Little + Little = More and More

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

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

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

Little + Little = More and More

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

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

Little + Little = More and More

Is Church Gaining or Losing Importance?

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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

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

Here’s 4 Important Things to Know About Church:

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

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

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

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

3. Church is the Battleground of God’s Kingdom

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

4. God Fulfills Those Who Fill His House

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

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

Woe Is Me

Woe Is Me – Isaiah 6:5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what God’s presence does:

  1. It creates self awareness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Spot Pride

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

  1. Inconsistent results

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

2. An inability to listen to and receive feedback

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

3. Making hard conversations hurt

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

The Blanket

Anonymous businessman with bowler hat
I know there is prejudice and racism in our world. Unfortunately it may always be a part of our world. It happens in obvious ways and not so obvious ways. Prejudice comes from throwing a blanket over an entire group of people. People are generalized into groups like “cops,” “black,” “white,” and any other description you would like to use.
When you take away the blanket you find that there are many different descriptions within the “groups.” For instance, there are good cops, bad cops, average cops, superstar cops, lazy cops, and even perhaps some crooked “cops.” Now, change “cops” to any other race, group, or people and it remains the same. Heck, you can even throw the word “christian” in there and all of the previous descriptions could still apply in some cases on some level.
Once the blanket is removed you realize something else. Within each group there is a better description. We aren’t black people, white people, hispanic people, or asian people. We are just people. We are hurting people. We are scared people. We are lonely people. We are forgotten people. We are marginalized people. We are people who long for hope, but are sometimes hopeless people. We are people who desperately want to find meaning and purpose in this world.
Blanket removed, generalizations set aside, and focused narrowed. Now, you begin to see something even more powerful than people. You see a person. A person uniquely made in the image of a creator. A person uniquely loved by God. A person that Jesus laid down His life for. God loved the world, interpreted as each person in the world, so much that he laid down his life for them. He did this so that “whoever” regardless of their “group” might find eternal and abundant life in him.
Governments and political parties divide us into voting blocs. We divide ourselves based on culture and common walks of life. God loves us personally and individually. I wonder how a God view of this world would change the current climate of our culture. Let’s remove the blanket. Let’s take away the generalizations. Let’s the see the unique person that is only on this earth for a limited amount of time. A limited edition. A one time offer. A person made in the image of their Creator.
Take away the blanket. Remove the generalizations. I am a person. I am a person in need of grace. I am a person in need of love. I am a person that needs to be heard. I am a person in need of faith. I am a person that longs for respect, honor, and significance. And so are you.
Let’s shape the world around that view.
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

Church, Here is Why I’m Standing Firm

Church

Here is a list of why I’m in the church and I’m not going anywhere:

1. It’s Not About Me

You want a traditional church. Great. Sing weird songs and find beauty in stained glass. It’s not for me, but if its for you, go for it with everything you’ve got. You want a church with an IMAX screen. Great. Throw that rock concert fist in the air and worship Jesus with everything you’ve got. Preference doesn’t matter to me. ISIS and The Taliban are beheading people for believing that Jesus is the only savior of the world, but by all means, let’s get offended and leave the church over song styles and whether we have regular lights or LED lights. Ultimately, the church is for me, but its not about me. I shouldn’t have been let in, I don’t deserve to be a part, but by God’s great grace I got in and I’m not going anywhere. Find a church you like and devote yourself to it.

2. The Church of Jesus Christ is the Hope of the World

Hey church, I would like to remind us that we are still the City on the Hill. We are not simply a non profit organization and we are not another good community group. Governments will come and go, cultural fads will boom and bust, and even nations will rise and fall, but the church of Jesus Christ will stand. We are built on a solid rock. We are built on a strong foundation. We are anchored by a cornerstone that cannot be broken. I see other religions and ideologies that influence through fear, intimidation, and even violence. We are the light outside of the common culture of fear, despair, and hatred. We are the light that shines on a hill beaming faith, hope, and love.

3. I Want to be Ready

I need the church. The church needs me. Both are true, but one is more vital to my salvation. God uses the church to mature us. God uses the church to equip us. God uses the church to develop us into His plans and purposes. God uses the church to encourage us. The church is where I have built relationships that sharpen me. The church is the place where I found responsibility that has matured me. The church is where I have found a purpose that was greater than my own. Ultimately, its through the church that God has been preparing me to be a part of His bride that will be ready for the return of Jesus Christ. The church is God’s plan for the “perfecting” of the saints.

4. I Love Jesus

I love Jesus, Jesus loves the church, so I love the church. I love Jesus, Jesus gave His life for the church, so I give my life for the church. I don’t know how long I will get to ride on this dust ball called Earth. I’m presented with many options of things to live for and occupy my time while here. None of which will ever compare to Jesus and His church. It’s an honor and a privilege to dedicate my seconds, minutes, and hours for His cause and passion. My only prayer is that I will love His church the way He loves His church.

Why Sundays Matter

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Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 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.

3 Reasons Why Sunday Matters in Your New Year:

1. Jesus

Jesus is worthy of our first and best. Dedicate the first part of your week to him in worship. When we gather to worship Jesus as a church we are proclaiming our public faith in the promises of Jesus Christ. We are declaring that there is salvation, healing, and power in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sundays are much more than an obligation or religious tradition. Our corporate worship times are a declaration that we are holding tightly without wavering to the unwavering promises of God. We are a public Testament that Jesus Christ is a soon returning king.

2. Others

It’s interesting that the reasons listed in Hebrews for regular church attendance aren’t for our personal blessing. The writer doesn’t say that you might miss your Word from God, or that you might miss an encounter with God, or that you might miss your chance for a blessing. All of those are great and all of those happen in the House of God. However, his main reason for gathering in the House of God on a consistent basis was for the benefit of others. We are there to help motivate, we are there to help encourage, and we are there to serve a greater purpose than ourselves. Never underestimate the power of being in the room. My worship helps create an atmosphere of freedom for someone to find Christ. My support of the Word of God helps build faith for someone to experience their encounter with God. My smile and handshake helps encourage others in their faith. My serving helps set the table for others to enjoy God’s great banquet. Maybe you don’t need this Sunday, but someone else does. We don’t gather for the sake of ourselves alone, we gather for the sake of others. I want to be a part of someone’s salvation story, someone’s day of healing, or someone’s day of breakthrough. Great things happen on Sunday and I want to be a part of it.

3. Me

Last on my list is ourselves. Why? Because serving God through church attendance may be about others, but you can’t serve others without being blessed yourself. There is an immense joy in finding a purpose greater than yourselves. As a Pastor I get a front row seat to watch God move and bless the lives of the people that serve in God’s great house. Are their lives perfect? Absolutely not. Do they still have problems in their lives? Sure, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. Do they have an enduring joy and peace greater than their circumstances? Without a doubt. You can’t give your life away in the service of others without finding a better and truer life in Christ.

There are legitimate reasons for missing church. Vacation times and sick days top this list. However, to sit at home or to be occupied with hobbies and recreation is a distraction from your purpose as a believer in Jesus Christ. You can’t give your life away in worship to Jesus and service to others without finding a better, truer, and more joy filled life.