Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ministry Alignment (Part 2)


(Part I here)  written in January.

Ministry alignment means getting everyone on board with the direction of the church.  But that’s not all.  It means getting everyone in agreement with “how” it’s going to get done.

For example:  Putting together a ministry team is a lot like a group of friends traveling together on a road trip.  Just because everyone shares a love for travel and agrees to the destination, DOES NOT mean they’ll automatically agree on the same route to get there.

On the contrary, if someone doesn’t step forward to clearly lay out the route and a predetermined schedule, the group won’t stay together long.  Someone will opt for the scenic route.  Another will choose the most direct route.  The hard chargers want to gulp down coffee and energy drinks while pushing on through the night.  Others will insist on eight hours of sleep and regular rest stops as the only way to get there safely.

Now, all of these routes and schedules can work.  But if it’s supposed to be a “group trip”, someone has to make sure that everyone knows that on "this trip", we are following "this route" and "this schedule."

In many ways, that’s the role of a church leadership, especially in a church with multiple ministries.  It’s not enough to pull together a team that shares a common theological or philosophical perspective.  You have to also make sure that everyone understands where we’re going, the route we’re taking to get there, and how it’s going to get done.



Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Blog-Blast!


1.  This Sunday Greg Gill will be speaking, taking the next section of scripture from the book of James.  The topic will be about not showing favoritism in the church.  You’ll want to be there for sure.  Greg is an engaging speaker and I’m certain you’ll enjoy his talk and will be edified by God’s Word.

2.  I will be speaking the following two Sundays.

3.  On Mother’s Day I might take a break from the James series to preach a message entitled, Why Men Hate Going to Church.  Usually on Mother’s Day we hear a message on womanhood, mothers, or the Proverbs 31 woman, which is entirely appropriate.  However, since the building is likely to be full of men who come only two or three times a year, I thought it might be a good idea to speak directly to them (in a language they can relate to, addressing their concerns about church attendance, challenging them with the gospel, and to step up).

4.  If I don’t teach this message on Mother’s Day, it can wait for a later day.  If you would like your man to hear this on Mother’s Day, let me know.  I’d like your feedback.

5.  As a strategy for PCC’s future, my intent is to specifically target men, challenge men, and develop them for leadership and spiritual maturity.

6.  I just might devote a sermon series to the topic.

7.  Changing the subject.  It is music to my ears when a stranger walks into the church offices and asks, “Is the minister here?” and I hear the reply in the hallway, “I am one of them.  Can I help you?”  Pure-music-to-my-ears.

8.  A church benefits when there is more than one pastor.

9.  My garden is taking off.  Very excited.  Pulled my first garlic yesterday.  Huge.  Very flavorful. 

10.  Speaking of taking off, I’m taking a week off next month for a fishing trip.  Can’t wait.

11.  A lot of good things are happening at PCC.  This church is an exciting place.

12.  God prunes the vine to stimulate new growth (John 15).  Every departure from this church makes room for new growth too.  Some really neat people are stepping up right now, new talent is being deployed, and new fruit is on the vine.

13.  Did you know that the role of a senior pastor changes as the church grows and his tenure  becomes longer?  It does.  Or, it should.  I’m at the life stage right now that a large part of my ministry needs to be devoted to training the next generation of leaders.  I have to be about 2 Timothy 2:2.

14.  I’ll write about this soon.  I’m talking about Pastoral succession.

15.  Don’t forget this Sunday.  It’s going to be a great day.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Pride of Clergymen


Just because people look to us when we teach from the platform, we must not automatically think we possess knowledge, spiritual insights, or anything not available to the least among us.  They could be listening to God themselves.

Just because they fill the pews to worship and in the process listen to our sermons and say good things afterwards, does not mean they are there to hear us.  They could be there for greater reasons.

If they laugh at our jokes and weep at our stories, we are not to think of ourselves as gifted communicators who have mastered our craft.  It could be they are people of grace and graciousness who are simply being polite.

We are messengers for Jesus Christ.  Our sole assignment is to lift Him up.

Anything more is wrong.

And it could be dangerous.

There is the temptation to pontificate.  A pulpiteer pontificates when he comes across as a little pope sharing the mind of God with mere earthlings, or dictating behavior to his listeners.  He believes something is true simply because he said it.

All humility has gone out the window.  All gray areas have disappeared, and all questions about right and wrong have their solution in his pronouncements.  Lord help his congregation.

There is the temptation to preen.  Privately, he spends too much time checking his image in the mirror and goes to extremes to see that his clothing and coiffure are only the best.  His public expects nothing less from him, he assures himself.  The household budget is sacrificed so that he can dress the part he has chosen for himself.  Pity his poor wife, if he has one.

The moment the messenger begins to think he himself is the message, everything goes downhill from there on.

The temptation towards posturing.  He expects to be treated differently from others, to be taken to the head of the line at the restaurant, to be recognized by the public, and acclaimed by everyone.  Everything he does is determined, not by the question, “what does the Lord want?” but “what will enhance my ministry?

Any pastor who has been doing the Lord’s work for a decade or more has seen the type, and is sickened by it.

Let the preacher say with John the Baptist, “He must increase; I must decrease.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why I Don't Believe in Atheism


“In the beginning, God…” (Genesis 1:1)

That's the first phrase of the very first verse of the Bible.  Nowhere does the Bible try to prove the existence of God.  He is.  Period.  Deal with it, earthlings.

Atheists are certain that we mindless believers in God  and an afterlife have never considered the superior evidence for the positions they hold.  Surely, if we did, they think, we would renounce the church and join them.

Most of the solid believers I know have considered atheism at one time or another.  I did, while in my early twenties.  I investigated the teachings of atheism – at the same time I investigated the teachings of Christianity – and uncovered deep, life changing truths.  After I thought about the ramifications of it all, I made my choice to stand with the company of believers.

I’ve never regretted it.  Here’s why:

1.  As a general rule, atheists tend to be a pretty miserable group of people, while the best Christians I know are also the most put-together, positive, and effective people in the room.  While Christian people are filled with flaws, as the Lord’s people they also seem to be the best-mannered, generous, goal-oriented achievers anyone could know.  If you look at the product of atheism and Christianity, there is no contest.

2.  I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.  Choosing to believe that this entire universe originated out of nothing  and will end by chance requires more faith than this small town Florida boy from Bagdad can muster.

3.  Some very smart people – much smarter than me – scholars – have investigated Christianity and have concluded its validity.  While a large portion of Christian people have never investigated various apologetic aspects – i.e., evidence for the resurrection, the historical accounts of Jesus Christ, the integrity of Scripture, etc – a great many have.  Christianity is verifiable… and it can withstand debate by the highest critical thinkers.  Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, for instance, said, “Christianity is the only world religion that has come through the scientific revolution and emerged intact.”

4.  I have everything to gain and nothing to lose.  Following this line of reasoning with me:  If God does not exist, then when I get to the end of my life I have lost nothing. My lights simply go out and that’s the end.  On the hand, if God does exist and there is a final judgement, then the atheist is in a great deal of trouble when he opens his eyes on the other side.  What about that can they not see?

5.  The fruit of both atheism and Christianity is evident.  No movement on the face of the earth has built more schools, more orphanages, more hospitals, colleges, rehabilitation centers, shelters for the homeless, and relieved more human suffering than the Church and Christianity!  Does anyone know of any charitable ministry started by the godless atheists?  Show me one, and I can show you hundreds of hospitals, colleges, children’s homes, and crisis centers begun by Christ-followers.  The fruit of Christianity is superior. 

6.  There are the miracles.  When I consider the existence of Holy Scripture, (the uniformity of them, the prophecies, the clarity, and a thousand other aspects), the existence of the Man from Galilee (His birth, life, death, and resurrection; His teachings and promises, etc), the existence of the Church (so flawed, without its divine nature, surely it would have vanished long ago), and the existence of honest inquiry among believers (a sure sign, if you ask me, that God’s people are into Truth and nothing else), then I am convinced these miracles are proof of God's existance.  They are evidence enough.

7.  My testimony – and yours – on the power of God that changed our lives.  My life was dramatically and eternally altered when I was in my mid-20s.  I shudder to think where I would be right now if not for having such an encounter with Jesus Christ.  And I have seen this miracle (of life change) tens of thousands of times over during my lifetime and ministry.  Surely, there is something powerful to this thing called the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Point out my flaws, and I will not argue with you.  I am still full of them.  My only reply is that my life is so much more than it would have been without Christ.

I could not be an atheist on my worst day.  God has done far too much for me to be so ungrateful.

Friday, April 19, 2013

30 Minutes Before Hot Grease



Sheepsdead, Flounder, & Spanish Mackerel

Thursday, April 18, 2013

4 Pillars for Deacons Ministry (their role)


Last week I heard of two separate churches embroiled in an internal controversy.  Rouge deacons were making the lives of their pastors miserable, presenting silly lists of requirements which they have to meet, and threatening them with termination.

By what sick interpretation of God’s Word does anyone find that kind of activity in Scripture, someone tell me?

It gets better.

One of the pastors and the entire staff are being forced out.  The church business meeting turned into a sort of “Jerry Springer Show.”  After the meeting ended, several fistfights almost broke out.  Most of the godly leadership in this church has resigned too.  This particular pastor has been in office 30 months.   That’s 2 ½ years.

Un-be-liev-able.

Churches are being molested and abused by these kinds of people and the systems that put them in power.

Safeguarding the Church begins with its pastors.  Yes, the pastors.  It continues with a group of people who should be the healthiest, most normal, kindest, and most Christ-like people in the church – the deacons.

But if the deacons themselves are not healthy, if they are trouble-makers and preacher-bosses, if they constantly war among themselves and are at odds with the rest of the church’s leadership, the church is at great risk.

What makes a healthy deacon ministry?  Short answer: It will be Scripturally correct.  Long answer:  A healthy deacon ministry is based on these four pillars:

1.  Deacons are to be Spirit-filled and godly.  In brief, they should be the healthiest men in the church.  Period.  What’s so difficult about that?  This is what the apostles told the congregation at Jerusalem: “Select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” (Acts 6:3).  Even if we did not have the additional passage of Timothy 3:8-13, this passage from Acts would be sufficient to give the church its finest men to serve in the most critical ways.

2. Deacons are servants.  This is so elementary, we should almost be embarrassed to make the point. That’s what diakonos means. Only 3 times in the New Testament does the word refer to deacons in the church.  All the other times the word refers to household or estate servants.  A servant works to make others successful. He/she stays in the background.

3. Deacons serve the congregation.  Based on the few references to deacons in Scripture, we conclude that deacons were chosen to deal with needs within the congregation and not in the community at large.  Neither did they supervise the apostles.

4. Deacons serve under the oversight of pastors.  Acts 20:28 makes the point that the pastors/elders are made overseers of the church (episkopos) by the Holy Spirit.  Overseer does not mean boss or dictator, but it does mean overseer. (Our word “supervisor” is the same word. Super means “over” and visor means “to see").  That's what pastors do.

Unless this is clearly spelled out in church documents and the structure put in place, the human (and thus “sinful”) tendency will be to drift away from this oversight. Before long, particularly if no oversight is ever given by the ministers, a headstrong deacon will assert authority over the pastors. The life of the church is all downhill from that moment on. Nothing good will come from this. Nada. Zilch. The news will all be bad.

Someone asks, “But what if the pastor is lazy or preaching false doctrine or has fallen into sin?” Answer: He must be dealt with. But not by the deacons; they do not have this as their assignment.  He must be disciplined by other pastors/ministers.

In the Bible the apostles were accountable to other apostles, pastors to other pastors, elders to other elders, and overseers accountable to other overseers.

This is why a church benefits when there is a plurality of pastors. This group stands together with the senior minister, speaks up for him when necessary, and speaks to him forcefully when required.  Pastors and ministers have the responsibility of preserving the integrity of the ministry by policing itself and administering discipline to one another.

But when there is only one pastor, it creates a leadership vacuum.  Without a plurality of pastors, the deacons often step in to fill the role.  The problem is that they are not equipped for this task.  Here's why:  One distinguishing feature of pastors verses deacons in I Timothy is that pastors should be “able to teach” (meaning they are gifted to preach/teach and they possess a living knowledge of the Word)... and most deacons, quite frankly, do not fit that criteria.  Thus, their leadership is not informed by the Word and, of course, things go bad.  That’s why they are not called to oversee the church, but to serve in its ministries.



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How Not to Choose Deacons


There are only two places in the Bible where deacons are mentioned in any depth.  I Timothy 3 gives the qualifications of deacons, and Acts 6 tells of the one instance of their selection.

The role of deacons is evident in Scripture too.  They are ministry servants.  Assistants.  They were never involved in church oversight or the supervision of the apostles.

Nowhere in the Scripture are churches actually commanded to have deacons.  Therefore, each church must decide for itself whether to have deacons and when to have them.  Once it chooses to do so, the question becomes how to choose them.

The Bible tells us how.  Most ignore it.  In its place, many churches choose the worst possible method:

By popular vote.

There is no system on the planet worse than simply handing a ballot to the membership containing the names of all adult men and asking people to “Please mark no more than 5”, or whatever.

Some good and godly men will be nominated, but you can take it to the bank that  some real scoundrels will be nominated too, lacking integrity, and some without a genuine faith in Christ.

Could there be a process worse than this?  Probably, but I can’t think of it.

If you use this system, you’re going to get what you ask for.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

These Men Have No Business Being Deacons


Clark expects to be a deacon of the church he and his wife Eloise recently joined.  After all, why shouldn’t he?  He owns the paper mill at the edge of town and employs a third of the men in the church.  His tithe is probably twice that of any other contributor.  In any gathering of men, his voice and personality is the strongest, and his authority unquestioned.

A word to Clark’s church: Do not appoint or elect this man to anything.

Nothing disqualifies a Christian from being chosen for service than a sense of entitlement.  “I deserve this.”

I’m no prophet, but I know what will happen if Clark is made deacon:

1. Clark will expect to be chairman.  He is no follower, but a (“ahem”) real leader.

2.  Clark will have his own agenda for the church.

3.  Clark will expect the pastor and staff to give great weight to his suggestions (which, pastor be forewarned, are not really suggestions but your assignment).

4.  When he does not get his way, Clark will cause trouble. 

5.  The pastor will grieve the day Clark ever joined his church.  And the congregation, torn between wanting to follow their God-sent shepherd but unwilling to buck the authority of the town’s heavyweight, is powerless.

Here are six men I have known in churches who had no business being deacons… or anything else for that matter.  Yet, they found their way into position because of unbiblical systems that installed them.  And the church suffered for it.

1.  The Honcho.  He’s not interested in being a servant.  He’s only interested in being a big fish in a little pond.

2.  The Inspector General.  He doesn’t actually do anything himself (like serving), but he faithfully attends deacons meeting to make sure everyone else – especially the staff – is doing their jobs.  He sits through a two-hour session, takes part in the discussions, gives his approval or his non-approval of what the pastor is doing, and drives home in full contentment that he has done his job.  He cannot be counted on when work days are announced at the church. He never shows up on visitation nights. He says he has no skills for home repairs, so forget about asking him to build the handicapped ramp on the widow’s house.  His job is to critique the work of others.

3.  The Pew-Sitter.  The problem here is that the church is small, the men are few, and the members feel deacons must be male… so he is elected by default.  Since the church constitution requires five deacons, he is chosen as the fifth man. 

Not a good system… and this man has no business being a deacon either.

4.  The Plotter.  He’s always maneuvering.  He takes no one at face value, sees hidden motives behind everything, and finds problems where none exist.  He invites the pastor and family to dine with him and his wife Henrietta at the country club to influence them to see his way.  He is convinced he is the epitome of a faithful deacon.

5.  The Spokesperson for Others.  He walks into the office and says, “Pastor, some people in the church are saying….” Or “A few members are complaining….”  Instead of running interference against these complainers and striving for unity in the church, he is a magnet for complainers, squeaky wheels, and gossips.  They run to him because they know he will gladly listen.  Why was this man made a deacon in the first place?  It doesn’t matter.  He is unqualified.

6.  The Wanna Be Preacher.  He’s always wanted to be a preacher.  Or maybe his father or some other relative was a pastor.  Since he can’t be one himself, he seems determined to overcompensate by running the church from the back seat (or board room).  His favorite phrase is, “Pastors come and go, but deacons are forever.”

7.  The Naysayer.  This guy is against most everything.  He thinks the church budget is too big, the staff too lazy, the pastor has too much authority, the sermons shallow, the youth too noisy, and the women are not under control.  He has an opinion about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g and they’re all negative.

Ask me how such people ever made into a leadership capacity and I will throw up my hands in exasperation.  I don’t know… except to say that a broken system was used rather than a Biblical model.

No church will ever do anything more important that choose its leaders. Do it with the greatest of care.

Sunday Mind Dump - April 14, 2013 (Tuesday Edition)


Sunday was a solid day. 

I really enjoyed the children’s chorus.  They did a good job.  It always lifts your heart to see the kids sining.

The new song the worship team introduced was very good too.

Attendance was off about 30 people – mostly sick and a few families who were out of town.

The rain was kind of a bummer, but I’m glad it held off until service was over.  If it had rained Sunday morning like it did Sunday afternoon our attendance would have been affected.  The bottom fell out.

The message was on James 1:1-12.  The key thought was that real faith perseveres.  Those who love the Lord persevere.  Perseverance reveals that our faith is genuine.  True faith survives.

I’ll write about this topic in the near future.

People seemed to hang around after church for a long time.  I really like seeing that.  It means they enjoy one another’s company.  Many go out together for lunch – another good sign.

SUMMER CAMP:  The teenagers are going to Ft. Pickens in June for Summer Camp.  Yes, they are actually camping in the outdoors.  Should be lots of fun.

I spent some time in my garden yesterday.  Finally got everything planted.  Now I just have to watch it grow.  Got a few pictures posted below.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Garden Photos


My garden is now installed.  In addition to what you see in the photos below, I have planted tomatoes, squash, pepper, cucumber, garlic, and field peas (brown crowder, black crowder, and lady pea).  When the plants get larger I'll post pictures.    Below are a few pics of what it looks like now.
Onions

Potatoes

Muscadine, Blueberry, & Pear
The freshly tilled area (in the photo below) got grass seed planted today. 


Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Factoids


1.  This Sunday’s message is:  Trials – Getting Through the Tough Stuff, based on James 1:1-12.  After getting off to a good start last week with the series introduction, we will begin to dig deeper into this book and unpack its truths.  This Sunday’s message is going to be a real encouragement and very insightful.  The key thought is this:  real faith perseveres.

2.  Why I love the ministry.  For those of us who are called to ministry in the local church, no other vocational pursuit will satisfy.  If you are called, truly called, then nothing else will compare.  Sure, sometimes it tough.  I’ve felt like quitting more times than I can count.  But I know if I ever do, I would always want to come back. 

I would miss:
  • Getting a terrific idea for a series and having the ability to develop it and teach it.
  • Coming upon a nugget of scriptural insight, tethered to language and historical insights, and being able to share it.
  • Living in full community with others.
  • Being a leader, and being able to advance God’s kingdom.
  • Being free to pursue the Great Commission with vigor.
  • Being on the front lines of impacting lives – not just talking about life change but seeing it, experiencing it, and making it happen as I cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
3.  Next week on this blog I will begin a series on Deacons – that is, rogue deacons. Some churches are deacon possessed and need an exorcism.  Posting daily.

4.  Holy cow.  My garden is taking off.  The rain last night did wonders.  I can’t wait to post pictures.

5.  Today’s schedule:  Vigorous workout. Help volunteers clean building. Appointment.  Review Sunday’s message.  Visitation.  Chase Renae around the house.  Busy day.  :-)


Growing but Still Immature


Every parent has heard these words form their teenager, ““I’m eighteen years old.  I can do what I want to do?”

Though a teenager can be legally responsible for their actions at 18, what they lack is forty years of life-experience.  At 18, they are just old enough to get themselves into some deep trouble and spend the rest of their lives suffering for.  They don't know near as much as they think they do.

Likewise the most difficult stage of a persons spiritual journey is when they are in their “spiritual teenage” years.  i.e., You’re not a babe anymore, but neither have you arrived at maturity yet.  You only think you have.  This is the stage in which most people become disillusioned, find fault in their church that they can’t overcome, start church hopping, or simply quit altogether.

They’re growing in the Lord, attended some Bible studies, maybe taught a few classes, are reading their Bible, and are on a journey of learning.  Then all of a sudden they know everything.  They know how things are supposed to be run and begin projecting their expectations upon the church and other believers:
  • If I was in charge I would do it this way…
  • They dont' run this church properly...
  • This church is not spiritual enough for me….
  • I’m not being fed here any more….
  • People in this church are shallow….
  • There's too much sin in the church...
  • Wa-wah-waah
Next thing you know they start missing church services because now they think they are spiritual enough to do so.  Instead, they attend a Bible study during the week and feel like it's enough.  They don’t need church anymore.  Or they start looking for a better church, or a more ideal church.  This is a journey – and I have seen it hundreds of times over the years –  that eventually leads to spiritual coldness, broken fellowship with the Body of Christ, and distance from God.

In contrast, the two groups of people in the church that are easiest to deal with are babes and those who are truly mature.

New Christians are easy to deal with, and a delight.  They are dependent.  They need nourishment and readily receive it.  They cry a little bit but that’s only because they have no other way to communicate.  They don’t know much of anything, therefore are easy to help.

Those who are truly mature are also a delight.  Years of wisdom have shaped and softened them.  They are mellow.  Everything doens't have to be black and white anymore.  They have a great deal of patience with imperfect people.  They don’t feel the need to express their opinion about everything.  They are less judgmental.  And they finally realize there is no perfect church in town and are content with their spiritual family.

It’s the group that is in-between that is the hardest.  A streak of rebellion and indepdence gets hold of them.  They get mouthy…judgmental… opinionated… and impatient with other people.  They always talk about what’s wrong at church... see everyone’s faults… and feel compelled to critique (criticize) the leadership.

Just like an 18 year old who can’t wait to leave home and get his own apartment, these growing but immature beleivers will often leave for the wrong reasons.   After the newness of their own place wears off, they soon discover that home wasn't so bad after all.

T
here are some lessons that can only be learned in the School of Hard Knocks.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

(Repost) Faithful Teachers


James 3:1  “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.”

Because of that warning, no man should rush into a preaching or teaching ministry. If he is not specially called or gifted of God, he will easily offend with his tongue and incur a greater judgment. The ministry is a serious place for those who regard its tasks in earnest.

The main function of a pastor is to teach because this is only gift that is identified in the list of qualifications for pastors.  The word is Didakikos – and is rendered “able to teach” in I Timothy 3:2.  A pastor must be a highly skilled teacher who works hard in his studies and proclamation.  He "labors" in the Word and doctrine according to I Timothy 5:17.  This sets him apart from deacons.

1.  Faithful pastors are to all teach the same truth.  We don’t have the option of developing our own theology, or to teach anything except the Word.  Developing our own stylized ministry and making ourselves the center of attention is not an option either because it’s not about us.  It’s about Jesus.

2.  The more faithful a pastor is in teaching the Word the more he will sound like other faithful pastors.  Faithful teachers all sound the same.  They are saying the same thing because they teach from the same source (God's Word).  They are standing in the same line as previous faithful teachers.  They are content to be numbered among the faithful.  They don’t need a personalized, stylized ministry that features “them.”  Instead, they feature the Word of God because that’s all we have been given.

3.  If you listen to someone who sounds like nobody else and says things you never hear anybody else say, go find another teacher because he is not faithful.  If you hear someone teach extra-Biblical revelations, concepts, notions, or ideas, go find someone else because he is not a faithful teacher.

“Preach the Word!........ For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine….. but will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they will turn away from the truth and be turned unto fables”  (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

That’s one of the problems we have in churches today – they are personality driven – instead of being scripturally driven.  It’s almost a celebrity culture.

Do everything you can to get “sound teaching” and “sound doctrine” embedded into your spirit.  In addition to sitting under faithful teachers, break out that old black book yourself and begin devouring its pages.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sifted


And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren (Luke 22:31-32 (KJV).

Sifting wheat is an agricultural process in which the grain is violently shaken or agitated to remove its outer shell. 

Simon Peter is a perfect example of being sifted  He had to endure tests, trials, challenges, and even his own personal blunders. He left his vocation and source of livelihood to follow Jesus. He sacrificed personal ambition and was sifted by Satan.

Satan’s goal in sifting Peter was to shake him to the core, to expose and exploit any weakness he had, and cause him to fail. Satan desired Peter for this sifting because he was the leader among the apostles. In fact, Satan’s plan was partially successful, causing Peter to deny the Lord three times that night.

Though Jesus spoke these words to Peter, but they are spoken to all of us prophetically. To be placed in the hands of Satan for a sifting process is uncomfortable; it's absolutely painful. But often it is necessary for the work that God is trying to accomplish in you. God has the unique ability to take circumstances in life and use them to birth within us a deeper anointing and stronger faith for greater service. When we go through seasons of sifting, we must understand that God is trying break the outer shell to tap into the potential that is inside us.

Jesus also said, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…” There’s great assurance in knowing that Jesus Himself is interceding for us. Although Peter failed, he found his way back. If you are in a sifting process, you WILL make it through. It may take days, weeks, or even years; but you will make it. Your faith will not fail. God is birthing a deep work within you.

The sifting that God is allowing to take place in you is intended to separate the good from the bad. It will cause some things to surface from within you that God wants you to repent of and to put away. Then He will take what’s left and use it for His purposes. You will do exploits.

This is the call of God on your life. Just don’t allow the process to discourage you. If God has allowed you this experience, it is designed to teach you something that can be used as a testimony for Christ.

The ministry is not easy. You don't just step into it. You are sifted into it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Mind Dump - April 7, 2013


I really love PCC.

Our services are so good… and our people are some of the most enjoyable to fellowship with.

Great people.  Good services.  Exceptional talent.  Over-the-top singers.  Authentic friendships.

There are some very good pictures on Facebook right now of PCC.

The series introduction to the book of James got off to a very good start.  Really had a lot of fun too.

Got a lot of positive feedback after service.  Several people pinned me down in conversation to tell me “their stories.”  Always enjoy that.

Never forget, the book of James is about behavior… not merely beliefs. 

Anyone can say, “I believe this” or “I believe that” or “I’m a follower of Jesus Christ” – but it is our behavior that reveals what we truly believe.

We are going to learn a lot over the next ten weeks.

I’m glad that we can “just be real” at PCC. 

We don’t pretend to have it all together… we’re not trying to be as pious as the Pope all the time… just authentic.  At PCC it’s okay to admit that you’re not hitting triple’s every time you are at bat.

I love the people I get to do life with. 

There’s a couple who attends PCC; they drive an hour one way to be in service each Sunday.  That’s a two hour round-trip each week.  It’s humbling to me to know they love their church this much and will go to such an effort.  They have been attending with us since we conducted our Time to Build Campaign about 10 years ago – they pledged in the campaign… still give faithfully… attend faithfully… encourage me often… and have weathered many bumpy seasons with us.  Always faithful.  I thank God for such people.  This makes me want to go the extra mile in my duties as pastor.

Today during the music and singing I was sitting in the congregation, quietly worshipping and reflecting on the Lord when had this thought:  PCC really has had an impact on people’s lives over the years.  My mind raced across the congregation and I began to think about all the people who have been with us for so many years… who attend faithfully each week…. who are so hopeful that the Lord will come through for them… who have such confidence in their church and its pastors… people who we have helped…. and people who have helped me, my family, and this church… and I was overcome with thankfulness.

When I think about walking away and quitting – because of a few difficult people who make my job a pure nightmare – it’s people like these who keep me at my post of duty.

Other news…

Rick Warren’s son, Matthew (27 years old), committed suicide Friday night.  I can’t imagine the pain that Rick and his wife Karen must be going through.  Pray for them.

Rick Warren is the pastor of Saddleback Community Church in California, and is the author of the Purpose Driven Life.  Renae and I visited Saddleback Church in 2006 and it was a life-changing experience for us. 

Both of us attended separate small group sessions with Rick and Kay and discovered they are very real people – authentic and down-to-earth – without any pretense.  In spite of their national influence (my impression is) they have remained true to their humble beginnings.

Disregard their celebrity right now… they are suffering parents and that’s all that really matters.

Let’s put the foundation of prayer underneath them.

It’s what bearing one another’s burdens is all about.

Personal….

I’m still practicing intermittent fasting.  It’s been about ten weeks.  I fast twenty hours each day.  I’m holding strong and remain committed.  It’s gotten a lot easier too.  I've lost a lot of weight... in all the right areas.  Clothes fit better too.  

My garden is totally planted.

I spent most of yesterday planting field peas (Knuckle Purple Hull, Black Crowder’s, and Lady Peas), and building trellises for the cucumbers and tomato plants.

Very excited about that.  Got a lot accomplished.

I spend a lot of time in my garden.  It’s therapeutic for me.

I’ve planted so many vegtables this year that I’m going to have more harvest than I can use.  My intention is to give much of it away.

My garden contains red potatoes, peppers, squash, cucumber, field peas, tomatoes, garlic, and onion.

In addition, I have planted a long row of blueberry bushes and grapes (red/black Muscatine) about 80’ long… two pear trees (Kieffer & Ayres)… and two fig trees.  I still plan to plant a Mandarin Satsuma (citrus) soon.

I’ll post plenty of pictures… or if you would like to come over and see it sometime, I’d be glad to give a tour.

Me and Renae have an out-of-town fishing trip planned in the month of May.  Can’t wait.  We’re going to Lake Talquin near Tallahassee.  This makes our third trip there and enjoy our time away… as well as with the people we do this trip with.

Hope to catch some Crappie (croppy) this time.

Family…

My oldest son (Jonathan) who plays every other Sunday at PCC is a police officer at UWF and is now playing in a country band on the side.  Doing a good job with those guys.

My daughter in-law (Jamie, his wife) is pregnant with their second child – a girl.  Me and Renae are very excited about this.  Taylor Grace Christian will be her name.

My youngest son (Nathan) is on an authentic spiritual journey right now.  The transformation is remarkable.  We are very, very encouraged about this.

Jamie’s parents (Robert & Ann Lewis) are good people too… and I’m fortunate to be joined to them in this family connection.

I feel like I belong to a village.

Me and Renae went fishing with Captain Tommy last week (he is an usher at PCC).  We caught a bunch of fish… big fish.  Very enjoyable.  It was a high point for us. 

Ministry….

When starting a new ministry you must make sure your motives are right.  A bitter root produces bitter fruit.

When changing churches you must make sure your motives are right too, and for the same reason.  A root of bitterness will defile you (Hebrews 12:15)…. no matter where you attend.


When your motives are pure and you are surrounded by good people.... your ministry will be fruitful.