Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cults, Heresy & False Doctrines - How to Identify


Cathy Denny has posted an excellent article on her blog about how to identify cults and false doctrines.

You can read it
here

It is so good, I wish I was the one who wrote it. It blew me away.

Cookie Cutter Disciples

I can tell you what church certain people belong to just by the way they comb their hair or the dress code they abide by.

It is also pretty easy to tell what persuasion of theology church goers are associated with just by the phrases they parrot. They simply repeat the same phrases and sound-bites they have been taught (or read somewhere) – it’s a special insiders language of code words that reveals they are in the club. Now, you couldn’t learn this stuff from the Bible itself – you have to be taught it by men, who then attempt to use the Bible to prove their presuppositions. Just listen to them and you’ll hear the same phrases regurgitated over and over again. These disciples are simply the parrots of men. It’s really pretty pathetic.

They are:

  • Cookie cutter disciples
  • Facsimiles
  • Products of human reasoning
  • Stamped out of the same mold

Parroting the learned phrases of men does not prove the authenticity of ones Christianity. It only demonstrates they are faking it.

You see, God does not want you pretending to be somebody that you are not. You are unique and He wants you to be the person He has wired you to be. Simply allow Christ to be formed in you on a daily basis.

That's what it means to be authentic, and this kind of testimony is a lot more convincing too.

Polly want a cracker.

Memorable Moments at PCC in 2008


Looking back over 2008 I realize that a lot of amazing things happened at PCC – and we accomplished a lot together. The stories and testimonies of success are too numerous to list, but here are a few events that stand out:

1. The “pruning.” It was painful, but I am SO GLAD it happened. We are so much better off and more fruitful than we have ever been

2. Baptizing a whole lot of people

3. Adding a whole lot of new members into our membership

4. Graduating a whole lot of people from our 201 maturity seminar

5. Easter Weekend – over 1200 in attendance

6. Record-breaking attendances 3 times this year

7. Redesigning our web site

8. Launching the “Foundations” classes this summer

9. Getting a new youth overseer and restructuring the teen department.

10. Launching the mid-week children’s services.

11. Upgrading the lights in the sanctuary and buying a new church sign (both bought and paid for by generous donors through a special offering)

12. Dadfest on Father’s Day – when we had all those custom cars and motorcycles show up

13. Expanding our multi-media; filming testimonies, using a live-feed, etc.

14. Cardboard testimonies

15. Signs of Life Campaign – the sermon series and special offering. It has been a huge success so far!

It has been a remarkable year - the best ever.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top Ten Posts of 2008


I haven't posted in a couple of days. Two reasons: (1) I wanted Sunday's post to stay up long enough to ensure that everyone who logs on would read it. It was heart-felt and I didn't want its message to get buried at the bottom of the page too quickly, (2) I was also having a little difficulty with my "comments" section. It seems that no one has been able to leave a comment (since last week) - none were getting through. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

At any rate, I thought a good way to end this year would be to list the top-ten posts of 2008. The following list contains the ones that received most attention.

10. Size Matters - here

9. Dumb Dogs - here

8. Absalom at the Gate - here

7. Absalom and His Campaign Promises - here

6. True Colors - here

5. The Ten-Year Hiccup (Part 1) - here

4. The Ten-Year Hiccup (Part 2) - here

3. I'm Not Being Fed at My Church - here

2. Children of the Devil - here

1. A Church I Heard Something About - here

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reflections on the Last Sunday of 2008


Today was that Sunday out of the year that is the “in-between” Sunday. That is, we’re not fully out of last year, but not yet in next year either. It’s what I often call “dungeon Sunday.” The time of year, combined with (usually) dreary weather, holiday travel, and increased numbers of absentees due to sickness, makes for a challenging day.

And yet, today could not have been better and the year could not have ended stronger. Attendance was strong and giving doubled. Plus, the video (The Journey) reviewing our ten-year history was a reflective stroll down memory lane.

After more than 11 years at PCC I have found that days like today are great learning opportunities for me, and here are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you.

1. Days like today are when I discover who sees PCC as a calling and those who see it only as an extra-curricular activity.

Those who see PCC as an extra-curricular activity are the first ones to call in and cancel their duties; or they simply do not show up, or they leave early. Those who see their service at PCC as a calling go beyond the call of duty to cover the bases for everyone else. This means a lot to me, and it does not go unnoticed.

Today, for example, all our key positions were filled. As far as I could tell, there were no "no shows." Yes, there were a few families absent due to sickness, out-of-state travel, or visiting their families for the holidays. But almost everyone was present and accounted for. From the volunteer, to staff member, to the attender - most of our congregation sees their role at PCC as a "calling."


2. I learn about myself and the motives of my heart.

If I am depressed, complaining, or secretly wishing I could be home (watching TV) instead of being in church (even on a day like today) then there is something wrong with my spiritual development. Days like today are opportunities for me to love our volunteers, express extra appreciation for those who come, and make sure I do not neglect those who show up to join us in worship.

Charles Spurgeon once said that when you pay attention to the seat that is empty, you are paying a disservice to the one that is filled. Even when attendance drops my focus must be upon those who actually show up. Whoever shows up, even if it is only a few, are those who God has brought to us, and we must minister to them giving our best.

I walked through the atrium and sanctuary today before service acting like a greeter (“working the room”). Everyone I talked to – to the person – was offering words of encouragement and expressing how awesome they thought last Sunday’s service was. What this did to buoy my spirit, you’ll never know.

I can still remember the days when there were seven to twelve people meeting in my living room and we called it “church.” I can also remember the early days at Pace High School, when, if 40 people showed up we would have considered it a huge victory.

When you have pastored a church from your living room, you learn that your calling is to love and shepherd everyone that God brings into the fold. If I can’t do that whole-heartedly because attendance is not high enough, then something would be wrong with my calling – because Jesus considered them worthy of dying for.

So on days like “dungeon Sunday” (that Sunday between Christmas and New Year) I get up early and have a plan to make the most of the day: I get to work early, work hard, give God my best, give His people my best, and pray for God to search my heart. I have failed at this many times, but as I learn to do better (bit by bit), I love our people more and appreciate that I get to pastor any one.


3. I learn how much our people love their church.

Today, for example, there was a mother who seen her son off to Pensacola Airport for his return flight to Iraq, where he is a soldier. This mother had every reason to just go home and curl up under a blanket. Instead, she made it to church…. to worship… to be among God’s people…. and to be faithful.

Consider the couple who was out of state all week visiting family. After several days of travel and getting in very late last night, instead of sleeping in and sleeping off the jet lag, they got up and came to church. They were found at their post of duty. This did not go unnoticed on my part.

Or consider the woman who drove to Birmingham AL Saturday afternoon to be with a friend of hers, who had lost her mother. After spending time at the funeral home for visitation last night, this lady drove back to Pace in the same day arriving home late Saturday night (or the wee hours of Sunday morning), just so she could be in service today.

The commitment of some people is completely humbling to me – not to mention noble. The fact that they love God and love their church this much is contagious and encourages me very much. If 100 people showed up, instead of 500, and they have done whatever it takes to get there to worship and fellowship, then those people are the dedicated of the dedicated.

If people are laying down their lives like that, then I can lay mine down too.

4. On the worst days, I learn the best lessons. Therefore, they are the best days.

I thank God, that on the last Sunday of 2008 when morale is typically low, people came and worshipped God enthusiastically and gave generously. You were inspiring. I learned a lot, which made it one of the best days of the year.

BTW – wasn’t the video (entitled “Journey”) exceptional?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Recovering from DIVORCE


Divorce is like an amputation; you survive, but it feels like there's less of you. It's even worse if you didn't want the divorce, or have felt abandoned by a church that punishes divorced people. So, how can you "walk through this fire" and survive? Here are four suggestions:

1. Forgive yourself. "I...am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more" (Isaiah 43:25 NIV). God forgives and forgets, and He will give you the grace to forgive yourself, too. Healing begins when you quit punishing yourself.

2. Forgive those who've hurt you. Forgiveness is the one power you always have over anybody who hurts you. So keep on forgiving until the past no longer controls you. Make forgiveness your fixed attitude! Only by forgiving (or “letting go”) can you lay it down and move on.

3. Take your time. This point is very important. Don't make any big changes right now. You're on an emotional roller coaster, vacillating between wanting him/her back and wanting them to suffer. You're vulnerable to other people's comments and easily drawn toward anybody who pays you attention. Slow down! Healthy people make healthy choices, so spend time reading God's Word, praying, seeking counsel, and allowing yourself to be made whole.

4. Start giving back. "Your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to Him" (2 Chronicles 30:9 NIV). Realizing God hasn't turned His back on you, is what enables you to "Comfort those in any trouble with the comfort [you] have received from God" (2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV). When that happens you are on a journey to becoming whole again, your future is bright and your possibilities unlimited.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Two E-mails I Received Yesterday

#1
I was in Wal-Mart & saw a lady that attends PCC. We talked for a few minutes & she mentioned that she had just talked to my daughter, who she had seen in the store. I told her that my daughter & I were there to buy groceries for a couple with 2 small children in the Pace area & then we went our separate ways.This lady kept looking for me & finally found me again in the back of the store & handed me $20.00 to put towards buying groceries for this family. I was very touched & humbled realizing that God is speaking to people’s hearts & they are obeying Him.

#2
Dear Pastor,Just so you know, the last two posts to your blog have been ministering to me on a deep level. I've just recently made a decision to let some of that same kind of thing "roll off" instead of carrying it around. What is important is for you to know you have helped me tremendously by saying the words that God would have me hear at this particular time in my walk. He also used a sermon I heard in the car today to tie it all together... i.e., Mary didn't need to know what was coming when she birthed our Savior, only that it was God's will to use her. All she had was trust in God and knowing it was from Him. Why should I need more?Thank you for staying in His will for your life.
It matters to many, Pastor. Merry Christmas!

--------
I receive e-mails like this almost daily. Then there are the tan cards that are turned in each week. And get this - a lot of people even write "thank you" notes on their tithing checks (in the memo section) or on the offering envelope! Pastor Gene shows these notes to me and some of them are really amazing.

I think God is up to something.

I think He is doing stuff too - especially in people.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Safeguard to Success


When Paul was in a place called Lystra he commanded a crippled man to stand to his feet, and immediately the man was healed (Acts 14:8-10). That’s quite extraordinary. Without months of physical therapy to get his atrophied muscles strong again, this man simply started walking. Sometimes this is how God works - you just “walk into it” almost unexpectedly.

Next we read, “When the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying…. ‘The gods have come down to us’… and when the apostles heard this they “tore their clothes…. crying out…. Why are you doing this? We also are men” (Acts 14:11-15). Here we go again! We want to elevate men higher than they are entitled. Somebody that no one has ever heard of hits the high note, and the next thing you know they get a record deal and become an overnight star – our American Idol. Lord help us, it happens in the church too. Preachers, singers, and toe-tapping quartets crave the crowds, and the people love to have it so.

Paul and Barnabas didn’t go out and buy a new wardrobe (er, stage costume) to reflect their new image…. and they didn’t hire a publicity agent either! No, they tore their clothes and cried, “We are men just like you.”

BTW, the crowds that worshipped Paul that day were the same kind of crowds that later stoned him. That’s how quickly hero worship can fade.

Bottom line: be humble, love people, but trust only in God.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bring Your Cardboard Back!


Bring your cardboard testimonies back to church this Friday (or Sunday) - we are hanging them on the wall in the sancturary, showing the "after" snapshot.

We already have some nailed to the wall - they look great. We will leave them up for two or three weeks!

What a blast we are having!

This is church as it was meant to be.

It's Already Yours


Do you remember the older brother in the story of the prodigal son? He throws a temper tantrum because his father never gave him a goat (a goat for crying out loud). The father says, “My son, everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:31 NIV).

A spiritual lesson can be learned from his immaturity – God has already “given you all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3 KJV), so you don’t have to feel short-changed for something you already possess.

The older brother was already in possession of the inheritance. He had access to as many fat cows and goats as his little heart desired. They were his for the taking. So what was he waiting for?

We ask God to give us joy. But joy doesn’t come from “out-there-somewhere.” It’s a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)… and you already posses it… waiting to be cultivated and activated!

I’ve asked God before to give me peace about certain situations. But when He didn’t rain down peace on me out of heaven from “out-there-somewhere”, I became irritated and impatient, failing to recognize that He has already given me peace through Jesus (John 14:27)… and a peace which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

You see, God is waiting for me to walk in what He’s already provided.

Don’t wait for God to give you victory… when the victory is already yours. Just walk in it!

Don’t wait for God to give you hope… when He has already poured out hope upon you. Just walk in it!

Stop waiting for God to come through for you… when He already has!

It’s already yours. Just walk in it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Water Test


"Bring them down to the water, and I will test them…"
(Judges 7:4 NKJV).

If somebody keeps refusing to support you, let them go or you’ll wish you had.
This is especially hard to accept if you’re a nurturer by nature – the type of person who wants to fix everyone. You can’t convert the fearful into the faithful. That’s God’s job, and His "water test" showed Gideon who he could count on and who he couldn’t.

God told Gideon: "You have too large an army...they’ll take the credit. Make an announcement: 'Anyone...who has any reservations about the battle ahead may leave.” Twenty-two companies headed home. Ten were left. God said...' There are still too many. Take them down to the stream and I’ll make a final cut’" (v. 2-4).

When the opposition is arrayed against you like "sand on the seashore" (v.12) that is often the time when you lose the most support. Don’t worry, God is at work. During the first cut, when Joshua lost 22,000 men, what looked like a set-back was actually a set-up from God to determine who was dependable. Eventually Gideon’s force was reduced down three hundred.

When God reduces your support, it’s to give you a miraculous victory. It’s designed to show that somebody without formal credentials (such a Gideon, or yourself) can run a company or lead a successful ministry. This story is designed to show how someone who has lost everything can make a comeback.

So when people around you can’t pass God’s “water test,” let them go and simply trust God. He has something much better in mind.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What Did You Think of Today's Service




Click Pictures to enlarge

One man said to me that is was the best church service he has ever been in. Another said this was a way for God to really shine through.

What say you?

Comments are OPEN today. Just click "Comments" at the bottom and follow the instructions.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Are You Neglecting Those You Love the Most?


“And walk in love….”
(Ephesians 5:2 KJV)

The great Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle married his secretary, Jane Welsh. She continued to work for him. But when she got ill, Carlyle, who was deeply devoted to his work, didn’t seem to notice, so he allowed her to keep working. But she had cancer and eventually she was confined to bed.

Although Carlyle truly loved her, he found that he didn’t have much time to stay with her or much attention to give to her. Then she died. After the funeral Carlyle went up to Jane’s room, noticed her diary lying on the table, picked it up and began to read. On one entire page she’d written a single line, "Yesterday he spent an hour with me and it was like heaven; I love him so much." A reality he had somehow been too blind to see now revealed itself with crushing clarity. He’d been too busy to notice how much he meant to Jane. He thought of all the times he’d been preoccupied with his work and simply failed to notice her. He hadn’t seen her suffering. He hadn’t seen her love.

Turning to the next page, he read words he’d never forget, "I’ve listened all day to hear his steps in the hall, but now it’s late and I guess he won’t come today." He put her diary back on the table and ran out of the house. Friends found him at the side of her grave, covered with mud. His eyes were red from weeping; tears were rolling down his face. "If only I’d known, if only I’d known," he cried. After Jane’s death, Carlyle made little attempt to write again.

Are you neglecting your loved ones?

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's Going to Happen This Sunday?


This Sunday twenty people will testify in each of our two church services. Yes, that’s right – TWENTY PEOPLE! This is something you will NOT want to miss. You will be impressed, and God will be honored.

In addition to the twenty people testifying, we will be filming and projecting their testimonies by “live feed” onto the video screens. Whow!

To say I am excited would be an understatement!!!!!!!!! It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that GOD IS DOING STUFF AT PCC and this Sunday will be a glaring demonstration of that fact.

Paul wrote, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Cor. 2:4-5).

If you want to SEE what God is doing in people’s lives, then SHOW UP this SUNDAY. You will see examples of what God's power can do. I promise… you will learn more about what God has done in the lives of some of your fellow church members than you have ever known before.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why I Like Growing Churches


  • I don’t want my (small) children sitting in a class filled with kids from five other grades or age-groups.

  • I don’t want to be the treasurer, usher, choir member, Sunday School Superintendent, board member, nursery worker, gardener, and janitor ALL ROLLED INTO ONE – which often happens in smaller non-growing churches.

  • I like having lots of people around me with lots of different talents to help share the work load to get things done – and in an excellent manner

  • I prefer listening to people who can actually sing on-pitch

  • Growing churches offer higher quality programs to its members

  • Growing churches have more financial resources for ministry to its members and for outreach to the lost

  • Growing churches have an impact on their community

  • There is less trouble from problem people. They barely create a ripple

  • Pastors usually stay a long time in larger churches, while pastoral turnover occurs in smaller churches about every 2-3 years

  • The community takes notice of “big.”

  • The early church grew and was big

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Ministers


This is a true story. A few details and names have been changed to protect the innocent.

A while back a man was telling me how he didn’t like a certain local pastor. We’ll call that pastor, “Pastor Bob.” He felt that Pastor Bob was arrogant, conceited, full of himself and full of pride.

“You can tell he’s up to something. I don’t trust him. I have no respect for him. There’s something fishy going on there. He’s sleeping with someone, stealing money, headed for failure…. Wait and see.”

I happen to know Pastor Bob pretty well. I have never seen him demonstrate anything other than the utmost integrity and personal sacrifice. Granted, he is bold, full of faith, and a hard-charger. Some might interpret that as pride, but I see that as passion and drive. I tried to defend Pastor Bob, but it was no use. This mental midget had already made up his mind. Pastor Bob was up to no good, headed for a major failure, and that was that!

Next he began to compare Pastor Bob to another local minister in the same town. This other guy, we’ll call him Pastor Steve, was a veritable storehouse of Biblical wisdom. He quoted Greek, he quoted authors, was prolific in ancient theology, and pontificated with great verbosity about the deeper things of God.

“The thing I like about Pastor Steve is, he is a humble guy. He has real integrity and is very spiritual. He prays all the time. Loves his wife. A humble man, not like Pastor Bob. Pastor Steve is going places….”

A few weeks later, Pastor Steve got caught in a grevious sin. He attempted a cover-up. It became apparent that this was an on-going issue. His unrepentant attitude led to his removal and effectively ruined his ministry. His double life betrayed a great number of people who had placed their confidence in him. The last I heard, the situation was not resolved. Several families have become polarized and divided over their loyalty to him, and many more have even dropped out of church.

Meanwhile, Pastor Bob is still preaching the Word of God and effectively leading a growing church…. with no scandals.

Perhaps this is why the Bible says, “…know them which who labor among you” (I Thess. 5:12).

It is a mistake to judge people by outward appearances, or by rumors you hear. The guy who seems humble might actually be a time-bomb masked in meekness.

You never know.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If Your Church is Spiritually Dead....


I have to ask you a question. In the last year, how many people have committed themselves to Jesus Christ for salvation in your church?

Not one?!!!

Then what, in the Name of God, are you doing there?

It’s time for you to get out.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Your Sacrifical Giving


We always find money for our priorities. Right? We always allocate money to those things that we deem to be important. That’s why people spend money on sports, for Christmas presents, at the mall, or the movie theater.

Perhaps this is why Jesus said, “Where your money is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21).

Changed-lives are more important to me than the Interstate Fair.

The “Signs of Life” special offering is coming along pretty good. We’ve asked you to give sacrificially and many of you are responding generously. I plan to ask our Finance Department to provide me with an itemized list of the names of those who have given sacrificially to this effort, so that I might personally thank each and every one by way of personalize letter from me. In fact, I think an appreciation banquet after the first of the year may be appropriate too.

Thanks again. Your giving is going to make a significant difference for us in 2009.

Monday Memo.... late, I know


Sunday Attendance - 514

The whole day was enjoyable, moving, enlightening, and uplifting.

Amazingly, about 6 six people committed to Christ on Sunday… and I didn’t even make a strong appeal. Just goes to show that God is doing what He does – drawing people and saving them. This NEVER gets old. I was made for this.

I’d like to give a shout-out to Paul T. for the excellent job he has been doing at editing and producing our in-house video clips each Sunday. He’s been very creative and his efforts have added a fresh element to our church services.

We are working on a video “live feed” for next Sunday.

Renae and I were at Wal Mart today (Monday). While we were loading groceries in our car a lady walked up to us in the parking lot and said, “Hello, I know you because I attend your church.” As we were chatting she told us she had recently moved here from New York, and had been attending for two months. She went on-and-on how much she enjoys services with us. We had a pleasant chat. After she walked away, I thought how neat it is that God keeps sending people to PCC…. from all over the country (and world).

We have people in our church family who have moved here from: California…Arizona…New Mexico…England…Australia…New Jersey…New York… and more…

We have people in our church who are: Mixed-race…Inter-racially married…Military…Lawyers…Doctors…Professional…Blue collar… and more…

Our church is very diverse… PCC is a good church to belong to.

PCC is also a generous church, made up of generous people. CASE IN POINT: A lady in our church family purchased twenty $50-dollar VISA (pre-paid) gift-cards (that’s $1000 worth) and gave them to PCC and asked that they be distributed to needy persons for Christmas. That is like, wow!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

SNAC - Sunday Night After Church


Church was
AWESOME
today!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Graduation


  • Jonathan, BSBA, University of West Florida
  • Jamie BSN, University of Southern Alabama
  • Both graduated. Yea!
(Click pictures to enlarge)


Friday, December 12, 2008

Changed Lives


I spend a great deal of time interacting with other pastors and people from other churches – and I mean from every persuasion; attractional, missional, contemporary, seeker, modern, traditional, denominational, non-denominational, spirit-filled, charismatic, etc. Talking with these people for just a few minutes is all it takes to find out where their emphasis and focus rests.

Some churches just want to be cool. I wrote about this once; you can read it here. You can tell being cool is the most important thing to them because that’s all they talk about; the latest song, the new lights, the stage design, whatever. They are driven to be cool, and if some people come to Christ along the way, fine. But being cool is the driving force.

At the other extreme are churches who are so afraid of modernism and progress that they become isolationists. While most do not go back as far as the Amish have, many churches seem to think that the 1950s was the golden era, and are determined to preserve that era in their church. They will erect theological walls to defend their traditions and personal preferences.

In the same way, I can always tell which churches are truly consumed with reaching people who are far from God (evangelism) and turning them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ (maturity). I talk with them and they are consumed with CHANGED LIVES. Yes, they may play new songs, use technology, have creative church services, and set up impressive stage designs. But these things are simply tools – not an end unto themselves – to reach lost people and get them embarked upon a spiritual journey. In these kinds of churches every decision that is made is arrived at in light of one driving force – changed lives. They are driven to see people come to Christ and grow up spiritually, and that overrides the desire to be cool or preserve the traditions of men.

At PCC our driving force is changed lives. I personally believe that nothing glorifies and honors God more than changed lives. Every time a sinner repents, angels in heaven rejoice – which brings honor to God. Every time a believer grows up and becomes more like Christ brings honor to God.

Changed lives – through conversion and/or maturity – is what the ministry is all about.

Signs of Life? Yea, we’ve got them all over the place.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

PCC Snapshot - Generous Giving


One of the things I am most excited about this holiday season is the upward swing of camaraderie at PCC and the generous giving of our people. It is amazing to see the number of ways our members express their God-given generosity (fruit of the Spirit?) towards others.

As a church, we don’t have a lot of money (compared to some of the other larger churches in our area). But our church family gives each week to the vision God has given us and then God takes that money and somehow enables us to stretch every single dollar to the maximum in order for us to fulfill that vision.

Many of you don’t always get to see how your giving blesses others. That’s one of the reasons we are currently in the Signs of Life series, so that you can see some of the real-life stories of changed lives.

God has not called us to play it safe. He has called us to have faith, take chances, and dare to believe for the impossible. Our biggest accomplishments are not when we have a 10% increase in the annual budget. God is glorified when we say, “God, whatever You want, whatever you say, no matter how impossible it may seem, we are willing to follow Your lead.”

TRUE STORY: Just today we got a report from a family in our church telling us how God has proven Himself faithful in regard to their personal finances. This two-income family experienced a drop in income related to a loss of work, with no prospect of work in the near future or 2009. The remaining family income-stream was stretched too thin to cover all the family expenses. The natural temptation was to stop tithing. But instead of cutting back on tithing, they found other ways to minimize expenses so they could remain faithful in their giving to God. To say this was a test of discomfort would be an understatement. This family has endured this lean period for several months, while remaining faithful to God. Today the man goes for a job interview and is given a better job than he had; a new job with benefits, at $6.00 per hour more than he was making, with an offer of being promoted to supervisor, and has the prospect of overtime making time-and-a-half and double-time, with Sunday’s off!

It pays to obey.

You can’t out-give God.

God can promote you upward even when the economy is turning down!

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:10 (NIV)

What a great way to end year!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

PCC Snapshot - Women of Purpose


Last night PCC’s “Women of Purpose” (one of our small groups) held a Christmas get-together. This fellowship gathering was to stay in touch since the current small group semester has taken a holiday break. Renae and I joined the party and were glad to be there.

Just to give you an idea of what they have been doing, in addition to their weekly meetings and Bible studies, I thought I’d give you a snapshot of their activities:
(click picture to enlarge)

In November they put together 29 Thanksgiving boxes (filled with turkey and other food items to the brim) and delivered them to an equal number of needy families. These families were verified as actually being “in need” to ensure that the effort was not wasted.

In addition, this group sent a care-package to a soldier in Afghanistan. They sent more than enough so that this soldier could share with his buddies. In addition to the food items, they included hand & feet warmers in the package because Afghanistan has extremely cold winters. One lady in the group purchased a phone card so he can call home. Another lady created a hand-made card so they entire group could sign it. This soldier is the son of a lady who attends PCC. When she heard of this gesture on the part of this group, she broke down and cried.

Currently this group is putting together 25 Christmas shoe boxes filled with gifts for children at S.S. Dixon School. These boxes will be delivered this Friday, December 12th.

This one group (within PCC) has helped some 55 families thus far. Way to go Women of Purpose!

God is doing stuff at PCC.

What a way to end 2008!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Subtraction is Necessary for Growth


With God, subtraction is just as important as addition. Sometimes subtraction is necessary for your growth.

What is God telling you to subtract from your life? Is it a harmful habit, a draining relationship, or unnecessary busyness? God wants you to subtract certain things so you can grow. He often tells us to “put off” and “lay aside” certain behaviors (Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:8-9, Hebrews 12:1-2) so that we might grow and run this race well.

God always prunes dead wood from the branches so that the remaining branches might bear more fruit (John 15:1-6).

Consider churches. PCC has grown (over the years) as much through subtraction as through addition. I’ve never been afraid to say that PCC is not for everyone, and it’s not – in fact, we don’t even try to be. We have a unique vision that may not be shared by some people, and I’m okay with that. I always encourage those who do not share our vision/mission/structure to find another church that is a better fit with their personalities and backgrounds. This is what Seminar 101 accomplishes for us; we lay it all out right there and “nip it in the bud” so to speak. This has resulted in amazing spiritual health for our church… not to mention the physical and spiritual growth that has occurred. You see, if a church is going reach people for Christ (get healthy and stay healthy) there are some people who need to leave. It doesn’t mean they are (all) bad people, it just means they don’t fit. By leaving, organizational wind drag is minimized and forward momentum is increased. Additionally, it makes room for other people (who truly share the vision) to step up into leadership and ministry roles who will enthusiastically propel the church forward.

I’m not just spouting opinion here. This can be found in the Bible too. Consider Ananias and Saphira, a married couple who lied to the Holy Ghost. God struck them dead in the middle of a church service. After they were “removed” the church grew exponentially and great fear came upon all the church (Acts 5:1-13).

In I Corinthians 5 an immoral person was disciplined and turned out of the church, (for the destruction of his flesh so that his afflication might cause him to repent), which later ressulted in church growth and improved spiritual health for the entire congregation, 2 Corinthians 7.

As painful as it is, subtraction, church discipline, and yes, even pruning are necessary. They are necessary for you… and for your church… and God Himself is the author of it.

Things could not be better at PCC than they are right now. The ministry teams currently serving at PCC are made up of some the greatest people I've ever seen; they are so easy to work with. We have full "buy in" from our congregation. Volunteerism is at an all-time high. Hundreds of lives have been changed by the power of Christ. This is what we were made to do.

What a great way for us to end the year!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Night


We had a good day today. Very good day.

The music was a little off – it’s not easy doing Christmas songs. Next week we’ll be firing on all six cylinders for sure.

There are so many good things happening at PCC right now – I mean good things. Everywhere I turn I witness something that floors me, astonishes me,
or fills my heart with gratitude.

God is doing stuff at PCC. I’m so excited about it that I’m not sleeping at night.

Our church has never been in as good of shape as it is right now.

I would attend PCC even if I were not the pastor.

I talked about sacrificial giving today as part of my message. I’m glad the people of PCC get it.

The Signs of Life message series and special offering is going very well thus far. I’m most impressed and pleased with the across-the-board response we are getting: testimonies, good reports, extra giving, and new creative components in our Sunday services.

We handed out 201 Commitment Cards to those who recently committed to the necessary habits of spiritual growth. Wow!

Some 90 needy families have been adopted or helped by members of our church family. I’m impressed!

I am looking forward to the next chapter in the life-cycle of PCC.

We hope to be doing a “live feed” on our video projectors in the near future.

You should have seen the children’s Christmas choir singing at Berryhill Manor on Saturday. It was very moving. If you weren’t there, you’ll see it in service next Sunday – we got it on film.

Our teen ministry and children’s ministry ROCKS. Yes, that’s on Sunday morning AND Wednesday nights.

The small groups of PCC are doing more, accomplishing more, and growing more than they ever have in our history.

I am going to have a very busy week this week. It looks like I will have twelve hour days + all week long. Yikes!

Several people committed their lives to God today. That NEVER gets old to me.

How about that video today? Amazing.

BTW - The price of gas right now is at a five-year low.


Friday, December 5, 2008

When You are Lukewarm


Revelation 3:16 (KJV) So then because thou art lukewarm……..

Do you ever have seasons when your passion for God (and things spiritual) cools off? Maybe even lukewarm? I think it happens to us all. We just get caught up in the business of living that it diverts our attention. The cares of this life choke out God’s Word. Then there is the constant tug of the flesh that is enmity to all things spiritual.

Happens to me too.

I am as susceptible to spiritual droughts as the next guy. In fact, probably more so because it’s easy for me to delude myself into thinking that the “work” is a substitute for a red-hot relationship with God. Because I know my weaknesses, I have to be deliberate about keeping my passion alive.

Here are some things that seem to work for me:

See God working somewhere else. God is so much bigger than what we see Him doing in our own neighborhood or in our own church. When I visit other churches or other places and witness God’s Hand there, it reminds me how big and awesome He really is. The Majesty returns.

Visit some extremely poor people. Some mothers, when preparing dinner, only have to decide what to feed her children. Others have to decide which child to feed tonight. Putting yourself in that position crushes your heart and keeps you sensitive.

Develop friendships with non-Christians. Caring about people who are far from God helps keep me closer to God. His Son died for these people.

Devote time to prayer and Bible reading. If my wife and I don’t spend quality time together – away from the demands and pressures we shoulder – then it’s hard for us to remain close. Therefore, we deliberately carve out time to be with each other with nothing or no one else competing for our attention or affection. My relationship with God is the same. By spending time with Him, through prayer and Bible reading, I know Him better.

Give extravagantly. There is something about giving extravagantly that seems to break the grip of materialism in my life – I know I’m making an investment in eternal things and changed lives. Plus I feel better about myself when I do.

Cry
. For years I have not cried. I’m not sure why, but it just wasn’t there. Really, it’s quite normal for me to not cry - it takes a lot for me to do so. But by God’s grace I’ve broken through and can cry easily now.

Visit a hospital. There is a lot of human suffering in this world. You don’t have to go overseas to find it either. Just visit West FL Hospital, Sacred Heart, or Baptist. I mean there is some real human suffering. It’s hard to live shallow and be frivolous when you witness incurable suffering.

Visit a cemetery. When looking at a headstone, I am reminded that the little dash between the two dates represents an entire lifetime for that person. That too will be my epitaph one day. I want my life to count for something. Seeing today in light of eternity changes me.

There you have it. Start fanning the flame.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why We Use Semester Cycles for Small Groups


Our current small group semester is coming to an end soon. Most of our groups should finish in the next week or two, just in time for the holidays. December is a time of year when everyone’s calendar gets bloated with holiday activities, so it’s also a good time to take a break from small groups.

Here’s why we use semester cycles and why we take off for the holidays:


1. It gives the small group leader a break! i.e., When leaders give of themselves all the time, eventually they burn out. They need time off to rejuvenate, recharge their batteries, and rest. To be perfectly honest about it, sometimes they need a break from people too.

2. Because of the Stress-and-Relief factor. Meaning time with people and time away from people. This is how you experience spiritual growth. It’s like weight lifting. You lift one day, then you rest. If you lift everyday your muscles will not grow. They need a rest period in-between. In small groups, you sign people up for 90 days. That’s the stress factor. Learning, studying, committing, showing up, and exercising discipline. Spending time with people. There’s stress and tension. It’s a period of being stretched and challenged by God’s Word. Then you take a break. That’s the rest/relief factor. Rest, recuperate, and recover.

If you follow that kind of pattern over a two year period, you will be spiritually stronger, more mature, closer to God, and enjoying your Christian walk better than the person who signs up for a group and attends every week for two years. Essentially, you will go farther and faster by taking breaks than you would if you don’t take a break.

BTW, this also follows the Biblical pattern of the Sabbath: Work six days, take one day off for rest. It also follows the model that Jesus used in His ministry. He spent time with people, and then He spent time away from people.

3. It minimizes "quitting." When groups continue indefinitely without a stopping date in sight, the only way people can get out of the group is by quitting. No one likes to quit. Quitting has a stigma attached to it. When people quit it makes them feel guilty, and those left behind feel rejected. The end-of-semester option allows people to cycle out of the group naturally without any bad feelings.

4. It helps remove leaders who are unfit. Imagine this scenario: a small group leader is not performing well, or is misbehaving, but his group just continues and continues and continues indefinitely. Every person who goes to this group will eventually quit, and will have had such a bad experience that they will never join a small group again. Not good.

Sometimes, and for a variety of reasons, certain group leaders are not successful and should not be allowed to continue (and do damage) any longer. The remedy is found in the semester cycle. When the semester comes to an end that leader’s term of service has also come to an end, and they are simply not allowed to renew for the next semester. This way the small group leader has been cycled out naturally without having to be removed (or fired), and the small group system remains healthy.

5. It creates opportunities for a fresh influx of new people. By having a definite start-up date for the next semester, it allows for an influx of new people. Established groups are more difficult for newcomers to penetrate than new groups. With a new group, or a new beginning, everyone has the chance to get in on the ground floor.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

God is FOR YOU


That phrase, “for you,” appears often in scripture. For instance, when Jesus met people, his first words to them often were in the form of a question, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Matthew 20:32; Mark 10:36, 51). When Jesus first instituted communion He said, “This is my body which is given for you” (I Corinthians 11:24). Paul wrote, “If God be for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31).

When you find yourself in a battle it is good to know God is with you, but it’s even better to know He is for you.

Some people believe that God is sitting up in heaven just waiting for them to mess up so He can punish them. They imagine God as a club wielding potentate who gets some kind of morbid pleasure out of inflicting pain upon people. There are entire systems of theology devoted to that line of thinking. Yet God Himself states the exact opposite, “For I know the plans I have FOR YOU," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

No one wants what is best for you more than God Himself. No one knows what will truly make you happy better than God.

When you know that God is for you, it doesn’t matter who or what is against you.

God is for you.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Random Thoughts


I love what God is doing at PCC right now. The anticipation level on our leadership team is through the roof. I’m hoping and confident that it will be contagious and affect most others in our church family too.

I think 2009 is going to be unlike anything we have ever seen in our eleven year history. I’ve got a feeling that we are going to be getting a lot of public attention and have “top of mind” awareness in most of the community.

We plan to penetrate 20,000 homes, at least two times, with a message of hope from our church.

A church that refuses to take risks and is satisfied with the status quo will never accomplish what God has called them to do. I’m glad that PCC is not such a church.

Jesus is NOT away in a manger sleeping in the hay this Christmas – He is the ruling, reigning, powerful King Almighty…. and PCC is not a sleeping little church sitting on the corner.

BTW – Jesus didn’t die on the cross so people could sample churches like food on a party platter!

One of the most frustrating things of being the lead pastor of a growing church is the tools I have used at one level will not work at the next level.

A Postive & a Negative


Things Start Happening When You Pray BIG

Life is too short for small dreams, small plans, and small goals. Our God is too big to think small. Contentment with the status quo is unacceptable. My prayer is going something like this, “God help us do more than we have ever done. God, would you double the size of our church in the next year? God, help me begin to see our church as twice the size it is today.”

God never gives us small dreams, small plans, and small assignments. If your dream doesn’t scare you a bit, then it’s probably not from God. Our vision should be so big and impressive that it requires the glory of God to see it come to pass. God wants you to get over yourself and realize that it’s not about you, your abilities, or your inabilities; it’s about HIM and what He can do through a submitted vessel.

We are about to experience a breakthrough.


Handling Troublemakers

Sooner or later even the best churches encounter troublemakers; people who deliberately cause trouble for troubles sake, or they are constantly unhappy about something and let their feelings be known to anyone who will listen. These people come in all shapes and sizes, are usually unaccomplished in their personal life, and if not addressed for their behavior will diminish the effectiveness of the church’s ministry. An effective leader knows too much is at stake to let anyone disrupt the ministry.

Never allow a problem person to have any room. Once it is apparent they are a liability to your mission or ministry, deal with them quickly, directly, lovingly, and firmly. The longer you put it off, the more of a problem they will become. Warn them once or twice and if they don’t change, ask them to leave. It’s that simple. Titus 3:10 (NIV) "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him." If they leave, let them, and by all means don’t feel as if you have to ask them to return. That is the height of foolishness.