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.

The Mirror

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This information may come as disconcerting, shocking, and a little bit overwhelming to you. People generally recommend sitting down for this type of thing. I’m not for sure why. Perhaps lounging in a chair is a better way to receive this type of news. Lounging in a chair is a pretty good idea for any scenario. Anyway, this might be shocking to you, but I am not a perfect person. Please grab a nearby tissue and try to compose yourself. Aren’t you glad your lounging in a chair?

If this wasn’t shocking to you, its because we have all dealt with the reality of our imperfection. However, it isn’t the general idea that I am imperfect that I am to accept. Paul recommended that we examine ourselves:

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT)

I wonder how many things in my life could be better if I took time to spiritually examine myself to see if my faith was genuine. God has rich, abundant, and purposed filled life (Thanks Rick Warren) for me. There are “imperfections” in me that will cause me to miss that life. Paul recommended self examination to see if there was evidence of the abundant life of Jesus Christ within me.

Here are 3 ways to look into the mirror of our lives:

1. Read the Word of God… the Bible is alive and begins to shape and reshape the thoughts and motives of our hearts and mind.
2. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. The role of the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all truth. As we examine ourselves the Holy Spirit will guide us into the person God has intended for us to be.
3. Feedback… hopefully there are a few trustworthy people in your life that can help you become aware of any roadblocks to God’s best for you. Receive instruction and be teachable.

The Offense of the Cross

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The truth hurts or so I’ve been told. It’s such a common saying that some may even mistakenly think that it has a scriptural basis. I guess the truth did hurt. It hurt Jesus when He laid down all of His righteousness in order to take on all of our sin. The truth is that I am a sinner and needed a Savior. The truth is that Jesus took all of my sin and gave me His righteousness. The truth did hurt, it hurt more than we will ever know.

However, in communicating biblical truth and teaching the revelation of Jesus Christ it seems that some feel the need to be offensive with the Gospel. Not realizing that it is not us that should be offensive, but the Gospel itself. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9 talked about presenting the Gospel in a way that made it easy for people to relate to. The early church fathers in the first council of leaders determined, “we should not make it difficult for the gentiles who are turning to Christ” in Acts 15. The cross is offensive in itself. It says that I am so bad that a perfect person had to be slaughtered on my behalf and could/can do nothing to save myself. Jesus is in scripture is called the stumbling block. He is the only way of salvation. There is no other name given that has the power to save us. In preaching and creating worship services my main goal is not to be an offense or stumbling block before people have had a chance to get to the cross and the decision concerning Jesus Christ.

Here are few things to think about in communicating the truth of Jesus Christ:

1. The Cross is an offense so I don’t have to be (I don’t want arrogance, pride, or a negative attitude to offend people before they have ever had a chance to make it to the cross of Calvary)

2. Jesus is a stumbling block so I don’t have to be (I don’t want my method to trip people before they have ever had a chance to really make a decision about Jesus Christ)

3. I want to find the most effective and current way to relate the message of the cross and Jesus Christ

4. I don’t want to make it difficult for people who are turning to Christ (Jesus accused the Pharisee’s of entering the kingdom of God and locking the door behind them by adding difficult rules and regulations)

10 Reasons I Tithe

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I have to confess that when I started CoastLife Church I had a bit of a consumerism mentality. The church that I took over had around 15 people attending on Sundays and when I inherited the account there was only a couple of hundred of dollars in it and we had about $800 worth of bills on the desk. Facing financial hardship meant that I was out to get every donation I could find. It was a struggle as we planned our relaunch, and even after our launch. About 6 months after our relaunch I was still praying and hoping for donations and financial support when I sensed the Lord asking me what I really believed about tithing. Heidi and I have always been tithers, but I knew this was about our church. I gave personally, but as the leader of our very small work I wasn’t giving from our church. About 6 months in to our venture as CoastLife Church I made the decision to tithe as a church. Jesus said in Luke 16, if you can’t be trusted with unrighteous wealth, who will trust you with true riches. Since making the decision to honor God with tithing our church has been trusted with true riches. Our attendance has more than tripled, many people have found Christ, been baptized, healed, and received ministry at CoastLife Church. I believe that being faithful in our giving is one of the reasons we have experienced true riches. Here are 10 Reasons I Tithe and insist that our church Tithes as well:

1. The first portion of all increase belongs to God and not to me

– Whether it was a child born to a family, fruit from a tree, crops from a field, a calf born to a flock, a city given to Israel, or financial increase. God consistently said the first portion was holy (Separated) and belonged to him. 

2. It is part of my worship

– David said I don’t want to offer to God something that cost me nothing. I don’t want to be a consumer of someone else’s worship. Tithing makes me an owner and investor into my place of worship. 

3. It honors God by placing him before everything else in my life
– I want the preeminent God to be preeminent in my life. I honor God by placing him first with my tithe. The promise of scripture is that if I give first to him, “all these other things” will be added to me. 

4. It is a place of practical obedience in my life
– Small acts of obedience are better than extravagant acts of sacrifice

5. It builds my trust and faith in God
– When I tithe it builds my trust that God is my provider.

6. Because scripture promises blessing will be released on the other 90%
– It has been said that 90% blessed is better that 100% consumed

7. Because scripture promises that Satan won’t be able to stop me
– It’s unbiblical to think that if I tithe that nothing bad will happen to me. I’ve tithed for years and my car has still broken down, things have broken at my house, and we still have medical bills from time to time. However, I believe the promise of scripture is that nothing will be able to stop me. The devourer, the one that would destroy my potential and promise is rebuked when I tithe. 

8. It reminds me that I am not my own
– God said to use the tithe to testify that you were once in slavery, but have now been redeemed

9. Because I believe CoastLife Church is my spiritual storehouse and I want it to be abundantly provided for
– The local church is the hope of the world. While there are many worthwhile organizations, the church’s mission and message is eternal. 

10. Because I love Jesus more than life
– For me, the only appropriate response to the cross is to give generously to the house of God. Jesus gave his all for me, the least I can do is give a portion of my income to build His church and spread the gospel. 

 

 

3 Reasons to Pray and Keep Praying

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Wouldn’t prayer be much easier if God had a Drive Thru Menu and speaker? We could drive through when needed and order up some traveling mercies, a financial blessing, and a side of protection. Wouldn’t it mean that our faith was bigger if our prayers were heard and answered immediately? Jesus didn’t really seem to think so. In Luke 18 he gave us the parable of the persistent widow to teach us that “we ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus ended this teaching on being persistent in prayer by raising the question, when the Son of Man returns will he find faith on the earth? It seems Jesus intended and expects us to have to pray repeatedly about certain things in our life. The Apostle MC Hammer was correct when he said, “You’ve got to pray just to make it today.” Here are 3 reasons to persist in prayer:

1. Persistent prayer is purifying prayer

When I pray persistently it purifies my prayer and separates my need from my greed. We have all prayed prayers that were more based on greed than anything else. “Give me a million dollars, give me a new house, a new car, etc.” I believe God is concerned about your provision and I believe God does want to provide for you. However, I believe God is just as concerned with getting you right as he is getting your stuff right. He may have cattle on a thousand hills, but only has one of you. God sometimes has to do something in us before he can do something for us.

2. Persistent prayer is relational prayer

Persistent prayer requires that I stop talking at God and start talking with God. Prayer at its essence is communication. It goes back to the garden when Creator would come in the cool of the day to speak with his creation. One stop prayers, Sunday corporate prayer time, and praying in a small group is great, but it doesn’t take me into the realm of relational prayer. The real power in prayer is the power of knowing and being known. God wants to know you and you need to know God. Praying consistently and persistently means that I talk with God about the good, the bad, and the ugly of my life. Consistent and persistent prayer brings me to a place of genuineness where I can know and be known.

3. Persistent prayer is faith building prayer

Somewhere right now a drastically out of shape person is signing a gym membership contract. Their hopes are high that in a few short months they will look like the pictures they see in line on the magazines at the grocery store. Unfortunately joining a gym and working out are two different things. With consistent and repeated exercise muscles get stronger and stronger. Jesus said is anyone going to persist in prayer and build strong faith. The reality is that every time I ask, I’m building my faith to receive. Every time I seek, I’m building my faith that I’m going to find in God the answers I need. Every time I know, I’m building my faith to believe that God is going to open doors for me. Don’t let your faith get weak, keep praying. When God doesn’t answer it builds trust, when God does answer it refreshes faith. Either way you will come out stronger.