you! He sees everything and knows everything. God will always provide for you. God is the only way out of your circumstances. Listen, you have to give the welfare of your children over to the Lord and not any other organization or agency. God knows the mess you are in and the plans to get you out of it. Hagar named her baby Ishmael which means “God hears”. Every time she called his name she would remember that God hears her (See Genesis 16).

God is your supply. He will show you how to make it on one salary. He will show you how to put food on the table. Hear this: God will be a husband to you. Isn’t He that to the church anyway? We are His bride and He is our groom (Ephesians 5:21-33; Revelation 19:7). God said He will never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). If you are living faithfully to please God then you have this promise, regardless of your marital or financial status.

Jesus understands your situation because at one time He was the son of a single mom. Scripture indicates that at some point in Jesus’ life Joseph was not around anymore. When Jesus was on the cross, He told John that he would have to care for Mary (John 19:26-27). He knows what you are going through. Hebrews 4:16 says Jesus knows and sympathizes with you because He too has been there.

Maybe you’ve been away from the Lord. That’s the beauty of His Grace. Maybe your past has been bad but that doesn’t have to stop you from the blessings of tomorrow! Turn back to the Lord and watch Him turn your situation around. He will truly “supply all you needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). God knows how to get you from where you are right now to where He wants you to be. Don’t stop waiting on and trusting in the Lord! He will take care of the things you can’t. Remember, God said, “I know the plans I have for you: plans to prosper you and not to harm you and plans to give you hope and a future.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I was thinking about forgiveness this morning.  The word says, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13).  Ouch! Especially to that last part!  It is one thing to tell people to forgive others.  At best sometimes we just push whatever it was that they did to us to the side and forget about it until we need to bring it back up again.  Other times we simply "overlook" their offense and don't let it "get to us".  But is this really forgiveness?  The condition on this verse is "forgive AS the Lord forgave you."  This makes all of at some point ask "how do we do that?  After all, He is God - forgiveness comes easy to Him."  Really?  I seem to remember that forgiveness cost Him His life.  That doesn't sound easy at all.

We must forgive as Christians.  It is a central and necessary element of the Christian life. What makes forgiveness so hard sometimes?  I think we presuppose unnecessary requirements on people all too often.  We tend to feel like those who have offended us need to repent or express remorse before we can forgive them.  If they don't admit it, then I don't need to forgive.  Or what that did was so bad and unjust that it needs expression of guilt before I can act on it and forgive them.  NOT TRUE!!!

While it sounds like a good trade off and even a fair way to deal with offense/forgiveness it is not how Jesus did it.  Forgiveness does not start with the other person - it starts with you.  Scripture like "while they were sinners, Christ died for them" (Romans 5:8) sticks out.  Forgiveness is not about what they do to earn it.  It is about how you respond to the Gospel.  Forgiveness is about knowing and expressing that Jesus' cross was sufficient in paying for sin.  They don't owe you payment for their sin before you forgive them.  Jesus already paid for their sin.  Remember all you did?  Would you like to pay for that before you are forgiven?  Jesus died to forgive sin.  When we don't forgive and hold it over their heads till they ask or repent we set up another system of forgiveness.  Remember that Jesus loves and died for the very person who hurt you.  He loves them just as much as He loves you.

People do not have to repent to you for you to forgive them.  After all, who did you die for?  When you come face to face with the reality that you would hardly die for any one's forgiveness then you realize that only Christ's obedience to the cross sufficiently deals with sin.  Unforgiveness holds you in bondage.  What they did to you has been taken care of at the cross by Jesus' blood.  Why are you carrying it around and letting it weigh you down?  Why not leave it at the cross and be set free?
When you relive that thing they did to you over and over and over and over and over and over (you get the point) it only makes things worse.  When you withhold forgiveness you only hurt yourself.  Ever seen a kid who holds his breath because he is mad?  That is what you and I look like when we choose not to forgive.  We withhold "air" only to "prove our point".  It looks silly on a kid but even more ridiculous on a believing adult!  Choose to forgive like Christ - unconditionally, repeatedly, and immediately.  Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you!  Read the following verses and never forget what you have been forgiven from.

  • "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins." - 2 Peter 1:5-9 
  • "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." - Proverbs 10:12
  • "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

1 Timothy 3:1

I love being a pastor, elder, and overseer.  I would consider it a high calling and think that becoming a king would be a demotion instead of a promotion when compared to the call of a pastor.  There is nothing else I would want to do.  Since I was 14, it is all I have ever wanted to do.  I preached throughout high school.  I went to college to be a pastor.  Yes, when in high school and college I worked at Freds, McDonalds, and Burt's, but only to make money to put towards paying for college to be a pastor.  If only everyone could know and be fulfilled by doing what it is they have always wanted to do.  I dream about it.  I wake up thinking about it.  There is not a 9-5 switch you can turn on and off with it.  I love people and want to see them saved and discipled into the image of Christ! 

I thought about it and was so blessed by it when our whole Generation (about 60-70 people were there) got together Sunday after church for a cookout and kickball (what a time of fellowship and outreach).  I loved cooking 80 hamburgers and 80 hot dogs to serve them!  I thought about it all day yesterday when on my day off on Memorial Day.  I thought about the people in my Life Group.  I thought about the people in our church who serve and whose lives have been changed.  I prayed for those who were going through difficulties.  I am driven by this calling!  It consumes me and I love it!

Paul gives Timothy some important qualifications for elders, pastors, overseers (bishops), and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1-13.  I want to deal with just verse 1 in this blog.  Here is verse 1:  "Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task." 

"Trustworthy" basically means "you can count on this" and "it is common knowledge".  When Paul said it was a trustworthy saying it meant you could believe in this statement - everyone knows this.  He went on to say whoever "aspires" or "desires" to be an overseer desires a noble task.  This word "aspire" or "desire" means "is passionately pursuing" and "dedicated towards achieving".  In other words, a person says they are a pastor/elder/overseer and wants to be a pastor/elder/overseer passionately strives after it and is dedicated to fulfilling their calling in it.  It is all over them that they know what they are called to and are striving toward. 

The second word I want to point out is "overseer"  it is the word episkopos and means "an overseer".  It refers to those who are presbuteros (elders) as well (Titus 1:5 and 1 Peter 2:25).  It is the highest leader in the church.  Those who are striving after the calling of pastors/elders/overseers/bishops must be diligent, devoted, and literally consumed by it.  It doesn't mean that you strive to get the title or position and then stop striving - you continually strive to grow, learn, increase, and better fulfill this high calling.

Most of the English versions use the same word twice in this verse - "aspires".  But it is really two different words.  The first time the word "aspires" is used it refers to outward striving.  The second time it is used it refers to "inward" striving and growth.  What is the meaning?  Someone who strives outwardly at first to be a pastor/overseer/elder will only fulfill this if the inward striving increases as well.  The outward must be a reflection of the inward or the calling is not real.  How do you know you are called?  One of the best indications is aspiring.  You are constantly growing, dreaming, praying, and striving to be all that God has called you to.  You are giving your best at all times.  You don't give leftovers.  Nothing else distracts or is more important than your calling.  It is not something you do - it is who you are!

Lastly, it is called a "noble task".  The KJV calls it work.  Being an overseer/pastor/elder is hard, yet, fulfilling work.  Those in top leadership in the church should give more than those under them.  Those in top leadership not only do it to model but do it because it is an natural overflow of who they are and what they have been called to.  The words "noble" and "work" usually don't go together.  Nobility denotes one who has risen to the top but has others working for them - releasing them from hard work.  But those who are overseers/pastors/elders/bishops must work.  They work harder than anyone else because they are driven and called to it. 

I pray that as a pastor/elder/overseer I am being changed inwardly and outwardly as I strive to be a pastor/elder/overseer not in position but in calling.  I want to be challenged to grow and increase.  I want to learn what it really means to be a pastor and elder.  I aspire to be all the Christ has called me to be so our church can be and have all He desires for it!  I'll give whatever, whenever, however, to whomever because I am a pastor.  I am an elder.  Hey elders, pastors, and overseers everywhere out there - it is time to rise up! It is not just a little church job - its the high calling of a lifetime of ministry!  Aspire, grow, increase, work hard, be diligent, model, teach, train, equip, and live a life, as Paul points out in Ephesians 4:1, "the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ever Increasing Faith

I was thinking about faith this morning and how it should grow.  Our faith in the Lord and as a disciple should continually and systematically increase and build upon itself.  It is kind of like a tree.  Our faith is rooted in Christ and Scripture, which causes us to grow layer upon layer (like tree rings) and producing fruit that is both visible and usable.  This is true spiritual formation - discipleship!  Scripture backs this up.  The disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith in Luke 17:5.  Faith should grow, we see in the Scriptures, from a little speck in the illustration of a mustard seed of in Matthew 17:20 to a remarkable and powerful force removing mountains into the sea.

Jesus desires us to have great faith and praises those who do (Matthew 8:10).  He rebukes those who have little faith (Matthew 8:26).  I desire to have great faith and please the Lord.  After all, without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Do you have great faith?  When Jesus, the Son of Man returns, what kind of faith will he find on earth? (Luke 18:8) 

Believers should desire to grow in their faith.  Paul recognized this in the early believers as their faith "grew abundantly (2 Thessalonians 1:3).  This kept them (as well as it should us today) from being "children tossed about by every wind of doctrine and by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Ephesians 4:13-14).  Here is a bold statement - if your faith fails to grow then your faith is doubtful.  Don't get mad at me.  Scripture says this.  Hebrews 10:39 says, "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls." 

Faith should increase, not decrease or remain constant.  We should increase in our faith just like the disciples did.  This faith should also spread from us to others as we portray (walk out through testimony) Christ in our daily lives. We must remember as the church that we are "the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10) that desire and grow as one body towards one common goal (the Gospel of Christ) as Paul suggested in Philippians 1:17 - "you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel."  As Paul said to Titus (1:4) we have a common faith that needs to be handed down to the next generation of believers (Jude 1:3).  After all, who wants to pass on a dying and tired faith?  We must pass on a vibrant expression of the wondrous realities existant in a life full of faith in Christ! 

I pray that "you will be like Him and see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2) because "Jesus is the source and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and despised shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne" (Hebrews 12:2).  Faith begins in Christ, grows in Christ, and is ultimately perfected in Christ. Have (present progressive tense - not past or present inactive) faith in God!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus (John 17:1-26)

I read this article this morning and found it very helpful in understanding the prayer life of Jesus and how we should pray as well:

Here are a few of the things I noted:

1. Jesus' prayers were to His Father.  He modeled to us that we have an intimate Father who hears us and desires to hear us.  What good news it is that our prayers are not falling on deaf ears but reach the highest Advocate and Power in the universe - God the Father.  That brings confidence and boldness in prayer.

2.  Jesus' prayer followed preaching the word.  These two must never be separated.  Great prayer must go into preaching and great preaching must precede, accompany, or follow prayer.  For me to preach without prayer is foolishness.  For me to converse with my Father and then have nothing to preach to those around me means I really didn't hear from the Lord.  After all, who wouldn't have something to say to men after spending time in prayer with the Lord?

3.  Jesus' High Priestly Prayer preceded His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus modeled public prayer and then private prayer.  He modeled how to pray when in great pain and how to pray so edify and teach others.  If we truly want to know how to pray we must study the prayers of Jesus.

4.  Jesus' prayer sought glory for Himself ONLY so glory would be given to God.  This should be our prayer also.  The only reason we should ever desire the spotlight, attention, or special recognition is so we can point it all right back to God.  He alone should get the glory.  He alone should be lifted up.  If we pray elaborate prayers so others will look at how great we can pray or how many big words we can throw in there (even at how much scripture we know) then God will not get any glory because we robbed it from Him.  In that moment of stealing God's glory we have our reward but no one has grown closer to the Lord and we stiff-armed God from moving.  Our motivation and purpose in prayer should be to glorify God.

5.  Jesus' prayer defined eternal life in terms of discipleship.  How can fully know God at the moment of salvation?  One must spend a lifetime growing in Christ from the moment of conversion.  A life that does not grow consistently and progressively in Christ does not glorify God. 

6.  Jesus' prayer modeled not so much the form of one's prayer but the principles that are behind it.  Features such as length, repetition, setting, and structure of prayer are less important to Jesus than the necessities of features like submission to God, desire to glorify Him, and the anticipation of intimacy with the Father.  God isn't interested in lengthy prayers if they don't glorify Him.  He isn't interested in prayers that start and end properly if they aren't submitted to Him.  Prayers can be designed to teach others to pray but if they don't connect with the heart of the Father then they are only words to mere men and not the Almighty.

Read this article if you have time.  It will bless your prayer life.  I pray your prayers and lifestyle glorify Him.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jesus' Resurrection Is Our Hope of Salvation

God raised Jesus from the dead. What great news! “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:23-24). But did you know that it was you and I who had Him killed by hanging Him on a tree? At first glance, that seems preposterous. You and I were not even there some 2000 years ago. But Acts 5:30-31 says, “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead, whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior that He might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.” The phenomenon is that Jesus laid down His life for us, the ones whose sins killed Him.

All of us have sinned. We are all guilty. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But Jesus died for all sinners. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this way: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Why did He die for us? 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus was innocent. He became the sins that confine and separate us from God. Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Why would anyone joyfully endure the torturous nature of crucifixion? Because Jesus loves us so much! He stood in your place, died your death, defeated your sin, and made a way back to God – just for you. Without His death, no one could be saved or set free from sin.

You see, Jesus really died so you and I could really die to sin. Jesus really resurrected from the dead so you and I could really resurrect into a completely new and different life in Him. Jesus was really dead and really came back to life. He was beaten, scourged, and tortured. He was nailed to a cross with three spikes that were about 8 inches long and a half inch thick. To make sure He did die, the Roman soldiers speared Him in the side, piercing His lung and heart. He died the death you and I should have died. He died in our place – our substitute. While dying for our sins was not ours to bear, living for Him is. Because of what He did for us, we should willingly give our lives to Him. The purpose of trusting in Christ is for forgiveness of sins, because it is from sin that we need to be saved. “Christ died for our sins” and “was buried, and ... raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If Christ was not raised, His death was in vain, your faith in Him would be pointless, and your sins would still be counted against you with no hope of spiritual life. Because Christ lives, we too shall live (John 14:19).

In Romans chapter 10 there are two great verses that bring this right down to our own lives. Verse 9 and 10 say that, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Salvation is equal to eternal life and deliverance from sin. Salvation in Christ is our only hope. Salvation determines our eternal destiny. Salvation is only for those who believe in the resurrection and who confess Jesus as Lord. My prayer is that you see God’s great love clearly expressed through the death and resurrection of Jesus. I pray today you repent of your sins, believe in the resurrection, and confess Jesus as Lord.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Worship and the Word

I was in our Sunday morning worship service this last week and thanked God for two things - pastors who engages in worship and for musicians who engage in God's Word.  Believe it or not, these two don't exist in a lot of churches.  And if we are not careful, they won't exist in ours.  I was at a church conference last year with several major church pastors there (you know the kind with 10,000 members and best-selling books).  I know, I know, I  should have been worshipping during the worship time but I couldn't help but watch the pastors who were present.  I was shocked.  People everywhere were lifing hands and engaging in worship but not the pastors.  Some sat, some talked to each other, some were on their phones and computers, some were not even in the service until time to speak.  I couldn't believe that my greatest models didn't engage during the worship times.  I'm so thankful that my pastor lifts his hands higher and sings louder than anyone else around him not just because he is a model to the congregation but because he knows he is a worshipper of the Living God. 

I also noticed something else about the praise teams that were there that day - most of them did not come back into the services to hear the message after the worship time.  Those who did failed to bring a Bible, notepad and pen so that they could engage in the scriptures the pastors were teaching on.  This, sadly, is common place among most musicians.  They went back into their "green room" instead of being under the Word. 

Let me start by saying a few things about the musicians needing to engage in the pastor's message.  I'm a musician so I can talk to you straight.   When you don't bring your bible, take notes, and listen intently so you can apply it to your life, you dishonor your pastor who has been preparing all week to share God's Word.  Basicly, you are just doing a cover gig for the main performer - after your gig is up, your done for the night.  This is not a gig.  This is not a garage band.  This is not a hobby.  It is worship - which really has nothing to do with your instrument but it has to do with your heart.   It is also a bigger issue than honoring your pastor - it is respecting and honoring God's Word.  God's Word and worship go hand-in-hand.  You cannot separate the two.  Before you learned your skill and talent as a musician, God created you as a worshipper.  This is foremost done through reading, listening to, applying and obeying the Word.  God's Word is what shows us Who we worship.  If we can't learn who He is, how can we lead others into His presence in worship? 

Set aside the thoughts of what you are playing after the preaching, transitions, new songs, mistakes in the worship time and pick up the word - follow with an intensity that screams "I LOVE THE LORD OF MY BIBLE!"  If you pick up your instrument more than you pick up the Word you have got things out of balance.  If you know more worship songs than you do Bible verses you have got things out of balance.  You have to get in the Word daily.  It would be better not to practice your instrument all week and be in the Word every day than playing your instrument every day and never getting in the Word all week.  You cannot lead people where you have not been.  How can you lead the full measure of songs like "You Saved The Day" if you don't know scriptures like John 11:25-26, Romans 6:8-11, Philippians 3:10-12, and Mark 16:1-8?  Then, you are not just singing a man's words of a song - you are singing the very words and doctrine of Scripture - how powerful is that!!!  Worship the God who gave you that talent and ability by getting to know Him.  Get outside your instrument for a while and engage in the Word.  This will connect you to the body in a greater way than playing and singing ever could.

Ok, now to the pastors.  I can speak them straight because I am one of them too.  Pastors, and leaders as well, must remember this - we are the main worship leaders.  The people in the praise teams lead us in worship but everyone is looking at the pastoral leadership.  How is your countenance in worship?  Are you present in the congregation during that time?  What are you modeling to your people?  It does not matter if you can sing at all.  I promise you that the people in your church will never go further in worship than you lead them.  Count on it.  If you are preaching on how great God's grace is but fail to worship during "Amazing Grace", your message will not be as powerful as it could be.  If you are preaching on salvation but fail to worship during "Mighty To Save" then your message will not be as powerful as it could be.  Put your notes away during the worship time.  Work out all those transitions, scriptures, points, and illustrations during the week.  When you model worship, people can instantly put that into practice.  They see you lifting hands - they lift hands.  They see you full of joy, they are full of joy.  They see you sitting and texting, they sit and text.  Come on pastors - ENGAGE!  You were called to preach - me too.  But before you and I were called to preach we were created to praise.  God doesn't just want you to preach about Him - He wants you to give praise to Him.  You know the scriptures - now express to God your appreciation, love, devotion, and ferver for who you realize Him to be because of the life-changing, quick, powerful, double-edged word that you have been engaged in all week.