Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Simplicity in Christ

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3 KJV).

The main thing about being a Christian is to ensure that the main thing remains the main thing. I have noticed the tendency of many professing believers to drift away from the central themes of the Christian faith.

When Paul spoke of the ‘simplicity that is in Christ’ he was speaking of the uncomplicated and unambiguous nature of Christianity. It’s plain, simple, and clear for all to see & understand. Just stay on the main track and you’ll never get sidetracked and go off the deep end.

  • Christianity is not about the observances of holy days or Sabbath days (Colossians 2:16).
  • Christianity is not academia (I Corinthians 1:22-24).
  • Christianity is not about observing certain diets (Romans 14:17)
  • Christianity is not about perfecting yourself through the flesh or by legalism (Galatians 3:1-3)
  • Christianity is not a geographical location (Luke 17:21)
  • And many others side issues that beguile the unstable

All of theses are distracting issues that have nothing to do with the central essence of Christianity. Yet some people seem to be bent in pursuing them. Why, I will never understand.

You can lose the simplicity that is found in Christ when you get caught up in some of the fascinating aspects of Scripture, looking for hidden meanings or special insights (that are never there). This is very dangerous ground.

The Corinthian believers (to whom Paul wrote this letter to) were being assaulted by teachers who were exposing them to things that caught their attention and captured their fancy, but were drifting away from the central point. They were engaged in fascinating philosophies (or side topics) that had a basis in God’s Word, but went off the central theme to rabbit trails of thought. They were being challenged with certain ego-appealing topics (and experiences) and believed that if they could only grasp them, they would feel great, wonderful, and so God-possessed.

In the same way people today are invited to explore strange and wonderful mysteries (that have a basis in the Christian faith) but tend to move people away from ‘main thing.’ This leads to a misguided, if not shipwrecked, faith. Thinking themselves to be wise, they have become fools. In truth, the only authentic & legitimate 'God Centered Theology' is the one that maintains its focus on Christ and the simplicity found therein.

"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7).

The apostle Peter wrote that some people “wrestle with the scriptures to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).

When I was new in the Lord, about two or three years in, I was speaking to an elderly man of God who said something that still resonates with me to this day. He said, “If the devil can’t get you by backsliding, he’ll try to get you by going too far… off the deep end.” I have seen this happen to hundrends and hundreds of people over the years with tragic results.

Read 2 Peter 3:15-17 (noticing v.16) and let it sink in for a while.

When people tell me they are wanting to go "deeper" in God, I always tell them to simply learn & obey the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) because you can't get any deeper than that. You could spend the rest of your life mining its depths. In fact, Jesus said the ALL of the Old Testament Law and Prophets HANG on these two commandments.

Now that's deep.

Monday, June 29, 2009

God is Unchanging

God is unchanging. Therefore, we are the ones who must change.

The Physical Demands of Spiritual Labor

I continue to learn that serving God in any capacity makes demands on my physical well being. If not careful, it can take a heavy toll (and sometimes has). Here are the things that help sustain me:

1. Consistent devotional life (prayer, journaling, Bible reading)
2. Consistent family time
3. Consistent day off

But there is a fourth area that is very important to my mental and physical well being – and that is proper diet and exercise. To serve Jesus well I believe that I must be diligent in taking care of myself physically. As I get older my metabolism is slowing down, which makes it very easy to start packing on the pounds. When I’m carrying extra weight, I feel lethargic and lack energy.

Here’s what I do. I eat very little processed food (i.e., foods that come out of a box or plastic bag), or fast foods. I try to avoid unhealthy fats, sugar, white flour, soda, (in fact I drink no sweetened beverages), fried foods, and high fat dairy. I’m not saying I don’t like to eat fried okra or peach cobbler every now and then, but I do consistently avoid bad foods. Most of my eating consists of foods that come out of the produce section of the store.

I am also an avid exerciser. I do about an hour a day, five days a week, usually in the morning. My exercise consists mainly of bike riding and strength training. In the fall & winter (when the weather is cooler) I jog, walk, and include strength training. I think exercise keeps me mentally strong too. For instance, when I’m out having a gut-busting bike ride and the blood is pumping, it seems like all the cob webs come out of my mind. My serotonin levels go up and I get recharged. I get clarity on challenges that are facing me. By the time I’m through I’m ready to face the day. Then at the end of the day, I sleep well at night.

I want to be able to labor well.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Mind Dump

Today’s sermon was “Confronting Casual Christianity. A couple of thoughts from the message:

  • You cannot serve God and mammon. Jesus calls us to an either-or proposition with no neutral ground in the middle. We must choose God or the world, and if we choose God then He must be the undisputed Master of our lives.

  • If you choose to follow God, it is going to cost you something. But it will cost you more if you choose not to follow.

  • People have a tendency to see salvation only as a “go-to-heaven-for-free-card” instead of seeing it as a surrender to God’s authority. In truth, the call to salvation is a call to discipleship…. a call to lay down your life.

  • It’s one thing to say “I do” at an altar to the person you are marrying. But it’s another thing to “see it through” over the course of a lifetime. The same is true for us in answering the call of God – it’s one thing to say, “I believe and receive,” but it’s another thing to “see it through for a lifetime.”

  • Commitment is not a ‘one time acknowledgement.’ It is a ‘lifetime of determination.”

On to other things…..

  • The song service was outstanding. The new songs we are doing are very moving. How about the closing hymn, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

  • There were some hurting people in church today in need of God’s intervention.

  • Several people indicated they made a commitment to Christ. If they did so after hearing today’s message, then it was real. There was no ambiguity about what is involved.

  • We have an amazing church with some amazing disciples in it… people who really put God at the front of their life.

  • I would be willing to take any 200 members from PCC and match them with 200 members from any other church in regards to Bible comprehension, scripture memorization, obedience to God, love for God, maturity, service, commitment, spiritual values, and actual hands-on ministry work!

  • I have heard some amazing stories this week about the significant life-changed that is being brought about in people’s lives at PCC. I stand in awe.

  • Some remarkable things are especially happening among our children and teenagers right now. Isn't it great to see the teens in service worshiping God? I love to have them sitting on the front row while I'm preaching.

  • True confession. I sometimes get so caught up in the details of leading our church that it’s easy to miss seeing the steady impact that our church has on the lives of all its members. I am deeply thankful to you PCCers who serve one another so faithfully, and who have such a heart for our teens and children. Because of your efforts there are scores of kids who are slowly (but surely) having Christ formed in them. Your part in all of this really matters. Way to go! Our kids and students are growing up in a very complicated and increasingly confusing time in history. Your prayers and efforts are critical.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In the Middle of a Dog Fight

I have three Jack Russell Terriers. These dogs are known for their ferocity; and when you get three of them together, fur is bound to fly. Well, my three dogs got in a fight last night just before dark… all three of them at once. I let them fight for a while because these fights usually break up after a few seconds. However, this time was different - it went on too long. I mean, all three had a death grip on each other and fur was flying! So I decided to get in the middle.

Have you ever tried to break up a dog fight? Not a smart thing to do.

Somehow my foot got hung up in one of the dogs’ mouth…. (I guess this happened when I was kicking them apart). Apparently the dog couldn’t tell the difference between a hairless human foot and thick dog fur… because three toes on my right foot are now cut wide open and my foot is black and blue. I'm limping.

Canine teeth tear flesh real good.

This Sunday

This Sunday's message is "Confronting Casual Christianity"

Next Sunday is "Confronting Consumer Christianity"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We Are Not a Federation of Sub Ministries

Pace Community Church is ONE UNIFIED BODY – not a federation of sub-ministries. We have one mission and one purpose statement. Our staff and volunteers are not a part of a particular ministry…. they are a part of PCC and serve our church ‘through’ that particular ministry. Each ministry does not need its own website – our main website should have all the content needed for all. Each ministry does not need its own advertising budget – our church’s outreach budget covers that effort for everyone. We are not building a house of multiple brand names…. We want to be ‘one brand.’

For instance, we could give all our ministries unique names - something cool and creative. I often see student ministries, children's ministries, and family ministries in other churches called things like, "Engage," or "Fuel" or, "Portico," or "Wamba Land," or "Up Street", etc. While that sounds creative, no one really knows what those names mean. On the other hand, if we say "PCC Students" or "PCC Kids," then everyone understands. I think it's better to choose clarity over cool. Besides, if every group carries an independent label it communicates that such a group is not really connected to the main church at large.

Another example would be our Small Groups. They are not independent little cogs who operate as separate entities, each with their own agenda, doctrinal position, or ministry philosophy. Rather, they come under the umbrella of our church and serve the mission of PCC.

The same is true of every ministry, group, staff member, or volunteer – all are an EXTENSION of PCC and exist to advance the mission of the church. No group or ministry is completely autonomous – meaning they are not be released to do their own thing, independent of supervision and accountability, or to form their own branding or mission. Groups and ministries within PCC are not permitted to use our church as a platform to advance ‘their’ cause. Instead PCC authorizes ministries to advance ITS cause.

This keeps us unified as a body of believers. It also prevents us from becoming a coalition of fragmented groups pulling in separate directions at the same time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Leadership Thoughts

  • It takes time to clean people up. Many churches don’t make them comfortable or accepted enough to hang around that long.

  • If we can create places where hell-bound people feel welcome, they will come and hang out… eventually meeting Christ.

  • It’s easier to get to heaven than it is into some churches.

  • Serving people and being a ‘people pleaser’ are two different things.

  • The more God does through you, the more critics will come after you. You have to be okay with that.

  • Fear of God is the best remedy to overcoming the fear of people.

  • Everybody wants to reach people until you actually start “reaching” people. It’s messy.

  • If your church is an Acts chapter 2 church, it should be 1/3 sinners, 1/3 new believers, and 1/3 maturing believers.

  • I know a lot of guys who love their theology or methods more than they love Jesus.

  • If you are not reaching people for Jesus and discipling them, we must have different Bibles.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Queen of the Nile

That's Renae in the front of the canoe. Me? I'm not pictured - I'm in the back.... rowing!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Mind Dump (#1)

  • Today was a good day, all the way around.

  • Attendance was 505 (I think).

  • The music was electric. I’m especially enjoying the two new numbers we are doing. The singers and musicians nailed it.

  • The worship was intensely ‘God focused.’

  • I enjoyed the kids (from Vacation Bible School) coming into the adult service and performing. They were exceptional.

  • There was so much energy in the house today. It was insane.

  • Gene T. did a good job preaching today. A good message, good content, well delivered, and solid. “Overhauling Your Priorities” from the book of Haggai. It was good for our church family to hear from someone else.

  • Aside from doing a good job, it gave me a much needed break. Having just completed a fourteen-week message series, I am depleted. Not everyone understands this, but preaching week after week (especially to the same people) is very taxing. It doesn’t take long to come to the end of my resources – both creatively and physically. So I need time off to recover my physical strength and to catch up on reading. In fact, I am ready for an extended vacation….

  • After the second service today we had a special prayer service for the sick. It started in response to Jeff F. “calling the elders of the church” to pray for him. As word got out it began to blossom as others wanted to be involved. After we dismissed the second service there were about 100 people who stayed. We called everyone to the front. Then we prayed for Jeff F., Sandy H., and Michele H. A great many people asked for anointing oil so they could touch the sick and pray for them. There was ‘laying on of hands.’ I felt faith in the room. I witnessed it among God’s people. I also witnessed true love being shown and expressed to one another. There was genuine compassion. I was deeply moved. Pace Community Church is really an amazing church…. because it is made up of some of the most compassionate people I have ever seen in my life.

  • Several people, with tears in their eyes, got me off to the side and told me how much their church family means to them.

  • There’s nothing predictable about PCC. You never know what God is going to do next.

  • What a awesome day!

Sunday Mind Dump (#2)

Dear Anonymous,

I got your note today. Normally I never receive anonymous letters because they are intercepted by assistants who protect me from such nonsense. But for whatever reason they decided to forward this one to me. I’m glad they did because I would like to respond to you. Even though your note was only three sentences long, it was very revealing about the kind of person you are. I hope that you read (or are reading) my blog because I would like to tell you what I think:

First, I noticed that you did not sign your name. The reason is obvious. You are a coward. Why can’t you just admit that to yourself and deal with it? If you would like to talk to me face-to-face, then do so. Until then, I don't have time for you.

Secondly, you appear to be a person that has some inner venom that you like to spew. What made you such a bitter person anyway? It wasn’t us. How long have you been carrying this baggage? Perhaps you should seek professional counseling.

Third, I know that hit-and-run is illegal (when you are driving a car) but you have chosen to do it with pen and paper. Do you really believe that you are right with God behaving like this? You owe someone an apology, and you will never be right with God until you do!

Fourth, I can’t take you seriously. If there was ever a chance that you could get my attention to seriously consider what you have to say, you lose the benefit of the doubt when you act so immature. In the future, save yourself the effort. You sound like a whiney baby and everyone knows it but yourself. I think you’ve got some kind of spiritual hernia.

Fifth, I can’t help you because I don’t know who you are. There were 504 other people in church today who were blessed, helped, receptive and touched by the power of God. You on the other hand were not. You have chosen to hide in the shadows, and it’s your own choice.

Sixth. You seem to be pretty experienced at pointing out the ‘speck’ in other people’s eyes while not noticing the beam in your own eye. Who appointed you to this position? Please resign as the General Manager of the universe and all nearby planets.

Seventh. You are absolutely selfish. Shame on you!

Eighth. Because of your nasty disposition you missed a move of God’s Spirit today. In both services God did some amazing works of grace in the lives of many, many people. And in our third service, it was even more amazing – we had an old fashioned healing service with prayer and anointing with oil. There was so much love being expressed to one another. People were crying, and travailing before the altar. I witnessed people hugging, affirming one another, and showing true expressions of concern and affection…. just like a church family should. But of course you missed out on all this. God has a way of excluding people like you from outpourings of His Spirit. You wouldn’t have appreciated it anyway – you are too self-absorbed. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when He said not to “cast your pearls before the swine.” So God allowed you to stew in your own juices and miss what He was doing… and your spiritual blindness is self imposed. His judgment is always righteous. BTW, there was a ten-to-one ratio of good notes turned in today compared to your one little, rinky dink, negative note. Others were able to see what you could not.

Ninth. You wrote your note a small piece of paper. Then you put that note in a ‘tithing envelope’ and dropped it in the offering bag as the offering was being received by our ushers. You gave the appearance of worshipping God by giving an ‘offering,’ but in truth, you were putting on a show to hide your true intent. How low can you get? This makes you a hypocrite. You are living a lie. You are like “Ananias & Sapphira” (Acts 5) who pretended to give something (in the offering) when in fact they didn’t. You are pretender and a fake. Satan has filled your heart. Do you really think that you can gain my support with such actions?

Tenth. If this is how you plan on behaving at our church, then please leave. We need your seat.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Leading on Empty

Have you ever run out of gas? I have. I was driving back from youth camp in Birmingham on Interstate 65 in the early 80s. The fuel gauge was close to empty, but I had to be back in Pensacola at a certain time, so I pressed on. Besides, I was driving a brand new automobile that I had purchased a few weeks before, and with the good gas mileage was certain I could make it.

I didn’t.

Running out of gas on I65 and being stranded on the side of the road in the middle of Timbuktu (Tim-Buck-Too) was no fun. Of course it came as no surprise to discover that running out of gas was a much bigger setback than if I had simply taken just a few minutes to stop and fill up. I was in my twenties then. I’m much wiser now.

Driving on empty is not smart. Leading on empty is less smart. I still have a tendency to ‘go all the time’ without stopping long enough to refill my energy reserves. I’m not alone. Most pastors and church workers do too much. Many leave the ministry. Very few finish well.

God calls church leaders to lead smarter, not harder, for the sake of the kingdom. The only way to accomplish that is to prevent burnout.

Here are some tips all of us need to abide by:

1. Solitary Refinement.

2. Find ‘Still Waters.’

3. Weekly Sabbaths.

4. Annual Sabbatical.

5. Learning to say ‘no.’

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kingdom Mindset & the Check Out Isle at Wal-Mart

…whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4b KJV)

I go to Wal-Mart about once a week. Good inventory and decent prices. Every now and then I bump into someone I know and will stop to have a friendly chat. Always enjoyable. But then I have to go to the check out line…

It’s there that the values of the world are on full display for all to see (including your children). The magazine covers and tabloids scream for our attention. Here are a few of the articles I recently seen…. Top 10 Ways to Hotter Sex…. Give Him What He Really Wants in Bed… 7 Reasons to Hide an Affair… How to Tell for Sure If He is Cheating…. Get a Hot Body that No Man Can Resist… Lose 10 Pounds in 7 Days…. and many more. You get the idea.

We are surrounded by the stuff. Your children see it too. There is no avoiding it. We can’t put blinders on. But we must remain kingdom minded and sanctified at all times. Even in the check out isle.

Do you ever find yourself being drawn into what’s going on with Brad & Angelina more than what’s going on with your neighbor? Or the latest gossip with Jon & Kate?

BTW, is hotness’ really more important than holiness?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive… (John 7:37-39a).

A thirsty man does not have to be asked to drink. His thirst makes the decision for him. Likewise, seekers of God rarely hang in the rear of the pack. Why? Because their thirst (craving) drives them to the front. They are drawn, are on a mission, and a godly ambition drives them on. Where does this come from? This is a result of God’s work and call in our lives, with experiences, spiritual gifts, personality, and mentoring urging us forward. Our response to this internal compulsion will determine how we are used in God’s kingdom to impact the world.

God did an amazing work of transformation in my life when He saved me at age 24. Delivered from a lifestyle of self ruin, I was immediately stricken with the all-consuming importance of God’s kingdom. I instantly knew that Christianity was the most important cause on the face of the earth. I thirsted for more.

One result of His grace was that I had a burning desire to share His Word - because I knew it had the power to change lives as much as my own life had been changed. This drove me to join a hospital visitation team so I could pray for the sick; (I prayed for a great many sick people, some of who received Christ just before dying). I became a Sunday school teacher to teenagers, (even though I wasn’t much older than them), and watched them grow up, get married and have children, all the while continuing to live for God. (BTW, I have out-lived some of those former SS students… who have passed away over the years…. but they maintained their faith to the end). I joined a bus ministry and visited homes on Saturday mornings for eight years straight. Then on Sunday mornings I would drive an old bus to pick up kids and bring them to church. My thirst for the things of God compelled me to start a nursing home ministry where we visited suffering people, sang gospel songs, told Bible stories, and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. I witnessed to people. I searched out friends. Then I began to preach in country churches, conduct revivals, and travel great distances when given the slightest opportunity to share God’s Word. All this while working in secular employment as a welder at Westinghouse – and most of that time I was on the night shift.

It was a combination of God’s call, His power, and my thirst that enabled me to do what I once thought was impossible.

So what are your thirsty for today? Don’t let fear paralyze you from being used by God. You are an ordinary person who serves an extraordinary God. That combination is enough… to do great things.

Leadership Thought for the Day

If two people are in charge, it means no one is in charge. A great question to ask the group is, "Who's got this?" I need to know who is utimately responsbile for something. Tag-teaming is great for execution and carrying out the task, but it's horrible for responsibility and accountability. Who is the 'go to' person that is empowered to get it done?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Do You Have a Kingdom Mindset?

Be honest. Are you more influenced by the world (and its values) or the Word of God? I suppose most Christian people would be quick to confess the Bible influences them more than the world. Not so fast.

Having a kingdom mindset means having God’s mind and heart at all times and in every situation. This gives passion to our prayers. Our prayer “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” will take on a whole new meaning for us. In contrast, people without a kingdom mindset instinctively try to find their security in whatever they think will ensure that their self-interests are met.

When we are kingdom minded we see everything around us in a different light. It means we evaluate our decisions and choices in light of God’s kingdom instead of according to our personal comfort and desires. For the sake of the kingdom we choose not to demand our rights at every turn. We desire for God to have “His’ way over our way. Having a kingdom mindset means caring about the world of lost people verses having my personal needs met all the time.

Our renewed mind first shows itself in our daily choices. Slowly, as we surrender our will to God, we come to realize that God is not a ‘kill joy.’ Rather, by losing ourselves in Him...we find ourselves. We find life.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Books on Theology I Recently Finished

1. The Believers Conditional Security
2. 40 Questions About Elders & Deacons
3. What Love Is This? Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God
4. Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals - Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis.

(Note: Book #4 - This is a book that explores the Biblical texts which encourage the liberation of slaves & women (regardless of culture) while reaffirming the prohibition of homosexuality (regardless of culture). A very good book. Difficult to read - intellectual and exhaustive in its presentation. I pressed my way through… glad I did).

Click the picture for an enlarged view of the front cover(s)

Weak Discipleship

A great deal of Christianity in America today separates justification from sanctification. That is, we are taught to believe that God only concerns Himself with justifying the sinner (at the moment of conversion) rather than being taught that God calls us to follow Him for life, obediently, living a lifestyle separate from the world. It is often taught that the point of salvation (justification) is the finish line, rather a starting point for a lifetime journey (sanctification).

In truth, discipleship flourishes best when we present the gospel as a journey of transformation, rather than a one-time event. The problem within (much of) Christianity today is that we have taught a faith that does not transform people; but rather that salvation is nothing more than a “go to heaven for free card” with no responsibility to ‘live the life.’ As a consequence, there is often a great disconnect between faith and holiness. In Scripture this kind of Christianity does not exist.

Because this kind of presentation of the gospel is so common today, a number of people believe they have eternal life, when in fact they may not. We make the test for salvation to be ‘mental agreement’ to the ‘facts of the gospel’ rather than being ‘behavioral’ and proven by a transformed life.

Discipleship in America has led to ‘bar-code’ Christians… people who believe the right things and know how to say the right things…. but don’t really follow Jesus in life, character, and conduct. Instead, the gospel requires us to repent of our sins, to believe, and follow Jesus daily. Making disciples compels us to learn and obey everything Christ taught – not just a one-time event of making a ‘profession of faith’ (whatever that is). Jesus said, “By their FRUITS you will know them.” The EVIDENCE of Christianity is living a life of transformation (sanctification). This is not about attempting to ‘earn’ your salvation, but rather the ‘proof’ of salvation.

Never forget that justification and sanctification cannot be separated. In other words, “praying the sinners prayer” is not the finish line; it is the point of beginning for a lifetime journey…. one that require us to be faithful to the end.

Books I Am Reading...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some People Are Just Born with Talent

Sunday Mind Dump

  • A very good day. Attendance was back up. Giving was good. Lots of guests.

  • A large stack of cards was turned in today. I haven’t had a chance to look closely at them, (only a glance), but it appears several people committed to Christ today in different ways.

  • A lot of prayer requests were turned in too.

  • I’m glad God is moving.

  • Somebody’s cell phone went off in service today. If that wasn’t bad enough, the ringer sounded like a ROOSTER doing the COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!

  • A lady fainted in church today.…. 911 was called. Then an ambulance and fire truck showed up. She was taken to the hospital. I’d like to give a special shout out to the ushers, and other involved persons, who stepped up and handled this incident so effectively…. Most people in the service did not even realize anything had happened. Please pray for Sandy that she will have a rapid recovery.

  • I was thrilled to see all the teenagers SITTTING ON THE FRONT ROW today! They are fired up, having just returned from student camp. It made it easy to preach.

  • This week is shaping up to be very busy. i.e., We have about 3-4 people in the hospital, Vacation Bible School begins tomorrow night and runs all week, plus I have a wedding on Saturday. Then there are some other issues to deal with. Oh man, I need a break.

  • For some reason I was very weak in body today. This morning when I woke up I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I couldn’t shake it off. After I got into the office, I just stayed in there until service time with my head laying on the desk. I was thinking, “If I didn’t have to preach today, I wouldn’t.” I don’t know what it was; maybe I was under attack. I felt like I was being oppressed. It may have been nothing more than the blahs, but it was real.

  • I was literally sick before service.

  • A lot of people really responded well to the morning message, “When Satan Goes to Church.” Based on I Peter 5:5-11, we learned what godly attitudes we should adopt in order to combat his corrupting influence in the church… (1) Resist Pride and Be Humble (2) Watch Out for Sinful Traps… (3) Maintain Hope in God.

  • Yea, Satan goes to church. In fact, under this demonic influence he is actually running some churches. (1) He brings sin into the church that people will embrace, rather than repent of, (2) He has his own ministers who “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness,” (3) He gets in the pew because “certain false brethren” will creep in unawares.

  • We might be one of the few churches in the area where people actually clap their hands and cheer during worship, and when it is time to preach. You gotta love it.

  • It’s kind of weird. This past week I have been thinking about some of the families who have left us over the past couple of years… and my heart was a bit saddened for (some of) them. They were instrumental in helping PCC get off the launch pad, but now they’re missing what God is doing here.

  • I am on the verge of ‘letting go’ of all that. I mean emotionally. Enough time has elapsed that the pain has eased and is resolving itself. God has done a good work of healing within me. Besides, God is doing so many amazing things at PCC that it is dumb of me to waste another moment even thinking about the past. (I will be writing about this journey in the future).

  • I love how flexible our volunteers are. They are so willing to serve, and do so cheerfully.

  • This summer I want to host an ‘all-church volunteers’ appreciation event. Still in the ‘thinking’ stage.

  • It’s really neat to see how many people hang around after each service on Sundays, just visiting and enjoying each others company. Very cool.

  • I went to a fish-fry last night at a friend’s house. Every one there was from our church… about 15 people. One of the small groups was having a fellowship event and invited Renae and I over. Very nice. It’s what summers are for (hot grease, hushpuppies, and fried mullet).

  • I didn’t go swimming in the pool though. I don’t look that good in a bathing suit…. and just so you know, neither did any of them.

  • Next Sunday is Father’s Day. Are we doing anything special? Yes. We’re having church.

Friday, June 12, 2009

False Brethren

2 Corinthians 11:26 (KJV) In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

Galatians 2:4 (KJV) And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

Many times in our Christian walk we come across people who present themselves as followers of Christ, and yet their life, character, and conduct proves them to be false. Or their doctrine proves them to be false.

The apostle Paul talked about BEING IN PERILS among false brethren (2 Cor. 11:26) - apparently they caused him a great deal of trouble, dangers, and physical harm. He also talked about false brethren SNEAKING INTO CHURCHES to lead people away from grace and into bondage. Paul also warned the Ephesians, “I, know, that there will enter, after my departure, grievous wolves into your midst, NOT SPARING THE FLOCK; and, FROM AMONG YOUR OWN SELVES, men will arise speaking distorted things, to DRAW AWAY DISCIPLES after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30).

Not every one who claims to be a Christian is. They simply masquerade as such.

False brethren:

  • are to be avoided (Romans 16:17-18)
  • one is to have no company with them (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)
  • one is to withdraw from them (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
  • one is to turn away from them (2 Timothy 3:1-9)
  • and one is to reject them (Titus 3:10-11)

To continue in fellowship with those who teach false doctrine, or those who refuse to repent of known sin, or those manifesting the works of the flesh instead of the fruit of the Spirit…. is SIN in ITSELF because it is a willful rejection of the plain words of SCRIPTURE which exhort us to AVOID false brethren.

I Feel it Coming On...

Hot grease... hushpuppies... and fried

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Manage Your Ministry or it will Manage You

"We need to depart daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually”…. Rick Warren

It takes energy to do God’s work, and to do it with a standard of excellence. Yet, we can’t run on eight cylinders all the time because we tire and need downtime for recovery. We need to learn how to refuel. Ministry is a marathon, not a short distance sprint. If you want to last in the ministry you have to learn how to recharge yourself spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Depart Daily……….. Do your work each day, but at the end of the day leave it until tomorrow. We need to leave it at the office as much as possible, and protect the sanctity of our homes. Depart daily also means making time for daily rest, relaxation, exercise, hobbies, and other interests, as well as time with God, Bible reading, writing in a prayer journal, meditating, and/or praying.

Withdraw Weekly……… My Sabbath. Everyone needs at least one day a week as a Sabbath of rest. Working seven days a week is an epidemic among pastors and those in ministry. We think if we slow down, even a bit, everything we have worked for will fall apart. Maybe. Maybe not. It still doesn’t change the fact that we need a day of rest…. every single week. As God demonstrated when He created the heavens & earth, we are engineered to works six days and rest one.

Abandon Annually…………. At least once a year we need to leave everything behind, work & all, by taking an extended vacation. This is time in which you can rejuvenate with God, yourself, and your family. You need time for rest, reflection, and restoration. If you are going to personally grow over the next year, you are going to need this time of ‘being away’ in order to keep leading at the high level of excellence that God calls you to.

Pastoral Statistics

  • 1500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention with other churches.

  • 70% of pastors fight depression.

  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could… but they have no other way of surviving.

  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

  • 90% of pastors say their seminary or Bible school training did only a fair, or poor job of preparing them for the ministry.

  • 90% of say pastors the ministry is completely different than what they thought it would be before they entered the ministry.

  • After three years in the ministry, only 50% of pastors say they still feel called.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

When a Pastor has a Moral Failure

A pastor I know had a moral failure and has resigned his church. (I mentioned this on Sunday’s post). I would like to speak to this topic today……

I hate it when this happens. I have been in church-related ministry since 1984 (about 25 years – half my life), and I have witnessed dozens and dozens of moral failures committed by pastors, staff, ministry leaders, and church members. It happens across the board in churches…. but is particularly grievous when it occurs with senior staff members or senior pastors.

This pastor admitted having a six-week affair with his assistant. Following the direction of the church Overseers (fellow pastors) he resigned from the church he planted five years ago; effective immediately. The damage his actions will cause to his family, the family of the other woman, and the 1000-attendance congregation will continue for many years.

While I don’t wish to speak too specifically to this situation…. I do, however, want to comment on pastors shipwrecking their lives, their families, and their ministries. The details vary, but the end result for ministry transgression is always the same – ruin. For the rest of us, the question is not ‘what happened?’ but rather how can we avoid the same fate. Here are a few thoughts:

1. If you think you are not vulnerable, you’re headed for failure. It you think you are too honest, too faithful, too ‘in love with Jesus’ to ever be involved in an affair or some other type of moral transgression, you are setting yourself up for a fall. The fact, is, you are capable of backsliding, getting ‘emotionally involved’ with someone other than your spouse, having an affair, stealing, watching pornography, or telling lies to your family. Just be honest about your weaknesses.

2. If you think you can work all the time, burning the candle at both ends, you’re headed for a failure. There are no spiritual giants in ministry. When I read of pastors (or church staff) who get up at 4:00 AM every day, who work seven days a week, and counsel people on their ‘day off,’ I know they are headed for a meltdown. God took a day off when He created the heaven and earth, and Jesus even took a ‘beach trip’ to Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24) during His ministry. You are not God…. and you are not Jesus. You need down time.

3. If you don’t think you need safeguards built into your life, you’re headed for failure. Nobody wakes up one morning and says, “I think I’ll go have an affair today.” No, we gradually move in that direction over time. We move in that direction because we have no ‘hedges’ or ‘boundaries’ that we have imposed upon ourselves. Life without boundaries is stupid. It is a guaranteed strategy for failure. Boundaries don’t guarantee that you will never have a moral failure, but they DO provide enough ‘margin’ to change your mind before you act.

4. If you think your ministry is (primarily) about you, you are headed for a failure. Failure begins with ego. When you begin to think that you are successful because you are smart, talented, cool, intellectually advanced, pious, special, more humble or more dedicated than anyone else – rather than recognizing that your successes are because God has called and gifted you – then you are train wreck waiting to happen.

5. If you think you can be in the ministry without accountability, you are headed for failure. We need people ‘in the church’ where we serve, that we are face-to-face with on a regular basis, who know us, our spouses, and our assistants, who can ask the tough questions.

MINISTRY is a MARATHON. It you do not pay attention to the danger signs alone the way, you will crash & burn before you cross the finish line. You may have a spectacular crash by a moral failure that is very public, or it may be the slow destruction of your marriage, or it may be the defiling of your own soul; but Satan is quite capable of using the ministry to ruin you.

Three things every pastor (and church staff member) needs to do:

1. Slow down. Hey, you’re not going to change the world - and there’s plenty of time left to try. So in the meantime, spend more time with your husband/wife, spend quality time with your kids, exercise, and simply relax. God was at work long before you showed up on the scene, and He will be at work long after you are gone. You cannot live on adrenaline…. drive… and personal ambition all time.

No one wakes up one day and decides to shipwreck their life and ministry. It’s done one stupid decision at a time. As someone who has seen this happen again and again, I am pleading with you to take action today. It can happen to you too.

2. Memorize scriptures and quote them often. If Jesus used the scriptures to defeat Satan during His temptation, then it’s a good example for us to follow. Three times Jesus said, “It is written…”

3. Get accountable to someone. Your spouse is the first person, and the best person, to be accountable to. Be open, honest, and transparent with each other. Acknowledge your weaknesses. Be there for each other. Beyond your spouse, find a good friend, (perhaps a ministry peer), who you can have an accountability relationship with. They will help keep you on the straight and narrow.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Student Camp Departure....

About 6:20 AM this morning.

Click the picture to view an enlarged image.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Night Mind Dump

  • What a day!

  • First of all, the power went out right after church this afternoon – and apparently affected half of Santa Rosa County. Electricity came back on at my house (which means the A/C came back on) about 7:00 PM tonight. I’m glad that ordeal is over. People in my neighborhood were starting up their generators. Reminded me of hurricane weather.

  • Now that we have electricity…. I can start posting on my blog.

  • Get this, yesterday evening (Saturday) about 6:00 PM I went to the church to turn on the A/Cs so the building would be cool Sunday morning. As I drove around the back of the building there was a car parked out there that I did not recognize... As I got closer I noticed a flurry of activity in the (backseat) of the car. Yea, you can guess – they were lovers having a rendezvous at our church! This naked guy jumps from the back seat to the front seat, (the woman by now is cowering in the backseat trying to cover up), and he cranks the car up, scratches off, and drives out of the church as naked as a jay bird! And this was in broad daylight… AND this is the SECOND time I have caught a couple of lovers behind our church building! I mean, if it’s not an A/C thief, it’s ‘lovers lane’ back there. What’s the deal?

  • Church was good today. Attendance was modest, giving was very good, the music was moving, and the sound mix exceptional.

  • I enjoyed the opportunity to teach on the ‘role of pastors.’ I love the ministry and like talking about it. I think a lot of people found this topic to be insightful because it opened a window into a world that many are curious about. While the message was not exhaustive, it was nevertheless solid and Biblically sound. Portions of the message were ‘heart felt’ on my part as I talked about my future at PCC…. and I meant every word of it.

  • One person turned in a card which read, “I needed this sermon today.”

  • You may remember me mentioning this morning that ‘effective leadership is essential for churches.’ Without it congregations will be hurt, damaged, and the sheep will scatter. Ironically, I found out this afternoon a pastor I know had to RESIGN his church because of having an AFFAIR. This man leads a church of about 1000 people in GA, is married, and has two small children, (elementary age). He entered into an emotional and physical relationship with his personal assistant that lasted about six weeks. I cannot tell you how damaging this incident is going be to the flock of God in this church…. or how sad I am over the whole sordid affair.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Let's Stop....

  • Idolizing favorite preachers
  • Quoting authors more than the scriptures
  • Acting like worship is a rock concert
  • Acting like worship should be melancholy
  • Embracing systems more than we embrace God
  • Going to church based upon who is speaking, or who is not
  • Remembering how cool the speaker was, while forgetting what he said
  • Being impressed with how deep and profound the speaker was, while not understanding a word he said
  • Going for shock value by being vulgar in church
  • Trying to be cute all the time
  • Pretending to be pious all the time
  • Being a follower of men
  • Being lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God
  • Being a groupie…

I attend church because (1) the Bible commands me to not forsake gathering together with the body of believers, and (2) it honors God by gathering for corporate worship, and (3) there are a lot of things I can still learn from the Word, and want to learn.

Preach it, brother!

Good for Nothing Salt

“You are the salt of the EARTH; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then GOOD FOR NOTHING but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men…. (Matthew 5:13).

Prayer in schools is no longer allowed. What’s a Christian to do? Run and hide? Retreat into isolation? Become Amish? I think not. Jesus prayed “Father, I pray that you DO NOT take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from evil… I have SENT THEM INTO the world” (John 17:15, 18). This was a prayer that Jesus offered in behalf of His disciples, and ALL THOSE who would believe afterwards…. which includes believers up to this day.

Jesus said we are the salt of the EARTH. Not salt of the church, but of the world. That’s means Christian people, young and old alike, have a role IN society, schools, and in the workplace. We are not to be isolated.

SALT FLAVORS FOOD. Would you want to eat corn on the cob w/o salt? Can you imagine eating French Fries without salt? Any time you eat something that is bland, you immediately reach for the salt shaker. Christians people are intended to season society with the message of God. Jesus wants us to be influential people, not isolated people.

SALT MAKES PEOPLE THIRSTY. That’s why movie theaters put salt on the popcorn. When Christians are in tune with the Holy Spirit, and they live with a sense of purpose and destiny, and demonstrate peace & joy in their own lives, it often creates a spiritual thirst in the people around them. I think God would have us this way.

SALT IS A PRESERVATIVE. In ancient times salt was used to cure meat and preserve other food items for extended periods of time. Likewise, Christian people are the only thing that keeps society from totally falling apart. There is a certain restraint that we are able to exert on society just by our mere presence, and that includes teenagers and the effect they can have on their classmates (regardless of prayer in schools being forbidden). If we run to the mountains then the restraint is removed and total lawlessness will abound. This is not the way of God. He intends for us to ‘occupy until He comes.’ When He does come (at the Rapture or Second Coming) Christians will be taken out of the world at that time.

SALT IRRITATES & HEALS. Have you ever poured salt into an open wound? It burns. Yet is also heals. Christian people are irritants in society. This world is like an open sore and our message irritates. We are also a healing agent for society. Our value system clashes with the world’s value system. Sometimes we have to take a stand and the message is not a popular one. Is it better to run away, or stay? I would say that Jesus irritated people… the apostles did… and the early Christians did as well. The only way they were able to have this affect was by being in the world… not in a monastery.

Jesus said if salt loses its saltiness (above) it is GOOD FOR NOTHING and should be THROWN OUT and TRAMPLED underfoot. Those words are alarming! What’s the message here?

In ancient times salt was not processed like we have today – small granules in a salt shaker. Salt then was gathered in large chunks from the Dead Sea. It was pieces of rock, full of minerals, which also contained salt. To flavor food the whole rock would be thrown into the kettle to cook the salt out. The people would reuse the same rock over and over again until all the salt was cooked out. Then the remaining rock was simply thrown outside where it was trampled in the footpaths or highways.

Jesus is saying to His people – if we are not having a salty effect on the world around us, or if we are not ‘flavoring the kettle,’ then we have lost our usefulness and (to use His words) are GOOD FOR NOTHING!

You see, there’s more to Christianity than simply 90 minutes on a Sunday morning…. or retreating into isolation… or hiding behind our stained glass windows. It’s called ‘mission’ – as in the 'Great' one.

Until the church is driven underground because of (real) persecution like believers in China face, or something similar to the persecution of Nero that the early believers endured…. I believe the church has a mandate to stay put.

They’ve forbidden prayer in schools? Christianity will flourish in spite of it. Just watch.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sports are Not Eternal

For most of my life I have seen a great many parents encourage their kids in sports (a good thing) and then let them drop out of church in the process (a bad thing). Sports are good, but they are secondary to God. Parents have a solemn duty and responsibility to teach their children about God and the laws of God. To make anything more important than God is not only a violation of the Greatest Commandment, (Matt. 22:37-40), but also transgresses hundreds of others commandments in scripture and mocks everything that Christianity stands for.

Parents will often complain about the cost of youth camp but will shell out hundreds of dollars for band camp, football camp, baseball camp, or cheer leading camp and their related activities. Parents will allow their children to miss church (as a matter of routine habit) to attend game practices instead. I’m not talking about missing church once in a while, or every now and then for a very special event, (which is okay) but rather as a matter of family values and priority. This communicates one clear message to the child – God is less important than sports. Is this the value system we want to teach our children? No.

If that is not convincing enough, consider these statistical facts:

  • There are approximately 1 million kids playing high school football in the United States. 5.8% of them will go on to play football in college. And just 2.8% of those will play professionally.

  • Of the 300,000 high school soccer players, 5.7% will play in the NCAA and less than 2% of those will play professionally.

  • 500,000 play High School basketball. Of those, 2.9% will play in college, and 1.9% of those will play after that.

Does it really make sense to sacrifice your child’s walk with God for a sports career that, statistically, is not going to happen? Even if he or she did make it to the big time, if they lost their soul in the process, it would still be a bad deal. If you children are in sports.... keep them in church too.

It is important that we steer our children down the path that leads to eternal life. Jesus said....

13Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to DESTRUCTION, and MANY there be which go in thereat: 14Because strait is the gate, and NARROW is the way, which leadeth unto LIFE, and FEW there be that find it (Matthew 7:13-14)

How much money, time and energy do we spend preparing our kids for sports? Instead, we ought to be investing that much effort (and more) into their spiritual development. I am not down on sports…I think they are good. My two sons played baseball beginning at tee-ball and continued all the way through High School. In fact, they even excelled at the game. We just didn’t allow sports (and their love for the game) to jade their view of God in the process. Over the thirteen years that they played baseball, they missed only one or two church services because of sports (and that due to out-of-town events). Otherwise, they were in the House of God on Sunday. While their personal commitment to God is a choice they have to make for themselves, Renae and I (as their parents) wanted to be sure that we did not communicate the wrong message to them. We taught them that God is first… sports are second. No exceptions. We instilled a value in them that will guide them well through life.

I think sports are a good for kids. Sports develop character and help build self-confidence in youth. More kids should be involved in them. I also happen to think that we need to keep it all in perspective.

Sports are not eternal.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Are Big Churches Bad?

There is a lot of criticism in Christian circles today about the pitfalls of larger churches (usually defined as 1000 in attendance or more). While all churches of all sizes have their fair share of problems, the criticism leveled against larger churches are usually very one-sided with obvious bias.

What follows is a balanced response….

The critics of larger churches usually state the following:

1. Large churches capitulate to culture
2. They water down the gospel
3. They are too user friendly
4. The are light on ministry and theology
5. They revolve around a strong pastoral personality
6. They entertain

There are many things to criticize about larger churches, but in the list above, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE elements can be FOUND in smaller churches! In fact, many times they are even MORE PROMINENT in smaller churches.... (though not in every small church… to be fair).

It seems to me that the driving force behind criticisms of large churches is the simple fact they are large. I mean churches are being condemned by the watchdogs out there on SIZE ALONE.

CAPITULATE TO CULTURE? What’s the difference if a larger church uses lights, a band, and video screens in their morning services… while a smaller church has an Easter cantata, a singing Christmas Tree, a kids musical, or a Southern Gospel concert with a toe-tapping quartet? It boils down to a matter of PREFERENCE. Smaller churches like four hundred year old hymns and southern gospel, while larger churches prefer Hillsongs or Passion. Please don’t tell me that larger churches are the only kind of church that ‘caters’ to the preference of people in the congregation or plans its corporate worship experiences based on a common denominator of shared musical style. Paa….lease! (eye roll).

USER FRIENDLY? The smaller church is just as user friendly as larger churches. They cater to the expectations of the core group and the prominent families in the church. Church leaders (in small churches) feel the pressure to win the approval of the fat-cats with the money, and rely upon the tried-and-true traditions of the past for user-friendliness… just as much as a larger church does when they conduct a sermon series on “Five Ways to Improve Your Marriage.” Usher friendly? Give me a break!

LIGHT ON MINISTRY & THEOLOGY? Not true. Large churches often get that way because of a strong emphasis on Biblical teaching rooted in theology. Additionally, they are usually more effective in every facet of ministry than their smaller counterparts. It’s also interesting to note that many of these critics like to boast about their belief in the Bible as being perfect and infallible - (yes, the rest of us believe the same way) - yet many of these people attend churches that have a form of church government that is NOT EVEN BIBLICAL! (i.e, congregational, episcopal, presbytery, or lay-elders). I mean, if you are going to claim the infallibility of God’s Word, then structure your own church accordingly!

STRONG PASTORAL PERSONALITY? Then there is the criticism that larger churches revolve around a strong pastoral figure. Really? I would suggest that this is more prominent in SMALL CHURCHES than large churches. Consider all the responsibilities of the small-church pastor – he alone visits the sick… makes hospital rounds… conducts all funerals…. weddings… baby dedications…. orders the Sunday School curriculum… officiates at the deacons meetings.. chairs the finance committee… runs the church business meeting… etc. You get the idea. In truth, there is nothing wrong with a strong pastoral personality in leading a church – whether that church is large or small. Healthy churches, more often than not, have a strong personality as its central leader.

These critics have strong opinions about larger churches, but very few of them ever point out the GOOD being done by these churches; such as their ability to mobilize large numbers of people for the work of the ministry, their ability to influence a city, and utilizing massive resources (both human & financial) to change their community. These facts are IGNORED in the studies, articles, and blogs that celebrate the good of small churches while condemning large churches. For instance, I know a church that gave over 500 pairs of shoes (last Christmas) to the kids at an elementary school in their community – and many of these kids live in deep poverty. I know another church that GIVES AWAY A HOUSE (yes, a real house) for free every Mothers Day to a single mother who lives below the poverty line. Do these acts ever get the headlines? Not often.

GETTING LOST IN THE CROWD? Critics say that it is impossible to experience meaningful fellowship and community in a large church, because you ‘get lost in the crowd.’ This simply is not true. There is no correlation between the size of a church and the warmth of a church. Large churches can be warm or impersonal, and small churches can be the same way. It has everything to do with the friendliness of its people – not its size. In fact, small churches might be more guilty of unfriendliness than larger churches. Many people who leave small churches cite the reasons for their departure as being because of family traditions, politics, and social networks already in place for decades that effectively marginalized them in the church family.

While some of the criticisms of big churches are accurate, some of it is also rooted in jealousy, envy, ignorance, and personal preference. Many of these same people who condemn large churches haven’t baptized anyone in the last 20 years, seen a single convert in more than a decade, or reached out to their community – the poor & minorities – for a half century. That is more common in the small church (and more grievous a failure) than their complaints of larger churches, who they accuse of ‘catering to culture.’ A hard look in the mirror for self-evaluation is in order here.

In the end, each church must be BOUND by BIBLICAL TRUTH and DEVELOP its OWN STYLE of personality and identity in its community. Whether that church is in Kenya, Africa, and uses goat-skin drums in worship, or is the underground church in China that uses rice instead of unleavened bread for communion, each church is given liberty by the Word of God for LOCAL EXPRESSION in their culture and mission field.

If a church is preaching doctrinal error, heresy, or ‘another gospel,’ then it should be pointed out for all to see. Such churches and its teachers would be ‘enemies of the cross’ and ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ and must be exposed. On the other hand, it is simply mean and un-Christ like to criticize another church because they observe certain practices that are outside of your personal preferences – and then attempt to use the Bible to validate your position.

When such people get to heaven, they will be very surprised to see other people there who GOT there through the very churches they spent their time on earth criticizing.

I Peter Sermon Series...

Together, we have covered this much ground in the book of I Peter...

Part 1 - Too Blessed to be Depressed………..…......(1:1-12)
Part 2 - Kiss Your Old Life Goodbye..........................(1:13-21)
Part 3 - Changed!........................................................(1:22-2:3)
Part 4 - We're In This Together...................................(2:4-10)
Part 5 - Our Responsibility to Authority………..……....(2:11-17)
Part 6 - Take This Job & Love It!..................................(2:18-25)
Part 7 – Breaking the Deadlock on Wedlock…………. (3:1-7)
Part 8 – Living the (true) Good Life……………………..(3:8-12)
Part 9 – Walk the Walk & Talk the Talk…………………(3:13-17)
Part 10 – The Triumph of Christ’s Suffering……………(3:18-22)
Part 11 – What to do While Waiting for World to End…(4:1-11)
Part 12 – The Fiery Trial ………………………………….(4:12- 19)

Two more messages to go....

Part 13 - Shepherding the Flock (June 7)
Part 14 – Safety Tips for Church Trials (June 14)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Baptism Service - Remix

I failed to mention something (in an earlier post) about the baptism service Sunday.... The first service was so crowded that people were literally standing across the back of the room!

In both services there was clappling, shouting, rejoicing, and crying. Everyone seemed to be so happy. It really was a great day.

The Pastor as Evangelist...

The word ‘pastor’ comes from the word ‘shepherd.’ Someone is considered a good pastor if they are skilled and compassionate in dealing with the issues facing Christian believers. In other words, the job of the pastor is to primarily care for sheep in the fold.

Or is it?

In reading Luke 15:3-7 we see another role for pastors that is often overlooked; effectively reaching the lost. In this illustration we see the shepherd LEAVING the 99 sheep already in the flock to go out and find the lost sheep – the lost sinner who needs to repent. That is, the pastor leaves the believers to look after themselves (for a period of time) while he goes out to seek the lost.

Then again in Matthew 9:36-38, Jesus looks out to the crowds of people and sees them as scattered sheep who have no shepherd, and so commissions His disciples to go out and preach to these lost sheep.

From these two passages, it seems that a good pastor is also supposed to be an effective soul winner.


Acts 20 and I Peter 5 communicate to us that good shepherds ‘watch over the flock’ as ‘overseers’ and are instructed to ‘feed the flock of God.’ Yes, we must do this, but it doesn’t end there. Many pastors tend the sheep ONLY…. and ignore their personal duty to reach the lost. Their ministry is lop-sided and out of balance.
  • It’s easy to title yourself ‘pastor’ - but not so easy to reach the lost

  • It’s easy to preach sermons like “Putting Christ Back into Christmas” to a room full of believers - but try that message on your lost neighbor and see what you get

  • Preaching to the choir is easy. Instead of doing that all the time, how about going out into the highways and hedges and compelling the sinners to come so that God’s house might be full!

Whatever needs a believer in the church might have, and however seriously they may feel them, those needs pale in comparison to the lost condition of the well-adjusted neighbor who lives next door and is headed towards an eternity in hell.

This perspective is vital… and we must never lose sight of it.


I believe in the supernatural operations of God. I believe in the supernatural manifestations of God too.

According to the Scriptures, the church has an exclusive access to the supernatural. Consider this:
  • We worship Jesus Christ… who was born of a virgin (uh…. supernatural), lived a perfect sinless life (supernatural), performed miracles (supernatural) and rose from the dead (once again…supernatural!)

  • Then there is the book of Acts…we have the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 (supernatural), thousands of people repenting of sin (supernatural), the church exploding (supernatural), people being healed (supernatural), and the Gospel being preached to the world without the internet or cell phones (supernatural.)

  • Every time a person commits their life to Jesus Christ they are “born of the Spirit” and “born again” (it is supernatural)… and when believers are filled with the Spirit (it is supernatural). Every time we gather at church in a public assembly to worship God, the Holy Spirit begins to move in the service touching the hearts of people in many different ways, (that too, is supernatural).

These things are so not-of-this-world that only God can be responsible for it.

Let me be clear…. I believe in the supernatural, but I don’t believe in weirdo’s, crack pots, and freaky people doing stupid stuff and then calling that the supernatural manifestations of God. I’m talking about Christian people and church leaders who submit to God asking Him to do His work in our midst…. because when we do that the supernatural always happens… and you don’t have to manufacture it.

Awesome Day

  • We had an amazing day yesterday.

  • We baptized thirty people…. about half were teenagers, the rest adults.

  • Baptism is one of my favorite events at PCC. It’s a cause for great joy and celebration to see new converts going public with their faith. Besides, it’s an ordinance of the Church that Christ has commanded us to observe.

  • The new indoor baptism pool worked like a champ. Everyone was able to enjoy the event together. Simply awesome.

  • I will be posting some pictures of the baptism soon. Having a problem with the camera right now.

  • Attendance was 550.

  • We gave out more gift bags for first-time visitors than we did on Easter. Go figure.

  • Where are all these people coming from?

  • I am very proud of, and pleased with, all our staff and volunteers. They step it up every week in a way that is above and beyond the call of duty. We have workers and volunteers who work during the week in preparation for Sunday, and then there are the Sunday volunteers too. It takes a lot of effort to run a church like PCC and it simply would not be possible if it were not for these amazing people. I mean every single one of you….. you are number one!