Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump

  • Good church today in both services.

  • Attendance was 478 – it looked much higher to me , but that’s what was turned in.

  • Especially enjoyed the second half of the song service. The two songs “Inside Out” and “Refiner’s Fire” were on-target. Inside Out is downright powerful. I could tell it got off the stage and was moving people. The other song, Refiners Fire, was effective in another way; it’s sung like a prayer which tends to make us “vertically” focused, and it is easy to sing making it easy to draw everyone into participating in the moment (instead of watching).

  • It was good to see so many people at the end of both services on their feet with uplifted hands worshipping God. My view from the stage was powerful – 478 people lifting their hands towards heaven translates into 956 hands up in the air. I wish someone had taken a picture.

  • Seen another couple in service today that I haven’t seen in two years. I think God is up to something.

  • We’ve got some serious momentum going on right now. i.e., The preaching is hard & the people are loving it. Attendance is consistently high. Old friends are coming back. Giving is good. The spiritual barometer in our church is burning red hot. Leadership standards are being raised and people are meeting the challenge. The integrity of the ministry is rock solid. Teenagers are selling out to God. Disciples are being mentored and developed. I mean good things are happening across the board at PCC!

  • Did you noticed how many teenagers were sitting on the front row in the first service today? Easily 30 of them. They had their Bibles open, were taking notes (not passing them), were worshipping God, and soaking it all up. I think it’s good for the teenagers to be in “big church.” It ministers to me having them join us.

  • I think the Biblical text for today’s sermon – Malachi 3 – caused a lot of people to have a spiritual epiphany (i.e., an appearance of manifestation of a deity; a sudden perception or insight). It was evident to me that a lot of people began meditating on the idea of Jesus visiting His people like a Refiner’s Fire or Fuller’s Soap for the purpose of purifying and cleansing us.

  • A lot of people told me they really enjoyed the silversmith illustration.

  • I liked the thought of God holding us in a “hot spot.”

  • What I liked the most came from the Bible text that contrasted the difference between God’s judgment upon His people and His judgment upon the unrepentant. God judges us FIRST and for the purpose of REFINING. He judges the unrepentant for the purpose of CONSUMING them. This speaks to the security we have in God.

  • I did a much better job of explaining this thought in the second service than I did in the first service.

  • Maybe that’s a good reason for more of you to attend the second serivce – the sermon is better because I’ve already had a practice-run on everyone else in the first service.

  • Some nice notes were turned in today.

  • One man said this: “I just want to thank you for this ministry. My wife and I have been attending for about one year. With your help and that of some small groups we have attended, I feel like for the first time in my life I understand God and His Word.” He went on to say: “As a child I completed all the sacraments up to confirmation, but never felt touched by the Lord. But now I have gotten so excited about becoming a disciple of Jesus and learning more.”

  • Another lady wrote this, “I loved the service today. I will definitely be returning. Bless you all.”

  • All churches have a choice to make between being a FORTRESS or an OASIS. Many (if not most) churches are like fortresses. They hunker down within their four walls, in holy huddles, keeping the world out, and waiting for Jesus to return. Oasis churches are different. They exist as light on a hill – a beacon in the darkness. She is there for the weary traveler, the hurting, the outcast, the hopeless, and those lost in the darkness.

  • I’m so thankful that PCC is an “Oasis” church.

  • Gotta say, I love what I do.

  • Looking forward to all that God is going to do in 2010.

  • Fourteen days with no sugar. I’m holding out.

  • I think I’m going to wear jeans to church soon… so I can be cool for a day.

  • Got to go feed my dogs now. Yes, I have an exciting life.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Broken Friendships & Reconciliation


It’s painful to lose a friend. But getting a friend back can be more painful. That's why most broken friendships are never "truly" reconciled; it's easier to hug the pain.

The only way to truly reconcile a broken friendship is to to it the Bible way. That means having the “difficult talk” about what caused the strain in the first place. If offenses were committed they must be talked about and if sin was committed it must be pointed out. There is no way around that.

For instance. Some good-hearted (and maybe na├»ve) Christians happen to believe if they ignore an offense committed against them and pretend it did not happen, that they are extending grace and forgiveness to the offender…. and that we should do this even if the offender is unrepentant or shows no remorse! “Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen and move on.”

Is that what God expects? Is that really the best response? No. Here's why. It completely ignores the Biblical process for reconciliation. The Bible demands that we deal with offenses by face-to-face meetings to discuss the issue. It is also a misapplication of grace. Spreading a thin glaze of Christian grace on top of raw emotions, sin, and unresolved offenses FIXES NOTHING. That is like putting ointment on top of a boil when the real problem is beneath the surface. If not resolved, it will eventually erupt again.

Frankly, one of the most damaging things to both you and the offender is to absolve the offender unilaterally (one sided) of their wrongdoing. Absolving them with a free pass only reinforces their negative behavior and enables them to continue their crimes.

How then, should Christians respond to those who have hurt them and still have not acknowledged their sin, sought forgiveness, or shown remorse? The Christian thing to do is to not ignore our feelings of anger and hurt, nor to cover things up by offering them shallow-grace, but rather to confront the offender and lay the offences at the foot of the cross, and (just like God) be ready to forgive when an offender acknowledges their wrongdoing. But whatever we do, we should never enable an offender by offering one-way forgiveness or by pretending it did not happen. If the offender is not repentant or shows no remorse, true reconciliation is not possible.

I had a reconciliation conversation this week. We picked up at the very place where we last talked two years ago. It was the only way healing could occur. The conversation went well enough and the process of reconciliation with this person has begun.

Based on what was said in that conversation I think some other people are wanting to find their way back. Looks like I'm going to be having some more conversations.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Sunday - The Refiner's Fire



Sunday's message comes from Malachi 3:1-6 where the promise of the coming Messiah was given; and He would come as a refiner's fire. What does that mean and what does it mean for me? Find out this Sunday.


For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried (Psalms 66:10 KJV)





Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Confrontation "unChristian?"


Make no mistake, I’m on the side of the church. I live and breathe for the Church; especially our local church, PCC. But the greatest threat to the church comes from INSIDE, not outside. I’m speaking of those who are troublemakers AND those who will not take a stand against them; what you might call the bullies & passive types.

I read a TRUE STORY yesterday. A small faction of people in a certain church ran off the pastor. The man was a terrific minister and had the support of a majority of the congregation. But a small group of people made life so miserable for him (through personal attacks & constant criticism) that he finally had to throw in the towel. When a member of the church was asked why the “good people” in the church didn’t rise up and take a stand, she replied…. “Well, someone has to act like a Christian in these things.”

That, I suggest to you, is BIGGER PROBLEM in the church than having troublemakers in the church. The idea that confronting evil doers is seen by many people as “acting unchristian” is unbelievable!

Maybe such people should look at the life of Jesus again. He cleansed the temple one day and didn't act very nice when He did it!

In a typical church you will find some of the nicest people on the face of the earth. They are peace lovers, loving, generous, and kind-hearted. They like to serve and give, to teach and help. But there is one thing that they will shy away from (and run from) above all else - confrontation. To put it bluntly, they wimp out every time the church comes under siege… all in the name of “acting like a Christian.”

I KNOW A CHURCH in which a deacon was suspected of seeing a woman other than his wife. When confronted about the matter he angrily denied it. Then, after he divorced his wife and the two moved in together, he resisted all contacts from the pastor. When he was sent a registered letter asking him to either leave the church or submit to a conference with the leadership, he threatened to take them to court! After all, he insisted, other people in the church have sinned without being kicked out. Everyone caved.

There is a reason why the apostle Paul said, “turn such a one over to the devil for the destruction of the flesh that his soul might be saved” (I Corinthians 5). In other words, “Take him Satan! He’s yours! Bring him back when you get through with him.” It takes confrontation to fulfill this part of the scripture, and people with backbone to do it.

ANOTHER CHURCH has a leading member who feels free to stand up in the middle of the church service during the preaching to prophesy to other members. This interrupts the church service and throws everything into a tailspin. He says he does it because “the Lord tells me to and I cannot quench the spirit.” Meanwhile, the pastor and other members simply accept it because he’s a nice guy and means well. Besides, his family might get upset if someones says anything.

Wouldn’t it be better to just tell the guy to sit down and be quite?

I wonder how a visitor feels when that happens. A family moves into the community and decides to visit this church along with their children, prayerfully considering it as their next spiritual home. In the middle of the service, some member - unknown to them, of course; they know nothing about 'what a great guy he is' - interrupts the proceedings with a harangue about revival or repentance or righteousness. Even if every word he says is on target, the outburst will drive away 90 percent of the visitors.

Let me state the obvious in this case: the problem is not just the “beloved member” who pulls this stunt but also the “good Christians’ who put up with it without saying anything!

Again, the two main forces in a congregation that cause the most harm are those loudmouths who insist on running the show and the sweet-spirited Christian people who wimp out rather than stand up to them. Neither one of these groups LOVES the Lord or His Church ENOUGH. One uses the church for their own selfish purposes, and the other abandons her in its hour of need. One group is just as destructive to the health of the church as the other.

Bullies and cowards have populated the church rolls since the beginning. Even in the early church there was a man named Diotrephes who “loved to have the pre-eminence” among the people (3 John v.9). This problem has always been around. In this case, Diotrephes was refusing hospitality to traveling missionaries and forbidding anyone in the congregation from opening their homes to them, and was also guilty of malicious talk against the apostle John. But John said, “I WILL REMEMBER HIS DEEDS." John was NOT INTERESTED in SWEEPING IT UNDER THE RUG or PRETENDING LIKE IT DID NOT HAPPEN. He was going to call this man into account and administer some Biblical correction by telling it to the church. And this was coming from John, the one known as the “apostle of love.”

The best way to deal with church troublemakers (or a small herd of bullies) is to have a group of choice, mature church leaders who will STAND TOGETHER, ACT together, and SPEAK together. They must be courageous and willing to do whatever it takes to save their church – even if it means confrontation. No one in the church can confront a church bully better than a group of godly men and women who love the Lord, are loyal, and are willing to act like adults. The tyrant has nothing to threaten such a group with; he can’t get them fired. We have employed this method at PCC in the past and it's a contributing reason why our church is so strong, healthy, and peaceful.

There is no excuse for faithful men and women to take the passive route. To say “someone has to act like a Christian in all this” is a cop-out.

It is time for God’s people to decide how much they love the Lord and His Church and be willing to do the unpleasant for the betterment of the whole.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Planted & Flourishing


“Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God” (Psalms 92:13)

If you know the church you are attending is the church that God has ordained that your life and ministry to be established and permanently planted in, then stay committed there no matter what. Too many Christians are either failing to commit to or are divorcing themselves from the family, ruining their own fruitfulness.

Even if your ministry gift involves your launching out one day to start another church, you should remain spiritually connected to your home church by covenant relationship. You do this by being honest and remaining loyal through thick and thin. Then when the time comes for you to launch your own ministry your mother church will be there to support of your efforts and provide you with tangible assistance.

Yet some people can never seem to find the right church, with the right pastor, with the right doctrine, who use the right methodology, and do things the right way – and it keeps them dissatisfied. So they are constantly uprooting themselves looking for an elusive “better place” and consequently never obtain the fullness of what God wants to develop within them or in their ministry. These are those who diminish, impair, and blemish THEIR OWN GROWTH RECORD. For the amount of time that they have been Christians, they are still not at the level of spiritual maturity in the character of Christ that they should be.

Consider the contrast between one who is planted and one who is not:

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. (Psalms 1:3-4).

Your home church is a fertile environment. Here the saints of God become impregnated with godly dreams and desires which are eventually given birth and established on earth by the Holy Spirit Himself - not of our selfish ambition or lack of patience - and then releases us into the ministry at the appointed time, avoiding premature birth to our dreams that may cause them to miscarry
.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bloom Where You Are Planted


Let us not become weary in well doing. For in due season we shall reap if we faint not (Galatians 6:9).

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper (Psalms 1:5).

Has God planted you in the church you are in right now? Then bloom there.

I’m a gardener by hobby and have gained experience at it over the years. I work in flower beds & landscaping, with potted plants, bonsai, and herbs. Something I have come to learn about plants is that you CANNOT TRANSPLANT them TOO OFTEN or the roots will shrivel and stunt the growth of the plant. Yes, transplanting is possible but you’ve got to know the limits. Go beyond those limits and the plant loses its potential. The best thing you can do for any living plant is to put it in the ground and give the roots time to get established. Then stand back and watch it bloom.

As Christians we are expected to bear fruit. That’s why God has planted you where you are – so you can bloom there. God wants us to have strong roots, to get established, and to be fully grounded.

Your church is like a vineyard. It’s a place where the soil is fertile and there is plenty of sunlight. Nourishment is provided by the Word of God, and God Himself is the gardener (John 15). God has planted you there for a reason and it’s in this place that you will flourish the best. Until the gardener Himself transplants you, do not uproot yourself. Your growth will be stunted and your fruit minimal. People who move themselves too often are actually WORKING AGAINST God’s plan for their lives. The end result is unfruitfulness, empty relationships, no significant ministry accomplishments, a pile of forsaken churches, and a nagging sense of detachment from the body of Christ

Yes, it’s easy to lose sight of this lofty spiritual notion (that God has planted me here) when you are bogged down in vacuuming the church carpet, trying to meet the expectations of dear old Sister Sadie, or doing some unthankful job that nobody notices. These mundane (and yes, trying) tasks sometimes take us to the limit of our patience and make “leaving the church” seem attractive. But these are also the seasons through which we grow and bear most fruit.

What I find most troubling are those people who change churches all the time and never become established in any one place for any length of time. They always believe that a better church is just over the next hill; that a better opportunity exists anywhere other than where I am right now. This is what you might call “OPPORTUNITY BLINDNESS” – a belief that my current church is merely a stepping stone to something better. As such, they treat every church they attend as SEMI-TEMPORARY. In some unexplainable, self-fulfilling way, this person will always see his current assignment as RESTRICTIVE and SUFFOCATING. Yet the opportunities he hopes to find in another place already exist in the place he currently resides.

Every church, regardless of its size, location, or history – has opportunities and potential built into it that are just waiting to be discovered. All you have to do is stay planted – it’s there that you will bloom.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Preaching Through a Book of the Bible


Most of the time (about 75%) I teach my way through a book of the Bible or a large portion of scripture. There are several good reason why I do this:

1. It compels me to address topics that may seem un-inspirational, yet are still important.

2. It makes difficult topics easier to address because members in the congregation won’t feel like they are being singled out.

3. It provides steady edification to the congregation. Instead of being a preacher/teacher who comes with a “flash and a fire,” I am able to offer consistent teaching that, over time, brings growth to the flock.

4. It allows the Holy Spirit to lead the agenda, not the pastor.

5. It is how I am able to “declare unto you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

One of our goals at PCC is to create a comfortable environment for people. We do this for a simple reason – so that we can deliver an uncomfortable message. Yes, we want to welcome you and offer you a cup of coffee, but we are going to teach what the Bible says… word-for-word… without changing it or watering it down. We want your children to learn about Jesus in fun and exciting ways, but we are going to talk about the cost of following Christ too.

Chances are, you are going to be challenged at PCC. Yes, we will go out of our way to make you welcome, but only so we can explain God’s Word to you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump


  • Very good church today. Attendance was a little lower than last week due to the storm front moving through – 458.

  • Today’s message was from Malachi 2:10-17 – “The Covenant of Marriage.” It was a very strong word. But it was also very beneficial and edifying.

  • Yes, we talked about v.16 – the verse most often quoted about divorce, and the one that is most angrily applied. i.e., “I hate divorce says the Lord God of Israel.” Context is so important.

  • Here’s an ENCOURAGING WORD for everyone: We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it. God’s plan for your life isn't limited by your past. Your problems are not punishment; they are wake up calls! God is trying to get you to change. See Psalms 119:67

  • I loved v.15…..”he was seeking godly offspring.” One of God’s designs for covenantal marriage is that godly children will be raised who will grow up to serve the Lord themselves. i.e., When a couple models sacrificial love for each other in front of their children they are showing the next generation what it looks like to serve the Lord.

  • Yes, we talked about believers marrying unbelievers and the complications associated with it.

  • Enjoyed the story about meeting Renae. Yes I really did say, “oh-la-la, momma-mia” in church today.

  • I’ve been the lead pastor at PCC for twelve years. A lot of people have come and gone during that time. On the other hand, a lot of people have stayed the course through thick and thin. Through it all I have formed friendships that, I believe, will last me a lifetime. My life has been enriched as a result.

  • I think PCC does a good job at educating our people in the Word of God (through the weekend services, small groups, Bible studies, and children & teens departments). We are a Word-oriented church and have excellent teachers.

  • We have witnessed God do some amazing things over the last twelve years at PCC, but I am convinced there is so much more. See Ephesians 3:20….Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…

  • A card was turned in today by a former church member who came back to PCC after being gone a while. He wrote a note on the card asking me to make contact with him. I didn’t see him in service but got the note; I will be calling him this week.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pants on the Ground


Count me in. I am an offical fan of this one-hit wonder.


Friday, January 22, 2010

My Personal Jesus


I think a lot of people might be embracing a Jesus that is a figment of their own imagination. He is a gentle guy who requires nothing, expects nothing, demands nothing, and let’s us pick-and-choose which parts of the Bible we want to live by. His nature has been changed and lifted right out of the scriptures and refashioned into a “graven image” made with our own hands. A far cry from the Holy Scriptures.

Christianity often has too much bling and we love excitement, yet we don’t value staying power or bearing fruit of the Spirit. To some, Jesus is not the God of holy writ, but just a ‘good ole boy’ who let's me get away with everything.

Sola scriptura

Thursday, January 21, 2010

No Sugar

I've been on a sugar fast for four days. Robert Hughes sent me this classic 70s hit "No Sugar".... tonight in my coffee... no sugar in my tea.

Oh man, does this song ever bring back memories. It came out in 1972 (I think) which means I was 14 or 15 years old when it was recorded and released. Thanks Robert.

Take a listen... it's still good.

1/2 the Small Groups this Semester


It looks like one half of our small group leaders are not going to be leading a small group during the next semester. This means that PCC will be offering one half the number of groups normally offered.

Some of our leaders simply need a break, one couple is being transferred to the west coast, and another couple is about to have their first baby, still others are encountering issues related to demands at their place of employment. This is normal & natural and is one of the reasons we offer small groups on semester cycles – it provides a Sabbath rest for our leaders that is built-in to the system (making it easy to take advantage of, preventing burnout).

Fewer groups is not all bad, and may actually be better for us right now. They will be easier to administrate, plus it is much safer for the church to offer fewer groups (if need be) that are being led by leaders who are trusted than it is to offer dozens of groups being led by leaders we don’t know very well. For example, I could make an announcement on Sunday morning asking anyone who is interested in leading a group to come forward and then release them to do so, but it would be a recipe for disaster. Small group leaders must be properly trained first. It is essential that all small group leaders have full buy-in to PCC's vision.

There is a reason why the Bible says, “know them which labor among you” (1 Thessalonians 5:12). This means church leaders or laborers (whether that be staff members, teachers, small group leaders, deacons, etc), should be proven before being released into an oversight capacity or teaching ministry. If we offer fewer groups (than normal) this semester it is safer for us and more edifying to the body than it would be if we offered more groups that were being led by people who had not met the criteria of an approval process.

We have made that mistake in the past… and will never make it again.

Having said that, I must confess that we have been most UNSUCCESSFUL in the area of recruiting and developing additional small group leaders. The best method for expanding a small groups ministry is by ‘apprenticing’ and ‘developing’ future small group leaders ‘within’ the context of existing small groups. This is where we have failed.

Small groups (in an of themselves) are NOT the goal. The goal is to MAKE DISCIPLES. How is that best achieved? No matter how cute our mission statements are, no matter how clever our methodology is, and no matter how desperate we are to see our programs work, the goal is to make disciples. All that is really needed is a Bible and a godly mentor.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wandering Sheep


Please read this excerpt by Philip Keller, a sheep herder from South Africa. It is most insightful:

I once owned an ewe whose conduct typified the kind of Christian that never stays in one place very long. She was one of the most attractive sheep that ever belonged to me. Her body was beautifully proportioned. She had a strong constitution and an excellent coat of wool. Her head was clean, alert, well-set with bright eyes. She bore sturdy lambs that matured rapidly.

But in spite of all these attractive attributes she had one pronounced fault. She was restless – discontented – a fence crawler. So much so that I came to call here “Mrs. Gad-about.”

This one ewe produced more problems for me than all the rest of the flock combined. No matter what field or pasture the sheep were in, she would search all along the fences or shoreline (we lived by the sea) looking for a loophole she could crawl through and start to feed on the other side.

It was not that she lacked pasturage. My fields were my joy and delight. No sheep in the district had better grazing. With “Mrs. Gad-about” it was an ingrained habit. She was simply never contented with the things as they were. Often when she had forced her way through some such spot in the fence or found a way around the end of the wire at low tide on the beaches, she would end up feeding on bare, brown, burned-up pasturage of a most inferior sort.

But she never learned her lesson and continued to fence crawl time after time.

Now it would have been bad enough if she was the only one who did this. It was a sufficient problem to find her and bring her back. But the further point was that she taught her lambs the same tricks. They simply followed her example and soon were as skilled at escaping as their mother. Even worse, however, was the example she set for the other sheep. In a short time she began to lead others through the same holes and over the same dangerous paths down by the sea.

After putting up with her perverseness for a summer I finally came to a conclusion that to save the rest of the flock from becoming unsettled, she would have to go. I could not allow one obstinate, discontented ewe to ruin the whole ranch operation. It was a difficult decision to make, for I loved her in the same way I loved the rest. Her strength and beauty and alertness were a delight to the eye. But one morning I took the killing knife in hand and butchered her. Her career of fence crawling was cut short. It was the only solution to the dilemma.

She was a sheep, who in spite of all that I had done to give her the very best care – still wanted something else.
================

There are amazing spiritual truths in this story.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Day at the Beach

......

Renae and I took the day off. Since the weather was perfect we decided to head to the beach and ended up at Ft. Pickens. We took a lot of pictures, toured the fort, and ate at Hemmingway's. Mostly, we just enjoyed the outdoors. It was a welcome break from the normal daily grind.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump


  • Real good church today.

  • Attendance was 499 - (178) in second service.

  • Loved the 3rd song (From the Inside Out) – it was very moving.

  • It was very good to see some old friends in service today. Former members - sheep of this flock - about seven of them - came home after being away for awhile. It was like a family reunion. Maybe there will be more.

  • Loved the piano story. I could tell everyone did. To hear the rest of the story check out Renae’s blog.

  • Someone (SG) asked me to never dance again on the stage. I guess doing the “Funky Chicken” was too much.

  • This series through Malachi is being well-received by almost everyone. The ‘strong word’ doesn’t seem to be scaring anyone away.

  • Yes, it’s in the Bible – God really did say “I will spread offal/dung on your faces.” Yes, I really did teach from that passage today (Malachi 2:3). And Yes, I really did say, "That's another way of saying 'I will rub your nose in it.'"

  • Today we learned what the priests did to violate their ministerial covenant (1) Failed to have a heart that honored God (2) Failed to teach God’s Word accurately (3) Showed favoritism in their teaching. This disqualified them from the ministry.

  • Not everyone who is “in” the ministry is actually “qualified” to be there. Also, many who do enter the ministry qualified, often become “disqualified” because of misconduct.

  • Next Sunday we will be talking about the Covenant of Marriage (Malachi 2)

  • Some people have a problem with the miracles Jesus performed when He was on earth. Myself, I would have a problem with a god who could not do supernatural things.

  • The miracles of Jesus were not magic tricks. They were sign to prove He was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. i.e., Healing the man on the Sabbath Day demonstrated that He was Lord over tradition. Casting out demons showed that He had authority over evil. Feed 5000 people revealed that He is our great provider. Healing the ten lepers communicates to us that He is the Great Physician. Raising Lazarus from the grave proved that He has authority over death.

  • Why would anyone put their trust in anything else?

  • I'm in the mood for some JACK..... Jack Bauer that is. The season premiere of 24 comes on tonight! Agent Bauer saves the world again.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tomorrows Message


“The Covenant of Spiritual Leadership" from Malachi 2:1-9.

This message will be about preachers and those who are in the ministry. We will discover how the priests in OT Israel broke the covenant of leadership, disqualifying them from the ministry. There are many applications for the church today. WARNING - a strong word, but an encouraging word.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Ruin of Leaving....


Unity was a central component of Jesus’ teaching style. He purposely chose to train and develop His disciples through real life experiences by which they would know Him, trust Him, and in the end follow Him.

But to experience all that God had for them, the disciples had to be there and not leave. Commitment to each other was essential. To leave prematurely or to desert one another because of a difference of opinion would thwart the process of God. In fact, it brought eternal disaster to Judas Iscariot; not to mention ending his ministry.

In order to grow into the kind of disciple that Christ wants us to be, we need to be there too; among fellow believers and stay there through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Leaving, quitting, or changing churches must not be such an easy option for us; yet it seems to the first choice for many.

Unity is faithfulness and fidelity. Jesus promised to never leave His followers (Matthew 28:20) and He never will. Jesus modeled fidelity (staying together) as a healthy and right kind of lifestyle for a member of His Body to live. He understood that spiritual growth and maturity demand a trust that is forged through thick-and-thin resulting in a commitment to one another.

When believers find it easier to quit a church or change churches because of disagreement or relational tension, it is like amputating a part of your body – and can be just as painful. It’s almost like a divorce - the destruction of a relationship.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Church Carpetbaggers


Every pastor experiences them – carpetbaggers. A group of people shows up at your church, fifteen-to-twenty in size, and they appear to be such wonderful people. Almost immediately the church experiences a positive impact. Within a few weeks or months they start getting involved. The new energy is refreshing.

These people press their way into the pastor’s world. With gifts, invitations, and kind words they befriend the pastor and his family. They gain entry into the pastor’s heart with enthusiasm and goodwill. “This church is so wonderful; your sermons are so powerful” they gush. They jump into ministry roles, get the pastor and church resources committed to new programs, and seem to be an answer to prayer.

Then, just when you think the church is on the verge of something big, they pull out - en masse. The pastor is left dumbfounded and bewildered. Their sudden disappearance cripples the church with the pain of rejection and the false start of new ministries.

As they leave you hear words like, “God is leading us to take another path” or “We feel led of the Spirit to join another church” or “God told me to leave.” Whatever. God is not within a million miles of those claims. It's usually relational conflict that they are unable or unwilling to resovle that leads them to the next church.

In truth, these people are nothing more than recreational church hoppers who flit from place to place when it suits their convenience. They wreak havoc on every church they become a part of through their pilfering, making them insensitive carpetbaggers. Through their actions the body is Christ is not built up, instead the bond of peace is destroyed. Their perpetual habit of bouncing from church-to-church promotes division and enables strife to go unreconciled.

This is a pattern of behavior that must be exposed and corrected. To allow it to go unchallenged, or to pretend it did not happen, is to become party to it and only perpetuates this sin.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What if the Pharisees Had a Blog?


If the Pharisees had access to a blog, or better yet, twitter, these are the kinds of things I think they would have written:
  • I heard this guy named Jesus teach today. Not very impressed. All He did was tell stories and parables, and didn’t go in depth like the guys at the temple do.

  • That Jesus dude healed a sick man on the Sabbath Day right in front of everyone. It was so disrespectful. Besides, doesn’t He realize that He violated the traditions of our fathers?

  • So this Jesus guy fed over 5000 people with loaves and fishes. BIG DEAL! Seems like entertainment to me. All He is trying to do is draw a large crowd rather than teaching anything of substance.

  • These followers of Jesus are now teaching His doctrines…. and they haven't even been to seminary!!

  • How can fishermen and tax collectors be teachers? They are not academically advanced, and they don't know how to speak Latin! Solo Scriptura!

  • This Jesus guy keeps hanging out with the local riffraff. He is the friend of sinners.

  • Jesus won’t answer any of our questions! WHAT IS HE AFRAID OF?

  • Jesus called us snakes & vipers today. Doesn’t He know that name-calling is unbecoming for a Christian to do?

  • Jesus kicked over some tables in the temple today. I think He has anger issues.

  • This Jesus dude waters down His teachings. Why, he says that ANYONE can be forgiven!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ushers Meeting & Security Issues


Last Sunday afternoon the ushers met to discuss all duties related to their role at PCC. We talked about providing better service to our guests and members, how to offer assistance to anyone for any need, being familiar with the building and all equipment, as well as anything else they can do to serve our people better.

Topping the list of discussion was ‘security’ in the weekend services. We addressed some important issues and now have clarification on what needs to be done. We emphasized the importance of maintaining a secure environment in the children’s wing for the safety of all children, not allowing strangers to loiter in the atrium, how to handle “characters” in the service, how to handle those who might become disruptive or combative, maintaining a roving patrol throughout the building and in the parking lot, as well as ‘bodyguard’ types in the sanctuary.

To that end, the ushers will be improving our current ‘security systems.’ This is likely to involve additional instruction, training drills for emergencies, and appropriate response plans in the event of a fire, medical emergencies, or an armed intruder.

This is Pace Community Church “at your service.”

Taking Pot Shots


What does it mean when others spend their time taking pot shots at you? No one ever takes pot shots at those who are invisible or unknown; just those who have apparent success.

Consider this story from the Bible:

In Mark 9:28, the disciples tried to cast out a demon. They were unsuccessful, and thoroughly humiliated. Later the disciples came to Jesus complaining about someone else who was successful at casting out demons. They told Jesus, “We told the man to stop doing this because he was not one of our followers” (v.38). Jesus was quick to correct His disciples, “Forbid him not. Whoever is not against us is for us: (v.39).

You’ve got to wonder. Were the disciples really concerned about CORRECT ORTHODOXY or THEOLOGY here? Is there really only ONE RIGHT WAY to cast out a demon? Is there only ONE GROUP who is ALLOWED to do it? Or were the disciples just jealous because this guy was producing results they were unable to achieve?

If a neighboring pastor makes subversive remarks about another church, it’s not because he is motivated by a pure desire for evangelism and discipleship in HIS OWN church. There’s a good chance he is jealous of the numerical gains of others that seem to elude him year after year. So it is easier to medicate his own failure by complaining to God and others about why “they are not doing it right.”

The next time you find yourself about to critique the methods and successes of someone else, check yourself. You might be motivated by jealously.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Distraction Caused by Naysayers


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

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

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

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

I have faced the same kind of situation in my own ministry. There are plenty of people who have tried to pull me into “their agenda” when I already have one of my own. To be pulled into needless conversations, arguments, or debates, is not leadership wisdom; it is immature because it expends valuable energy and time that could be used more productively elsewhere.

For the most part I totally ignore the temptation to be drawn into someone else’s agenda or demands from outsiders that I explain myself. I don’t have the time to be “doting about words” in endless pontification. I have a church to lead; a church that requires my full time and attention; a church that is actually accomplishing something for the kingdom; a church that gives me a great deal of joy to serve. As Nehemiah said, “I am doing a great work…. Why should the work cease while I leave it and come down to you?” (Neh. 6:3).

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

And Sanballat the critic? Well, once he was ignored he just faded away.

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

Whoa! 1000 Hits in 2 Days!


I didn’t realize my blog was that interesting to so many people. If only that many attended PCC…..

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump

  • Had a real good day.

  • Introduced a new song – it was done well and its message was on-target

  • Attendance was good – 493. Of that number 109 were kids & teens

  • We actually had 180 in the second service

  • Today’s message (The Curse of Careless Worship) was a good word and a strong one too. Coming from Malachi 1:6-14 we learned that it was the quality of our offerings that God is most concerned with. Our giving to God must pass two tests: (1) It has to be first and (2) It has to be our best

  • Here’s a thought: You might be broke because of your bills. On the other hand you might be broke because you are not honoring God in the area of your finances

  • Loved the “couch” story

  • A lot (a lot) of people told me how meaningful the message was to them. I hope this standard represents a new normal for the people of PCC. God-honoring worship in all we do must be our focus

  • Had an ushers meeting today in which we talked about the duties and responsibilities of our ushers and how they may serve the people of PCC better. This is one more piece of a deliberate plan we have in place to raise the bar at PCC and get ourselves off to a good start for 2010. Good productive meeting - got a lot accomplished.

  • We also talked about security issues in this meeting. There are lot of areas to that we need to ensure we have protection for, and I am confident we now have them covered. I also asked which of the men is WILLING TO TAKE A BULLET FOR ME – apparently I need some kind of body guard protection

  • Proud that so many braved the very cold weather to be in church

  • In the first service a couple had to get up leave; he was having chest pains and was taken to the hospital. I went to high school with him and his wife; my sister walked out with them

  • Looking at my counter I notice that my blog has had more than 500 hits in less than 48 hours. Hmmm.....

  • We have the most amazing church!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Comment to Me and My Response


My point was made, the appropriate parties have acknowledged receipt, and this matter is now closed.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Methods


No matter what endeavor you are in, some people will question your methods. Nowhere is this truer than in church work. It doesn’t matter what you do, or how you do it, someone will be there to question it or challenge it.

I remember having a meeting a couple of years ago with a guy in our church (who at the time served here). He believed in predestination (i.e., that God selected some people to be saved and all others were damned no matter what, so it would be pointless for the church to make any effort). Because of that belief he said that PCC’s efforts at evangelism were “plastic” and “pre-packaged” (his exact words). That didn’t set very well with me and things went south in a hurry.

People questioned Jesus and His methods too. For instance, He didn’t expect His disciples to wash themselves for ceremonial cleansing before they ate corn. The Pharisees thought it was a sin. Jesus healed people on Sabbath Day, which the Pharisees also thought was a sin. Think about that for a moment. Some people got bent out of shape because Jesus healed sick people on the Sabbath instead of waiting until tomorrow! No matter how much good He did, He was always being criticized by “do nothings.”

There is simply no way you can please every person who walks through the church doors. The people are too diverse and the opinions too many. Instead, what pastors and church leaders need to do is figure out the call of God on their life, what the mandate of the church is, and then set a course to fulfill that mission and DO IT with NO APOLOGIES. Let the chips fall where they may.

Peter was called to the Jews. Paul was called to the Gentiles. Therefore their ministries looked different. They had the same message but used different methods because the group of people that each was targeting for evangelism was
different.

If you are trying to please everyone, you will succeed in pleasing no one.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Not Everyone Likes Mushrooms


Some people love mushrooms. Others hate them. Mushrooms aren’t bad; nor are they good. It’s simply a matter of preference and taste.

In the same way, there are people in churches that prefer things to be a certain way. The thing they love might be the very thing another person hates. What draws one person to our church might be the thing that keeps someone else from attending.

This isn’t bad. In fact, it’s far more dangerous to put mushrooms on the burger one week and leave them off the next week.

When we plan our services, organize the children’s ministry, choose a sermon series, and select songs, we know we can’t please everyone. Trying to do so will result in a watered down service that nobody will enjoy. Once we identified who our target audience was going to be, we then tailored our ministry style accordingly.

You can’t please mushroom lovers and mushroom haters at the same time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One Thing I Ask


What is the ‘one thing’ that you desire from God more than anything else?

When David was on the run and in fear of his life, he prayed:

“ONE THING I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4)

If you can identify the ‘one thing’ you desire from God it will bring laser focus to your prayers. Maybe above all else you desire a family member to come to Christ. Maybe you want to hear God’s voice about a specific direction for your life. Your ‘one thing’ might be healing in your marriage. Maybe you need wisdom in handling a rebellious child. Or like David, your ‘one thing’ might be to simply draw nearer to God.

As you seek God in 2010, what is the ‘one thing’ you desire from God more than anything else?

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Value of Multiple Church Services


I am amazed when I hear about churches who are out of space and are entering another building program to expand the facilities, yet have only one Sunday morning service. If Sunday morning attendance is running more than 200-300 people, then that church should initiate two services right away. Here’s why:

1. It’s Good Stewardship. Don’t spend money on a new facility when you can use the current facility multiple times on Sunday. That makes good financial sense. Church buildings are notoriously inefficient buildings – some of these cathedrals cost multiple millions of dollars and sit idle six ½ days a week.

2. It’s Better For Our Volunteers. By offering two services our volunteers can SERVE ONE and ATTEND ONE. It is not healthy to have people consistently missing the adult service because they volunteer in the back each Sunday. This also means we can do away with those CONFUSING VOLUNTEER ROTATION SCHEDULES and all the complications that go with it. And yes, some volunteers do serve in both services (i.e., those in the adult service like ushers, musicians, singers,) but still everyone is out by noon.

3. It Gives People Options. People like options, which is why restaurants serve different items on the menu and you can choose from 743 different flavors of soda. Some people like an earlier service, others prefer a later service.

4. It Is Better Use of Space. We couldn’t go back to one service right now even if we wanted to for one simple reason – space. Yes, we still have seats still available in the adult service, but that’s not true in the nursery, preschool class, and children’s ministry area. If we tried to cram all the babies and kids down into those rooms for one service, it would be chaos! Teachers & volunteers would be overwhelmed, kids would be irritable, and the parents upset. We would actually end up losing people. It just makes sense to use our available space in this manner.

5. It breaks the single-cell mentality that can hinder growth.
Some people say, “If we go to two services I won’t know everyone anymore.” THAT is EXACTLY WHY churches should go to multiple services. When people believe that they have to know everybody in the church for it to feel like it’s “their church,” then those people can actually prevent growth by resisting it every step of the way. The fact is the average person knows about 65 people in their church no matter how large or small it is, so having multiple services takes nothing away from them.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump

  • Good solid day. A lot of “God honoring” activity in the house.

  • Attendance was good (451). Sound system was tweaked perfectly. Giving was very strong. Thanks to everyone who made it happen.

  • The teen department Ministry Team had a planning meeting after church today. Served lunch, planned for the next quarter, handed out assignments, and made good strides getting a jump start for 2010.

  • Next Sunday (Jan 10) our ushers department is having a planning meeting. Will be talking about security, specific duties, and other procedures. Should be very productive.

  • The Sunday after that (Jan 17) there will be a department meeting for the children’s ministry and all workers, etc. Same agenda; planning, strategy, assignments, vision casting, etc.

  • All teams are getting taking their roles seriously and "getting with the program." Love it.

  • The finance department is diligently working on closing out 2009, and preparing the 2010 budget and finalizing other financial procedures that will be adopted this year. A financial report will be available by the end of the month, and your giving reports will be mailed to you by then as well.

  • BTW, we finished 2009 much stronger financially than we were anticipating – about $18,000 more than 2008.

  • The current series through Malachi is going to be very profitable for us as a church, and for each individual who longs to honor God. It’s a good message to start the New Year with – honoring God.

  • By the time we finish this series in Malachi, a new dye will have been cast in our church – I am certain that deeper devotion towards God will become the “new normal” for us.

  • A message series based upon the book of Job is still in the works; a message that people need to hear.

  • We are considering making some changes in the Sunday morning service and experimenting with new ideas on how we do things; such as when we take up the offering; changing the way we close/conclude the service; a new gift-packet for first-time guests at the welcome center; and scaling back some of the food items in the atrium.

  • The children (from PCC Kidz) went ice skating today. I know they are having a blast!

  • Several people said nice things about the message today.

  • We received good testimonies on the communication cards too.

  • I met a new guy today who told me it was his third visit with us. He bragged about the friendliness of our church people, the worship, the guest services, etc. I liked it when he said, “you guys are ‘outside the box’ on a lot of things here and I love it.”

  • There was a man visiting in church today that I went to High School with. Haven't seen him in thirty-five years! In fact, we were close friends back then. It was like a ghost from my past walking in. This man recently gave his life to Christ (about 1 year ago). When he heard that I was pastoring a church in the area he just had to come "see it for himself." We had a long pleasant chat after the second service.

  • We have gotten off to a strong start for 2010 and I’m convinced it’s going to be a great year.

  • Check back each day this week… I will be posting daily.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Series Begins This Sunday


About 2400 years ago, Malachi told the people of Israel how they could secure God’s blessing and that message still speaks to us today. Malachi’s message was one of obedience to God, promising that God would open the windows of heaven in blessing if the people would only heed his message.

As we journey together through the book of Malachi, verse-by-verse, you will learn how to live in a manner that is pleasing to God. You will be challenged, provoked, encouraged, and possibly even rebuked. You will learn how to honor God and discover what He expects of His people. This will prompt you to begin living a life that pleases God and when His blessings come you will know that it is because of His favor.

This is going to be awesome!