Friday, May 31, 2013

Three Counselors Every Christian Needs

Let’s face it; everyone needs counsel at some point in life.  But where do you get your counsel from?  There are a multitude of counselors on television, social media, and many other places ready and willing to give you advice.  But however popular they are, if they don’t give Godly counsel they are pointless.  There are three counselors you need as a Christian – the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and mature believers.  

As a Christian you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you.  Romans 8:9-11 says the Spirit of God lives in us, signifying we belong to Christ.  The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us (v. 11).  The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (John 16:13).  He is even called our Counselor (John 14:26) and will remind us of Jesus’ words.  In fact, counseling is the work of the Holy Spirit and effective counseling cannot be done apart from Him.  What a thought!  If you are a Christian, you have a Counselor with you every moment of the day to advise, instruct, and teach you about all subjects. 
The Spirit of God and His Word agree.   1 John 5:7-8 tell us the Word and Spirit are in agreement with one another.  Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14).  A Christian cannot say, “I follow the Spirit, not the Word” or “I don’t need the Spirit, I have the written Word to guide me.”   They go together and never disagree with one another.  2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  A Christian gets his counsel from God Spirit but also God’s Word so he can mature.  A good question to ask yourself is, “Can what I feel like the Spirit is telling be backed up by Scripture?”  If someone says, “the Spirit says…” but you cannot prove it through Scripture then it probably isn’t the Spirit and is bad counsel.  The Spirit and Word complement one another and both are needed daily for Godly counsel and a life in pursuit of godliness.

The third counsel a Christian must have is from those who walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 22) and are submitted to the Word of God (1 Peter 5:6).  If a person tries to give you “Godly” counsel but the fruit and work of the Spirit is absent from their life and the Word of God is absent from their words – DON’T LISTEN TO THEM.  Advice should be taken from those you trust are growing in the Lord.  Sadly, people take advice from people who way what they want to hear instead of siding with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.  1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells you to test (or prove) all things and hold on to the good (or Godly).  Test them by Scripture and the Spirit.  You need Godly counselors who will tell you God’s truth in love – even when you don’t want to hear it.  There is wisdom in the multitude of Godly counselors (Proverbs 11:14) and your plans will succeed when you listen to them (Proverbs 15:22). 
So, to know the right thing to do, the will of God, and your next step in life you need the activity and voice of the Holy Spirit that only comes to those who have given their lives to Christ.  You need the Scriptures in your life.  They are alive to those who are alive in Christ (Hebrews 4:12).  That means they jump off the page with revelation and insight.  You need Godly counselors who will guide you in the ways of Scripture and the Spirit.  These are sure ways to find peace, fulfillment, and wisdom.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Feed Me!

I love the smell of fresh baked bread!  It ranks up there with the smell of coffee and bacon (the trifecta of breakfast).  There is a bakery next to a restaurant we love to eat at that has wonderful bread, cookies, pastries and more delicious goodies.  The smell of the bakery hits you way before you get there.  Now that you’re hungry let’s talk about food some more. Buying groceries is something all of us must do because we all must eat.  My little girl has a one word phrase when she wants to eat.  She cries out “hungry” – not “I’m hungry” or “Can I have a snack.”  Hunger drives us to gather food.  At the grocery store there are many aisles of various foods.  You gather what you need for a week or two, take that home and prepare daily meals out of that supply. 

In Matthew 6:11, Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  He was referring to praying for and spending time in a daily word from God’s Bible.  The Bible is, let’s say, the “grocery store”.  You can’t eat the whole grocery store at one time but you can gather enough to fill you one meal at a time and then go back for more when that runs out.  We eat physical meals several times daily (and snack in between).  We should also eat “spiritual” meals several times each day (and snack in between).  We must stroll through the “aisles” (books, chapters) of God’s Word and select what we need for that day’s meal.  Maybe we need more patience – go the “aisle” with patience scriptures on the shelf and put them in your basket.  If you can’t find it in the big “grocery store” (Bible) then ask for directions (from a pastor or more mature Christian) or just read the signs (table of contents, index).

Jesus said we need bread daily.  The Old Testament tells of a story when manna, a substance used to make bread or that was eaten by itself, fell from heaven and was available each day to feed the Israelites while they were wandering in the desert (Exodus 16:1-36; Numbers 11:1-9).  The manna was only good for that day.  Any manna stored up (possibly in fear or greed) was infested by worms and mold.  The picture was that God provided daily food to fill them.  We too need daily food from the Lord – that’s His Word.  What I ate (read and applied) yesterday was good but I need a fresh Word from the Lord today.  Physical food is great and a must but we can’t live by bread alone – but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). 

Jesus said something great.  He is the Bread of Life.  John 6:35 says, “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”  He is the true and living bread (John 6:51, 58).  Jesus had just performed an all-you-can-eat miracle of feeding the five thousand in John 6:1-15.  It was so good and the people were hungry the next day came to find Jesus so He could do it again.  He told them His real purpose wasn’t to be a buffet for the belly but one for the soul.  The things of this world will not satisfy you very long.  You can be deceived into thinking that worldly things will bring fulfillment.  Maybe they do for a moment but they quickly fade and we’re off searching for the next fix.  My prayer is that you find your fulfillment in The Bread of Life – Jesus and His daily Bread (the Bible).  Don’t chase after Jesus like the 5,000, merely searching for “bread and fish” and miss Him - the Bread of Life.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

10 Reasons Why Planting New Churches Is Biblical and Necessary

  1. The older a church is, the less evangelistic they usually are.   About half of the churches in the U.S. didn’t add a single person through salvation last year.  Most churches are grown through “transfer” growth – or members of another church circulating to a new church.   It is a proven fact in church history that the newer and younger a church is (most of the time those newer in the faith as well) the more people they win to Christ and baptize each year.  Most churches plateau in growth after 12-15 years and get comfortable – thinking they are big enough.  You are never big enough as long as there is one more unsaved person in your city.  Settling is not a fruit of the Spirit. 

  1. It keeps churches from being in maintenance mode.  Let’s face it – there are those who are really faithful and serve like crazy in the church and then there are the rest.  When there isn’t a vision to reach more people – more people won’t be reached.  Churches can get stuck in maintenance mode, just caring for those they have because after all that’s all they can get to serve.  Planting a new church in a new city causes excitement (or it should) in the people going to your church who are from that city or area.   Churches should paint a vision where 100% of the membership is needed to do the work of the ministry.  We aren’t just trying to maintain ministries inside the church but desperately trying to reach people with the Gospel outside the church using whatever method necessary.  To do this, we must train people that everyone is a minister of the Gospel.  We must also cut some of the non-essential busy work of the church that doesn’t have eternal values.  The problem is the church is not just inactive but most of the time busy about nothing-centered, feel-good, worthless, religious activities - and sometimes it isn't even religious - it’s secular.

  1. You’ll never bring everyone to your current location – you must go to them.  A church with the attitude of “let them come to us” will never grow past where they are now.  Christians have always been sent out.  We must go get them.  When a church gets 80% full, they think they have arrived.  It takes the leadership to see the more who have yet to come. “But how can we pack them in pastor?  We are already getting full.”  After launching new services a church has to think about going to the people who would never drive over 20 minutes to go to their church.  It’s so much easier to get someone from your town to go to a church down the street than it is for them to drive to another city.  Church people lose sight of that quickly.  After all, they love it and would gladly drive 20 minutes or more to go to church.  Most unchurched people will not consistently do this.  Also, it generally takes a person 5-7 times coming to a church to surrender to the Gospel and get plugged in.  Maybe they’ll come once or twice from out of town to your church but they will never see it as their church if it isn’t convenient (at first) for them to go there.  Sure there are already churches in their city but if they aren’t growing or winning people Christ then a church plant with fresh vision and hot hearts for Jesus is desperately needed.
  1. Churches are in decline and closing their doors every day.  Every year hundreds of churches close their doors.  There will be fewer churches started in the U.S. than churches that die.  If that rate continues, the church in the U.S. could disintegrate.  Since 1950 there are 30% fewer churches in America.  If every current church in the U.S. doubled in size there would still be almost 200 million unchurched people.  One of the largest denominations just reported about the many new churches they had opened the previous year.  Hallelujah to that but the problem is, they closed 10% more churches than they opened that same year.  Our country continues to grow fast and our churches are on the decline.  New works must launch to be a fresh answer to those searching for answers to “been-there, done-that” Christianity.  A church that is not actively pursuing lost people is a generation or two away from closing their own doors.   

  1. New churches reach new people faster than established churches.   The fastest growing churches in America are those planting churches.  Why? They are taking church to the unchurched instead of waiting for them to come to church.  Most new churches that launch out of an existing church can grow fast by reaching new people by concentrating more people and resources strategically at a city or area.  Most unchurched people know, about at least, the current churches of their area and aren’t going to them.  New churches are very intentional (not to say existing churches in that area are not) about reaching new people.  New churches attract new people because they concentrate most of their efforts at doing so.   New Christians have many unsaved friends.  When they are saved and life begins to change they are very vocal with their unchurched friends and bring them to church.  Plain and simple new Christians win more people to Christ than those in the faith longer because those saved for a long time lose touch with the unchurched and have few unchurched friends.  The holy huddle has to disband and be evangelistic.  

  1. Churches today are not reaching young people.  Most people settle in church and get complacent with the people they have in their circles.  Problem is those circles get older.  A church that is young one day can be old and without young kids in 15 years.  Kids grow up, go to college, move away, etc.  A church must be focused and intentional about reaching young people and families at all times or one day they will wake up and be older and one day dead – literally.  4% - that’s all the young people being reached today by the church and their current methods.   Why?  Young people see today’s church as irrelevant for their lives.  It’s their parent’s church but not their church.  The church must become mindful in making the Gospel and church relevant to a young world that is leaving the church left and right.  A young pastor and a young church are the best model to show a young fleeing generation why church matters. 

  1. Planting churches causes people to step up, stop being comfortable, and stop relying on those faithful now.   Churches are notorious about becoming consumer oriented.  “What is church doing for me” can quickly become a church member’s only concern.  Planting churches causes more people in the church to step up and use their giftings, callings, and abilities – that’s a good thing.  More people in the church SHOULD be active and less concerned with what they are getting and more concerned with what they are giving.  The amazing thing is when you give yourself away and invest in your community you actually get more than you ever would being a consumer Christian.   Church is about more than what you can get out of it for your family.  A person that thinks only about what they will lose if they help plant a smaller church instead of sticking with the bigger church has become a consumer Christian unwilling to sacrifice for the Kingdom.  It’s always bigger than you – that’s why someone reached you!  It’s not enough to just be a church attender.  You must be a church builder and planter!  Your big church is way too small to hold every unsaved person out there.  Each city needs a church devoted to reaching the people of that city.  Those in a church who hear of a church planting in their city should jump at the chance to do something through them and for their city greater than themselves. 

  1. People need hope in their city.  Let’s face it, we live in a hopeless world.  People everywhere have given up on life and the church.  But Jesus is our blessed hope!  A city with a new church on fire for Jesus gets things stirred up.  People begin to talk about the newness, freshness, and hopefulness a new church brings to a city.  A new church plant goes out of its way to go door to door, do family carnivals, and other things that bless and serve their community.  New Christians have unsaved friends and begin to share Jesus with them causing more unsaved people to come to your new church – do you see the pattern for explosive growth?   What’s more exciting – just attending an established church or helping to grow a church from the grown up that’s full of believers itself one day?  I’d pick the latter any day.   Sometimes people think nothing good will ever happen in their city.  A church plant that moves into a rundown abandoned facility can bring renovation not only to brick and mortar but flesh and blood as well. 

  1. It is Biblical – plain and simple.  Church is biblical.  Evangelism is biblical.  The Gospel is biblical.   You cannot separate Jesus from His church and evangelism from Christians.    Christians only grow when connected to a biblical church that is actively winning souls and making disciples.  If there isn’t a church in your city that’s actively attempting strategic efforts to reach new people, win them to Christ with the Gospel, disciple them, mobilize them for ministry, and send them out to reach new people for Christ then it’s up to churches who are to launch new churches in your city.  If not, you are basically saying to that city, “I know we have the manpower and resources to bring Jesus to you but we are lazy, undisciplined, and comfortable with church in our own city.  We really don’t care that you need Jesus so go to hell.”  The Great Commission is real, Jesus really died for all sinners, and the whole Church (which is each individual member) really is supposed to preach the Gospel – the individuals of the church, not just the pastor and his sermon. 

  1. People in that city need Jesus!  This point shouldn’t need to be developed much but then again it does because the church today can lose sight of this quickly.  People all around you are on their way to hell without Jesus.  The purpose of your life is not to take from a church but to mobilize for ministry and take the church to the world!   You grow in church and then are sent out to do the work of ministry which is sharing the Gospel, loving people like Christ, and compassionate works geared at growing Jesus’ church.  Plain and simple the church exists to win souls and make disciples which gives glory to God.  Any other reasons and we become another powerless, life-wasting club focused on earthly matters.  Those who are saved are to be light and models of hope to a lost world.  That is practically lived out in the church.  The hope of the world is Jesus, people are lost and going to hell, the church is called to reach people for Jesus – all lived out in local church.  We must make Spirit-filled, Gospel-centered, active, Biblical churches more local than 30 minutes away.  We must actively pursue them and become visually relevant in their city because they aren’t going out of their way to come to us in our present location.  Whatever it takes, we must reach people for Christ and planting churches is about as biblical as you can get. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Is Anger A Sin?

Hate is a strong word.  “I hate this weather.  I hate tacos.  I hate flip flops.”  Seriously?  Can you really hate Mexican food in the same way you hate child abuse?  Hate is a strong word that is overused and generalized.  Hate is a sin.  “But wait pastor, should you not hate sin, the devil, injustice, and abuse?”  Absolutely!  But that isn’t where we use or hear the word “hate” predominately used.  The word “hate” is almost always used in reference to being mad, angry, or furious at someone in how they have wronged you.  Being wronged can upset you – I’ve been there.  I hear everyday how someone hates another person because of what they have done to them. 

“I may hate them but I would never act on it or kill anyone over it?”  Really?  One of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shall not murder.”  “Easy”, you say. “I would never take the life of another human.  I may be angry in my heart with them but that isn’t as bad as acting on that hate.  I can control my anger.  Didn’t Jesus say I could get angry and not sin?”  Actually that was Paul (Ephesians 4:26) and he wasn’t saying it’s OK to get angry but if you do get angry run from it so you don’t sin.  Paul then said don’t let the sun go down on your anger, which means to handle your anger properly and quickly before it leads to sin. “Well, didn’t Jesus get angry?”

Let’s see how Jesus showed anger a few times in Scripture.  He was angry at the sin of hypocrisy  in the Pharisees (Matthew 23).  He was angry with Peter for acting like the Devil (Matthew 16:23), angry at the hardness of hearts of people (Mark 3:5), angry with the actions of those who kept children away from Him (Mark 10:14), and angry with the actions of those defiling the temple by robbing people in it (Mark 11:15-18).  These are all examples of righteous anger which is being angry at sin.  Jesus loved people, and was angry at their sin.  There is a difference.

Jesus expanded the sin of anger when he preached His Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5:21-22 tells being angry with someone in your heart (not acting on it in any way) makes you guilty to judgment like you committed murder.  Jesus wasn’t saying it was wrong to murder here – that was understood.  He was saying it was wrong to hate – which is murder in your heart.  You know when you hate someone – you can’t stand to be around them, when they walk into a room you get anxious and your blood pressure rises, and a myriad of bad thoughts take you captive at the mention of their name.  This type of hate is destroying and paralyzing you.  You need to repent to God, forgive that person, and stop letting the sin of hate hold you captive. 

“But they wronged me!”  Maybe that’s true.  But Scripture tells us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).  Are you an Ephesians 4:31 person or and Ephesians 4:32 person?  Maybe you would never literally kill them but you’ve killed them 1,000 times in your head and heart.  Jesus said to love your enemies and pray for those who do you harm so that you will be children of God (Matthew 5:43-45).  Maybe what you should be hating is hate itself and sin instead of people who are not our enemies (Ephesians 6:12)?  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

What do you call your wife?

We all have terms of endearment we call our mates.  My wife's name is Haley and I call her that primarily but sometimes I put a spin on the name - Hayward, Halo, Haleyujah, etc. Maybe you call your wife "sweetie", "sunshine", "baby", or "dear".  Whatever the name, good or bad, it shows relationship. 

So what did Adam call his wife?  After God created Adam, He allowed him to name that animal (Genesis 2:19).  Ox, goat, cow, badger, mule, crow, hippopotamus - all names Adam gave the animals (and not good names for your spouse by the way).  A suitable helper was not found for Adam and God took the initiative to create a woman out of Adam's side (Genesis 2:21).  God brought the woman to Adam - the first time a dad walked his daughter down the wedding aisle to give her away.  This was the first marriage and it was a covenant relationship.

This covenant is evidenced by Adam's words.  Genesis 2:23 says, "This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man."  And then that sacred yet familiar verse that is quoted in thousands of weddings seals the covenant relationship – “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).  This is the marriage scripture and the text of the first marriage. 

Adam names her “woman” which means “out of man” or literally “mine”.  Parade hundreds of animals in front of him and Adam names them cow, ox, goat, etc.  Parade a naked woman in front of him (Genesis 2:25) and he says, “She’s mine!”  Adam named her a covenant name.  The name “woman” symbolized union, oneness, and covenant.  It screamed togetherness and devotion.  Marriage was good.  The honeymoon had just begun and they both were walking with the Lord in the garden in relationship with Him and as the image of God.

Like all marriages, all is bliss – at least until sin enters the picture.  When the crafty serpent (Satan) entered the scene and tempted them to destroy their oneness with God and each other (Genesis 3) they quickly lost sight of their covenant with God and each other on their marriage day.  They had messed up and sin now separated them from each other and God (Romans 6:23).  While they used to be naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25), now their perfect union had been tainted by sin and nakedness and sex had been perverted (Genesis 3:7).  They tried to make this sin right and cover it up instead of dealing rightly with it by making fig leaf coverings for their nakedness.  Their nakedness before sin represented their purity.  Their nakedness after sin represented their shame and sin. 

Like Adam and the woman, we too have tried to cover our sin in our own power and methods to no avail.  God stepped in and did what He does best – healed their sinful state and covered their sin.  He made a covering out of animal skin (Genesis 3:21).  Just before God did this, Adam renames his wife from “Woman” (mine, covenant partner) to “Eve” (mother of my children).  Sin will make you distant from your mate and where you used to be one and together, now you are separate and she is just the mother of your kids. 

If sin has separated you and your spouse from covenant partners to parental figures you need God to heal and restore your marriage.  If your wife used to be “woman” (mine, partner, covenant) but now she is just “Eve” (mother of your kids), you need God to step in and cover your sin.  I think the animal God killed (the first instance of something being killed in the Bible or history) was a lamb.  God sacrificed an animal for their sin and covered them to make them unashamed, restored, and righteous once again.  This foreshadowed Jesus, the Lamb of God, being slain for our sins.  He can restore your marriage and turn her from just the mother of your kids back to the woman you adore.    

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Give Your Children Back To God

 When we found out we were expecting another child, my wife and I were very excited!  We have two wonderful daughters and had hopes it would be a boy this time – and it was!  Tate Conner Harrison was born this past week and is very healthy and precious!  We are truly a blessed family!  Children are a great gift from God!  Psalm 127:3-5 says God graciously gives children.  We are thankful to God for giving us all three of our children but we realize He didn’t give them to us just for us – we are to raise them for Him so they will be a great blessing.  This principle is found all throughout scripture. 

God gave Abraham Isaac, fulfilling the promise that many nations would come from him (Joshua 24:3) and Ruth had a son and named him Obed – the grandfather of David who would be a great king (Ruth 4:13-17).   My wife and I believe we should give our kids back to God.  Now, I’m not talking about sending them back (although all parents have had moments).  I’m talking about raising them in the Lord’s ways so they will grow up and serve Him and people all their lives.  We must dedicate our children to the Lord and take every opportunity to train them to serve Jesus. 

We see several examples of parents doing this in Scripture.  Hannah brought her son Samuel and presented him to God (1 Samuel 1:27-28).  She had prayed to God for Samuel and when God gave him to her, she gave him back to the Lord.  Abraham offered his son Isaac back to the Lord.  Isaac was a “miracle baby” since his parents Abraham and Sarah were very old.  They didn’t selfishly shield him as their priceless, fragile sole-possession.  They offered him back to God.  And of course there is Joseph and Mary who brought Jesus to the temple of Jerusalem and presented Him to God (Luke 2:22).  When we give the children God gave us back to Him we secure God’s covenant and purpose for their lives. 

Giving our children back to God show we love Him more than we love them.  Children are a prized possession and parents express that in great ways.  So much that sometimes we allow them to replace God – they become first in our lives.  Everything begins to revolve around them and can dissolve our relationship with God.  Sure children take lots of time and need lots of attention but not so much that it replaces our relationship with God.  I’ve seen parents start to compromise things like church attendance, bible study, ministry callings, and areas of service and replace those with their children’s activities.  This doesn’t mean your kids cannot be involved in activities.  But if those activities are causing you to compromise the areas I mentioned above then you are grossly out of balance.  Giving our children back to God shows Him we love Him for Him.

Giving our children back to God really shows God that our children are not our – they belong to Him.  We are to be stewards of everything God has given us – especially our relationships.  They are a gift, but not so you can do whatever you want with them.  We have the privilege to love and train them in the Lord.  We should be praying, “God, do with them whatever you please.  God, do in me whatever you please.”  Since they are God’s, we should be very careful how we treat His possessions.

Ephesians 6:4 says to bring up Children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Dedicating children to the Lord is really not the main issue.  Dedicating ourselves to Him is the real issue.  When we grow in Christ we can then model and teach them.  Godly parents go to church, pray, study the Word, stay married, create a holy home, do away with worldly ambitions, and live righteously.  How can we expect them to do this one day if they don’t see us doing it now!