Monday, June 30, 2008

So You Want to be a Pastor or Teacher?


James 3:1 (NIV) Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

So you want to be a pastor or teacher?

Okay. One word of advice - be sure sure you are called. You'll have to be called just to survive the opposition from people. Then in the end God will judge you for every single thing you have ever taught.

Just remember the LESSON of the WHALE: When you get to the top and are ready to blow is when you get harpooned!

Foundations Classes - Tuesday Night


Foundations,
our summer classes, will begin tomorrow night.

Topics offered:

  • The Second Coming
  • Good & Evil
  • The Bible

If you haven't signed up, that's okay. Just show up and you will be included.

Begins Tuesday, July 1st
Time: 6:00 – 7:30 PM

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Baptism Sunday



Under the looming threat of rain in the distance we held our baptism service today, baptizing forty (40) people - about fifteen children and twenty-five adults. What an awesome day. Our first service was so packed we had to bring out extra chairs for seating. There was a lot of celebration, hand clapping, and even a few were crying as we were privileged to witness this event.


Do you know what baptism is?
  • It is ones pledge of allegiance to Jesus Christ
  • It is ones expression of seeking identification with Jesus Christ
  • Its ones opportunity to publicly confess Christ before men

While it is the role of the Holy Spirit to baptize people into the body of Christ (for salvation), water baptism (carried out by men) is how we identify new believers and receive them into the fellowship of God's family, symbolizing their death, burial, and resurrection to live a new life in Christ.

What a day it was. I am very thankful that we could have a little part in God's great big plan.

Double-click the pictures to see an enlargement.



Saturday, June 28, 2008

Church Pirates



Ed Young, senior pastor at Fellowship Church in Grapevine Texas, posted a video on his blog site about four weeks ago entitled "Church Pirates." I viewed it the day it was posted and it has created quite a stir in the church world. The blogis-sphere has been buzzing with dialogue.

Even "Christianity Today" (magazine) picked up the news and has featured a couple of articles related to the topic and video.


What's it about? The title gives you the content. Basically, church pirates reach INTO the church and (attempt to) plunder it for their own agenda, rather than reaching out to a lost world instead.

If you would like to view the video, simply click the link below. Once you get to Ed's blog, scroll down to "May 24" and look for the topic "Church Pirates." Click the video and watch it on You Tube.

You may also navigate around on Ed's blog for additional dialogue on this topic. See June 19, Following the Pirates "Out of Ur."

To see what others are saying, click the "comments" section at the bottom of these posts. Very interesting.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Upcoming


SUNDAY ...... JULY 13
New Message Series: "A Clearer Picture of God"

How has God revealed Himself? What is His nature? Is He good or severe? Or both? We will be answering those questions by looking at some of the attribute of God, such as:

  • the holiness of God
  • the wisdom of God
  • the soverigenty of God
  • the justice of God
  • the favor of God

This is sure to be a SUMMER SIZZLER!



Thursday, June 26, 2008

Absalom - His Rise and Fall



“Oh that I were made a judge in Israel…” (2 Samuel 15:4)

Absalom, the third son of David, was a failed leader and possessed shallow character. His rebellion led to his ruin, spoiling his grand campaign-promises he made to those who followed him. He was an usurper and betrayer.

The church needs people of integrity to accept leadership roles, but too often what we get are people of ambition with hidden motives. We need discernment to spot the difference. This series will hopefully give you some of those tools.

Developing virtue and depth of character is not easy, but it must be done within yourself and those on your team. The work of God is too important to do otherwise.

Signs of an Absalom Spirit in the church:


OPERATES INDEPENDENTLY OF THE CHURCH

The first sign of an Absalom-spirit is when a person begins to operate independently of their church. Such a person no longer wants to serve that local church and its mission – even though he signed up for it and agreed to its covenants - but rather his own agenda. He will try to sway the leadership to bend in his direction, with his beliefs, with his philosophy, and with his reasons. He will continue to hang on, enjoying the benefits of the church that he does not agree with, while operating independently and against the grain.

Is that integrity? No. It is dishonest, lacks integrity, and is grounds for disqualification and removal from church leadership.

Once it becomes apparent to him that he is not going to get his way, he feels disenfranchised and spiritual pride rises up and an offended spirit begins to reveal itself.


A CRITICAL SPIRIT

The spiritual pride that is deep within the heart of Absalom turns into an offence. Almost anything becomes the object of his criticism. Every decision, small or large, major or minor, is questioned by Absalom.

Now he feels like he can no longer receive input or guidance from leadership. He begins to distance himself. He begins to tell others that only he has the wisdom to carry the group further along spiritually and into deeper things. Only he can lead a church as it should be led.

He begins to throw innuendo and doubt into conversations with other unhappy people. All the while their conscience tries to alert them to the fact that something is not quite true – yet they ignore this alarm bell and continue to align themselves with Absalom.


SOWING DISCORD AMONG THE BRETHREN

Now Absalom begins to contact other individuals to spread his dissatisfaction; always (of course) making sure the hearer understands that this “isn’t gossip” but truth that needs airing. He goes to great effort to appear as if he is promoting God and the teachings of the Bible, to justify his real intent to do harm.

In the Bible Absalom was very cautious to convey the image that he was loyal to both God and his father David, but his actions proved otherwise. 2 Samuel 15:12 states "....and the CONSPIRACY was STRONG" (KJV).


THE BREAKAWAY

Absalom was able to sway not only disgruntled types, but most tragically those who were naïve. 2 Sam. 15: 11 states, “….THEY WENT in their SIMPLICITY, and they KNEW NOT any thing.” This group of people followed Absalom because they didn’t know any better. They were simple, didn’t know Absalom’s true motives, and were misled. Sadly, they didn’t see the truth until much later.

When an Absalom-type draws away followers, he will offer teachings that will (seemingly) vindicate his actions. These followers, not really knowing any better, will find some level of comfort in his teachings, as it seems to validate their choice in following him. However, the instruction they receive from him will be un-balanced, because its source is often from other Absalom-types.

He has now set himself up as a wise one, subtly imposing upon his group the view that he can lead them into something more spiritual and deeper, unlike the previous leadership. But true spiritual discernment cannot possibly function in the breakaway group because of the bitterness and pride that has taken hold there.

Usually, and FORUNATELY, the LARGER GROUP of people are NOT SWAYED by the Absalom-spirit, and remain under the protective covering of their godly leaders whose integrity remains intact.


JUDGMENT FOLLOWS

There is a Biblical principle that states: If the root is evil then the fruit shall also be evil. Jesus said, “the tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33), and “neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Matthew 7:18).

To make an application - this simply means that any group birthed from the workings of an Absalom will suffer the same fate in due time. Disloyalty, gossip, and rebellion WILL FOLLOW THEM as sure as night follows day.

It should be noted that ABSALOM’S END came to him in a most REVEALING WAY. When he was running from the battle on the back of a mule, his HEAD got caught in a forked limb of an oak tree and he was left dangling there until he was executed.

In the Bible, the word “HEAD” stands for AUTHORITY and LEADERSHIP, (i.e., Jesus is the “head” church, the husband is the “head” of the wife, etc). Absalom rebelled against his father David (his lawful head) and set himself up as the head of Israel, and BY HIS HEAD HE WAS JUDGED! (2 Samuel 18:9-18).

If you want to be in leadership, wonderful. You desire a good work (I Timothy 3:1). Just don’t get there by rebelling against and attempting to harm other godly leadership. Eventually you will suffer the same fate. It’s just a matter of time.

May maturity & integrity be the hall-mark of the Church.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What Makes a Healthy Church?



Many things contribute to the stability and health of a church. Here are a few:

1. GOOD LEADERSHIP – Not just leadership, but “good” leadership. Wise, godly, and experienced leadership plays a critical role in the stability of a church. Leadership can bring out the best or the worst in people – because people generally pick up the traits of their leaders and become a product of what is poured into them – not in teaching only, but in the lifestyle of the leader.

Not everyone who aspires to the office of "pastor" (elder, bishop, overseer) is really called of God to be there. Human ambition has placed them there, and the fruit (results) of their leadership is obvious.

Nothing, but nothing, can ever replace the men/women who have been genuinely called of God. In Jeremiah 3:15 God says, "I will give you pastors ACCORDING to MY HEART, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." Men like these are gifts from God. Trust no one else to be invited into your life.


2. BALANCED DOCTRINE – Sometimes people have “pet” doctrines which they especially like to hear or talk about. They often have a “little trail through the Bible” and never move out into the brush lands of God’s Word. A healthy church needs to hear the whole counsel of God’s Word – through a broad range of instruction. We need to hear about the benefits and the responsibilities – history and prophecies – goodness and severity – heaven and hell – grace and judgment.

At Pace Community Church, our #9 core belief states: “Moderation & Balance. All truth and all Biblical teaching must be balanced with other scriptural truth in order to AVOID EXTREMISM or FANATICISM. The best way to interpret scripture is with other scripture.”

We are a healthy church because we maintain a balance in doctrine and avoid extremism.


3. PROPER GOALS - Goals are important to the stability of a church. People must have a sense of purpose, and must be kept busy in reaching those goals. People who remain idle for very long tend to get into mischief or drift away. If a church loses its vision for its purpose and mission, it will shift its focus inward, and when that happens, problems will result. Churches who do not establish goals are simply “running laps” each Sunday and are going nowhere. How dead is that?

A healthy church sets its objectives upon Jesus and His plan for the church — reaching the lost, evangelizing the world, making disciples, and meeting the needs of people.


4. RELATIONAL HARMONY
- The Bible talks more about UNITY of the church than it does about either heaven or hell. It’s really THAT IMPORTANT. I have a conviction. One of my roles as a senior pastor is to always keep an eye open for potential divisiveness within our church family. As a pastor I must teach God’s Word, I must pray, I must be an example, and I must shepherd God’s sheep. Yet I must also do those things with an eye towards developing unity and confronting disunity – which is exactly what I do. Furthermore, I teach and train our church leaders to do the same.

The reason PCC is such a healthy and stable church is because we have built one of the friendliest churches in the area. It is the number one refrain we hear from our guests. It is also the reason why we are able to maintain long-term unity.

The people who attend our church are harmonious, unified, happy, and get along. They know how to work through their differences. When tension arises in our midst, most members are able to resolve the matter in a mature, spiritual manner. Those who don’t, well, they just move on.

For more on this subject you may see a post I wrote on May 29th . Just go to the blog archives.


5. FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – A church must be a wise and honest steward over the tithes and offerings of God's people. The issue of money — how it is raised and spent — is one of the most sensitive matters that many churches face.

PCC maintains good books and accounting records, complying with State and Federal law. Safety protocols, double verification, and check-and-balances are kept in place to ensure safety and integrity. Spending is monitored closely, and frugality is emphasized. We ask people to give each week, as an act of worship, and towards a God-honoring, Christ-exalting vision. And guess what? You do! That demonstrates your high level of devotion to God and trust in your church leadership.

These are a few of the reasons why PCC is such a healthy, stable church.

Monday, June 23, 2008

50 Miles from Everywhere


Took the day off. Renae and I headed to the woods for a day-trip. Getting out into Blackwater State Forest, fifty miles away from everything and everyone, was like a mini retreat. We both could feel the stress being washed away.

Here's a couple of pictures. I took a few of her, but she won't let me post them. She was, uh, in her bathing suit.

PS - I know, I know, my leg is showing. Put on your blinders and spare me the e-mails.

Total Silence



This spot was total silence.

No helicopters. No wind in the trees. No birds. Not even the sound of moving water.

Nothing.

I could hear God in the silence.


1 Kings 19:11-12 "....but the Lord was not in the wind.....and after the fire a SMALL STILL VOICE."


PS - double click the picture to see a larger view. Then click your backspace arrow to come back to the blog site.

Diotrephes - Church Troublemaker


"I wrote unto the church, but Diotrephes, WHO LOVETH TO HAVE THE PREEMINENCE AMONG THEM, receiveth them not."
III John v.9

One of the harsh realities of being in the ministry is that troublemakers show up in churches and mess up good people. Church leaders have the task of dealing with these folk to protect the flock from false doctrine, gossip-mongers and power-hungry controllers. The faint in heart need not apply for church leadership.

This of course is not some new phenomena. It has always existed. It was in the ministry of Jesus Christ, in the early church in the book of Acts, it followed the apostle Paul, the apostle John, and a young pastor named Timothy.

For the apostle John, a man named Diotrephes was his nemesis; a trouble maker in the church. He wanted to have the preeminence among the flock, and attempted to elevate himself by discrediting John. Verse 10 seems to imply that Diotrephes attacked John by spreading false accusations against him, and did this when John was away (what a coward - but then that's how they operate). Diotrephes would not even receive other brethren into the church who were favorable to John.

I like John’s response. He says, (v.10), “Wherefore, if I come, I WILL REMEMBER HIS DEEDS which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words…” John was not interested in sweeping it under the rug. He wasn’t going to avoid it. He was going to call this man into account and administer some Biblical correction. And this was coming from John, the one known as the “apostle of love.”

John indicated that he planned to visit this congregation soon and was going to CALL ATTENTION to the misdeeds of Diotrephes. If any in the congregation were not fully aware of what this man was doing, they would SOON FIND OUT, for JOHN PLANNED TO TELL THEM!

People like Diotrephes tend to be secretive in their dealings. They have secret meetings, and backroom conversations to gather support. They hide in the shadows. They don’t want the light shined upon them; it would expose them for who and what they really are.

John intended to do just that.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Debrief - Taking Risks

PCC is in danger of the same pitfalls of an established church. We are now ten years old, which in church-years is still young, but it’s long enough to relax and settle into a rut.

When we began it was easy to take risks. We had no budget, no staff, no building, no assets, and no reputation in the community. We were not even a blip on anyone’s church radar screen. Back then risk was not a virtue, it was necessary as a survival tactic. We were seven days from extinction every Sunday and if we didn’t risk everything, everyday, we were sure to be goners.

  • We risked our money
  • We risked our reputations
  • We risked our faith

Fast forward to today. Now that we have settled into a brand new building on a twenty-five acre campus the new danger facing us is to become complacent and confuse it with spiritual maturity. We have bills to pay, multiple staff, assets to manage, a reputation in the community to maintain, and a large congregation of take care of. Security, comfort, stability, and maintaining the status quo are the new dangers facing us today.

My heart is racing with excitement, because I believe God is calling us to do it again. Not because it makes sense, but because that is where God lives – He dwells in places beyond the realm of human reasoning and invites us to march off the map.

TAKE THIS SUMMER FOR INSTANCE. Summer-time is usually a time of the year when established churches just coast along in cruise-control not doing much of anything. But we have KICKED IT INTO OVERDRIVE.

  • There was Dad-Fest and Vacation Bible School back-to-back.
  • Next week are having a baptism service and will baptize about 60 people! How many churches can say that?
  • Currently, two people from our church are overseas on a month-long missionary trip to the Ukraine - wow!
  • The week of July Fourth we are launching our Foundations Classes and will introduce you to three new teachers from within our congregation.
  • At the end of July our teenagers are going to youth camp.
  • In August we’ll have a family roundup and small groups emphasis.
  • Literally dozens of people have made a life-changing commitment to Jesus Christ in the last two months - and it's still just the month of June!

I PREDICT: There is so much momentum and spiritual fruit in our church right now that I predict our REGULAR ATTENDANCE will JUMP by ONE HUNDRED FIFTY people by the end of the year. Far from being just a blip on the radar screen, PCC is now one of the most talked about churches in the area!

I believe comfortable, established, non-risk-taking churches are living beneath God’s plan. God is the One who parted the Red Sea, raised the dead, slew giants, and responded to genuine faith. Knowing this, we should be more inclined to take risks and dare to believe God for the impossible
.

To use a poker analogy – let’s push our chips to the center of the table with confidence and answer the dealers call, “ALL IN.”

Friday, June 20, 2008

Vacation Bible School - WRAP UP!


Vacation Bible School ended tonight (Friday evening). This was one of the most amazing things I have seen in a long time - and it happened RIGHT HERE at Pace Community Church!


Without exception we must have ONE OF THE BEST CHILDREN'S MINISTRIES in the area - and I couldn't be more proud of a group of people than I am of our VBS staff and Children's Ministry staff. Thank you for a job WELL DONE.


PS - This Sunday the kids from VBS will be showcased in the adult service - all 100 of them! You won't believe what they are going to be doing. This is something you will NOT want to miss. Trust me on this.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Registration


SUMMER CLASS SIGN-UP

Registration continues this Sunday for our summer FOUNDATIONS Classes. These elective classes will offer you a firm foundation in basic Bible doctrine to strengthen your spiritual journey.

Topics offered:

  • The Second Coming

  • Good & Evil

  • The Bible

Sign up in the atrium now!

Begins Tuesday, July 1st


Time: 6:00 – 7:30 PM


The Spirit of Criticism - Part 2



This post could be used for a topical Bible study. It’s loaded with scriptural references, and I encourage you to look each of them up. Better yet, copy and paste this series for your own future use.


THE EVIL OF GOSSIP

Romans 1:28-32 (NIV) 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are GOSSIPS, 30 SLANDERERS, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

In the passage above, the Bible paints a GRIM PICTURE for those who have rejected the Lord and embraced a lifestyle of wickedness – sins worthy of death (v.32).

But take note of two particular sins that are included in this list – GOSSIP and SLANDER (v.29-30). This may come as a surprise to some, but it is worth pointing out that the Bible includes these sins in the SAME LIST as greed, adultery, murder, and deceit. Think about it – gossipers and slanderers are in the same league as murderers, sex perverts, and God’s haters.

Yikes!

Slander is defined as “malicious talk; to spread damaging information; to defame, to speak ill of.”

According the scripture, any believer who does not control his/her words does not have a right relationship with God. James 1:26 says, ““If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he DECEIVES HIMSELF and HIS RELIGION is WORTHLESS” (NIV).

No true believer would ever think of committing murder “every now and then.” It’s silly to even say such a thing. But what about gossip? Do you commit gossip “every now and then” thinking it’s not such a big deal?


NOT JUST A “LITTLE” BAD HABIT

Any behavior that is placed in the same category (list) as murder must be a serious sin – something that should not be taken lightly. Unfortunately, a great many believers commit gossip on a regular basis and do not realize how wrong it really is.

I’ve been a believer for more than half my life, and in the ministry almost as long, and have encountered way too many “Christians” who don’t believe gossip is such a big deal. Some of these people have caused irreparable damage to the body of Christ and in local churches. I could fill a book with stories of anguish inflicted by these people.

We must realize that gossip is more than just a little bad habit. It is wicked, and sinful – a seething disease of corruption that oozes from the mouth. Paul said their “throat” is like an “open grave” (Romans 3:13-14).

Gossip is the enemy of God and everything called holy – a cancer which spreads deadly infection throughout the body of Christ.

Jesus warned that those who offend one of His little ones, it would be better for them to be bound with a millstone and drowned in the sea (Mark 9:42). Surely, a harsh and horrible punishment awaits those unrepentant gossips who harm the followers of Jesus.


RECONIZING GOSSIP


• Watch out for gossip. Whenever you hear someone else’s’ name being used in conversation, be alert.

• Avoid hanging out with people who gossip “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much” (Proverbs. 20:19).

• Gossip often masquerades as “concern” for others and often comes in the form of “prayer requests.” Rumors or gossip will seem more palatable if they first hide behind a pretentious expression of concern. “I hate to say anything about this to you, but I’m ’concerned’ about so-and-so.”

• At other times the gossiper will seek you out as their “confidante” to unload their “heavy heart” about their concerns. “I’m very troubled about so-and-so and I don’t know who else to talk to about it.” In reality, the gossip is not sincerely concerned about solving the problem, only in talking about it -- stirring it up. “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs. 16:28).

• A gossip thrives on the negative, the controversial, and the sensational. Any person who is genuinely concerned about solving a problem, will go and privately confront the person at the source and express their concern. Or else they should go privately to the pastor so he will do it.

• If you listen to a gossiper, he/she will use your name as an “endorsement” the next time they spread their talk to someone else. Now you have been pulled in and are culpable as well. And on and on it goes.

• “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13).


THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT GOSSIP

• Gossip is listed in the same list of sins as murder, adultery, and sex perverts, and will suffer the same consequences unless there is genuine repentance (Romans. 1:28-32).

• God holds you accountable to your words (Matt. 12:36-37).

• The person who gossips to you about others, also gossips to others about you.

• Gossip & slander disqualifies persons for spiritual leadership (1 Timothy 3:11).

• Gossip often masks as pretentious concerns for others.

• Gossip thrives upon secrecy.

• Gossip always contributes to a problem and never to a solution.

• Gossip always distorts and exaggerates, and is never a reliable source of truth.

• Those who gossip & slander are not in right fellowship with God (James 1:26).

• Those who gossip rarely get answers to prayer, and often face persistent, unexplainable problems (Psalms 66:18, Proverbs 21:23, Proverbs 6:12-15).

• Those who gossip are doomed to fail in the ministry,



WHAT TO DO ABOUT GOSSIP


• If you have been guilty of it, confess it and ask for forgiveness (I John 1:9; II Corinthians 7:10).

• Keep your nose out of other people’s business.

• If you can’t say something good or encouraging about others, then don’t say anything, (Ephesians 4:29).

• Never criticize another person, except to their own face with an intent to help. Criticism is never “constructive” if expressed to anyone else.

• If your “friends” start bad-mouthing others to you, stop them in their tracks -- refuse to be a partaker of their sins (1 Tim 5:22).

• Avoid association with persons who gossip (Proverbs 20:19).

• Expose works of darkness by reporting gossip to the pastor or church elders that they may confront the offender and offer correction.

• Gossip should be treated as any other vile sin (Ephesians 5:11).


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

12,000 Hits!


Holy Tamale!

That's twelve thousand hits!

The Spirit of Criticism - Part 1


Romans 14:10-13 (NIV)
10 You, then, why do you JUDGE your brother? Or why do you LOOK DOWN ON your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. 11 It is written: As surely as I live,' says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God. 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us STOP PASSING JUDGMENT on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

Here the Bible tells us not to tear down our brethren through judgment or criticism, because this can put a serious stumbling-block in their way, and perhaps damage their faith.

The truth is, we cannot accurately judge anyone else because we don’t have all the evidence; nor do we know the contents of their heart. We should be content with JUDGING OURSELVES ONLY as I Corinthians 11:31 commands.

WHAT IS A CRITICAL PERSON?

A critical person is one who has an obsessive attitude of fault-finding, which seeks to tear others down. This is the type of person who usually dwells on the negative, and seeks to point out flaws more than the good. They often have little control over their tongue, their temper, and have tendencies for gossip and slander, which the apostle Paul said were SINS “WORTHY OF DEATH” (Romans 1:29-32).


WHAT CAUSES A PERSON TO BECOME CRITICAL IN NATURE?

1. NEGATIVITY - A bad attitude and a negative view of life; perhaps their own life. A person may have unconfessed sin in their life, or may harbor unforgiveness or bitterness toward someone who may have offended them. See Romans 2:1 and Hebrews 12:15.

2. INSECURITY - Criticism is often a subconscious means to “elevate one’s own self image.” By putting others down, they are inwardly trying to feel more important or that “they know more.” Jealousy toward the spiritual victories of others is often the cause of criticism and belittling comments. Popular ministers and churches are often the target of such tactics.

3. IMMATURITY - Believers must always keep their focus upon Christ and His Word, not man, who will often fail (Heb. 12:2). Here’s what happens: Those who are new (and immature) in the faith are often overly dependent upon the faith of others during those formative months/years. However, over time they begin to notice the flaws in their brethren and their expectations are crushed. Criticism becomes a reaction to their disappointment. This is a normal part of growth and maturity (noticing faults and learning to overlook them) – which some are able to accomplish while others do not.

4. A CARNAL MIND - Put-downs, making-fun-of, racial jokes, disparaging remarks, criticism, and sarcasm are the world’s ways of reacting to the faults of people. However, Christian people are not supposed behave this way. Our thinking and attitude should be renewed by the Word of God, which teaches us to bear the infirmities of the weak, to love, and show compassion and encouragement (Rom. 12:2).

5. THE DEVIL - As we may realize, Satan specializes in influencing obsessive behavior. He may use any or all of the above channels, or other techniques, to influence a complaining or critical attitude to stir up turmoil and strife within the body of Christ (Eph. 6:12). We must be on guard that none of us would be used as a tool of the Devil to bring harassment or discouragement upon our brothers or sisters through continual criticism, as the Bible warns us not to “give place” to the Devil (Eph. 4:27). Remember that Satan is specifically called “the ACCUSER of the BRETHREN” (Rev. 12:10), and when people do the same they are doing the devil’s work.


IN CONCLUSION:

The Bible does not promise peace to those who focus on and dwell upon the faults of others. God promises peace to those who are focused on Him.


Isaiah 26:3 (KJV) 3Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, WHOSE MIND IS STAYED ON THEE: because he trusteth in thee.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This Summer



This summer is going to be exciting at PCC. A lot is already happening, and a lot more is GOING to happen.

1. Just finished up Dad-Fest. Great success.

2. Currently in the middle of Vacation Bible School. Started last night. I counted about 130 people last night - mostly kids. Whow! And the VBS team ROCKS! You should have seen it last night - what they have been able to put together is simply amazing.

3. Next Sunday ALL the kids will be singing in the morning service.

4. June 29 is baptism Sunday. Looks like we're going to be baptizing about 50 (plus) people.

5. Bible Classes - "Foundations" - will start the first week of July. Lasts for six weeks. Topics are: The Second Coming... Good & Evil.... The Bible. Sure to be informative and insightful.

6. New sign arrives the first week of July.

7. Lighting upgrade in sancturary in July.

8. Teen Camp - July 28 - Aug 1 - Lookout Mountain Georgia.

9. August - Family Round-up

10. August - Small Group Rally

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sunday Scoop

Okay. Here’s the scoop on Sunday.

When I walked into the sanctuary (just before service as the countdown was concluding) I could feel the electricity in the air! The room was packed! People were seated in their chairs talking with their neighbors, laughing, and just waiting for service to begin. The anticipation was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Something unusual and new was hanging in the air.

Our services featured several components which added a lot of interest & variety. We showed two video clips - one as part of the sermon, the other at the close as part of the commitment time. Attendance was way up. Dozens of visitors. The band knocked it out of the park. Hospitality, children, ushers, teens, every team served with excellence.

Then there were the classic cars. Did you see them? What a "dad-magnet" they were.



Here are some testimonies turned in last Sunday:

  • “Just moved to the area and was told to visit your church by friends.”

  • “Please add me to any e-mail and newsletters. Will be checking out your blog.”

  • “Praise God, after 11 months I finally closed on my house in Jacksonville. Thank you for your prayers and support.”

  • “I am committing my life to Christ.”

  • “Loved the singing. Loved the sermon. May God continue to bless you and your family and your ongoing efforts to build God’s family of believers.”

  • “A beautiful service – we have been truly blessed. We now have a church home. What a blessing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

  • “We have been visiting your church and are praying about where God wants us. Please join us in prayer.”

  • “I saw the sign when I drove by and came on my own. What a wonderful church.”

Theses are the kinds of comments we get every single week. That’s why I would attend PCC even if I were not the pastor – it’s such a great church – and our church family makes it happen.

There was a lady (in her 30’s) and her teenage daughter in service with us Sunday – and they had never been to church in their entire life! Yet the very first church they visit is PCC! Tell me God isn’t doing something through the ministry of this church.

Our giving was strong too. In fact, in the last three months our giving has been as strong as it has ever been.

I am completely blown away by the “wave” that is washing over PCC right now. Attendance is up. Commitments are up. Volunteerism is up. Giving is up. Support is up. Loyalty is up. And harmony is up. What’s not to like about that? I mean, if ain’t broke don’t fix it.

LET ME BE FRANK AND HONEST HERE - PCC has never been healthier, happier, and more harmonious than we are right now! We have never seen the measure of results (in the past) like we are seeing right now! Now I know why……… When a vine is pruned it is a painful procedure. But God does it for a reason – so it might BEAR MORE FRUIT (John 15:2). Our church has been through a season of pruning, but now we are in the season of bearing more fruit.

You know you have a church that is fruitful & blessed of God when you have a growing staff, growing leaders, growing ministry teams, and growing members. The people at PCC right now GET IT!

I think we are about to experience a MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How to Find a Good Church


It goes without saying that every believer should have a church home where they attend regularly. Here’s how to find what you’re looking for:

1. Look for a church prayerfully. As is the case with all others aspects of a Christian’s decisions, you should begin your search for a church by seeking the Lord’s direction. The Bible promises, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Prov. 3:6).

2. Keep in mind that you’re looking for a fellowship of believers. A church is not a building, nor is it merely a ministry, it is the body of Christ. So seek people who love the Lord and who love each other -- people that will love you and people to whom you can give your love.

3. Look for a church that has a Biblical mission and God-honoring vision.
A church should know why it exists and where it’s going. A Biblical mission should be based upon the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment.

4. Look for the church that preaches the Word of God. Seek a church that has sound doctrine, proclaims the Word, and sincerely lifts up the Lord Jesus Christ in worship and in all they do. Much of this can be discovered by observation, but most fellowships have a printed statement of their doctrines they will provide to you upon request.

5. Look for a church that has good character. Seek a loving, peaceful, stable church which has a pastor devoted to godliness, prayer and the Word, which are more important than his eloquence, education or charisma.

6. Look for a church that will help draw you closer to Christ. It might be nice to find a church where the music is flawless, where the seats are padded and the minister is a good orator. But more importantly, you need a church that will inspire you to grow in Christ, and will motivate you toward the aspirations of God. You need a church whose preaching and teaching will not merely appease or entertain you, but will boldly challenge you to advance beyond your comfort zones to live toward God’s high ideals.

7. Look for a church where you can become committed. In many ways, your relationship with the church is similar to a marriage -- you can’t get any more out of it than what you put into it. The only church in which you will ever grow and mature spiritually is the fellowship where you will commit yourself and get involved -- where the people submit themselves to God and to each other -- where they will both encourage you and hold you accountable.

8. Look for a church that is attempting to reach lost souls. Call them unbelievers, seekers, the unchurched, irreligious, or those on foreign mission fields, lost people need God – and churches have the Biblical mandate to reach them. Such a church understands its purpose and will provide a healthy environment in which to grow.

9. Look for a church where you can contribute and be involved. You get out of a church what you are willing to put in. What you bring to a church is added to the whole. This means your time, resources, talents, finances, emotional support, and encouragement. Get in, roll up your sleeves and help minister to others. Don’t look for a church that will only "serve you," but look for a church in which you can "serve." If you want your church to be the best it can be, YOU must be the best you can be. A church can never rise above what it’s individual members are.

10. Look for a church with reasonable expectations. Don’t bother looking for a perfect church, because there aren’t any (see previous post below). In every church you will find people who are wonderful and some who aren’t. Jesus taught that it was common for weeds to be found growing together with the crops (Matt. 13:24-30).

Also, in every church, you’ll find some things done well, and others that are not.

Don’t worry about finding a perfect pastor, either. Trust me, they’re all human and will make mistakes. But look for a pastor who is sincere, who is trying his best to live a godly moral life, and who is proclaiming the uncompromising Word of God. In short, be content with the church that is doing the best they can.

In Conclusion:

There are many good churches in our community. Trust the Lord to guide you to the fellowship where He wants you, and become faithful there. Don’t be a church hopper -- bouncing around to one church after another each week. God wants you to be submitted to the accountability of spiritual leaders who will help you and even correct you when necessary (Heb. 13:17), and this isn’t possible unless you are rooted somewhere. Don’t have an neglectful attitude, going to church only when you feel like it. Attend faithfully and show up on time. Serve your church at least as diligently as you would your employer.

Remember, the Lord views your attitude toward His church as your attitude toward Him (Matt. 25:40), so serve the Lord in a way that if He were your employer, you wouldn’t get fired.

Why Can't I Find the Perfect Church?



Because there aren’t any. Churches are made up of imperfect people, you and me included.

Does it seem strange to you that there are SICK PEOPLE at a HOSPITAL? Of course not – that is what a hospital is for. Likewise, it should not come as a surprise to find people in churches who are sick and have problems. The church is a spiritual hospital that treats its patients with the Gospel to make them well. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17).

A church may have many patients, all in different stages of recovery. Some are in terminal or critical condition, others are nearly well, and there are those who have recovered enough to join with the hospital staff in helping to care for the other patients.

At PCC we realize our Sunday morning attendance is made up of people in varying degrees of spiritual understanding, varying degrees of maturity, and lifestyles. This is by design. We have unbelievers, brand new believers, maturing believers and mature believers. But by continuously moving these people along the continuum of spiritual growth, we see life-change occurring. That makes us a healthy church.

In contrast, I’ve heard people say they think our church is shallow because of all the “unbelievers” and “new believers” in our family. They believe churches should be made up of mature believers mostly, (I guess people like themselves), who are well, whole, and have model children. They eventually form a cookie-cutter version of Christianity, and establish little groups made up only of people just like themselves. These groups become impenetrable. They are more exclusive than inclusive. Is this what Jesus really wants?

But to those who are imperfect, hurting, sick, bruised, or peeled, you are invited to be part of our church family.

Friday, June 13, 2008

DadFest this Sunday



Father's Day this Sunday. A lot of classic cars & motorcycles will be on display.

Bring Dad & all the guys - they're sure to enjoy themselves.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Family Vacation


Remember National Lampoon’s Vacation movie series? Chevy Chase portrayed a fictional character named Clark Griswold. He was a proud, loyal, lovable, middleclass family man who attempts to bring his family together during vacation. He is extremely clumsy and accident prone and seems susceptible to attractive women, despite being devoted to his wife. The hapless, bumbling ways in which he executes his plans are good cause for laughter.

Though it has been a long time since Renae and I, along with the boys, have been on a family vacation together, the similarities between ours and the Griswold’s are uncanny. For example, when we go on vacation together:

  • We're going to see everything, even if it kills us.

  • We always have several close calls on the highway.

  • We stay lost more than found.

  • My two boys can't stand each other when they are cooped up together in a car.

  • I am often at the center of the laughs… and the drama.

  • I always seem to get injured somehow.

  • Some babe in a red sports car is sure to wave at me and then my wife gets angry – like it was my fault.

  • I need a vacation to get over vacation.

  • What happens on vacation stays on vacation.

Choosing Team Members



Here's how you you build good teams - by choosing good team members.

1. Are they a GOOD FIT?
This mean relationally and personality-wise. How well do they fit in with the other team members? It also includes their gift-mix. Do they have the gifts, talents, or ability for the task? What about philosophy – are there philosophical differences about mission, direction, doctrine, and authority?

2. Are they a RAVING FAN of PCC & ITS MISSION?
We are looking for people who enthusiastically love their church and support its mission with passion. We operate at a fast pace around here and we don’t have the time to invest in people who are reluctant to get “on board.” In fact, it is a waste of our time to do so. Therefore, we need people in leadership and in key positions who are already on board and hold high esteem for one another. These are the people we can trust. These are the people we can empower and release. These are the ones who are entrusted with authority.

3. Are they LOYAL?
Loyalty means faithfulness or devotion to a person or to a cause. Using Biblical language, it means faithfulness.What does a loyal team member look like? This is a person who will stand up for the vision of our church or will stand up for me (or any other member) when someone is slamming the vision, criticizing the leaders, or sowing discord among the brethren. They will take the arrows, absorb the heat, and are willing to be criticized for the sake of others.When I see someone who does not talk out of both sides of their mouth, who says the same thing out in the open as they say behind a closed door, then I know I’m looking at a loyal person.Nothing energizes me more than when I walk into a room that is full of people that I know are loyal to me and to each other. This is empowering, energizing, edifying, and uplifting. It fuels creativity and innovation. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (PROVERBS 27:17).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sad Loss - Dan Spivey



We are saddened to tell you that Dan Spivey, a beloved brother in the Lord, small group member, and church member of PCC passed away Sunday night. He was in Ohio when he passed and will be buried there - in his home town.

Funeral arrangements are:

Service is on Friday, June 13
Visitation 10 a.m., Service at 11 a.m.
at Zettler Funeral Home
2646 Pleasant Avenue
Hamilton, OH 45015
(513)893-2793

Flowers from PCC have been sent to the funeral.

Dan has many family members who attend PCC - please keep them all in your prayers.

If you would like to SIGN their on-line GUEST BOOK at the funeral home, just click the link below, then go to "Sign Guest Book."



Yesterday at the Office


Kind of a mad house yesterday – but a lot of fun too. It was good to have Cathy (our children’s ministry pastor & director) in the office spending time with us – now that school has let out. There were some teenagers hanging out in Renae’s office – playing music, cutting up, making noise and having way too much fun! Had a man on the roof making repairs. Another lady showed up asking to use one of the classrooms to pray. Gene and I were hunkered down in our offices doing our normal Tuesday stuff – but we also worked on fixing a broken microphone and had to check the grinding station (out back) in the sewer! There were some funky odors in the restrooms and it looked like we had a major back up of fertilizer. The power went off, the alarm wasn’t working, and we had to get the door chime fixed. Gene is still working on our new web site – hope to get it launched this week. Final details are being put in place for Dadfest. Need to get the church grounds mowed this week - the whole campus. Vacation Bible School starts next Monday. Busy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Books On My Reading List



From time to time I mention books that I am reading or have recently read. The following is a list of my most enjoyed:

SIMPLE CHURCH – by Thomas Rainer
The book is built around the premise that the local church can accomplish more by doing less. Excellent for church leaders.

GO BIG – by Bill Easum & Bil Cornelius
This little book is only 126 pages long, but it is the BIGGEST little-book I have ever read! In fact, I bought it 2006 and I still read it. I have re-read the book about ten times! The theme of this book is we serve a big God and offers pastors some real nuts-and-bolts instruction on how to lead a church to explosive growth. This is an excellent book for church leaders.

SURPRISING INSIGHTS FROM THE UNCHURCHED – by Thomas Rainer
Church leaders - especially those interested in reaching irreligious people - will find this book to be a helpful resource for developing a congregation and ministry style that actually evangelizes. As the title suggests, it lets church people know what unchurched people are thinking about these days. Very helpful for me.

THE CREATIVE LEADER – Ed Young
I enjoy Ed's writings more than his preaching - and this book was a home run for me. He offers insights into his own church, leadership style, staffing, etc. This book is a "call for change" in the local church - that is, getting off the dead horse of tradition, getting creative, and being a high-impact church in the community. I loved it.

FINDING THE FAVOR OF GOD – Dr. Ronnie Floyd
Yep, that's what I'm talking about - the favor of God. Nehemiah prayed, "Remember me, my God, WITH FAVOR" (Neh. 13:31). This book captures the essence of what God is trying to tell us about the favor He bestows upon His children. It was a devotional read for me and has prompted me to think deeply, and ponder its insights. I am seeking God.

THE MIRACLE OF LIFE CHANGE – Chip Ingram
A book about metamorphosis or transformation. How God changes us from the inside out. A good read.

CONFESSIONS OF A PASTOR – Craig Groschell
Don't read this unless you want your notions of a pastor to be shattered! In this book Craig confesses to all his weaknesses, shattering the illusion of the "mystical pastor" who is a "spiritual giant." As the Bible says of Elijah, (who was one of the greatest prophets who eve lived), "Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are..." (James 5:17), Craig admits his own.



Big Fish Little Pond


In a small pond a five pound bass is a big fish. But when the pond gets larger it turns into a lake, and more fish begin to multiply. Now the five pound bass is JUST ANOTHER FISH.

This happens in churches. When a church is small there is always one or two big fish who feel they have an opportunity at authority. They can pull strings, offer opinions, and influence decisions. But as a church begins to grow the fish begin to multiply as more people and new families are added to the pond. Other people start having influence. Now this big fish has become just another fish in a bigger pond – and he won’t like it. He feels like his influence has been diluted. So he starts looking for another small pond to jump into. He wants to be the Big Fish in a Little Pond.

But thank God for the humble servants who simply want to serve - and not be boss. They serve cheerfully, faithfully, and seek to be last - not first. These are people who are firmly planted, and become like trees planted by the rivers of living water - they bring forth fruit, they do not wither, and whatever they do prospers (Psalm 1:3).

Their church becomes healthy because of their contribution. They are building up the church, not of wood, hay, and stubble, but of gold, silver and precious stones. What they do lasts - it stands firm against the storms of transition, false doctrine, and changes in leadership. Rather than being a "stumbling block" of offence (Romans 14:13), these faithful saints are "living stones" in a "spiritual house" (I Peter 2:5) that becomes the "habitation of God" (Ephesians 2:22).

Some people get weird when they see things changing in their enviroment.

Others grow.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Debrief

  • Good services today. Lot’s of visitors. Attendance was up. The second service was up in attendance too. Looks like a lot of (new & visiting) people are finding a home in the second service – and it feels like a second “congregation” is beginning to form. Very exciting!

  • Band – You may have noticed two new faces on the stage today. This man & woman did a fill-in for us because a couple of our regular singers were out. They did an excellent job singing, helping lead worship, and were a good blend with the rest of the team. I think it is good and healthy for the family of PCC to see new faces and talent. Keeps things fresh. You don’t know what to expect next.

  • Closed the service today with a video – produced by one of the guys on our tech team. BTW, the pictures of the clouds were shots he took himself while flying. We have some amazing talent in PCC.

  • Excellent worship. God’s presence came down today in both services. There was spontaneous expressions of worship, hand lifting, clapping, crying, and shouts of praise. Something is happening.

  • Preaching. Finished the sermon series “Eternal Realities” with a message entitled “The Judgment Seat of Christ.” After service today the CDs flew off the shelf and we sold out in ten minutes! In both services! A lot of people had to submit order forms requesting a copy. We did not anticipate such a response.

  • PCC can take hard preaching. We just don't like "mean preachers" - and there is a difference.

  • Giving. We received an excellent offering today. Plus, an additional $3000.00 in designated giving came in towards our lighting upgrade! This means the lighting project is completely paid for. In fact, giving has been up the last two months. For this we are thankful – to all of you who give, and to God.

  • After church we went out to lunch. A dear saint in our church invited my entire family and Renae’s entire family to lunch today. There was a total of fifteen of us! She picked up the tab. Amazing woman. The fellowship was very enjoyable and uplifting.

  • This afternoon Renae and I took our three dogs up to Blackwater State Forest to take a swim in the river. It was very nice. The water was cool, and the forest is like having a retreat area in our own back yard. What it does for me to de-tangle my mind words cannot tell.

  • I love our church.

  • I love what I do.

  • Mostly, I love what God is doing at PCC!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Nehemiah - I Love the View from Up Here



In the Old Testament a man named Nehemiah was doing a work for God – repairing a breech in the wall surrounding Jerusalem. He put together a wonderful team of workers who worked tirelessly on the project. They worked with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other; meaning they were ready for work and ready for battle – which ever the moment called for.

This work was not without opposition. A group of people led by a man named Sanballat, caused trouble for Nehemiah every step of the way. Their hatred and jealously for Nehemiah reached such a frenzied state that they eventually hatched a plot to murder him.

One day Sanballat and his little band of followers came to the work site. While standing on the ground they shouted up to Nehemiah who was on top of the wall, asking him to come down for a “meeting.” It was a trap. Nehemiah flatly rejected their invitation and just kept on working!

His exact words to them were: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: WHY SHOULD THE WORK CEASE, while I leave it, and COME DOWN to YOU? (Nehemiah 6:3). I mean, he didn’t even stop long enough to come down off the wall. In fact, Nehemiah didn’t even speak to these critics himself – he sent a messenger instead! Nehemiah knew His work was too important to waste his time with these detractors and naysayers.

Eventually the project was completed. To celebrate, a worship service was organized. All the people were divided into two groups ON TOP OF THE WALL. One group, with a choir of singers and musicians started walking in one direction, led by Ezra. The other group of people, with another choir and musicians, headed off in the opposite direction. They walked across the TOP OF THE WALL, singing and rejoicing as they went, until they met in the center near the temple area. It was there that the service concluded with sacrifices being offered to the Lord.

And Sanballat? Well, he faded away.

Nehemiah must have been thinking, “I love the view from up here.”


Eternal Realities


Part 1 ----- Your Soul Will Be Required
Part 2 ----- Out of Body Experiences
Part 3 ----- The Great White Throne Judgment


This Sunday:

Part 4----- The Judgment Seat of Christ (Bema Judgment)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Q & A with the Pastor



1. What would you be doing right now if you had not been called into the ministry?

My first career pursuit was in Metallurgical Engineering after being discharged from the United States Army. I went to work at Westinghouse which offered an excellent opportunity and career channel in this field. Shortly thereafter I gave my life to Christ and it changed everything. Suddenly I was in a tailspin - my interests immediately changed. I realized that the cause of Christ (for me) was the greatest thing I could give myself to. A few years later I felt called into the ministry – which I responded to. Even if God had not called me into the ministry I probably would NOT have stayed in the metallurgical field – it was too technical for my enjoyment. I probably would have switched to education or became an entrepreneur (I’m kind of an independent, maverick type, and not well suited to being hemmed in).

2. How did you transition from being a church member to entering the ministry?

My call into the ministry was a gradual one. Over a period of years, about four or five, my love for the Bible grew, my hunger for God increased, and my passion for lost people continued to burn red hot. I signed up for every volunteer position in my church that I could work in – bus ministry, youth group, Sunday School teacher, men’s prayer meeting, and hospital visitation, just to name a few.

I craved good preaching, and began listening to a certain preacher (B H Clendennen) who became a mentor to me. He was an ex-marine, who fought in WWII in the South Pacific,(on the island of Peleliu), and was a no-nonsense type of guy. I was attracted by his authenticity. He didn’t fit the typical stereotype of a preacher, (you know, with all that hair piled up high on top of his head like Southern Gospel singers have). He was real. He preached with vigor. He loved Jesus, stood up to church bullies, chased trouble makers away, and passionately communicated that the gospel of Jesus Christ was the greatest cause a man or woman could give themselves to. It had a profound effect upon me.

Eventually I began to sense that maybe God was leading (calling) me into the ministry. After a great deal of anxiety and wrestling with this question, I left my home church and volunteered to serve as a co-pastor in a small country church. (Boy, those were the days). That move began the journey.

3. Do you know any Greek?

Yea, a little fellow who sells sausage down at the corner. Beyond that, I use a Biblical concordance.

Οχι, δεν θέλω να απαντήσω στην ερώτησή σας....... Aren’t you impressed? Don’t ask me what that says because I don’t know either.

4. What are your spiritual gifts?

I think my three primary gifts are teaching, evangelism, and leadership – but not necessarily in that order. Whatever is needed at the moment seems to emerge to the front. Beyond that, my secondary gifts are things like helps, hospitality, and faith – as listed in I Corinthians 12, 13, and 14.

5. Before becoming a believer, were you ever a bad boy?

Yes. That’s why Renae married me.



Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Discipleship - What is it, really?

You may be familiar with the story of the demoniac of Gadara. The incident is found in Luke 8:26-39, and among other things, has an interesting insight that may challenge your idea of what discipleship really is.

Here’s the story: Jesus arrives at Gadara and encounters a demon possessed man. He has a legion of demons in him (about six thousand). Jesus casts the demons out and they go into a herd of pigs. The pigs freak out and run off a cliff drowning themselves in the sea. The demon possessed man is now clothed, in his right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Eventually the time comes for Jesus to leave the place and continue in His travels. The once demon possessed man asks to follow Jesus and be allowed to go with Him. Yet Jesus REFUSES! Instead, He tells the man to return home and TELL EVERYONE what GOOD THINGS GOD HAS DONE for him. And then, “Jesus went His way….” (v.39).

WHAT? What about DISCIPLESHIP? What about Bible study? What about Sunday School? What about attending a new-believers class? I mean, who does Jesus think He is? He cleanses this guy and doesn't even take him through a detox program or a course on discipleship? What was Jesus thinking?

Maybe this was one of JESUS’ METHODS to produce MATURITY and DISCIPLESHIP.

I think our views on discipleship (and what it really is) are often shaped BY our OWN NOTIONS, rather than being shaped by the actions of Christ Himself. For instance, those people who are always harping about discipleship are often the very ones who marginalize the Sunday service, express opinions about how shallow the church is, and imply they have the answer. When they say, “We need more discipleship” what they really mean is – “I WANT YOU TO THINK LIKE ME.”

If anyone was an authority on the subject of discipleship, Jesus was. And HE told this man to GO HOME and BE A WITNESS! Therefore, a major part of TRUE DISCIPLESHIP is to be actually INVOLVED in a ministry, WITNESSING, and TELLING OTHERS what God has done in your life – all in the power of the new birth.

We Christians believe it’s all about the classroom. Not so. Discipleship is not only about information – but rather application. All this man knew was – he used to be demon possessed and now he was free! And Jesus, for some reason, thought this WAS ENOUGH to send him out and do his part in the Great Commission.

The truth is it takes a VARIETY of EXPERIENCES to produce spiritual maturity. Maturity includes having a heart that worships God, building healthy relationships with other people, using your gifts & talents in service to other people, and sharing your faith with lost people.

MORE INFORMATION does NOT equal MORE MATURITY. And you can take that to the bank! We already have enough over-informed believers who are under-activated.

I would argue that Jesus discipled this guy by telling him to “GO.”


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Pain of Betrayal & What to Do About It

Betrayal. What a word. It conjures up images of deception, whispers, behind-the-back conversations, and intent to injure. Have you ever experienced it? Sure you have.

Betrayal can only happen by a friend or loved one. If there is a Judas sitting at your table, he’s close enough to kiss you. Your greatest danger does not come from an enemy – because you know where he/she stands. Your greatest danger comes from the person who is 95% with you – because you can’t see the five-percent that’s working in the dark behind the scenes.

Betrayal is often fueled by envy or jealously. Joseph had his brothers. David had Absalom. Paul had Demas who deserted him and Alexander the coppersmith who “has done me much harm.” Jesus had Judas Iscariot who gave the kiss of betrayal.

What makes betrayal so painful is that it comes from someone who knows your heart – who knows your longings, character, and dreams – and then turns that against you.

All is not bad, though, when betrayal occurs. In church work, or in your friendships, one of the benefits of betrayal is this – YOU DISCOVER WHO YOUR TRUE ALLIES (and friends) ARE. Betrayal separates your friends from the posers and enables you to see what you didn’t see before. You discover who's who by simply watching and observing those who believe the rumors being told about you, and those who do not believe them. When the dust settles, what you have left is a group of people who have STUCK WITH YOU THROUGH THICK and THIN – and that counts for something!

Okay, all that sounds good but it still hurts - right? So what do I do about it now?

HOW TO PROCESS BETRAYAL:


1. Don’t fancy yourself a martyr. Yes, betrayal hurts. But Jesus was betrayed by the very guy who managed His money and was murdered by the people He came to save. That puts “poor, poor me” in perspective.

2. Don’t punish the loyal people in your life by becoming stone cold, and holding your relationships at arms length. That’s not fair. Paranoia is not a road to recovery; rather, it leads to collapse.

3. Don't embrace the pain. Move on.
The Puritans used to have a phrase - "Hugging the Pain" - that decsribed people who could never let go. These people defined themselves by their pain, sicknesses, or misfortune. Their very idenity was found in their misery, and they never let go.

4. Don’t miss the blessing of God that is sure to be found in betrayal. Because of betrayal, Joseph was able to save a nation. Because of betrayal, Jesus saved the world. If you walk in integrity and process your pain Biblically, your biggest betrayal could become the delivery system for your greatest blessing. Only God knows what is going to happen next – and it’s bound to be good!

Let’s end on a positive note:

Isaiah 54:17 - No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord.