Posts tagged ‘Christ’

A Return to Self

I think that I need to get back to blogging at least semi-regularly. Too much happens in my brain when I don’t do it like I should. I’ve been thinking here lately about the difference between my former self and my present self. When I preached my first sermon, the Pastor of the church that I was attending had just left. That left me to serve alongside two Associate Pastors. i think the problem with this was that I became arrogant. it was my home church, and I really felt like I could do no wrong. While preaching was still new to me, and I felt a deep awe that God would choose to use me as He did, I can also see clearly where pride began to work it’s way into me, because there was no one there to check me, and hold me in line for accountability purposes. When I felt God move us into my wife’s church, shortly after we got married, I was joined in ministry by several young men of the same age who were on fire for God. These guys mentored me in the ways of the Holy Spirit, and together, we felt like the Avengers- super-powered Saints in the pulpit with a license to speak what we felt the truth of the Gospel was, even though we had not experienced much of it ourselves. Pride.

Back in those days, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was headed for spiritual stardom. I saw a church in my future with thousands of members. I was going to be the next, young BIG thing in ministry. Sure to be an authoring, cd-releasing, fireball of a preacher and Pastor. That is where I was headed, and no one could convince me any differently. I even had nicknamed myself the “Rainbow Reverend”, because I wanted to have suits in every color of the rainbow, much like my then idol, T.D. Jakes. I was a TBN junkie back in those days, of course. Pride.

I was sure that I always had a word from the Lord, and I was unafraid to give it. Truth be told, most times God had really given me relevant words of wisdom and knowledge for people, but I can see so much arrogance in my life. I laugh at it now. I laugh at it now, because it is 10 years later and I am not the man that I thought I would be. I’m not doing what I thought I would be doing. In actuality, whereas 10 years ago I was a young, arrogant minister, now I look in the mirror and don’t know exactly what I see. Back then, i was sure of myself…even while I had no idea what areas of ministry God desired me to work in. Now, I’m as unsure of myself as I have ever been in ministry. I question everything. I question my calling. I question my purpose. I question if I’m right about anything that I do. I sometimes feel afraid to move when I know God is wanting me to move. I don’t take risks. Now, this is a constant over the course of my life as I have seen it. I was never taught that there were good risks. I was taught that risks weren’t worth it in general. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? The only thing I know for sure these days, most days, is that I love God more than ever, and just want to serve in His church however He allows me to.

What I know is that there needs to be a balance. I need to find elements of the young man, but temper him with the wisdom of experiences of the man who has battle scars to back up every word God allows me to speak, when the need arises. I know that I can’t be afraid. I know that I need to take risks. I know that I need to believe in myself again. God believes in me. I’m surrounded by people who believe in me, and there is something in me. I feel it there.

It is time for me to quit focusing on finding aspects of others to emulate, and instead find the parts of me that need to be cultivated and grown so that instead of being a carbon copy amalgamation of others, I can finally be comfortable being the individual me. I am convinced that this is where God is taking me- down a painful road of self discovery again. God is telling me that it is an insult for me to think so lowly of someone He thought so highly enough of to create and die for.

Pride. Arrogance. Brokenness. Uncertainty. Self-doubt. Identity Crises. Rebirth?

I understand that it is not popular for those in ministry to be this transparent, but I assure you that you can’t question me anymore that I already question myself. All I can be is who I am, and hope that others learn from me how not to repeat my mistakes and life experiences. Be better, and then some. I know I plan on being better. The best, ever.

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Evolution of Praise

First off, allow me to say that however one chooses to praise God is not for me to judge. I love watching all kinds of praisers. It’s all beautiful to me. This post, however, is just a look at my own evolution as a praiser and lover of God, because the way that I give myself to Him now is far different from where I used to be.

I grew up in a Missionary baptist church. I loved it for what it was. I accepted salvation there. I was baptized there. I preached my first sermon there. That church gave me my formative development as a person and as a Christian. I still consider that my genesis. I heard many types of preachers there. There were the fiery ones, the expositive ones, the quietly effective ones, etc. We sang hymns, and had a church choir that actually had SATB voices, with people who knew the technical aspects of beautiful music. SO we praised God with polish and refinement. There was no lifting of hands, merely a quiet reverence for God.

This was fine with me, because at that point in my life, I was not fully committed to God, and so I figured that singing my best was the best way that I could give God praise. Going to churches with “free praisers” scared me. I thought that “those” people were absolutely out of their minds. My friends and I would make fun of people who danced and lifted their hands. We were bougie. “Look at that woman shouting!” “Look at that old man doing that jig!” We were ignorant. We barely knew God. We had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit. We served God out of a duty to the church.

When I got married, I moved over to my wife’s church. We would visit there frequently while we were engaged, and this church was in the midst of a powerful revival in the Holy Spirit. Even while I didn’t understand what was happening around me, I knew that even the air was different. The music was catchy, with a great beat and some great vocals. The singing, while not always pretty and refined, was so sincere. The people clapped and sang at the top of their lungs. This was a raw atmosphere. People danced and passed out. The Pastor of the church walked on the pews when he got “happy” during service. Sometimes, (EGAD), he didn’t even preach and the people just sat moaned for God. What was this? It wasn’t until I joined the church and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit that I really began to understand what praise was. Even then, I praised God out of my emotion. I would dance and do a high step. I would clap and shout. Deep inside of me though, something was missing. I knew it, but I so enjoyed praising in that atmosphere. Man, just thinking about it makes me smile.

When my wife and I moved to the church we currently reside in, something strange happened. Over the last 7 years, I have received training in the knowledge of who God is, why He is so worthy of my highest praise, and how to let go. I’ve spent time in the word with God. I have encountered a God who had been a distant relative before, but has not become my closest friend. I have experience God in ways that I never would have imagined, and He has completely shattered everything that I thought that I knew about Him time after time after time. With each “rediscovery”, I have felt my level of exuberance in praise increase. I have gone from standing completely still and lifting my hands, to jumping up and down like a wild man, crying out so loudly that I can barely sing, dancing on stage. I have gone from being reserved and wondering what everyone else was doing, to closing my eyes and becoming “undignified” in the presence of my God.

One of my favorite stories about David is when the Ark of the Covenant came back. The Bible talks about how David took off his clothes and dances in his skivvies in front of all of his subjects and the people of Israel. When his wife questioned his sanity, he proudly declared that he would become even more undignified, because God’s Presence returning was worth every celebration…and more. Now, David was a king. He went hard for God in front of everyone without a single ounce of embarrassment. He knew that he was celebrating for an audience of One.

And this is where I am right now. The God that I now know is simply too good for me to sit still. I know Him too well now to just give Him a cursory nod and keep on moving. I choose to exhaust my limbs and move my body, I choose to offer up my voice with all of it’s imperfections and cracks. I choose to not let singing the wrong notes bother me. I choose rather, to focus on Him, knowing that He inhabits my praise, and while it is not perfect, it is all for Him, and Him alone.

Simply put, as I’be grown in Him, I’ve grown in my willingness to give Him my all in praise. I do know this, though. However you choose to praise God is a praise that God accepts willingly from you. You don’t have to imitate anyone else. All He wants is a praise that comes from your heart, and however that looks for you, if your heart is engaged, God is pleased.

Have a great evening! Be blessed, peeps.

Follow the Leader

It’s been hard for me to ever think of myself as a leader. I have never thought that I had the “it” factor that great leaders possessed. I don’t have what I consider to be an electric personality. I’m not an extrovert, preferably a wallflower rather than the life of the party. It’s not that no one ever told me that I could never be a leader. In reality, I’ve been told all of my life that I had the potential to be a great leader. Others saw it in me, but I just could not see it in myself. Part of the reason was that I was comparing what I saw in others to what I did not see in myself. It seems that God has really been deconstructing my own self image here lately. A good friend of mine, Dan Clark, once told me during a breakfast meeting that I should embrace the things about myself that I did not do well. At that point, I didn’t really grasp the power of what he was saying. I figured that because I didn’t do the things well that I saw other great leaders do well, I could never be a leader; not even considering becoming an effective Pastor. Our series in church has been dealing with breaking bad habits and cycles in our lives, and the last 4 weeks have dealt especially with breaking the spirits of comparison and poor mental workings. As a result of really allowing these things to sink in, plus having some real eye opening time at our staff meeting over this weekend, I am beginning to see the uniqueness in the way God has created me to lead. It doesn’t look like my Pastor in many ways, any Pastor that I’ve ever sat under. It doesn’t look like our Youth Pastors, or anyone that I see on television. I’m me, and in the past I’ve spent so much time ripping myself for NOT being the people whose lives I looked up to and admired. However, instead of focusing so much on my weaknesses and deficiencies, I am really beginning to see how my strengths can be used by God to be an effective leader.

I have always wanted to be a leader, but the issue has not been with what I was created to be, but rather how I saw who God has created me to be. In the light of respecting and esteeming his creative work in constructing me, I think that I am beginning to understand myself in the way God intended for me to be. Quirks and all, I think I’m actually an ok guy, and I’m growing to be an effective leader as well.

A Year in Reflection

So where do I start. I haven’t blogged in a long time. This has been some kind of year for my family. My first year teaching. My wife switching school districts. My daughter switching school districts. My middle son starting public school. My youngest switching to a new sitter. We find out we’re having baby number four, Zyla. We are asked to serve on our church pastoral staff as Outreach Pastors. I preach TWICE at church, and really get involved in Wednesday night class discussions. Yes, there has been so much to report. However for the purpose of this post, I really want to focus in on my experience as a first year teacher.

Today was the last day of school, and while outwardly I was happy that it was coming, because I was ready for a break, in my heart, I knew that I was not ready to let these students go. In truth, I loved them…hard. I gave them all of me everyday for every class period of the past 8 months. I began to know them, what made them tick, what made them smile and laugh. I strived everyday to make each student laugh at least once. Sure, my antics could be chalked up to being new and inexperienced, but I choose to think that they are just a part of my makeup that God gave me specifically for this task. And as I look at all of the letters that I have received from students and the messaged from parents, I just sit back and wonder “How?” How could a guy who up until two years ago barely liked children have fallen this in love with a profession that he previously despised? How was it that I cared so much about these kids? How did I let them into my heart? How was it that my classroom, a classroom with a man who really had no idea what he was doing, become a place where kids felt safe telling me their secrets and confiding in me? How’d I even get this job? lol. My students proclaim me a great teacher, but I know better.

God is truly great. It was only by His Spirit that I made it through this year. In every instance, God gave me the words to speak, whether in correction, or encouragement. He helped me navigate all of the emotional swings of these 13 and 14 year old students. I prayed for them. They ate in my class. We pranked each other. Students who weren’t even mine were attracted to me. I know it wasn’t me that they were attracted to. It was God. They saw God in me, and while some of them don’t know that specifically, it makes me so happy that I was able to be Jesus to these kids every time they saw me.

And so, as I watched them leave today, my eyes were dry, but my heart cried a bit. 8 months. Everyday. Now, nothing. It’s sad, but in my heart I really feel that the work that God wanted me to do with them was done. Now I have to trust Him to continue it as they head into high school. In truth, these students aren’t really mine. I was simply someone God placed into their lives at this junction to steer them towards Him as much as possible, and plant seeds that will hopefully bloom into success and a relationship with Christ. But, I love them just the same. They will forever be a part of my heart, a part of me.

My heart is full today. Thanks be to God for this wonderful year. I’m praying for many, many more as He grows me professionally and spiritually to be a lighthouse in the classroom.

The Power of Words: Do You Value Your Words?

Many times we speak words out of our mouths all the time without recognizing the value behind our words.

Proverbs 18:20-21- from the fruit of their mouth, a persons stomach is filled. With the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Basically, the quality of the words that come from our mouths strongly influence the quality of our lives. In Genesis, we see that god spoke things into existence. Thus, because we are created in God’s image, we hold the same creative or destructive power. Many times, we see people who have the truth and stretch the truth cause us to reject the original biblical truth. Our words must line up with what God is saying.

We need to stop trying to get God in agreement with our words, and get our words in agreement with God. When this happens, we have true power and authority. Our words are either agreeing with life, or agreeing with death. So the question becomes whether or not we are releasing life or death when we speak?

1. Our words connect us to God. They have the power to connect God from the spiritual world to the natural God.

John 1:1- in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God.

Psalm 107:20- he sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.

Jesus came as the Word to save us from our sins and connect us, but we only truly connect by the power of OUR words.

Romans 10:8-10; 13- the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…if you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that god raised him from the dead then you are justified……everyone who calls on the name of The Lord will be saved.

Example:we declare with our words that Jesus is the Messiah and we accept his salvation. Then we are saved and connected to God. We have to speak the words and believe in our heart. Our words place us into right agreement with God.

Matthew 12:31-37- but I tell you this, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks a word against the spirit of God will not be forgiven neither in this age, nor in the age to come. …..for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. ….but I tell you that everyone will be judged for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be judged, and by your words will you be condemned.

Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is taking what God has done and attributing it to Satan or some other source.

2. Our words connect us to each other.

Proverbs 18:20-21- he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from The Lord.

There is a reason that this verse is here. Our words connect us also to our spouse or to other people. When we misuse our words, or fail to communicate, the relationship suffers. It gets weak and brittle. Stop speaking death into your relationships, family, health, finances, life. Speak life!!

Be a life speaker! Agree with God’s words and his plans.

Ephesians 5:25-26- husbands love your wives, just as Jesus also loved the church and gave himself for for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.

Are we cleansing or corrupting by what we are are speaking? Words can either destroy relationships or restore relationships.

Change Your Sound Pt 8 : I know who I am

There is an identity crisis in the Body of Christ. Satan doesn’t have to steal our authority or power, but if he can steal our identities, we effectively stop ourselves.

Matt 3:13- the baptism of Jesus – after he was baptized, the spirit of God descended like a dove….and said,” this is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

It took 30 years for Jesus to get baptized and begin his public ministry. God affirms Jesus’ publicly before he even begins ministering.

-stop trying to earn or prove God’s love for you. It is important that we believe this and know that God approves and accepts us. As soon as you accept Jesus as Savior, you become loved unconditionally. He will never love you any less or any more. It is a changeless love. So God affirms Jesus before anything of note happens in his life.

Following his baptism, instead of beginning to minister, Jesus went on a 40 day fast in the wilderness. Perhaps this was to get his heart ready and to reveal the full scope and relevance of his ministry. This happens in Paul’s life as well in Acts.

During his fast, Satan meets him and begins to tempt him. Matt 4 details this for us. satan attacks his identity.

He attacks our identity by twisting scripture for his purposes. He only attacks his identity, because if he can get Jesus to lose focus of who he really is! he can render his entire ministry of no regard.

When you know who you are, you will not be….

1. Performance driven-when we know who we are, we understand that we don’t have to win his approval. When I really know that I belong to God, and that he loves me and affirms me, it sets me free.

Satan attacks Jesus first where he is weak because he had not eaten. (V3-4), but Jesus already knew that he was the cornerstone and the bread of life. In verses 5-7, he continues attacking Jesus’ identity again by challenging him to jump from the highest point of the temple. Jesus answers by telling him not to put God to the test.

2. When I know who I am in Christ, I will not be arrogant. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone about what you can or can’t do. When we are challenged, we must rest in who we are in Christ. Our boldness doesn’t come from arrogance, but from a deep knowledge of who we are in Christ.

Arrogance will keep you jumping off of stuff, just to prove that you belong. When we know who we are, we can blow negative things off because we are secure in our identity.

In verses 8-10, Satan offers Jesus the entire world if he will only bow and worship him?! Jesus rebukes him.

3. When I know who I am, I will not be selfish. It would have been easy for Jesus to accept Satan’s deal and skip the pain of the cross. However, he saw outside of himself and saw us, who would need him to endure the torment, so that we could be blessed and restored back to God. He paid the full price so that we could have a relationship with God.

Change Your Sound pt 7 : what sound does Jesus want you to hear?

1. Jesus meets you where you are

John 20:19- on the evening of that first day of the week, when the discuss were together,with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “peace be with you”

Many of us find ourselves in this situation, closed off an locked away from the world. Maybe not for any other reason of that we have been hurt and betrayed. So we find ourselves locked away with our fear. Then Jesus shows up in the midst of the disciples’ fear. Jesus always shows up in the middle, and He releases their fear .

2. He gives us encouragement

John 20:19-“peace be with you”

Jesus says nothing more than peace. He didn’t address anything other than their storm and speaks peace into their lives. The doors were locked, but they could not lock Jesus out. By the same token, no matter how much we lock ourselves away, Jesus still can come through with his peace.

The last thing they were expecting was Jesus to come in and say what he said. He had just been beaten and crucified. Why would he show up? Besides, they had all left him alone. They had betrayed him. If anything, they expected him to chastise them for abandoning him in his darkest hour. When God shows up, he doesn’t bring condemnation. He brings peace. We often wonder what God thinks about what we do and who we are, but God comes in love to bring us peace. He can relate to our fears. He understands.

Philipians 4:6-7- be anxious for nothing, but in everything make your requests known to God;and the peace of God…..will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

3. He shows us his love.

John 20:20- after he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw The Lord.

Instead of condemning then, he showed them what he gave up for them. He gave them undeniable proof of his love. It is love in action. His love for us is not performance based. We don’t have to earn it, because we can’t earn it. He gives it freely through grace. He comes into our hearts and addresses our guilt and resentment. He covers them in his great mercy. He models this for us so that we can learn to let go of guilt and resentment. We can be free of them; no longer a slave to them in our lives. Because of this, Peter goes from wanting to give up to preaching a historic sermon that adds 3000 people to the new church.

Psalms 32:1-2- blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven,whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin The Lord does not count against them

4. He wants to fill us

John 20:21- and with that he breathed on then and said, ” receive the Holy Spirit”

He comes to us, meets us, loves us, and then he fill us anew. We need a continuous, constant, daily filling of the Holy Spirit.