Is Church Gaining or Losing Importance?

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 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.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let me start by saying I love church. I’m very pro church. I pastor a church, my family attends church, and I spend my week working at a bar… just kidding, it’s church. I’m better because of church. Left alone I would simmer in my dysfunction. The friction that comes in serving and worshipping with people is like iron sharpening iron. It makes me better. It’s also God’s plan for my life and yours as well. My ambition is to build God’s house also known as the church. You can talk bad about my wife, you can mock my children, you can make fun of me, but don’t talk negatively about the church. Again, it’s only jokes. Please don’t do any of that. One of my favorite Christian authors who will remain nameless once wrote about how he no longer needed church. It was ironic that after selling books to the church, booking preaching engagements in churches, and speaking at church conferences that built a global market for him and a huge revenue stream that he no longer needed the church. It fired me up. The author is still successful, but I would make the case there is a difference in being successful and having eternal impact. It’s funny how we can get dislodged from the foundation of our faith. I know Jesus is the cornerstone, but we are also built on the apostles and prophets and all of those that have come before us. Our desire should be to faithfully stand on the foundation built for us, while building higher for the next generation to go farther. After all, Jesus isn’t coming back for a fragmented and isolated group of believers, he’s not coming back for para church ministries, or consultants, itinerate ministries, or Facebook groups. He’s coming back for the church.

The admonishment of the writer of Hebrews is that church would grow more important as time goes on, not less. In a digital age of disconnectedness we need church more than ever before and we need it more frequently.

Here’s 4 Important Things to Know About Church:

  1. The Bible doesn’t give us a day, it gives us a priority

People love to argue about stuff. When you step into the world of religion that love can get expounded. One of the things people love to argue over is when you should go to church. There is actually an entire denomination built on the idea that church has to be on a specific day. The Bible tells us the disciples gathered on the first day of the week. For us that would be a Sunday. Our church has services on Saturday and Sunday. I don’t believe the Bible mandates a specific day to worship. We can get together and worship anytime we choose. I don’t believe the early church got together on the first day of the week because one day was better than the other or was more ordained by God than another day. It just speaks to the priority of church. Church comes first. It comes before work. It comes before hobbies. It comes before other things we spend our time. It’s important to God that we gather from our lives, to gather with each other, for the purpose of worship, praise, thanksgiving, and declaring the Word of God.

2. It’s difficult to stay connected to Christ and be disconnected from His church

The Bible speaks of connectedness. Jesus is the head of the church, we the church, together are the body of Christ. Only serial killers like disconnected bodies. I guess what I am saying is don’t be a serial killer. Also, we haven’t grown to the point that we don’t need each other. We haven’t matured to the point that we don’t need leadership. We haven’t arrived at a point that we are okay on our own. My spiritual health is directly connected to my connectedness. Jesus is the vine and there is no life outside of him. I’m not saying it’s impossible and there are certainly extenuating circumstances like sickness that cause people to not be able to gather, but it is difficult to stay connected to Christ and be disconnected from His body.

3. Church is the Battleground of God’s Kingdom

When the church prays the kingdom advances. When the church grows the kingdom expands. When the church worships the darkness trembles. When the church acts the kingdom is there. Yes, you can certainly do all of those things by yourself, but we are better together. We can accomplish infinitely more together than we can alone. Jesus talked about at least 2 or 3 being gathered in His name. The writer of Ecclesiastes talks about 2 being better than 1 because they get a better return for their labor. It’s hard to have a global perspective when you only have private devotion. A personal prayer and worship life is powerful for you, but a corporate prayer and worship life is powerful for the world we live in.

4. God Fulfills Those Who Fill His House

Hebrews 10 tells us that encouragement and motivation happen when we get together. It flows between people who come together on a consistent basis to serve, worship, give, and preach the Word of God. God has a way of building those who build his house. He fulfills those who fill his house. I personally think it’s because you are never closer to the heart of God than when you are working in the House of God.

The church isn’t losing importance. It’s gaining importance with each passing day. The one thing Jesus said he would build is his church. Let’s commit our lives to building, leading, loving, and serving God’s great church.

Woe Is Me

Woe Is Me – Isaiah 6:5

Let’s face it. Part of the role of a Prophet in the Old Testament was to say woe is them. It was certainly part of Isaiah’s assignment as he would give admonishment and warning to people through his prophetic gifting. It was an assignment of prophet’s of old to point out when people had strayed from the path and were off course with where God would have them to be.

Woe is them was the message until Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up with the train of his robe filling the temple. There was something about that encounter that shifted his narrative. It was no longer woe is them, but the message shifted to woe is me.

That’s the power of the presence of God. It changes our awareness.

We live in a culture that is hyper aware of the faults and frailty of others. I suppose we’ve always been self righteous. It’s our tendency and the default setting of our souls. Our thoughts originate with us and are very familiar to us, so how can they be wrong, right? We have the innate ability to justify the words we say, the decisions we make, and the actions we take. That would otherwise be known as self justification. With the advent of social media and a device to keep us constantly connected to an online world we now have access to express our thoughts on every subject known to man. A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, there was a word called tolerance that was celebrated. The idea was to tolerate and be kind to people who were different than you. Tolerance was a novel idea I suppose. Like a whale breeching the surface with mouth agape engulfing anything in its path, the behemoth of social media and our own self righteousness consumed that idea in one gulp.

Today, it’s not uncommon on social media, the news media, or probably our own conversations to find out what is wrong with “them.” You can use any medium you like to impute wrongdoing on a person who is different than you. It’s funny how tolerance has led us to extreme intolerance. Funny in an ironic way and not an “lol” sort of way. The other day the phrase “fake Christian” was trending on Twitter. Enough people in our nation felt self righteous enough to condemn christianity as a whole. The debate was centered around a political issue of our day. It’s an important issue for sure. The problem is the term “fake Christian” was trending the same day as an event called “serve day.” A day when thousands of churches from all over the USA and even the world go out of the four walls of the church to simply serve in their communities. Thousands of teams went to paint, clean, serve food, provide clothes, sit with the elderly, and in general just meet the needs of the hurting, lonely, and poor. Yet, feeling self righteous and self justified, christians and non christians alike, chose one political talking point to paint the whole of Christianity as fake.

So, people who can point out problems are a dime a dozen. Solutions are priceless. Don’t you get annoyed by the person who can find all of the problems, but never come up with the solution? What is the solution for self righteousness in the world at large, in our own personal world, in our phones, and in our hearts?

Here’s my offer for a solution whether its the self righteousness of the world or a religious type of self righteousness. We need the presence of God. Like Isaiah, we need the presence of God to bring self awareness. When we’ve been in God’s presence it shifts our narrative from woe is them to woe is me. It shifts the focus off of what’s wrong with them and begins to bring awareness of what’s wrong with me. Our righteousness dominates until we are in the presence of His righteousness. In a world of intolerance, its the presence of God that brings grace. God didn’t condemn Isaiah, he helped him with his unrighteousness. The presence of God is the presence of grace. Without God’s presence we live in an intolerant and cruel world that looks for the wrong in others. With the presence of God we live in a grace filled world that sees our own ineptness and the sufficiency of God’s grace to help us.

Here’s what God’s presence does:

  1. It creates self awareness.

The presence of God illuminates our lives with a clear picture of our deficiency. It brings us back to a place of God awareness and self awareness that changes our message from woe is them to woe is me.

2. It shifts the narrative from “me versus them” to “me versus me.”

We live in a culture where each group is fighting for the rights of their own particular group. Not realizing that we are splintering ourselves into a place of disunity, distrust, and anger. As the pastor of a church I never want the narrative of our church to be us against them. As a church we don’t exist against the world, we exist for the world. Separated from it? You betcha. Taking on the characteristics of it? Not in a million years. But here for it. Absolutely. It’s God’s presence that brings the kind of grace that says “I’m not here to fight against you, I’m here to fight for you.”

3. It reminds us of who is really in control.

We fight over authority, government positions, and places of leadership. Isaiah was worried about a vacant thrown in Israel, what was revealed to him was Israel’s thrown is vacant, but heaven’s thrown is not. Fear drives us to hate. Faith and confidence drives us to grace. God’s on his thrown. He will vindicate justice. I don’t have to lash out in fear. I can reach out in grace because God’s still in control and God’s still on the thrown.

If someone will please play a warm pad on the keyboard I will bring this to a close. When was the last time you were in the presence of God? Not in the presence of hype, not in the presence of religion, but in the presence of God. Here’s my best solution for a hurting and subsequently angry world. Find a place of worship. Don’t just stand and observe singing this weekend at church, worship and engage God’s presence. Find a personal and private place of worship and prayer before the weekend. Are you angry at the world, angry at liberals, angry at conservatives, angry at your spouse, angry at your kids? Go to God’s presence. Stay there until you say woe is me.

How to Spot Pride

I was signing up for a coaching group a few years ago. The desire was to improve in my leadership. The group was great and I learned a lot. However, there was a questionnaire to fill out so the group facilitators could get to know you and find out what areas of your leadership you needed help with. One of the questions on the form was “what are your blindspots?” My snarky response was “I don’t know. That’s why I’m joining this group.” We all have blindspots and the problem with blindspots is that they are problems we don’t know we have. I heard Andy Stanley say once that “pride doesn’t show up in the mirror.” We don’t tend to look at ourselves and see accurately when pride has entered our lives. Pride is difficult to spot, but here are three ways you can spot pride:

  1. Inconsistent results

Here’s the scenario: A leader asks you to take on a project and produce an outcome. You take on the project and bring it to a completion, but the end result looks drastically different than the vision and plan that was put in place. Unavoidable circumstances could have changed the outcome of the project. That certainly happens. It also could be a sneaky form of pride arising in your life. The leader had one vision, but yours seemed better so you delivered on your vision which was vastly superior. Cue frustration and feelings of being misunderstood. The leader is disappointed in the outcome. You are disappointed in the disappointment because you delivered an outcome. A better outcome in your humble opinion. It might not have been circumstances that changed the project, it could have been pride.

2. An inability to listen to and receive feedback

Here’s the scenario: You perform a task or fulfill a role and then are provided feedback on said performance. I’ve done this. You’ve most likely done this, because there is no way you are better than me. The feedback is given. We then so very delicately, artfully, and skillfully provide an explanation to them that they don’t understand various aspects of our performance or they wouldn’t be providing the feedback at all. Are there things that occur when performing a task or role that others outside of the role weren’t aware of? Yes, there was also a different perspective than yours and those are the people who observed from the outside. Their feedback is invaluable to improvement and moving forward with excellence. It’s hard to spot it in ourselves, but when we meet feedback with defensive explanations it could be a sign of something. I would like to humbly, whilst sitting on the colt of a donkey, offer to you the idea that it could be pride.

3. Making hard conversations hurt

Let’s face it. All of us need someone to have a hard or difficult conversation with us at some point. In my most humble and lowly opinion, a lack of these conversations is one of the main causes of stagnation in people’s lives. We get stuck in bad thinking, bad behavior, or bad attitudes and we need someone to show it to us. The problem is that its painful to hear. We all crave and need encouragement. However, sometimes we are doing a stupid thing and need someone to tell us, “hey, stop doing, saying, thinking that stupid thing.” Here’s where the ugly monster of pride begins to emerge from the swamp of the soul. It takes an ocean of humility to say thank you to the person that is hurting you, but trying to help you. The Bible says that no discipline is pleasant when the discipline is happening. It’s the fruit of discipline that is enjoyable. The monster of pride emerges when we make it painful for someone who is trying to help us. It’s hard to see that its pride. It feels like vindication because we, the victim, are defending ourselves against this horrible person who is saying that we have room for improvement in our lives. What kind of horrible, maniacle, psychopath would talk to us about areas of our lives that need to be improved? It’s probably someone who loves us enough to tell us the truth. When we play the victim and them the enemy it’s pride taking us lower. It’s humility that will lift you higher. Humilty makes it easy for people to have hard conversations with us.

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?

IMG_5213

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.