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

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.

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.

Is Karma a Thing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 10 Commandments of Social Media for Churches and Church Leaders

Social media networks projecting out from smartphone. Editorial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a Christian, Not a Confederate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am a Joel Osteen Fan

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Victoria, bless her heart. I’m from the south and that’s our polite way of approaching a situation where someone has said or done something that wasn’t wise. Usually its said with a facial gesture that is a mix of pain and bewilderment and accompanied by a slow head shake. To be proper it goes, painful facial gesture to show displeasure, slow head shake to show disagreeement/bewilderment, and the phrase “bless her heart” is used to show compassion. I’m not for sure when the video originally aired, but it has taken social media by storm over the past couple of days. It’s a video of her attempting to encouraging the church to worship, but it goes terribly off course and quickly. I think what she was attempting to say was that God takes delight in the worship and service of His people. I think she also was trying to say that the best thing you can do for yourself is to worship and serve God. Something about God loving a cheerful giver and delighting yourself in the Lord and all that. I think. What she said came out terribly off course. Naturally, the christian community filled with the love and grace of a crocodile has pounced on both Joel and Victoria. Which brings me to the point of this blog. Dishonor, in any form is dishonor. Whether it be in conversation, social media posts, or in action.

In my bible reading this morning I read the story of the bronze serpent in the wilderness. Snakes were attacking the Israelites because of their sin and a bronze serpent was raised up to save them. They could simply look at the bronze serpent on the pole and they would live. The interesting thing is the confession of the people. Their confession to Moses was, “we have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you.” Included in their confession is the sin of dishonoring leadership with their words. But Joel and Victoria deserve it. They are wrong. Joel has botched media interviews, Victoria has said something that most of christendom would find unbiblical. They deserve the ire of the public. Moses was doctrinally incorrect as well, but God still spoke to him like a friend, used him mightily, and ultimately received him into glory. A chapter before the people confessed about speaking against Moses we find the story of Moses striking the rock a second time. God said to speak to the rock and not to strike it. Moses disobeyed, he didn’t follow the word of God, he completely tampered with the doctrine of Jesus Christ who was once and for all stricken to meet the needs of humanity, and God dealt with him. This post isn’t to condone doctrinal error. Instead, it’s to point out that God both uses and deals with His leaders. If social media would have been around in biblical times I wonder what would have been tweeted about David when he had an affair and was an accessory to murder, but was still a man after God’s own heart. I wonder what the Facebook posts would have said when it came out that Abraham had lied and spun a story for selfish reasons not trusting in God’s protective hand, but yet was still imputed righteousness. I wonder how many people would have been quick to post videos of Peter by a fire letting the profanities flow in order to prove he didn’t know Jesus, but yet still kept preaching. I promise you that video would have gotten a lot of shares, comments, and likes. I wonder what we would have posted when God dealt with Moses for striking the rock and didn’t allow his leadership to extend into the Promise Land. Here’s the deal. Leaders are, have been, and always will be imperfect, but be careful because what you say can bite you. Social Media Pharisees love to point out the splinters in the lives of others all the while ignoring the beam in their own eyes.

I am not an overseer of Joel and Victoria. I trust and hope that they have good people in their lives who can talk to them honestly when something has gone wrong. You and I aren’t those people. I see people bashing “celebrity” preachers and pastors on social media and it really bothers me. First of all, God raises up leadership according to the hearts of the people. If you don’t like your leaders, look in your own heart. Secondly, I lost my voice of criticism and my rocks to throw when I started sinning myself many years ago.

Here’s a simple way to approach the seeming failures of leaders that you aren’t personally involved with:

1. Trust – Trust that they have people around them to correct them and trust that God will deal with them. God really is in control and in charge. He really does raise leaders up and take leaders down. He really does determine our times and seasons, and how long we experience His blessing and favor. Fortunately for me and other leaders, He has more grace than the general public.

2. Pray – It’s so simple it’s cliche, but it needs to be said more than ever before. Pray for people instead of using social media to besmirch their character. The only person who wins when a pastor or christian leader fails is Satan. Not God, not you, not me, not the church, the enemy wins when pastors and christian leaders fail. Pray.

3. Be life giving – There is a time and place to confront people who have done wrong. Churches and pastors need accountability in order to bring correction when they have done wrong. However, if you and I are not part of the accountability process then the best thing we can do is to use our words to build up rather than tear down. We can use our words to speak life rather than death.

I want to go on record. I am a Joel Osteen fan. I am a Joyce Meyer fan. I am a T.D. Jakes fan. I am a Jentzen Franklin fan. I am a Kenneth Copeland fan. I am an Andy Stanley fan. I am a Mark Driscoll fan. I am a Chris Hodges fan. I am a fan of the bivocational pastor who works 60 and 70 plus hours a week just to fulfill the vision God gave him. I am a fan of the pastor of the mid size church in the mid size city that most of us will never hear of. He fails sometimes, he succeeds sometimes, but he imperfectly walks out his calling before God. Ultimately God’s grace covers him and God’s glory will receive him when his time is finished. I am a fan of anyone who is trying to lead people to Jesus and build His church. I’m even a fan of Victoria, bless her heart.