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

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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.

As Clear as a Picture

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It’s only two pieces of wood. One vertical, and one horizontal. Many other signs, symbols, and images have portrayed a message. None of those however carry the significance of two pieces of wood that form a simple cross. The power of the message conveyed in one simple icon connects with the hearts of people from every generation, culture, nationality, and race. Regardless of where you are in the world, when you see the cross, you see the icon of God’s unconditional love. It’s simple yet significant. The significance isn’t in the two pieces of wood or the icon, its the body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was hung on them. The power is in the blood that stained them. Paul told the church at Galatia that the message of Jesus death on the cross was proclaimed to them just as clear as if they had seen a picture. When we see the cross we see very clearly the picture of what God has richly provided for us. We see a picture of our salvation, a picture of our healing, a picture of our redemption, and a picture of our freedom to be blessed. It’s Good Friday. Today we look to the cross and see the picture of perfect love. We see the picture of selfless sacrifice. We see the picture of Jesus death on a cross, so that we can have abundant and eternal life. Today, all over the world, business and organizations are trying to use an image to convey their message. No image will ever be more powerful, more universal, and more significant than the cross. When I see the cross, the story is clear, the picture is perfect, God loves me.

Happy Good Friday and a very Happy Easter to you and yours.

Why I Hit the Delete Button

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Recently the church where I serve as Lead Pastor, CoastLife Church, was embroiled in somewhat of a controversy. What seemed to be a pretty solid marketing approach for our Easter Outreach Campaign became the topic of a local Facebook Page with over 20,000 followers. The controversy was over our Cross Equals Love signs that began to appear all over the city of Venice and the surrounding areas. We printed them and made them available for people to display in their yards or businesses. Those signs went everywhere. I swear that we received a multiplication miracle because I don’t remember having that many printed. When the Facebook Page posted about the signs twice, a few hundred people decided to weigh in. Some comments were very supportive, some were neutral, and some were highly critical. Some comments were direct to our church and were an attempt to outright bully us. The critical comments ranged from legitimate criticism about signs that were placed in prohibited areas to very hateful comments about our church and christians in general. I posted one official comment on behalf of our church and felt that it was informative and professional. As the conversation continued I wanted to post more comments. Comments that would refute insane accusations, comments to defend our church, and comments to defend the message of christianity. I resisted the urge and let the conversation eventually fizzle out. Finally, a brilliant idea hit me. Something that I loved and knew others would love as well. It would have been a popular post with my friends on social media, and it would have rallied our team that has been a vital part of this Easter campaign. With the brilliant post on my screen and ready to be sent to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram I hit the delete button. Why would I delete something that would have been popular and even would have been a morale boost for our team? Because I realized that the result of criticism had caused me to become what I never want to be, an issue oriented christian. When we posted signs, hung door hangers, and passed out Easter invite cards it came from the very pure heart of our church to remind people of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and invite them to celebrate with us at our Easter services. The deleted post, although brilliant even if I do say so myself, was not pure hearted. It wasn’t based on a desire to reach the unchurched or the dechurched. It wasn’t to invite people to a life giving, life changing church. It was to win an argument. It was divisive between christians and non christians, and it was out of my need to be right. So I hit the delete button. Here’s my prayer in response to criticism and my desire to never be an issue oriented christian arguing politics, doctrine, and just arguing for arguments sake.

1. I want to be pure hearted

I don’t mind criticism. If you do anything of significance it will be accompanied with criticism. However, whatever I do in my life and ministry I want it to come from a very pure place. My prayer is that all actions from my life and ministry would be out of a love for Jesus Christ and a love for the people that he died for. Motives matter.

2. I want to be loving and forgiving

If Jesus could love and forgive the very people that nailed him to a cross, surely I can hold my tongue on social media.

3. I don’t want to circle the wagons

When we circle our wagons, we close our doors. It’s tempting as believers to circle our wagons and become very defensive about our beliefs and way of life. It’s almost understandable to do so. However, the problem is that when we circle our wagons we close our doors to the very people who need our message the most. Jesus Christ is the stumbling block and the cross is the offense. If people are offending by the cross or stumble over Jesus being the only way of salvation, it is their decision to do so. My prayer is that I would never cause someone to stumble over me and my arguments before they ever have the chance to wrestle with the decision of whether or not to follow Jesus Christ. Sometimes when we are overly defensive we circle our wagons so tightly over small issues, we don’t allow people the chance to get to the real issue and that is Jesus died on a cross for their sins, and they can either receive or reject that act of mercy and grace.

Excellence Matters

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I saw this sign while I was driving down the road the other day and it reminded me of an important leadership principle. It’s important to note that I wholeheartedly believe the message that is written on this sign. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus is God. I believe with all of my heart that everyone should confess their sins and repent to Jesus Christ. Also, I believe everyone should love Jesus Christ with their heart, mind, and soul. In fact, I have dedicated and given my life to preaching this exact message. So why would I shudder and be filled with dread when my life’s message is being displayed for thousands of people to see as they drive along a busy highway? Because excellence matters. Scriptures clearly teach that we are God’s ambassadors here on earth. In other words, we are his representation to the world. How we go about proclaiming our message and doing ministry is setting people’s perception of God’s eternal kingdom. The materials we use, the methodology we use, and the attitude we exhibit are all conveying a message. I never want a poorly conveyed message to cause people to miss the majesty of our Lord and King. I used to teach a leadership lesson called Brown Bag Christianity. Sometimes we are guilty of taking the most priceless and precious gift imaginable, and presenting it to people in something as unappealing as a brown bag. Or perhaps a plywood sign and some spray paint.

Here are three filter questions when considering conveying the message of Jesus Christ through a tangible material:

1. Would you use it in your own home? If you wouldn’t use it in your house, why would you use it in God’s house or any where else? I have been guilty of this, going cheap using the excuse “we are a church.” I’m all for being thrifty, and we will continue to do so, but keep in mind the overall message and not just the cost of the material.

2. Is it current? I don’t preach from a scroll anymore, but I preach the same message that was recorded on them 2000 years ago and beyond. It’s a simple concept, yesterday’s materials won’t reach today’s generation.

3. Does the material/method hinder or obscure the message? Let’s face it. Sometimes we are guilty of falling in love with our methods and making them primary over our message. Pastor John Siebeling once talked about changing his preaching style. He actually loved to preach and loved the way he preached, but it wasn’t effective. He changed his preaching style and saw many more people come to Christ through his ministry. He said, “I had to give up something I loved for something I loved more.”

Excellence Matters.