The Blanket

Anonymous businessman with bowler hat
I know there is prejudice and racism in our world. Unfortunately it may always be a part of our world. It happens in obvious ways and not so obvious ways. Prejudice comes from throwing a blanket over an entire group of people. People are generalized into groups like “cops,” “black,” “white,” and any other description you would like to use.
When you take away the blanket you find that there are many different descriptions within the “groups.” For instance, there are good cops, bad cops, average cops, superstar cops, lazy cops, and even perhaps some crooked “cops.” Now, change “cops” to any other race, group, or people and it remains the same. Heck, you can even throw the word “christian” in there and all of the previous descriptions could still apply in some cases on some level.
Once the blanket is removed you realize something else. Within each group there is a better description. We aren’t black people, white people, hispanic people, or asian people. We are just people. We are hurting people. We are scared people. We are lonely people. We are forgotten people. We are marginalized people. We are people who long for hope, but are sometimes hopeless people. We are people who desperately want to find meaning and purpose in this world.
Blanket removed, generalizations set aside, and focused narrowed. Now, you begin to see something even more powerful than people. You see a person. A person uniquely made in the image of a creator. A person uniquely loved by God. A person that Jesus laid down His life for. God loved the world, interpreted as each person in the world, so much that he laid down his life for them. He did this so that “whoever” regardless of their “group” might find eternal and abundant life in him.
Governments and political parties divide us into voting blocs. We divide ourselves based on culture and common walks of life. God loves us personally and individually. I wonder how a God view of this world would change the current climate of our culture. Let’s remove the blanket. Let’s take away the generalizations. Let’s the see the unique person that is only on this earth for a limited amount of time. A limited edition. A one time offer. A person made in the image of their Creator.
Take away the blanket. Remove the generalizations. I am a person. I am a person in need of grace. I am a person in need of love. I am a person that needs to be heard. I am a person in need of faith. I am a person that longs for respect, honor, and significance. And so are you.
Let’s shape the world around that view.
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

Is Karma a Thing?

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Many people believe in Karma. It’s the idea that what you “put out” into the universe is what you will receive back. For instance, if you kick a Grandmother in the shin then someone will kick your Grandmother in the shin. Which raises the question, why are you kicking anyone in the shin, let alone a Grandmother? Which raises another question for me, is there any truth to this mystic belief? I believe the full idea of Karma is off kilter, but I also believe a portion of it is very true. The reason I believe it is true is because God is the originator of the laws of seed time and harvest. The bible clearly teaches the principle of “sowing and reaping.” This principle teaches that my words, decisions, and actions are seeds that produce a harvest. In fact, Paul said:

Galatians 6:7-9
7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Here are a few things to consider about sowing and reaping:

1. Sow with faith and expectation – Every time we give we should understand that we are sowing a seed into an everlasting kingdom. In fact, according to Acts 10 our giving creates a memorial before God. Not only should we expect to see a harvest in this life, but we should also expect to see a harvest in the life to come. Only eternity will fully reveal the results of our giving and generosity.

2. Sow with a right spirit – Faith is never coerced. For an act of kindness, an encouraging word, or an offering to truly be a seed that carries a harvest it must come from a willing heart and a right spirit. The scriptures teach us “the Lord loves a cheerful giver.” Let’s create a healthy harvest for ourselves by doing the right things with the right attitude and believing God for the right harvest at just the right time.

3. Don’t give up – There is a harvest of blessing! Paul never questions the harvest, his only question is whether or not we will get weary. My prayer is that you are encouraged to be faithful during this journey that we are own. I used to be impressed with people that I perceived to have big faith. The older I get the more impressed I am with people who are simply faithful. Don’t get weary in being faithful because there is a harvest of blessing.

The 10 Commandments of Social Media for Churches and Church Leaders

Social media networks projecting out from smartphone. Editorial

I’m an avid social media user. In the early days of CoastLife Church we had no money for advertising or letting people know about our church. We barely had money for things like electricity and insurance. With no budget to use for typical means of advertisement we went to Facebook. It’s been a great tool to connect with our community. Did I mention that its free? Like most things there are pros and cons to social media. The same platform that helps get information out to large amounts of people instantaneously also creates disagreements and arguments. This started out as rules of engagement for the leaders at CoastLife Church, but I thought it might be helpful to others as well. Here are my 10 commandments of social media:

1. Use it – 1 billion people used Facebook in one day recently. There are 5 million more people who have a smart phone than a tooth brush. I have personally received friend requests from people who are homeless. People from all walks of life are on Facebook. We are called to reach, encourage, love, and inspire people. There is no better medium for this today than social media. Use it.

2. Be careful with politics – Ed Stetzer once said, “when you mix religion and politics you get politics.” I don’t personally endorse any candidates. My ministry is to people from across the political spectrum. If you aren’t careful with politics you will end up being the mouthpiece of a political party instead of being a minister to the people of all parties. You shouldn’t have to belong to a particular political party to feel welcomed at Church. It’s a fine line. I believe Christians should be engaged and active in the world, but I also believe we are called to serve people. All people, not just the ones who agree with us politically. I’m afraid if we aren’t careful we will win in our politics and lose in our purpose of reaching people.

3. Endeavor to keep unity – Division is a tool of Satan. Satan uses Facebook as well. Social Media allows every issue to be discussed and many times there is more than one side to the issue. No one wins when there is division in the body of Christ. Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4. Avoid foolish debates – Those are the Apostle Paul’s words and not mine. However, he probably had a prophetic vision of Facebook when he penned those words. Somethings just aren’t worth the time to engage them. Be careful about getting lured into a discussion that simply just doesn’t matter. If the whole world operated by this principle Fox News and CNN would only be on air about 2 hours a day.

5. Maintain correct doctrine – There are many different ideologies out there today. There are tons of motivational and inspirational quotes floating around. But there is only one source of timeless truth and that is the Word of God. If it doesn’t line up with scriptural doctrine don’t post it, don’t like it, don’t share it. The world is held captive under darkness, don’t help spread that darkness. Jesus really is the way, the truth, and the life. Share him, share the word in a life giving, grace filled way.

6. Don’t manipulate – Don’t heap guilt on people. Don’t shame people. For heavens sake, don’t try to be a religious bully. I’m tired of people trying to manipulate others. Now, prove how much you love Jesus by liking, sharing, and commenting on this blog.

7. Be loving towards non christians – It saddens me sometimes to see people struggle through life without Christ. It angers me sometimes when people post things that are offensive towards Christianity. Social Media is a place where people can flippantly say things in a thoughtless moment that they would never say directly to a person. I’ve seen things that both hurt and angered me. However, if I only love people who think like me, then the genuine love of Christ is not in me. Even the world loves those that think like them. It is the true benchmark of Christianity to love even our “enemies.” If someone is a serial offender I may unfriend them, but that is an extreme case for me. As much as I hate to see what they post, they need to see what I post. The love of Christ does prevail even over the most extreme of cases. Remember, no one was ever reached by being out debated or perhaps insulted.

8. Don’t go negative – Is there anything praiseworthy, anything lovely, of good report? Post about these things. Our speech is to be with grace. Especially when we are posting to the masses.

9. Never publicly speak against a church, church leader, or fellow Christian. Never. – The largest group of unfriended people for me are believers who speak negatively of other Churches, Pastors, or Christians. You don’t win when another Pastor or Church fails or gets caught in a scandal, only the enemy does. So why be a part of tearing someone down? When an accusation or rumor is stirred about a Church, Pastor, or fellow believer we need to use extreme caution in what we post. If you don’t know them personally don’t speak about it. If you do know them personally than deal with it personally and not on Social Media. Again, no one wins when a Church, Pastor, or Christian fails. I really believe we will answer for our social media posts in eternity when we take a shot at the “mega” Church or Pastor because we don’t like what they said or did. The kingdom of God isn’t advanced through that stuff only the kingdom of Satan.

10. Don’t forget to be genuine and personal – Here’s an idea. Why don’t you let people into your non Pinterest life? No, don’t post pics of your dirty undies in the laundry hamper. But not every pic has to be of a cappuccino with a perfect design and an inspirational quote. Not every post should be a deep and revelatory thought. You probably don’t walk around all day in the 7th heaven full of inspiration and revelation with a perfect cup of coffee. Post about sports, post about family, post something funny, post about whatever, just try to take people on an authentic journey of your life.

50 Shades of Church

50 Shades Tie
I once preached in a small church in rural Missouri (pronounced Miz-zour-a). There was a time in my life when I traveled and preached quite a bit. So every service would be a different church in a different town or state. After a while you sort of learn to roll with the customs of each particular church. On this night I rolled in to realize that for starters I was way over dressed. This church was casual and not just casual, but country casual. I had left my Levi bootcut jeans at the store somehow. In those days my typical preacher attire was a suit and tie. Being nimble of mind, I quickly nixed the tie so that my top button open dress shirt might create unity with this Levi wearing crowd. How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity and all of that. I didn’t remove my jacket, I never remove my jacket once wearing one. That’s too high of a price to pay for unity to me for some reason. But I digress. Several of the men of the church welcomed me when I arrived and by welcome I mean stood around me trying to determine if I indeed was going to “bring the heat” at this service. One of the men, the older one, decided to provide some leadership for the questions and encouragement that was being offered to me. Evidently one eye was better than the other because when he would make a statement he would twist his head to put his “good eye” on me. At first, it was some statements about “take your liberty” or “do what you feel led tonight.” I’ve never stepped into a pulpit without knowing exactly what I intended to do. Not for sure if that’s considered liberty or not, but I assured him with as much Holy Ghost gusto that I could manage that I would indeed take my liberty. Not satisfied at all, he did the head turn and a little bit of a chin tuck so the good eye would really be prominent. I pause to say, at this point I realized that his admonishment to do what I felt led was really a hope that I would do what he felt led. Back to the good eye, now squinting with spiritual intensity. Looking up from the hypnotizing Holy Spirit stare he said, “tell us what we need to hear, you go ahead and skin our heads.” I was raised in this area of the country and speak the language, so I quickly translated this to understand that he was requesting some type of spiritual punishment at tonight’s service. With many words he admonished me, as the other two men supported him, to bring some type of spiritual spanking to the church. They were in the mood for some chastening on this Sunday evening. The request was odd, the excitement and fervor for it was really odd. I’m just not into that. I’m not judging you if you are. I’m just not into it. It got me thinking though and I have wondered about that mentality for a long time. The mentality that finds harsh words or heavy preaching to be enjoyable. Sort of a spiritual pleasure pain principle. Have you ever met someone who seemingly enjoyed feeling bad? For some it seems like it feels good to feel bad. The mentality seems to be “the worse I feel emotionally, the stronger I feel spiritually.” For those people or groups you can’t preach it hard enough. I’ve been in some church services and conference type meetings where a safe word probably should have been provided. Whether its guilt over behavioral issues, or despair over how dark the world is, it seems to make people feel godly to feel bad. I’m not against sorrow. The bible says that godly sorrow brings repentance. Of course, that same bible also says that it’s the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. We’ve all done some things we are sorry that we did. However, guilt never takes us anywhere. It’s the goodness of God that can lead us down a road where we are truly sorry and change our behavior. I’ve termed this phenomenon “Christian Guilt.” The idea that feeling bad, feeling guilty, feeling intense seems to put me on a higher spiritual plane. Happy people, hope filled people, optimistic people are spiritual novices. Intense, guilty, and doom filled people are the ones who appear to be the more spiritually “promiscuous” and experienced. We look to them from our innocence to introduce us to the pleasure world of Christian Guilt. There is actually good money to be made by making people feel bad. Many books have been sold and sermons preached on the premise of people should feel bad who have it too good, have too much money, or they are lazy and aren’t doing enough for God. I know what you are thinking. Actually, I don’t. This blog is filled with innuendo and I’m not for sure how that makes you feel. But, you should be thinking, “shouldn’t we be challenged or corrected?” That’s a great question and the answer is yes. We absolutely need to be disciplined and corrected in our spiritual lives. However, that discipline and correction should take us somewhere. Guilt, feeling bad, being intense all of the time never really produces any change. Something is wrong when you like to keep church spicy with spiritual discipline and enjoy either feeling or causing pain. Honest, life giving correction should lead us to 3 things:

1. Faith – The bible never denies the reality of negative circumstances. People have ungodly behavior that leads them into bondage. The world is full of very burdensome circumstances that try to take away your joy. It’s not spiritual growth to be angry and intense about the world and people of the world. It’s spiritual growth to have joy in spite of how dark the world is. Joy after all, and not intense anger, is a fruit of the Spirit. Jesus said, “in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world.” When talking about how dark people are, or how dark the world is, we should never stop until we have built people’s faith that Jesus has already overcome the world. You won’t get a cookie at the end of the age because of how dark and intense you were.

2. Grace – Here’s the deal. Guilt has never saved one person. Not one. No one has ever been guilted into salvation. On the other hand, all of us have been saved by grace. We don’t deny sin or the affects of sin. Sin is terrible. It separates us from God and all sin has consequences. We don’t deny the consequences of sin and even the sorrow it can bring. We also don’t leave people in guilt, we lead them to the grace of God. Guilt is an emotional prison, Grace is a never ending well.

3. Love – Love never fails. Prophecy will one day cease. Tongues will one day cease. Knowledge will vanish and be no more, but love will never fail. How bad will the world be? I really don’t know. How dark will the culture we live in be? I can’t answer that question either. I do know this though. Regardless of how bad the world is, and regardless of how dark our culture becomes, love will still never fail. Somewhere, in some tangible way, love will be prevailing. Abiding in all seasons will be faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.

Perhaps you enjoy spiritual intensity. Perhaps the scripture of Jesus with a whip in the temple excites you. I’m not here to judge. Yes, we need to be corrected and yes, there are some things that are wrong in people and the world. However, we shouldn’t allow the world to rob us of our faith, hope, and love. There are a lot of different shades of church. Regardless of the shade, the world, people, you, me, we all need faith, hope, and love to grow in the grace of God. Let’s be life giving, and provide people with an atmosphere of grace to grow and change.

I’m a Christian, Not a Confederate

Church
I’m late to the party. And by party I mean an issue that further divided our nation and was the object of much social media debate. So not a great party. The host of the party, for lack of a better phrase, was a flag that was used by the Confederate army during the Civil War era. This is where I will pause and tell y’all that I was born and raised in the south. I’m both southern and pretty fly for a white guy. My credentials include being raised in Arkansas, moving to Mississippi, and now residing in the most southern (geographically) of states, the great State of Florida. I’m not at all ashamed of who I am, and I’m grateful for my upbringing in the land of sweet tea and Little Debbie’s. Like most people I take pride in my family and my heritage. I was raised by some pretty great folks and was surrounded all of my life by people who could be described as “salt of the earth” kind of people. So if anyone would rise to the defense of a southern emblem it would most likely be yours truly. I do not. In fact, it broke my heart that people did. It even angered me that Christian’s did. I was surprised at the amount of people who embraced a symbol of racism, and I was shocked to see believers take the bait as well. This blog is directed at people who claim Christianity as their faith and profess Christ as their savior. It doesn’t surprise me that the world would be divided on this issue. It does surprise me that some believers were divided on this issue. Here is my list. Yes, a list because that’s how I roll. A list of reasons why I’m a Christian and not a Confederate:

1.The identity of my heritage is in a cross and not a flag.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

My “people” are the people of God. My family isn’t based on skin color, or place of birth. It’s based on a common experience of being called out of darkness and into His marvelous light. The question is this, are we more proud to be southern than forgiven? We need to remember that we are a part of “chosen race” and a “holy nation” and that has absolutely nothing to do with skin color or place of birth. It has everything to do with God’s grace given to everyone who puts their faith in Him. At the cross we all stand on equal ground. At the flag pole there are haves and have nots. There are whites and blacks, hispanics and asians. There is rich and poor, social elite and socially outcast. At the cross there are simply sinners finding grace. All color, status, and position is washed away in a crimson stream that flows from Calvary.

2. It is a sin to knowingly participate in a custom that is offensive to other believers

1 Corinthians 8:12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

One of the reasons people chose to defend the Confederate Flag was because to them, the flag represented heritage and not hate. Here’s the deal. It doesn’t matter what the flag means to you or me. What does the flag mean to brothers and sisters in the family of God who are of a different race than me? If it is offensive to them, then I lay down my thoughts and preferences to protect their conscience. Paul went as far to say that he would give up meat all together to prefer people who were of a different culture than him. I know the issue was a little different topic in Paul’s day, but I believe this verse fits very well in this situation. As a believer, I am to live with a consciousness that includes other aspects of the Body of Christ than my own.

3. I’m not here to build a nation. I’m here to build a church

If we mistake our mission we take up the wrong battles. Many christians have taken up politics because they think God’s eternal kingdom is the USA. I love this country and I’m very grateful for the freedom we have and the blessings we have been given. The USA is the greatest nation on earth in my lowly and most humble opinion. However, the USA will have an end at some point. Jesus Christ is not returning for the USA, He is coming back for a church that is without spot or wrinkle. The hope of our nation is not a political party, it’s not a political leader, and it’s definitely not a stronger government. The hope of America is the church, a strong and glorious church. A church that is influential and growing. A church that includes people from every race and all walks of life who have surrendered to the call of God on their life. The church will not be what its supposed to be without unity between our different races and nationalities. A church that lays down personal preference, and personal agenda for the cause of Christ will influence our nation. In the world it seems that everyone is trying to use the government to advance their agenda. My prayer is that our only agenda would be reaching people, building the local church, and preparing ourselves to be a part of a kingdom that will have no end.

Here’s a little picture of what that church looks like…
Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

If someone could come to the organ as I bring this to a close I would appreciate it. I’ve seen things written by people who almost seem self loathing. This isn’t about me being ashamed of who I am or having any hatred of where I come from. I was born and raised in the south and for that I’m thankful. Amazingly, I had both white and black people who taught me about Christ and helped raise me in the family of God. I know that’s not most people’s picture of the south, but it was my reality. A church of both white people and black people who laid down racial difference to lift up the name of Jesus Christ. So this isn’t about self loathing. It’s an honest attempt to make sure that my life, our lives, are in line with holy scriptures and are pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m looking forward to the day “when saints from every race, shall behold his face.” Just to throw a line from a southern Gospel song at you.

Church, Here is Why I’m Standing Firm

Church

Here is a list of why I’m in the church and I’m not going anywhere:

1. It’s Not About Me

You want a traditional church. Great. Sing weird songs and find beauty in stained glass. It’s not for me, but if its for you, go for it with everything you’ve got. You want a church with an IMAX screen. Great. Throw that rock concert fist in the air and worship Jesus with everything you’ve got. Preference doesn’t matter to me. ISIS and The Taliban are beheading people for believing that Jesus is the only savior of the world, but by all means, let’s get offended and leave the church over song styles and whether we have regular lights or LED lights. Ultimately, the church is for me, but its not about me. I shouldn’t have been let in, I don’t deserve to be a part, but by God’s great grace I got in and I’m not going anywhere. Find a church you like and devote yourself to it.

2. The Church of Jesus Christ is the Hope of the World

Hey church, I would like to remind us that we are still the City on the Hill. We are not simply a non profit organization and we are not another good community group. Governments will come and go, cultural fads will boom and bust, and even nations will rise and fall, but the church of Jesus Christ will stand. We are built on a solid rock. We are built on a strong foundation. We are anchored by a cornerstone that cannot be broken. I see other religions and ideologies that influence through fear, intimidation, and even violence. We are the light outside of the common culture of fear, despair, and hatred. We are the light that shines on a hill beaming faith, hope, and love.

3. I Want to be Ready

I need the church. The church needs me. Both are true, but one is more vital to my salvation. God uses the church to mature us. God uses the church to equip us. God uses the church to develop us into His plans and purposes. God uses the church to encourage us. The church is where I have built relationships that sharpen me. The church is the place where I found responsibility that has matured me. The church is where I have found a purpose that was greater than my own. Ultimately, its through the church that God has been preparing me to be a part of His bride that will be ready for the return of Jesus Christ. The church is God’s plan for the “perfecting” of the saints.

4. I Love Jesus

I love Jesus, Jesus loves the church, so I love the church. I love Jesus, Jesus gave His life for the church, so I give my life for the church. I don’t know how long I will get to ride on this dust ball called Earth. I’m presented with many options of things to live for and occupy my time while here. None of which will ever compare to Jesus and His church. It’s an honor and a privilege to dedicate my seconds, minutes, and hours for His cause and passion. My only prayer is that I will love His church the way He loves His church.

Why Sundays Matter

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Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

3 Reasons Why Sunday Matters in Your New Year:

1. Jesus

Jesus is worthy of our first and best. Dedicate the first part of your week to him in worship. When we gather to worship Jesus as a church we are proclaiming our public faith in the promises of Jesus Christ. We are declaring that there is salvation, healing, and power in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sundays are much more than an obligation or religious tradition. Our corporate worship times are a declaration that we are holding tightly without wavering to the unwavering promises of God. We are a public Testament that Jesus Christ is a soon returning king.

2. Others

It’s interesting that the reasons listed in Hebrews for regular church attendance aren’t for our personal blessing. The writer doesn’t say that you might miss your Word from God, or that you might miss an encounter with God, or that you might miss your chance for a blessing. All of those are great and all of those happen in the House of God. However, his main reason for gathering in the House of God on a consistent basis was for the benefit of others. We are there to help motivate, we are there to help encourage, and we are there to serve a greater purpose than ourselves. Never underestimate the power of being in the room. My worship helps create an atmosphere of freedom for someone to find Christ. My support of the Word of God helps build faith for someone to experience their encounter with God. My smile and handshake helps encourage others in their faith. My serving helps set the table for others to enjoy God’s great banquet. Maybe you don’t need this Sunday, but someone else does. We don’t gather for the sake of ourselves alone, we gather for the sake of others. I want to be a part of someone’s salvation story, someone’s day of healing, or someone’s day of breakthrough. Great things happen on Sunday and I want to be a part of it.

3. Me

Last on my list is ourselves. Why? Because serving God through church attendance may be about others, but you can’t serve others without being blessed yourself. There is an immense joy in finding a purpose greater than yourselves. As a Pastor I get a front row seat to watch God move and bless the lives of the people that serve in God’s great house. Are their lives perfect? Absolutely not. Do they still have problems in their lives? Sure, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. Do they have an enduring joy and peace greater than their circumstances? Without a doubt. You can’t give your life away in the service of others without finding a better and truer life in Christ.

There are legitimate reasons for missing church. Vacation times and sick days top this list. However, to sit at home or to be occupied with hobbies and recreation is a distraction from your purpose as a believer in Jesus Christ. You can’t give your life away in worship to Jesus and service to others without finding a better, truer, and more joy filled life.