Lies We Believe – Part 2

This is one that I’ve repeated in the past. Lies are funny. They become part of your psyche without a source sometimes. I can’t remember when or where I heard this, but it became part of my thinking. I don’t think I’m alone in being a person who subscribed to this or repeated this ideology.

Lie #2 – You can’t legislate morality

The truth is that we legislate morality all the time. It’s immoral to kill someone so there are these pesky little laws against murder. It’s immoral to steal things that aren’t yours, again it’s such a nuisance, but breaking and entering is against the law. Those are obvious instances, but we also get less obvious laws that legislate morality. For instance, how much you can drink and be in public. Laws against drinking and driving are obvious because of the inherit danger intoxicated drivers present to themselves and others around them. However, you also can’t be drunk in public. Most cities, all cities that I’m aware of, have some type of way of saying being overly drunk in a public space is immoral. Even if there is a place where such laws don’t exist people aren’t infuriated or shocked to find out that they exist. It’s pretty obvious that type of behavior is frowned upon.

Again, the point of all laws are that they are legislating something as good or bad, permissible or not permissible.

We can obviously see the error in a blanket statement like “you can’t legislate morality.” In one sense it’s true. You probably can’t pass a law that says no one can lust or be greedy. Those are the laws of God, enforced by a higher standard of morality, and legislated upon our hearts. We may not be able to legislate laws that dictate how a person feels or thinks, even speech is protected in our constitution. However, we legislate morality on behavior all the time.

My thought is that when people say “you can’t legislate morality” it’s really a different issue we are talking about. The real issue is who gets to determine what’s moral. Similar, the real question is where does our morality come from?

As Christians our standards of living and morality come from the Word of God. We know that the instructions of God are perfect.

“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭19:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The more God’s word is reflected in the earthly laws we establish in our nation the more blessed we will be. Most legal and judicial systems are shaped by Jude/Christian ethics. In fact, there is a major difference between societies that are shaped by these ethics versus those who aren’t. Using the wisdom of God’s word to influence earthly governance is powerfully effective in producing peace and prosperity. It’s not just Christians that are blessed, the entire nation is blessed when laws are closely aligned with God’s law.

“Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭14:34‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What makes a nation great is when people with godly values organize a civil society around the principles of God’s word. One of the lies that goes along with the idea of not being able to legislate morality is that we can’t enforce our views on the entire nation. Here’s the realization we need to have. Someone’s views are going to be inflicted on the entire nation and the only view that is to the benefit of saint and sinner alike is a biblical worldview. The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust. Rain in that instance is a symbol of something positive. The blessing of rain on the fields so harvest can come. There are millions of people who are experiencing the rain of God’s favor on our nation without acknowledging him simply because of our nation being organized around values and laws like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and just laws that create freedom for people to pursue their own individual purpose. It’s true that you can’t legislate a faith. We can’t mandate from the White House that everyone become a Christian. Even if we did and everyone complied that doesn’t mean everyone would be saved because that would be a condition of their hearts towards God and not an adherence to a law. We can’t legislate our faith, but we can and should legislate our morality. Certainly there should be a discussion around what morality should be legislated, but there should be no question that we can legislate morality.

Here’s some simple ways to overcome the lie:

1. Replace the lie with the truth. Everything we read, see, and hear on our social media feeds and favorite news outlets is someone pushing a narrative of what’s right and wrong. Replace the lie with the truth that we can and should legislate morality. With that understanding we need to realize that we aren’t superior in our attitude, but God’s word is superior to all other ideas. God’s word alone is truth and perfection.

2. We should vote our values. As Christians in a free country like the USA, which is a fairly rare phenomenon in the global history of Christianity, we should vote according to biblical values. We have the infrequent and rare opportunity to help shape the government we live under. It’s both a privilege and a responsibility. Our nation gives hope to believers in other nations in the world that perhaps their nation may one day be as free and prosperous as ours. Every blessing is a responsibility. Our responsibility is to continue the blessing of being a nation that was shaped by Christianity.

3. Spread the Gospel. The gospel is simply the good news of Jesus, the kingdom of God, and salvation. Keep shining the light, keep sharing the truth of God’s word, don’t lose your voice. Recognize that we have been called to a leadership role as ambassadors of Christ to our society.

Lies We Believe – Part 1

Today we begin a voyage, a journey if you will, to the heart of statements that have found a home in our thinking. The problem is that these statements, beliefs, or general understandings may not be true. We live in a world of narrative and spin. Everyday through social media and being in constant connection to the media outlets of our day we are bombarded with narrative. It’s important to understand the power of narrative because narrative isn’t something you see, it’s not anything you can touch, but it subtly shapes the world we live in. We hear things, believe them, act upon our beliefs, and slowly begin to create a world that aligns with the narratives we believe. That’s why there is such a strong push to control what people hear and have access to. Whoever controls the narrative in some ways has the ability to begin to shape the world. Which brings me to the point of this series of articles. There are false narratives that are affecting the beliefs of people who then are acting or sometimes worse, taking no action, because of wrong beliefs shaped by these false narratives.

For our first narrative I would like to discuss the phrase Christian Nationalism.

Lie #1 – Christian Nationalism is a Threat to our Nation

I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with the phrase “Christian Nationalism” until recently. I’m thinking that I became familiar with the phrase within the past 2-3 years. I may have known the phrase longer, but over the past couple of years it has gained much more prominence in our national narrative. There are entire books dedicated to the phrase Christian Nationalism. My first perception of Christian Nationalism was a negative one. Probably because the popular narrative around this phrase is extremely negative. Over time as I began to assess this phrase it caused me to reassess my feelings toward it. In all honesty I had to admit that my feelings were being shaped by a narrative, but not by understanding from God’s word. As I began to research and study not what culture says, but what God’s word says it reframed my view on the phrase Christian Nationalism.

First, let’s define a nationalist which is where the term nationalism comes from. A nationalist is someone who supports the freedom of their nation from other nations and has a strong interest in the activity and interest of the nation. In other words, most everyone who has ever voted or participated in someway in our nation is a nationalist. Secondly, if you are a Christian aka someone who follows Jesus, and believes the Bible to be the truth of the Word of God you are a Christian Nationalist. You are also a great threat to our country in the popular thought on Christian Nationalism. My point in defining this is to say that roughly 80% of our nation identifies as a Christian and my feeling is the majority of them vote. Whether or not we vote our Christian values is a topic for another day, but what it means is the majority of our nation is people who identify as Christians who are engaged in activity of our nation. Recently President Joe Biden caused a bit of a stir when he said of our military personnel serving in Afghanistan that they had answered the call to go and serve. In making this statement he quoted the prophet Isaiah and used the scripture “here I am Lord, send me.” People took issue with this because certainly it wasn’t the context that Isaiah was referring to. However, I personally don’t believe he was way off base. For many people serving in the military they may have felt it was a call of God on their life. I believe serving in our military is a noble calling and one to be celebrated. So what was taking place when a President quoted a Bible verse talking about people serving in the military. It was Christian Nationalism.

Here’s my observation from pondering the national discourse that takes place around this topic.

People tend to only have a problem with Christian Nationalism when it conflicts with their political activism.

Everyone is fine using the Bible when they feel it aligns with their political views. If someone needs to pull a Bible verse to support their political views then it’s completely appropriate to do so. However, if you use the Bible to conflict one of their other political beliefs the cry back is Christian Nationalism and you are a threat to the democracy. It’s ironic, but many people who are negative towards Christian Nationalism come from a standpoint of being a Christian and being engaged in the political activity of our nation. In other words, they are being a Christian Nationalist while condemning others for being a Christian Nationalist.

I believe the church needs to embrace it’s role as being both fully committed to the principles of Christianity and also very active in the activity and direction of our nation. One of the last things Jesus told his followers to do was to play a role in discipling the nations.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭28:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Here’s 3 reasons we should live out our Christianity on the national scene:

1. There is no place of spiritual neutrality.

We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. If you turn the lights off darkness takes over. We need to recognize that we have a leadership role in the world. We are to bring Jesus to the world and advance the kingdom of God in every sphere of influence in society. If Christians abandon or surrender different segments of society those places don’t stay spiritually neutral. If we abandon politics governments don’t become this magically utopian space where people get treated fairly and everyone gets a unicorn. They become a space filled with darkness, authoritarianism, and an uncontrolled thirst for more power. The Bible makes everything better. Christianity makes everything better. God’s kingdom advancing into every sector of society makes everything better. Let’s assume our leadership role in the world and advance the principles of God’s kingdom in our nation. The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust. People who aren’t even followers of Jesus get blessed when the righteous are leading our nation. It’s not true when you reverse the scenario. People are very vocal against Christians taking positions of prominence and power. That’s because the enemy hates to lose. Let’s remember we are on the winning side and walk with confidence.

2. There is a battle for territory.

Everyone looks to government because it is the highest form of power and authority on earth. As Christians we should look a little higher. There is a kingdom of darkness and a kingdom of light. We are called to be representatives and ambassadors of Christ on the earth. Not to belabor the point, but how much of a failure is it if there are no ambassadors and representatives of Christ in our national leadership? Jesus didn’t come to overthrow the governments of the world. There will be a day when the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our Lord and Christ. However, I believe most people have a flaw in their theology. It’s true Jesus didn’t come to overthrow the Roman Empire, but evidently he did come to influence it and take it over. I can say that confidently because that’s exactly what Christianity and the early church did. Governments without the influence of Christianity are dark, very dark entities. We need to represent well the kingdom of King Jesus within the government of our nation.

3. We speak truth to power

The Bible, among other things, is basically prophets and preachers speaking truth to the world in which they lived. In some instances it was to audiences who were receptive and in some instances it was a tearful prophet like Jeremiah speaking to an audience that didn’t want to hear it. I think we’ve lost a little bit of our moxie. Let’s rediscover the conviction of saying “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Let’s rediscover our prophetic edge to speak the truth in love to the world we are called to serve. Here’s an understanding many believers need to receive. We’re the good guys. Is the church perfect? Certainly not, but do we have the truth of God’s word? Yes, yes we do. Is the truths of Christianity superior to any other belief system? Yes, yes they are. The nation is better when the church finds its voice. Not to speak down to people, belittle them, or even to heap condemnation on them. The church needs to find its voice to lift our nation by lifting up the principles of God’s word.

You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. You are a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. And I would also say, it should not be hidden.

5 Things I’m Feeling Right Now – Part 5

5. There will be a revival and refinement of doctrine

It’s very interesting to see the ever shifting and changing nature of the world’s values. People are being canceled today because of things they said only a few years ago. What they said, posted, or recorded was socially acceptable only a handful of years ago, but now its egregious enough to cause people to experience public rebuke. The winds of change are blowing fiercely.

The world will always be the world I suppose. The problem in my mind isn’t necessarily that the world is changing it’s values and beliefs, it’s that it’s trying to take the church with it. That’s where I believe my last item on my 5 things I’m feeling right now comes into play. I believe the silver lining of the world shifting so violently in it’s core beliefs will create a point of clear definition between what the world believes and what the church believes.

This isn’t a new phenomenon for the church. Evidently it was a challenge for the early church as well. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus something that has incredible application in our world today.

“so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We are living in an age when people are strong emotionally, but weak mentally. The value system of the world we live in has elevated feelings to the level of truth. If you feel it then it must be the truth. I’ve seen this even creep into Christianity. You can shame or guilt people into supporting almost any cause if you just say, “but I thought Christians were supposed to be loving.” The unpardonable sin in today’s modern church isn’t grieving the Holy Spirit, it’s being thought of as unkind. I believe we should be strong in our compassion and love for people. However, I think we should be mentally tough as well. To put it another way, our compassion shouldn’t outweigh our wisdom. I think of the words of Jesus when he said to be as harmless as doves, but as shrewd as a serpent. When someone is strong emotionally, but weak mentally the enemy can jerk them around anytime he chooses. All he has to do is move them emotionally and they will be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. Over the past couple of years many believers have lost their way by simply getting involved in causes that felt just or compassionate to them, but those causes weren’t doctrinally truthful or biblical ideas of justice. When Satan came to tempt Jesus he chose the opportune moment of when Jesus hadn’t eaten for 40 days. It was a chance for Satan to catch Jesus in a weak and vulnerable moment. Satan tried everything he could to play to Jesus’ emotions, but each time Jesus responded with “it is written.” Jesus may have been emotionally vulnerable, but he was mentally strong. The truth of God’s word outweighed any emotional vulnerability he may have had. We need to fortify our mind. The wisdom of the book of Proverbs tells us that a person that can’t rule their spirit is like a city with no walls. We are vulnerable to being attacked when we are strong emotionally and weak mentally. Fortify your mind with God’s word so you can rule your spirit.

Here’s a few practical ways I believe you can fortify your mind.

1. Faithful church attendance – In the context of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4 it is the work of Pastors and Teachers that equip people. That work is a variety of things, but one of the main things is sitting under the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. I’ve always believed the writer of Hebrews when he said to “not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” However, it’s more clear today than ever that we need to be faithful to gather together to hear the Word of God.

2. Personal study of God’s word – A phrase I’ve come back to frequently lately is what Paul told TImothy and that was to “Study to show yourself approved.” We need to study the word of God to discover what in our lives is approved or disapproved. Every thought, every belief, every action, every cause. Before I let it stay in my life the question needs to be “is it approved by the Word of God.”

3. Using trusted resources – Do your research. For the love of everything holy dig on social media accounts before you like, share, follow, and consume the content. Is the resource trying to advance a cause or the kingdom? Is it Jesus centered? Is it Bible based? Is it connected to or promoting of the local church? Is it attacking the church and church leaders or is it there to serve the church and church leaders? Those are just some general questions to ask before trusting a resource. One resource I highly recommend is an app called TheosU. It’s a subscription based platform with tons of helpful resources. It is something you pay for, but I believe you should invest in your faith. We invest into so many other things, but there is nothing more valuable than your faith in Christ.

Fortify your mind. Don’t get blown about by every wind of doctrine. That’s the wrap on 5 Things I’m Feeling Right Now. Next up is a series on “Lies I’ve Believed.” I’m excited to talk about somethings that I have been told and many people have been told that just simply aren’t true. In the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts on the “5 things.” Drop a comment. It would also mean so much if you shared this resource with your friends.

5 Things I’m Feeling Right Now – Part 4

4. Church and Pastors will become more politically involved

First of all let me state that I don’t think this is the desire of most pastors. Most pastors have avoided politics like a plague. Like a plague. That used to seem like such an antiquated saying until recently. The general idea of the non political sentiment was that politics was something out in the world, but shouldn’t be brought into the church. Politics separated people and the church was the umbrella that was big enough to bring us all together. I think most pastors just wanted to reach people regardless of their political persuasions. Certainly you didn’t want people to feel like they needed to join a political party to feel at home in your church or feel like they needed to join a political party and then maybe they could find salvation in Jesus.

The heart behind this was that most pastors don’t want to create boundaries where boundaries don’t need to exist. Jesus said the Pharisees “shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces” by creating manmade boundaries. In another place Jesus said they “taught for doctrine the commandments of men.” I believe politics have been viewed through that lens in the church world for a long time. Let’s don’t create boundaries for people coming into the Kingdom of Heaven that God didn’t create and let’s not teach good ole American values as doctrine. I’ll get to my main thought in just a moment, but one of the problems with that thought is that much of our nations laws were shaped by Judeo Christian values. In other words things like personal freedom and personal responsibility are kingdom principals. When they are espoused by Christians and this is rather mind blowing, but, even when they are espoused by non Christians it still brings blessing. The principals of the word of God lift a nation and society.

The reason I believe that churches and pastors will become more political isn’t because the church is becoming more political, but because the world is.

To say it another way. Sometimes you pick a fight and sometimes a fight picks you.

This isn’t a fight many would have chosen, but it is the fight that has chosen us. The world around us has turned political. Watching a football game is now political, watching a movie or tv show is now political, watching a freaking commercial is now political. Going to school. Political. Going to College. POLITICAL. Going to work sadly for many people has become political.

I’ve always said that ministry felt like you were constantly tap dancing through a political mine field. One wrong move, one false step, say one thing wrong and boom! The world was turning more and more political, but in 2020 it became a run away train that lost its brakes. Everything is now political. There is a reason behind this that I will write about at a future date.

As culture rampages down the tracks of politics it is picking a fight with the church. Opening the Bible is now political. Reading a verse that says God created them male and female. Political. Reading a verse that says you were shaped in your mother’s womb. Political. Reading a verse that tells children to honor your Father and your Mother. Political. These aren’t even the hard sayings of scripture.

Everything that God does and everything that God allows is moving his plan, purpose, and story of redemption forward.

This is from the paraphrase version of the Bible:

At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” Ephesians 1:20-23 MSG

God’s focus is on his church, his kingdom, and his people. Everything God does or allows is for the betterment, enlargement, judgment, correction, or purification of his Bride, the Church. You can’t ignore where we are in this moment in history

Obviously God is using these historical moments to position, reposition, and I believe ultimately enlarge his Church and Kingdom.

My encouragement is to boldly and clearly embrace the moment. Everything that is happening in the world right now is for the betterment and purification of his Church. It must be so frustrating for the enemy to have so much influence. It feels like the enemy is influencing government, media, education, entertainment, big tech, and big business. You would think the whole world would have been led astray, but it’s not. It must be frustrating for the enemy to have so much influence and so many resources and yet Pastors behind their pulpits are literally pushing back the gates of hell with the preaching of the Gospel.

The church isn’t losing ground. It’s gaining identity. We will be stronger, better, larger, and have more influence when our battle is over. The war will continue until Jesus ends it. Our job is to fight the good fight of faith even if we didn’t pick the fight.

5 Things I’m Feeling Right Now – Part 3

3. Church is becoming and will become more experiential

I believe that by necessity church will increasingly become more experiential. By that I mean people will need to feel something before they can know something. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, in fact it’s the opposite, but we are living in dark days. I’ll get to the positive and faith filled perspective in a minute. For now let me unpack the dark days.

People are in spiritual darkness with little awareness of the light. Basic biblical understanding that was present in previous generations even among the non religious is now scarce to be found. What was once a battle of beliefs is now a battle of understanding and knowledge itself. By the way I think it has always taken the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of the spiritually blind. However, I believe the blindness is deeper than it’s ever been. Our culture is no longer differing from Christianity in what it believes, but also in how it believes. I’ll write soon about this phenomenon, but it permeates modern thought. Once we all operated from the same operational system, but with different applications. Today we are operating on completely different operational systems.

The deeper how of knowledge puts self as the center of truth. To stand and try to proclaim the Gospel is met with a person who believes you are sharing your truth, but it differs from their truth. In true human form the person believes their truth supersedes your truth even though the truth you are proclaiming is the truth of God’s word. There is very little idea of truth being something that is other or outside of a person that needs to be discovered. This all gets very confusing, but we are not battling over what is right and wrong, we are battling for who gets to determine what right and wrong even is. The center of truth is the center of self which is problematic. A person can hear the truth and internalize it and produce the opposite of the truth. For instance, God loves you is the truth. When that truth is shared with someone who sees self as the center of truth it is translated God loves me so there is little reason to change or deal with the sin that is destroying my life. After all, I’m the one who determines what is sin and what isn’t

All of this to say that people have to experience something outside of themselves. The “other” that we have as the church is the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the experience of God in the power of the Spirit that creates the opportunity for light to begin to penetrate the darkness. Think Paul on the road to Damascus. Completely aware of the teachings of Christianity and completely opposed to them until an experience with the power of God that simultaneously blinded his natural eyes and opened his spiritual eyes. People need an experience with the power of the Holy Spirit in order to have their heart opened to receive the truth of God’s word. It’s the experience with God’s presence that creates an awareness of something real outside of themselves. Some of this is generational. It’s different for my age and older. We were given an operational system that said truth was out there and need to be discovered. We were and many still are looking for the truth and once we see it we need the Holy Spirit to open our eyes of understanding. However, there is a younger generation that has a different OS. Like Paul they will need an encounter with the presence of God before being able to be aware that there is a truth to know and be seen. We certainly shouldn’t give up the practical preaching and teaching of the truth of God’s word, we just need Holy Spirit moments in our services more than ever before.

Here’s the incredibly positive part of the cultural moment we are living in as the church. Once people experience the presence of God there is an openness to the truth of God’s word. The walls of unbelief crash and the truth of God’s word replaces the lies the enemy has built into people’s lives. I know it sounds cliche, but the darker the night the brighter the light. There is darkness and there are spiritual strongholds, but we have this wildcard called the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will make the difference. The Holy Spirit will build the church through God’s people. The Holy Spirit will lead and guide people into all truth. Lifeless and spiritless expressions of church will most likely gravitate towards error. Churches alive by the Holy Spirit will turn cities upside down. Let’s be seekers of God’s presence and power. It’s not really anything new. We’ve never been able to do any of this without God’s power and presence anyway. It’s just a fresh perspective on what’s always been our reality. We have no existence without God’s presence.

5 Things I’m Feeling Right Now – Part 2

I don’t know if I will be able to articulate what I’m feeling about this second thing as well as I would like. I’m nervous and trepidatious to even think it, must less to put pen to paper or whatever it’s called now that we type words and post publicly. Here’s the second thing I’m feeling:

2. There will be a wealth shift

I believe there will be and is perhaps already happening a shift of wealth and property. Again, it’s difficult for me to articulate what I’m feeling, but perhaps it will help to define at first what I’m not talking about. There is an eschatological belief in some circles that money and finances will transfer from the kingdom of the world to the kingdom of God at the end of the age. If my understanding of this belief is correct, I’m not sure it is, it comes from the idea of Israel plundering Egypt before making their exit. Scriptures like Revelation 11:15 which states the kingdom of the world have become the Kingdom of our God help reinforce this view. Also, Proverbs 13:22 which states “the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.”

For the sake of clarification I’m not advocating that there will be a mystical transfer of funds in the world as a great sign of the end times. I’m not for sure that Joe Blow sitting in the church pew is going to be flush with cash anytime soon just because he loves Jesus, Momma, and America too. I’m also not advocating that merely believing for money by pulling an imaginary lever of faith and chanting “money cometh” is going to produce those dollar, dollar bills y’all.

My feeling is more nuanced than that. On a personal level I believe the wealth transfer will happen because the principles of God’s kingdom are far superior to the value system of the world. As long as the USA is a capitalist and free market society there will be money to be made. Increasingly the values of the world are oppression, entitlement, and victim hood. The idea of oppression being celebrated means we are championing the oppressed instead of championing those who overcome oppression. Entitlement is the sense of being owed something. If there is one thing I’ve learned in life and that is no one owes us anything and an entitled attitude does not lead to blessing. The reason these values are being promoted is because the wealth of our nation is being taken for granted. We’ve had wealth so long we don’t really understand how wealthy we are and we assume it will always be there. If there are those that succeed in transforming the economic systems of our nation and removing the ideas of personal property and individual rights then the wealth we’ve known will begin to dry up. However, my hope is in Christianity as a whole. The principles of God’s word teach us to be overcomers, more than conquerors, to take personal responsibility for our lives, to value and be appreciative of the things we have, and here’s the big one, be generous. In a world that says everyone owes me, the Bible teaches a principle that releases blessing and it’s the principle of generosity. Again, the principles of God’s word are vastly superior to the ways of the world. Here’s short list of what I believe it takes to be set apart and ultimately blessed:

1. Take personal responsibility for your life

It seems every week there is a legislation that is promised to solve all of the problems of the world. Nearly every week there is someone complaining about Big Business and those that have extreme wealth. The sooner we realize that the Government and other people’s money aren’t probably going to make me successful, the sooner we can start working on improving our own circumstances

2. Work hard at whatever you do

Have a Joshua mentality. If you are sold out by your brother’s to Potiphar’s house then go ahead and work with excellence. If you are betrayed by Potiphar and get sent to prison then shine in prison. The Bible is full of stories of people like Joshua, like Daniel, like David who were given extremely adverse circumstances yet had a prevailing and overcoming attitude even in hard times. The company you work for, the city you are trying to start a business in, the university you teach at may feel like Potiphar’s house, Babylon, and Saul’s Palace all rolled into one. Work hard, be excellent, stay in faith. God’s favor is on you. The world that hates you will also be inexplicably attracted to you because of the principles you live by.

3. Steward your money in a biblical way

There are a ton of resources out there. My best recommendation is to attend Financial Peace University. Many churches offer it as a small group, but you can also find ways to participate online. Jesus had more to say about money than he did heaven and hell. It’s not that heaven and hell are unimportant topics to discuss it’s just that’s how important money is. Maybe Jesus talked about it so much because the direction of your money in a lot of ways sets the direction of your life. When you have a God focused, heaven directed, biblical view of money your life will follow.

4. Practice the principle of the tithe and be generous

I can’t passionately type this enough. Don’t take the bait of entitlement. Don’t take the bait that church only wants your money and it’s just a corporate power structure that needs to be deconstructed. The windows of heaven still open when we tithe. The hinges aren’t broken just our culture. Tithing isn’t an escape all. You still have to work, endure, and handle money well, but the blessing of God will find your life.

5. Get out of debt (See number 3)

The borrower is slave to the lender according to the Bible. One of the ways you can escape the victim hood mentality of the world is to be debt free.

6. Make solid investments

Believe bigger than just paying bills. Think legacy, think blessing your children’s children. I’ll clean this up for the kids, but you need some “screw you” money. When your company demands you do something unbiblical or be fired, you need some screw you money. When a business says they won’t allow you to work with them because of your biblical beliefs (literally the spirit of antichrist at work), you need some screw you money. Even when schools and universities reject our children because of their values, we need some screw you money. That’s money to be able to take care of ourselves, start our own business, and build our own schools and universities. God’s given us the power to do it.

In conclusion. Is this a blog or a book? Who knows? The last thing I “feel” in regards to this is that property matters. I have a strong feeling to the point of conviction that churches need to physically own property in the US. We need to take physical terra firma. As believers we need to give towards buildings and properties. As leaders we need to cast vision for churches owning property and land. The church doesn’t need to be at the mercy of another organization over whether or not it can meet. To truly be free to preach the Gospel we need to hold the keys to the facilities we meet in. It’s not wasteful to build houses of worship for Jesus. It’s not poor stewardship to put buildings in the middle of cities that are solely dedicated to expanding the Kingdom of God. We need growing, thriving churches owning property in the hearts of every community. Part of this shift will be churches merging with other churches. I believe God is serious about his church and will sovereignly begin to move on churches that are struggling and unproductive to join with churches that are experiencing growth and revival. I see it as a type of pruning in order to cultivate more fruit production. The days of churches gathering together as denominations are gone, but the days of churches being international incorporations are here and still on the way. Don’t give up on gathering, and don’t think “the 4 walls” don’t matter. When Jesus brings a New Heaven and a New Earth the meek really will inherit the earth. Until then, churches owning property, Christians owning business, believers owning culture, and Jesus owning the hearts of those that own all those things is the establishment of God’s kingdom in our nation.

That’s a lot. Thank you if you stayed with me. I’m not taking a doctrinal or theological stance on this. Just sharing some thoughts and feelings. I’m excited to share part 3 with you soon.

5 Things I’m Feeling Right Now

As the title might imply this will be a series of posts that are based on things that I’m feeling. Please note the title isn’t “5 things I”m certain of right now.” These are things that have been rolling around in my heart and mind for quite sometime. Maybe that’s me hedging my bets, taking the cowards way out, or being insecure. You can judge me accordingly, but the title is an honest assessment of what I’m working out in my own personal thoughts. These will also probably be lengthy. Heck, this introduction is longer than most blogs and I haven’t even gotten to what I want to say just yet. If you are looking for brevity this probably isn’t the place, but I do have somethings in my heart that I hope you will engage, ponder, and possibly dialogue with me.

Here’s the first thing I’m feeling:

1. Excellence Matters More Than Ever Before

One of the most popular illustrations the Bible uses to describe people is sheep. From the Old Testament to the New Testament the gathering of people and even the idea of an isolated person getting lost or scattered brings multiple uses of the illustration. We are the sheep of his pastures. Leaders are often referred to as shepherds, and God self describes himself as our Great Shepherd. It’s almost a little insulting when you consider the IQ level of sheep. They aren’t known as the brightest or most intelligent of the animal kingdom. The point of the illustration probably isn’t to insult our intelligence, but to highlight the flock mentality of people. Sheep function best when gathered and flocked together under the faithful care of a leader known as a shepherd. This may surprise you or even shock you, but I’m not a shepherd by vocation. So this is where I will direct our thoughts more to a spiritual application versus an actual study of sheep and their innate habits.

In a spiritual sense sheep gather where they are cared for and protected. We, people and not sheep, it’s 2021 so I felt compelled to clarify. We tend to go where we are valued, loved, cared for and protected. You could say we herd where we are heard. We gather where there is an acceptance placed on us. For this reason I believe excellence is a virtue that will win the day. Something happened during the height of the Global Pandemic. In the name of safety extreme inconveniences were placed on people. I live in Southwest Florida where the temperature consistently hovers around the same temp as Satan’s radiator. During the height of the pandemic it wasn’t unusual seeing people standing in line before being allowed in a store to make a purchase like they were in line at Disney awaiting a thrill ride on Space Mountain. Sweating profusely while they waited. Many, many rules were placed on people. I have no explanation for this, but many stores and restaurants seemed dirty and unkempt. Most likely that was due to being short staffed, but it also feels like its more than that. Recently my family and I took a day to experiment with a situation. I was on hold with an airline that I have been loyal to for many years. We stayed on hold for as long as we possibly could. It became a family event as I had to frequently respond to text messages and return phone calls from a family members phone. We took turns holding the phone and listening to the hold music and intermittent messages about how valuable I was and how important my call was to them. We made it over 5 hours and never got anyone on the phone before finally having to surrender to defeat and end the call. I had so much time invested a little piece of my heart broke off when my son hit the button to end the call.

Here’s why I think excellence matters like never before. It feels like people aren’t being cared for. Whether it’s being judged harshly at their work place for what should be private and personal decisions. Being misinformed, sometimes it seems intentionally, by political or health leaders. Even companies and stores whose revenue is generated from customers and customer service have no problem placing burdens on people spending their hard earned cash with them.

My suspicion is that we’re losing our value of people. Which is why I believe the Bible uses terms like sheep and shepherds. Gathering people and caring for them is how God wants us to value one another. Excellence plays a role in this because excellence is how we honor God, but it’s how we care for people. Excellence is our practical expression of love for people. In other words, we don’t just say we love you. We show it by having a clean campus, a well orchestrated service, a safe and orderly kids ministry and the list could go on and on. Excellence comes from understanding your worth, the value of what you do, and the value of who you do it for. Ultimately all church is an expression of worship to Jesus so obviously we want to do our best. In addition, we need to see the value in the sheep God is sending our way. People are lost, broken, hurting, confused, fearful, lonely, and many times taken for granted.

Excellence shows that we care for people. Our attention to excellence shows that we see and value people. Excellence shows that we don’t take people for granted.

Gathering is important. It’s actually more than important, it’s vital. We are compared to sheep because like sheep we gather. Even people who are anti community and anti society will form a community and society to be anti community and anti social with. Let’s care for the flock with diligence. Caring for the spiritual needs, but also the practical needs of people. I really feel like the role of a shepherd in these days is to make sure people don’t feel like a burden or a problem. Let’s see the value in people. For church it’s far more than “customer service” it’s shepherding well the broken and hurting of our world. I truly believe the sheep will gather where shepherds care for and protect them.

Stay connected for the second thing I’m feeling in this season.

Little + Little = More and More

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)

I wish there was a transformation event. You know, a place you go for about 14 hours. At the end of a long and exhausting day, you come out bleary eyed, clothes wrinkled, hair in disarray, but you are completely transformed. Not a little transformed, just completely transformed. No more toxic thoughts, no more being prone to succumbing to temptation, complete control over your tongue. If that were actually possible I would start the first transformation event and I would charge a hefty fee because I bet people would be standing in line to get perfected.

Alas, there is no single event like that. Transformation isn’t one service, one conference, one prayer sesh (abbreviation for session cause I’m cool like that), or one worship moment. I once heard a lady say that she had heard enough sermons to last her a lifetime. The problem was based on her attitude, her commitment to Jesus, and overall spiritual health, my guess is that she needed at least one more. It’s not all of the sermons we’ve heard, it’s all of the sermons we’ve heard plus the next one that keeps us focused on Jesus, his mission, and our purpose in his plans. Transformation doesn’t happen instantly, but it does happen. Paul said it happens by going from glory to glory. In other words, transformation is a journey and not a destination. That may feel frustrating because we will never “arrive” on this journey called life. However, I do have some good news. God isn’t a going backwards kind of God. He takes us from glory to glory and may I add glory to glory to glory. God is relentlessly moving forward. Glory to glory isn’t a process of frustration of never arriving, it’s actually God’s plan for progress and abundance in your life.

Little + Little = More and More

Unveil – Paul says the veil is taken away when we turn to Christ. It’s a powerful picture of authenticity and vulnerability. So many times we hide. We hide our sin. We hide our shame. In the context of this scripture Paul is referencing those who are blinded by a veil of religion. The cure to this blindness is turning to Christ. The veil is removed. We can own our story in the light of his grace. Paul writes, “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” When we lose the veil, God’s presence comes, and we have access to grace, hope, faith, confidence, blessing, purpose, and an infinite list of God’s goodness. We can’t transform behind a veil.

Behold – Paul says what we behold is what we become. If you focus on something long enough you will start to look like what you behold. Transformation isn’t an event, it’s a focus. That’s why my lucrative dream of a high priced transformation event will sadly and unfortunately never come true. After 14 hours of transformation people would leave and ultimately slowly become what they behold. If they behold politics they would become politically driven. If they behold the world, they will slowly become like the world. That’s why, out of all of the sermons we’ve heard, the most important one is the next one. Out of all of the times we’ve spent praying, our most important prayer time is the next one. The most important church service is the one this weekend. We may not be completely changed, but little by little, we are going from glory to glory. Prayer = Progress. Church = Progress. Worship = Progress. God’s Word = Progress. And all of God’s paths drip with abundance. Little by little God is taking you into more and more.

Little + Little = More and More

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.

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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.