Archive for March, 2013

Let the Church Say “AMEN”!

I was having a discussion with a woman who was visiting our church last night. She was telling me how she was new to this whole “church thing”, and that she believed that God was with her wherever she was. She didn’t believe that she needed to be in a church in order to be a Christian. In fact, she is not alone in her belief. Have you ever heard anyone say that they feel like he or she can be a better Christian outside of church than inside of it? If you’ve ever heard anyone use that statement, or some variation of it, it is usually followed by a rant on how hypocritical churches are, how everyone tries to act like they are perfect, how nobody is real in church today.

 

In part, she is correct. You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, and God does hear our prayers at home just as clearly as He does in a church. He can receive our worship at home just as easily as He can receive it in church. But I wonder how Christians can disregard His command that we not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.  Even in Hebrews 10:25, we are commanded to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” There are numerous reasons why it is important for Christians to meet together regularly. We can encourage each other, grow one another, assist one another, prepare one another, forgive one another, and many more things. It’s during this time that we are prepped for the work that each individual is called and chosen to do in their community.  When I hear the argument against church buildings, it just feels to me like a complete cop out. Yes, I know that there are people everyday who are hurt and wounded, scarred and scorned within church bodies. I hate that this stuff happens, and to me it seems that this happens because we are not being lead by the Holy Spirit enough. I also understand that we can thrive when in the right fellowship, and sometimes that takes time. But it just feels wrong that so many sit on the sidelines and criticize instead of getting involved. Yes, God is with us always, in every situation, but He knows how important those relationships are to our spiritual growth and maturity. In the early church, they worked everything out as a body. They gave all that they had for the uplifting and establishment of the church in that society. But even more, we have to remember that the church building is nothing but a symbolic atmosphere. Church is not a place that we go to. Church is who we are. Jesus even said as much when he declared that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit.

 

So, we see that church is not something that we do. We don’t do church. We ARE church. The same praise and worship; the same bible study that happens on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings, should be the same thing happening in our lives every day. How else can the church be effective if this is not happening? I would also argue that if we are honest with ourselves, we surely have to know that the reason many of our church buildings are not as effective as they could be stems from the lack of Christians willing to step in and step up to their callings. I believe that God created the church to be an entity of self -preserving power from the Holy Spirit. He calls people to church assemblies because they possess gifts and talents that can help prepare and equip that assembly to affect radical change in that community.  In every church body there is everything that church needs to be successful.

 

So, to me, a Christian who has time to complain about what church is not, needs to focus inward. Maybe the reason that your particular church is not meeting your expectations is because you aren’t doing your part. Don’t sow seeds of sedition. Be the change that you want to see in your church.  If there is a ministry that you think would meet your needs, chances are that it would meet others’ needs as well. Start it! DO something! Do ANYTHING! Make sure that your life AS the church is filled with the Spirit of God, so that your life IN the church assembly can be fruitful and powerful.  There is no perfect church, but there are churches all over the world in the midst of being perfected by the Spirit of God.

 

Maybe it is time that we pray for God to take us back to the early days of the church, as seen in Acts. It was a place where nobody had too much, and nobody had too little. It was a place where not only the Apostles did work, but the congregation bared an equal responsibility to preach the word with urgency and love, and signs followed them as well.  It was a church on fire, a Body in the world, yet living very much beyond it. And while it should be easier for us to be more effective, with social media, etc, the true battle lies in our own hearts. We persecute each other, because we are not truly BEING the church.

 

Christ is returning for a church without spot or blemish. What will He find in us, Church?

 

Until next time, be blessed.

Quick Reflection

I’m proud to say that I have friends. Friendship is important, and I’ve not been good about having friends over the totality of my life thus far. I can say with great pride and sincerity that I have friends who have faith in God, friends who inspire me with their faith and willingness to be the church instead of merely going to church.  The Bible talks often about how important it is to have those in your life who sharpen you and push you to be a better Christian in your personal life and also out in the world. I’m blessed to say that I now have this. I often laugh about how my social circle consists only of those whom I go to church with. That’s not such a bad thing.

Since we have moved to Missouri, the friends that we have made have cared for us continually. I’ve made no pretense about our financial struggles, but we have friends who have helped us along the way. And for that, I thank God. Right now, I’m thinking about a particular family of friends, and I will tell you about what God is doing in their lives. I hope they don’t mind reading this blog about themselves. Lol.

This family has blessed us this school year. Tremendously. When we were looking for childcare, they stepped in and agreed to keep our youngest in our home. When we lost our car, rather than have me quit my job right away, they have allowed us to use their vehicle for me to get back and forth to work. As we have not been able to pay often for the childcare, they have been gracious over and over again. They have given to us more than anyone can reasonably expect in a lifetime. They have been our angels.

On Monday, I was posting in my life group Face Book page about trusting God; about how easy we find it to trust imperfect human beings rather than completely trust a God with a proven track record over the history of the world.  When I got home that afternoon, this family told me that God was leading them away from watching our boys.  Now, for a little back- story, then I will tell you why I even mention this.

This family has been called by God to move to Brazil at the end of this year. Not for a mission trip, but for a missional life. They will be selling all of their materials and moving, relocating internationally, to do the work of God. How tremendous is this? I am continually in awe of them. My wife and I pray for them often, because sometimes I can see glimpses of what God is preparing them for.  They are going there to do the will of God in that area, whatever that may be. They have abandoned themselves to God, and as a result, God is shaking up the foundations of their lives in such a perfect way. I can see how God has been preparing them for this over the last few years, probably even longer. I can’t put into words how excited I am for them; how their complete trust in God is spurring them to such a radical, faith-based move. It is inspiring to say the least. All I know is that God will be speaking to them, giving them more specific instructions, but He will also be testing their dedication. Please join me in praying for them. No names are needed. God knows who they are.

Now, back to Monday. When I was told that they could no longer watch our children, my heart didn’t sink. Sure, I thought about what we were going to do about childcare, not being able to really pay anyone. But moreover, my thoughts were on the fact of how cool it is to hear God, and then be obedient. As they told me, I began to thank God for them, and pray in my heart that God would have His way to such an extent in their lives that people around them would be altered even before they depart from the States. Sure, my own worry did come later as I pondered possible solutions to everything, but if they can trust God with a life-altering move, surely God can handle our little things. I’m so proud of them, and so happy that God has put them in our lives. They are our family in every sense of the word. So see, this is not about what we lose. It’s about what Brazil will be gaining. The answer in short, is that God is blessing the people of Brazil.

So, in case you all happen to read this, we love you in the most sincere way that we can manage. It is our prayer that you see God in even the most minute, remote ways. I pray that God’s voice will fill your hearts and your entire beings. I pray that His methods astound you and leave you continually in awe of His greatness. Your destinies in Brazil have already been written, and as much as you desire to go there to serve, be prepared to be ministered to in ways that you have not even considered yet. Be strong in the Lord and in His power. Though your faith will be tested, I pray that your resolve will be made even stronger. I know that God is with you, and you know this as well. Finally, I pray that God will prosper you even as He has prospered, and continues to prosper, your souls. In this way, you will forever be rich in grace, mercy, and love, never lacking in anything that you need to accomplish the will of God.

Until next time, be blessed peeps.

Breaking New Ground: Do You Know God’s Greatest Desire?

1. God made me from Him- in Genesis we see that God created some things and made others. He creates things from nothing. He makes things from something. He created the heavens and the earth. He made man.

Gen 1:11- and God said let the earth bring forth grass….and it was so.
Gen 1:20- and God said let the waters abound with an abundance of creatures…and let the earth bring forth every living creature..

God calls things out of something, sustains it by that thing, and returns it to that thing when it dies. He called the beasts of the field out if the earth, he feeds them from earth, and returns them to the earth.

Gen 1:26- -let us make man in our own image, according to our likeness.

We came from God, we are sustained by God, and will be returned to God. Our bodies were formed from the earth, and will return to the earth, but God gave us our spirits. So when we die, our spirits return to God.

Separation from what sustains us leads to death. When trees are uprooted by the ground, they die. When we separate ourselves from our sustaining God, we die. He is our nourishment, our pruner, molder, and life giver. We can never be solo.

Eph 2:1- and you, He made alive, who were dead in our trespass and sin..
John 10:10- their comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.

When we stay connected to God, He continues breathing that same breath of life into us.

2. God made me like Him.

Gen 2:20- so God gave names to all the cattle, birds, and beasts, but for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. Then the rib which The Lord had taken from man, He made into a woman….and He brought her to the man.

God knew the desire of Adams heart was to have a companion. That’s what was missing in his life. God knew this because He created us to be His Bride! The symbolism of Eve is that she represents the companion that we were created to be for God.

He created us with free will, not as robots. Therefore when we willingly come to God, it melts His heart.

3. God made me to love Him.

Satan wants our worship. God wants our love.

Jer 24:7- then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am The Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be there God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.

Christianity is a life sustaining relationship where we choose to love God freely. If we passionately go after God, He will passionately come after us!

Breaking New Ground: Time to do Something!

James 2:14- what good is it to say you have faith, but don’t show any actions? What good does it do?….some may argue that some have faith and some have good deed…..I will show you my faith BY my good deeds. Can’t you see that faith without works is dead? You say you believe in God? Good for you, even demons believe this and they tremble. Don’t you remember that father Abraham was shown right with God by his actions when he offered his son on the altar. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the scriptures say: Abraham believed God and God counted it to him as righteousness. He was even called a friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, and not by faith alone. Just as the body is dead without breath, so faith is dead without good works.

-Just believing that God exists does nothing for my day to day life!- anyone can wear a t shirt or have a bumper sticker. That means nothing at all!

-James says we must do something about it!

-the reason we aren’t breaking new ground is not because we don’t want it, but because we aren’t doing anything about it!

James is challenging us to not stop at proclaiming. He is pushing us to put action behind the proclamation.

-there is no divine intervention unit here is human exhaustion. We must do all we can do, then God will do all that He can do.

-God won’t get involved until we get involved.

-in the Bible, we see that God starts out almost every miracle with instructions first.
–examples: water to wine miracle, Lazarus’ resurrection, -in each case, people had a role to play in the miracle.

-God won’t do what we don’t wanna do.

-we need to access the areas of our lives that need to change and do what He says to do.

-stop wrestling with regret and learn from it to start doing your part now! Regret should bring us to repentance and teach us a lesson we don’t want to repeat. But then we must move on. We aren’t called to live with regret for the rest of our lives. Nobody can unlock our chains of regret but us. God has forgiven us if we have asked. We need to open the door and walk out of the cell. We can’t live our past everyday. Let the regret go! Move forward.

Joel 2:25- so I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts have eaten. – God can restore what was lost. He can do more in one year than the enemy can do in 10! When we make the decision to change and move forward,

Remembering Nychelle

Today, I would like to remember a young woman who really knew God. I think that even at her young age, she knew God better than many, and had the kind of relationship with Him that made this world seem like some kind of pale imitation. Nychelle Goad was a member of our church, and while I didn’t know her well, I often found myself observing her. I think sometimes when we recognize God in someone, we feel a connection and are drawn to them, even if we never actually speak. Nychelle and I never really carried on a conversation, but the way that she lived her life testified loudly to the fact that she knew that her life was not her own, but rather to be spent in service to others, and glorifying God.

 

In the immediate aftermath of her tragic accident, so many were heartbroken. So many asked why. And while for a bit, it seemed so surreal, sure enough life has gone on. Her parents Carol and Travis are warriors in the truest sense of the word. God has done great work in them, healing them from the pain of their loss. The cool thing is that as God has continued to heal them, He has used them to heal others of other various forms of loss. He has grown them. He has stretched them. He has grown their family. Their girls are awesome. Their son, Noah, is amazing! A future worship leader.  And most importantly, they all live their lives abandoned to God.  I have always really enjoyed watching them worship on Sunday mornings. It blesses me. They have prayed for my family, and our family has prayed for theirs. On FaceBook, nary a week goes by where Nychelle is not mentioned. Still. 2 years after her moving on to be with God. How amazing is that? It’s the kind of legacy that we all wish to leave when we die, not that we were known by man, but that we were known by God, and man could see it in the way we lived.

 

In a blog that I used to have, I wrote about Nychelle’s death, and how it affected so many.  I wrote about the shock and the tears. Today though, I just want to thank God that so much positive has come from her passing on. I would like to think that she is up there smiling, cracking jokes, and urging everyone onward towards the finish line. She lived a life of faith. She loved God. She loved others. What else can anyone want out of a life? There are some days where I see someone who looks just like her, and it makes me smile. She is still a part of us all. There is comfort in that.

 

Nychelle,

 

We still love you and think about you. Thank you for the life that you lived, and for the light that you showed. Thank you for being unashamed of the Gospel of the Kingdom, and breathing it daily until your last breath.

 

And God, I thank you that we were able to witness your wonders through her. I think we are all a little bit better because of it .

 

Until next time, family, be blessed.

Simply put, God’s Love is EVERYTHING!!!

I have been reading Christian Athiest, by Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church.tv. The reading has been slow for me, but I think that is purposeful. There are so many good nuggets of thinking and meditating material in it, that to read it faster might be more bad than good. The most recent chapter that I read talked about people who believe in God, but also believe that He could never love them, for one reason ot another. Maybe it’s because of the shame that we carry about our past sins before becoming Christians. Maybe it is because we feel that we are so insignificant. So many times, we attribute human characteristics to God. Think about your childhood and your relationships with your parents, or whatever caregiver you had. Now, think about how you see, view, and approach God. I remember growing up, and even as a teenager, quietly knocking on my dad’s door when I wanted to ask him something.  I didn’t want to bother him, because he was a busy man. Even today, I sometimes fine myself quietly knocking on God’s door, even though we are told to approach Him with courage and boldness. No matter how good or bad your relationship with your parents, I can promise you that there are some aspects of them that have been transferred to how you interact with God. Only the ministry of the Holy Spirit can free us of those chains.

 

I love the way God can cause things to interact though, because in our Wednesday Bible Studies we have been doing Forgotten God, by Frances Chan. Last night’s study dealt with how much God desires us to have a deeply personal and intimate relationship with Him, one that goes further than us calling Him by his formal name. he wants a relationship with us that involves us knowing Him the way a child knows his or her loving father, can calling Him as such. It’s the Holy Spirit that calls out through us to Him as Abba, or Daddy. As we were talking about all of this last night, and how the Holy Spirit shows us in our lives and ministers to us through every instance to show us how much God loves us, I had a hard time holding back tears. To think that God, Elohim, Yahweh, this same God who is above all, yet IN all…that He loves me renders me speechless. And yes, I have had real issues in believing the depth of God’s love for me in the past, because I couldn’t see how God could love someone who sinned as deeply as I have in the past, and sometimes still today. Why would I ever be worthy of God’s love? How could I ever be worthy?

 

And Craig Groeschel and Frances Chan both talk about how we think that we can earn God’s good graces by going cold turkey from our sin for a time, then thinking that we can approach God for a relationship after we have been “clean” for a particular amount of time. But see, that doesn’t work, because we always fall right back into that sin or more sin. Furthermore, our sin is not the point. God does not focus on our sin. He focuses on US. His love is so much greater than wanting to condemn us for every wrong thing that we do in life. His love is so much stronger than the weakness we exude in our times of falling away.

 

The story of the prodigal son really moves me like nothing else as I get older. The image of the father running out to meet the wayward son as he returns to ask if he can merely be a slave- how is that not us at some point? We sin and come back to God as a last resort, expecting God to treat us with contempt and scorn, to shackle us and make us to menial labor around His house. Yet when we lift our heads, tears staining out face, our shame causing our shoulders to buckle and lean; we look up and see not merely God, but ABBA running as fast as He can to meet us and lift us up! We feel His arms around us, squeezing us tightly and spinning us around over and over again. This is the love of our Daddy! Just typing this gives me goose bumps.  We can never truly comprehend the love of God, but He just asks us to accept it and believe in it!

 

There is something incredibly freeing about accepting God’s love. It frees us from the weight of expectation and the fear of failure. How many of us would have better lives if we weren’t consumed by wanting to make our parent’s proud? The fear of failing people drives us to do the most insane things, which are often to our detriment. And God presents His love to us in the form of Christ, who died for us while we were yet sinners. Do you understand the magnitude of these words? While we were yet sinners, while we ARE yet sinners, Christ died back them for each and every instance of sin and shame in our lives. Christ died way back then so that we would be covered for the rest of our lives. The Bible says that Love covers a multitude of sins. Guess what, that love is spelled out clearly in the blood of Christ. Every drop cleansed every sin, every detracting thought of doubt and self- image. Everything that Satan and our flesh would use to pull us away from HIM, Christ tethered Himself to us, refusing to let us go! He loves us! He loves us! He LOVES US!!!

 

So, what does this mean? It simply means that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. It doesn’t matter what was in your past. Embrace the fact that God can make you a new creation. Embrace the fact that he WANTS to make you a new creation. This life changing message of love via the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the sacrifice of Christ has to be internalized and accepted as true within us. Our minds can not comprehend this, but it will bear such powerful witness in our hearts if we allow it to sink in.  So I would like to ask anyone who reads this blog today to do 2 things. I normally don’t do this, but I just feel lead.

 

  1. Share this blog posting with at least one person. If you feel lead to do more, bless you. It’s not about getting my reader counts up. It’s about getting the truth out. The world would have us believe that we are insignificant, unimportant, nothing special, because of one reason or another. God is screaming from the heavens that we are SIGNIFICANT and WORTH EVERYTHING! This is the truth that we need to be shouting as well.
  2. Stop and pray that God’s love becomes real in your life, and the lives of those whom you share this with. Pray for a relationship that goes beyond formalities. Pray for a relationship where you develop your own intimate time with Abba. Even if it ends with you calling God Provider, Healer, etc, this needs to be a personal relationship. As big as God is, He desperately wants to know everything about you and become your ALL.

 

Thank you for reading today. I’m so excited about God’s love, and I’m so excited about what He will do in our lives as we live in His love.

 

 

BNG: Growing New Perspectives

Someone that I look up to as a mentor urged me to really try to blog more often, because it helps with spiritual growth to be transparent and talk about what God is doing in lives.  I really enjoy blogging. I just have to have something to blog about. Lol. I do now. And I hope my Pastor doesn’t get too mad at me for adding to his sermon series. Just seemed to fit. Any members of my church woul read this, this is not from any message Pastor Gene has preached. These are just my own thoughts.

 

All of my life, I have struggled with so many things dealing with my identity. I regret to say that I have been jealous at times of others who I interpret as being further along in their purpose than I am. I’ve been resentful at both man and God for presumed slights against me, for overlooking my own presupposed giftedness. I’ve used the fact that I know God has called me into the pastorate to harbor ill feelings and feel looked over., completely overlooking the fact that God’s path for me is completely independent of what He does in someone else. Not painting a pretty picture of myself am I? And this is the me that I see when I look in the mirror. Much of how I move through the world is based on aspects of this personality deficiency.  Even when it comes to spiritual gifts, I often haven’t been honest about my own, and embraced them. So, as you can imagine, for much of my life I have struggled with an identity crisis of sorts. Not that I don’t know what God says about me, but I’ve struggled accepting where I am versus where I think that I should be. I know that I’m not the only one out there who struggles with this. For much of my life, I have harbored dreams of being someone important, without being sure what a person of importance really is, has to sacrifice, and is responsible for.

 

What I am understanding now, though is that I have thought about things wrong all of my life. I’ve ministered to people about recognizing their worth in God, but disregarded that same wisdom for my own life. Let me give you an example. Ephesians 4:11 is a very well known verse. It says that when Christ ascended, he left gifts to men for the equipping of the church and to build up the body of Christ.  When I was younger, I thought that the order in which they were listed indicated their rank of importance. So when I would complete those gift surveys, and mine would come out as Pastor/Teacher, I would change answers to try and fit what I thought were higher offices. Perhaps, not esteeming what God holds as important is a reason why I’m just now submitting to His will for me to teach. The thing is, God did not give us these gifts to lord them over one another. The 5 fold ministry gifts were given to build a winning team in which each office needs the other to do its job effectively. One is no more important than the other. I see that now. Even in the church, everyone is on equal footing. The Pastor may preach in front of everyone, but he or she gets the least face time with the congregation. It’s the greeters, ushers, and congregation that makes the most difference in whether people feel welcomed enough to receive the word. It’s a total team effort.

 

Another area where God is really dealing with me is in the area of pastoring. I’ve come to the conclusion that while God has called me into that area, my primary pulpit will not be in a church setting. It’s been a hard chain to break in my life. Parts of me have felt that if I did not have a traditional pastorate, then I had failed God. Isn’t it funny how things sneak into our lives about Godly purpose that have no Godly relevance at all? Again, God is working on me daily about my perspectives and mission. My “church” will be the students in my classroom who see me everyday. My pulpit will be my interactions with them. My sermons will be my actions towards them and others that show God’s love on a daily basis. In just my short time being in schools as a sub and library aide, I see so many children who just need to be loved. And God has had to break down my walls about this, because for so long I was just rigid, not allowing God to be creative in my life. I wanted the status quo, because that is what I had been conditioned to desire. But while, I will preach in church from time to time, I will be ministering to these students everyday, children whom God loves with a stronger love than I could ever imagine.  It’s humbling that God is equipping me to do this hard work.  What has God called you to do, and are you allowing Him to be as creative with His calling as He wants to be?

 

So here is what I’m getting at; it is easy for us to become disillusioned with life, and with our identities. It is easy for us to spout Biblical truths to others when we know the Bible. It is easy for us to live lives that have absolutely no relevance in our own minds. What I am learning daily is that my life is not about me. It’s not about what I think about myself. It’s not about where I want to see myself. It’s not about how important I want to be.  And even with my self- esteem issues, I realize that when I focus on how far I am from where I want to be, I’m still being arrogant. I’m still being prideful by willfully focusing only on myself when there is a God in heaven who has His own thoughts about me. I really hope that you’re getting what I am trying to get across. Our lives should be daily testaments. We should trust what God says about us, and believe Him when He says it. We have to quit holding ourselves to a standard that God has not set for our lives. Our hopes, dreams, wants for the future, etc, are nothing compared to God’s dreams and will. And if we will be still long enough to hear from God, I believe that the same things that God is pulling out of me are things that He wants to eradicate from His church as a whole.

 

Don’t be like me and allow yourselves to become corrupted by your own dreams and expectations. Free yourself in Jesus’ name, and ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you, that He will help you dream His dreams about you. Ask Him to help you see through His eyes, the work that He wants to do through you. He will begin breaking down walls in your life, and He will break new ground, thus growing more fruit for others to partake of and see His glory.  A big part of God breaking new ground in our lives is building a new perspective in our hearts.  As we stay in His presence, this perspective will become who we are and how we live.

 

On the flip side, maybe none of this is you. If not, I praise God for who He has made you! I just pray that you will be open to God moving in you to help others who aren’t like you. The body of Christ is made up of all kinds. We have to help one another become all that God desires for us to be. So that is your charge!

 

Be blessed, family!