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.┬áIt’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.

Do I Put God First?

I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us give less than we think and spend more than we realize. When you scrutinize a budget it’s amazing how the numbers sometimes tell a completely different story than you would think.

Compare the money spent at the following places any given month versus how much you give to support the work of Jesus Christ:

Restaurants, Coffee, and Soda – Tithes and Offerings = Whether or not I prioritize eating out over the House of God

Movie Theaters, Netflix, Red Box, Gamefly, DVDs/CDs – Tithes and Offerings = Whether or not I prioritize entertainment over the mission of Jesus Christ

Shoes, Shirts, Jeans, and Accessories – Tithes/Offerings = Whether or not I prioritize how I look over the kingdom of God.

Most of us would proudly quote the scripture about seeking God’s kingdom first, and all of these other things would be added to us, but I wonder if our budget would confirm this. The point of this blog isn’t that all of these “other things” are to be avoided. It’s to ask the question are these things “added” after we have sought the kingdom of God first, or are the “other things” taking priority in our lives?

Now add up the money spent at:

Restaurants, Coffee Shops, Soda’s purchased at Convenience Stores, Movie Theaters, Netflix, Redbox, Gamefly, DVDs/CDs, Shoes, Shirts, Jeans, and Accessories

Compare to:

Tithes and Offerings

Still think you can’t afford to give?

I’m Insecure about My Insecurities (This title probably isn’t any good)

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I’m so insecure, I am insecure about writing a blog about insecurity. Over the years I’ve learned to mask my insecurity with humor. At my church, CoastLife Church, I even have developed a humorous persona of being overly confident in my speaking abilities. It usually generates a lot of laughs when I refer to what an incredible preacher I am. I often mention my rugged sex appeal for good measure.

I’m not for sure what generated the insecurities in my life. I had a great childhood and a wonderful family. My family never talked down to me or attempted to make me feel inferior. However, I was extremely shy as a kid and I am by nature an introvert. The shyness and the introverted nature grew to almost paralyzing insecurity. It’s cost me in my life. People that I could have built relationships with, but the insecurity said don’t call them they don’t want to hear from you. Other opportunities get passed by because of the negativity and doubt that cause you not to take action.

It has always been a personal and private battle for me. It was only personal until the point that my church began to grow. The growth of my dreams and vision were quickly met by the saboteur of my own insecurities. Those same paralyzing insecurities began to arise to cause me not to trust people, not to trust myself, and began plaguing me with negativity and doubt. Causing me to feel like I was in over my head, that I was in way above my ability, and that everything I had worked hard for would suddenly be swept out from under me. At that point I decided that it would no longer be personal and private. There is to much at stake for me to allow my own insecurities to be the limiting factor of the growth of a church of Jesus Christ. I am a good enough preacher and sexy enough to know that unchecked insecurity will limit what God can do in me and through me.

Insecurity in its simplest form is the enemy of faith and trust. God cannot work in our lives while we are filled with “insecurity,” which is really translated as doubt, worry, and distrust of the goodness of God. Here are 3 things that I have been doing to help overcome insecurity and be what God has called me to be:

1. Do Battle: Challenge every thought no matter how small. Spiritual warfare isn’t as much about weird people in prayer rooms as it is about mind renewal. Paul said spiritual warfare was taking every thought captive and submitting obedient to Christ. Do battle, take every negative thought captive and renew it with the Word of God.

2. Isolate Your Insecurity: I have found the more I hang around insecure people the more I become insecure. Insecurity breeds insecurity. When I hang around secure and confident people I feed off of their confidence. We tend to gravitate toward people who are like us. This doesn’t work if you are battling insecurity. Being drawn to insecure people will only feed the beast of your insecurities. Be intentional about surrounding yourself, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first, with people who can encourage you to grow in confidence.

3. Grow in Faith: Insecurity happens when I put more trust in myself than I do in God. If my faith is in myself then I have a good reason to be insecure. I know me and I don’t inspire a lot of trust in myself. However, when I place my faith in God, He is faithful and trustworthy. If I can grow in my understanding of the goodness of God, His love for me, and His plans for me it begins to build my faith. I personally have been listening to more preaching than I ever have in my 36 years. I constantly need to be challenged by the Word of God in order to grow in my faith and be all that God has called me to be.

I’m Glad You Left the Religious Organization, but…

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For several years now there has been a trend in christianity of breaking free from religious bondage. Christian’s are leaving stuffy, traditional, and highly religious churches for more dynamic and grace filled churches. Pastors and church leaders are leaving traditional denominations and organizations to break free and build modern, life giving churches. One of the best decisions I have made in recent years was to leave an organization. It was obvious the organization that I was licensed with and the direction God was leading me were at opposite ends of the spectrum. I broke free from the organization that was bound with rules, restrictions, and lifeless traditions in order to build a life giving, life changing church. Perhaps that’s your story as well. You are a christian who has left a lifeless and religiously bound church, or you are a Pastor who has broken free from a denomination or organization. I’m glad your free.

However, I’ve noticed another trend. It’s a trend to not connect, not belong, and keep my options open. Some christians have multiple churches without being committed to one. Some Pastors play the field of ministerial fellowships, church networks, and other groups. Young Pastors and Church Planters are the en vogue group right now. In the church world they are the prettiest girls at the dance and have multiple groups who are courting them for a chance to give them a spin around the floor. I’m glad your free, but I also believe the keys to healthy Christians and healthy Churches are things like commitment, loyalty, and faithfulness. When I disconnected from the organization it took a little while to figure out where God was leading me and who I should connect with. I get it. You need some time to figure out who you are now and what’s next for you, but at some point you are going to need to connect and commit. For me, I connected with Destiny Ministerial Network and the Association of Related Churches known as ARC. When people ask I describe it this way, Destiny is my family and ARC is my business. Destiny is where I go to know and be known. ARC is where I go to learn how to implement structure and strategy to improve our greeters, ushers, and parking team. I learn things from the resources that ARC provides and then I bring it home to discuss it with my Destiny family. Generally I give around 4% of our churches total revenue to Destiny. They helped us start and I want to support them and be faithful in giving to them. We give to ARC as well. I have friends in many other networks and fellowships and I love them all, but I can only be committed, loyal, and faithful to a few things. I chose to connect to those two things. What about you? I’m glad you broke free from a lifeless church, but what church do you call home now? Pastor or Church Leader, I’m glad your out of the organization and you feel like the prettiest girl at the dance, but who have you connected to. I’m glad your free, but healthy Christians and healthy Churches understand that God blesses loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment. You will need to choose a church. You will need to choose a spiritual covering. You will need to be submitted to spiritual leadership. As Pastors are we preaching loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment to others and not practicing it ourselves? I’m glad your free, but loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment are still keys to the kingdom.

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself about faithfulness?

1. Who am I tithing to? Every church and every christian should be faithful in tithing to their spiritual leadership. If every christian and every church tithed, there would be no lack in the church today.

2. Who am I open to? Who has the ability to speak into my life? Every believer and every church should have godly and trustworthy leadership and be submitted to it. God has spiritual government and submission is the key to power in the kingdom.

3. Who am I doing life with? Who am I committed to stay connected with through the highs and lows of life? It’s about relationships. Be in committed relationships and you will see them grow and bless you. Find a church, find a network, find a fellowship and stay connected in the good times and bad.