Your Story Matters

It’s important to tell your story. It matters.  There are people waiting out there that will be encouraged, helped, inspired, motivated and maybe even saved by your story. Why? Because your story is unique.

Your Story Matters Because It’s Unique.

No one else has the exact same story to tell.  It’s not that your story is better or worse, it’s simply unique.  We have to avoid the trap of comparing our story to other people’s story.  Helping others with your story is not about telling a better story or a more shocking story than someone else.  It is simply telling your story in your unique way.  Someone who wouldn’t be touched by my story or my style is waiting to hear from you.  Have trouble believing that?  Well it’s true.

I remember sharing my story of how I came to be a follower of Jesus.  Here’s a summary: I had a great job, a company car, an apartment the company paid for all in my mid 20’s but something was missing.  I thought it was a long-term relationship, that didn’t help. I visited a church a friend invited me to and found something different from the church religion of my youth.  God was real and present today.  I kept saying “He’s real.” over and over again.  I actually cried at the altar and I hadn’t cried since I was young. I said to God, “I always want to be this way. Open before you.” I have never looked back since.  (I even cry at extreme home make over now, but that’s another story.

When I shared this story of how my life changed, several people came up to me and stated that they though only people with serious problems had ‘testimonies’.  They told me that they never felt like they had a story to tell.  Now they did.  It’s not always the bottom that brings you to turn to God sometimes it’s the emptiness of success or every day life.

This leads me to the next reason you should tell your story:

Other People Will Identify With Your Story.storytelling_quote4

I have a close friend who once told me they could never share their story in public because it was too painful.  My friend also felt no one else could identify with what they’d been through and she didn’t want pity.  You see, she’d been rape repeatedly as a child by her own father.

Who could understand this horror story?  Certainly no one could benefit.  You can probably guess the rest.  She finally did have the courage to share her story and the response was amazing.  Many woman (and a few men) came forward to say they were also molested by a family member or other person.  One woman even contacted her to say, “I never thought I could tell someone my story because they wouldn’t believe it.”  She also had been raped by her father.

In the years to follow, my wife and I had the privilege of providing spiritual counsel (alongside professional counselors) for 4 woman who also have lived through this same horrifying experience with their fathers.  What if my friend never told her story?  These other woman wouldn’t have received the help they needed.

You Can Learn to Easily Tell Your Story.

The easiest way to organize your story is to answer these four questions:

  1. What was you life like before?
    (I had a great job, new car, apartment but wasn’t fulfilled.)
  2. What happened to cause you to change?
    (I felt empty, like there was no purpose.)
  3. What happened at the moment of life-change?
    (My friend invited me to church and Jesus became real to me.)
  4. How is your life different now?
    (I now feel fulfilled and have given my life to help others.)

Conclusion:

There’s a lot of ways to improve the world; volunteer, give to charity, acts of kindness, stand up for justice…but I think the most powerful way is to simply share your story.  It will travel far beyond that moment through the life of the person changed.

Be a Difference Maker today.  Tell your story.

 

 

Star Wars…Awaken the Force in YOU

Star Wars: The Force AwakensMany people believe in an unseen force, a universal power that connects all life. This search for a ‘higher power’ connecting us is a reoccurring topic in all the Star Wars films. Anyone has watched any of the Star Wars franchise can tell you it’s called ‘The Force’.

The question is what is that force?

STAR WARS: The Force Awakens is officially the biggest box office smash of all-time passing Avatar, as I predicted its opening weekend in my last blog.

Toaists call this energy ‘Chi’. New age gurus and biometric feedback healers will refer the ‘energy of life’.  Shamans and Reiki practitioners call it the ‘Universal Life-Force’. It is most likely a combining of these ideals in these sources that shaped the idea of The Force for Star Wars.

100px-Yin_yang.svgSTAR WARS includes the Buddhist concept of Ying and Yang.

This is the belief that there is a connection between all opposite or contrary forces.  In good there is some evil, in evil some good.

Star Wars Director, George Lucas, while raised Methodist was largely influenced by this Buddhist belief. He called himself a Buddhist-Methodist.

The title for STAR WARS: The Force Awakens, gives hope to the universe, saying, “There’s something coming that will combat the evil in the universe.”  Christians feel that same way about the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The Universal Life-Force in the Bible

Would it surprise you to know there is a universal-life force talked about in the Bible?

The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2

In the beginning there was a force that created light, that created life!  The Holy Spirit hovered over the water waiting for the word from the Father, it’s time, “Let there be light!” and there was light created.

The Holy Spirit also live in the followers of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 6:19).

An invisible power that brings light, creates life from nothing and dwells inside us? It sounds like the force to me! But it’s not, in fact the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’ at all but God Himself.

Nine times in the New Testament Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘He’ of ‘Him’ never once it.

I will send you the Comforter—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. John 15:26

Jesus clearly refers to God’s Spirit as ‘He’ and states that ‘He’ will tell you about me. (Jesus) 

There is little doubt that Jesus can’t be referring to some enigmatic energy.  He is describing a living being who speaks.  At other times the Holy Spirit is described as having emotions and a will, these are not characteristics of energy.

To the Christian, that means that God Himself flows throughout the universe.  The greatest hope is that He can dwell in us!

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. Romans 8:11

This is a promise to all who follow Christ. The Holy Spirit will live in you.

Want to awaken the force in you? Just ask.

Your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. Luke 11:13

Want to learn more about the real force running the universe…The Holy Spirit?  Contact me in a comment below or go to:

NoPerfectPeopleHERE.com

Read previous post: ‘Twas the Night Before Star Wars

‘Twas the Night before Star Wars…’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

That’s right they gave them a pre-release day on Thursday in most theaters. This could be the biggest movie of all time. Why?

STAR WARS contains the two biggest themes in story telling. First the classic good vs. evil and second the search for significance.

Good vs. Evil

The STAR WARS movie series uses the imagery made famous in David and Goliath. The smaller, weaker, people are oppressed by the larger, stronger, evil empire.  Good people often feel like underdogs, unable to make a difference in an evil world controlled by people stronger than them.  From the abused child to the traveler worried about terrorism there’s this sense of helplessness. At some point in our lives we all feel like the underdog.  STAR WARS taps into the message that there is hope for good to win, for the little guy to knock down the evil empire.

The Bible is full of stories where weaker, common, people did extraordinary things, overcoming great obstacles, and defeating great odds with God’s help.  You can win over the injustice in your life and you don’t even need a light saber!

The title for STAR WARS: The Force Awakens, gives hope to the world.  It says, “There’s something coming that will combat the evil in the universe.”  Christians feel that same way about the Christmas Story. There is a ‘force’ (the Messiah) that awakens in the world bringing hope.

The Search for Significance

In the original STAR WARS movie, Luke bemoans his existence on a nowhere farm.  He thinks, “There has to be more to life than this.”  How many people feel as they go to their daily routine?

STAR WARS taps into humanity’s search for significance.

All people want to believe life has meaning. Most believe that there’s some ‘universal force’ that is controlling things. It’s not just a religious thing. Many atheists believe in a ‘universal mind’ or some other life force linking us together.
Why?

We were created with knowledge of the eternal and the divine by our creator.  Something that tells us that there’s something bigger than us, more than what we can see.  The Bible says, “Even nature shows us that there is a Creator.”  In addition to creation, The Holy Spirit is all around us, bringing us life and guiding those who choose to follow His ways. He tells us there’s something more out there.

What can we learn from STAR WARS? 

That there is a desire in all human beings to know the meaning of life.  To know that there’s hope beyond their daily frustrations.  To know that good can win, especially when it looks like all is lost.

That is the message of Christmas.

It may look dark and hopeless now, but a star in the heaven announces that a force for good has awakened in the world.  The one foretold in prophesy, the Savior, the Son of God…Jesus.

Looking for Hope this Christmas?  Go to one of the STAR WARS Christmas Services at House of Praise, in person or on-line.

NoPerfectPeopleHERE.com

Go to Next Star Wars Blog: Awaken The Force in YOU

How to can make sure Guests do NOT come back

Subtitle: how to turn guests in to one-time visitors

In our church we call new people guests not visitors.  To understand the difference, think of your home. A visitor shows up unexpectedly, uninvited and doesn’t stay usually.  A guest you’ve invited, you expected them, you’re glad to see them and you want them to stay.  You want guests to enjoy themselves and feel welcome.

We prepare at House of Praise for guests.  We’re glad they came, we’ve invited them and we want them to feel so welcomed that they want to join the family.

If you want visitors to just visit and leave, here’s what you do as a church member:

  1. Don’t talk to them.  (Remember it’s US and THEM) Look at them awkwardly and quickly walk away. Only talk to people you already know and most importantly, don’t welcome them.
  2. If you see someone who hasn’t been to church in a while (A Creaster- Christmas and Easter only) point that out to make them feel awkward.  Say “Wow, haven’t seen you for a while.” Or even better, “We’d like to see you on more than Easter and Christmas.”
  3. You wouldn’t think this matters but it does.  Make sure we all dress in suits and expensive clothes so guests feel under dressed.
  4. Let guests find their own way around. (Think “It’s not my job.”)  If they do dare to ask where something is, just point in the general direction and say, “that way.” Or something so complicated “Louis & Clark couldn’t find it such as,  “Our kid’s ministry is out those back doors, to the left, then another left turn, down a hallway, then turn right, go outside into the other building.”
  5. Mistreat their kids.  Yell at the guest’s kids for something kids normally do like running or taking a 2nd cookie.  If you’re volunteering make check in a long and painful process. Help make the kid’s areas dirty, cluttered, & poorly with extras from the Walking Dead at the door. If a baby cries in maim service, immediately kick the family out of the sanctuary.  They won’t be back!
  6. Keep tension in the air.  Argue or speak rudely to someone in front of the guest. They won’t know it’s your friend you’ve been feuding with all week.  They’ll think we all treat everyone like that.
  7. Above all, Don’t invite guests back.  Don’t speak to them as they leave and don’t follow up on them later in the week to see what they thought

If you will do these simple steps it will keep your church from being filled with new people.  More people will give up on church so their lives won’t improve and yes more people will probably also give up on God and go to hell BUT you can keep your church a comfortable size where you know everyone.

Of course, if that’s not important to you…in our church we treat new people like honored guests.  We include them in conversations,  walk them to where they go, make sure their kids love it, let them know there are NoPerfectPeopleHERE, tell them we are glad they are here and invite them back.  If they’re our friends we may even call them next week to see how they’re doing. Why? Because we genuinely care about them improving their lives and their eternity.

A Letter of Gratitiude

A few weeks ago (during our “Go Fish!” I asked the entire church to write a letter to thank the person who “hooked” you for Jesus.  I know, corny, but the lesson is great. Even if you never send the letter or the person is deceased, the exercise of writing it will help you remember how much you were impacted by that person sharing their faith.  That fact will in turn help you to share your faith with others, brilliant.  Thank you Andy Stanley for the idea.

If have never done this…DO IT TODAY.  Here’s my letter to a young lady who simply invited me to church.

Dear Annie,

I am writing to thank you. It was 24 years ago this month that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

I remember it started with me asking what I could get you for your birthday and you said, “I just want you to go to church with me.”  It took you continually asking me until October when I finally went!  I said, “If I go with you ONE time, will never ask me again?” and you agreed.  You told me years later how you had people pray because you were nervous this would be the only time I would go.

We went to Agape Christian Fellowship for a Sunday service. (You told me later you didn’t want to bring me to your dad’s church for my first time because he might embarrass you.)  You and Joanne picked me up so I couldn’t back out.

Before I left my parent’s house, my father told me how to know if it was a cult. He said if the people had beady eyes and there were guards at the doors, it was a cult.  I laughed but when I got there, the preacher, Jason Peebles from Tulsa, had beady eyes!  I looked around and there were guards at the door.  (They called them ushers but I know what they were!) I started to panic, my dad wasn’t joking. This is a cult.  There are no statues of saints, not even a cross!  It’s a warehouse with some chairs and a stage!

People were raising their hands and swaying to the music, I heard some of them give this weird chant in another language!  I thought, “What was that, Latin or Wiccan?  I started to plan which “usher” I could knock over to run out an exit when everyone sat to hear the preacher.  I couldn’t tell you one thing he said, but at the end I found myself answering an altar call and asking Jesus to forgive my sins and take control of my life.

Although I was raised in a traditional church, I felt the presence of God’s Spirit for the first time in my life that day. I just began to say, “This is real.  He’s real.”  I had believed God was real before but had never met Him.  I started to cry for no reason.  I never cried!  I was a tough guy.  I prayed, “Lord I wan to always be this way, tender before you.” I still cry today when I feel God’s Spirit moving.

My life today is wonderful.  I lead a growing church with a wonderful group of people who actually want the reality of God in their everyday lives.  I wouldn’t be in the ministry today if you hadn’t prayed for me and invited me to church. Hundreds of peoples lives would have never been impacted by Joanne & myself in ministry.

I been privaledged to travel the world bringing the gospel to Brazil, Argentina, Curacao, Mexico, Kenya, England, Wales and Canada.  I have watched God heal many people including blind and deaf as I prayed for them.  I have watched God set hundreds of people free as we cast our demons and many, many salvations.  None of which would have happened if you didn’t share Christ with me.

My proudest achievement is as a godly husband ad father.  We have a great home and our four daughters all serve God.  Each has seen friends turn their lives over to Christ.  You also introduced me to Joanne.  We wouldn’t be married nor these girls be here, if you didn’t share Christ with both of us.

Like the image painted by the words of the old Ray Boltz song “Thank You”, only when you get to heaven will you understand the impact you have had on thousands of lives because you invited Joanne and myself to meet God.  Thank you.

Write your letter today.  It will help you to remember how important sharing your faith is.  If Anna had never invited me to church, none of the great things God has done in my life would have happened.

Lessons on Charity from a Child

In Isaiah 11:6 there is a prophesy about the birth of Jesus, “a little child shall lead them.”  A humble baby was the form God used to teach the world the way of salvation.  I believe God often uses children to teach us His lessons today also.

So it is with the story of Rachel Beckwith. Her life can teach us the ways of Christ. Rachel was a giving child from and early age. At 5 years old, she heard about an organization called Locks of Love, a charity that takes donations of human hair from donors and creates wigs for people who have lost their own hair because of cancer or other diseases. Rachel unselfishly had her own hair cut off and sent to Locks of Love. Learning how it added dignity to a suffering person’s life, she grew her hair out for a few years and donated it again!

Then when she was 8 years old, her church began raising money to build wells in Africa through an organization called charity:water. Rachel couldn’t believe it when she learned that many children in Africa had no clean water. She didn’t just feel bad, she acted. She acted by giving up her ninth birthday party.  She gave friends and family a special request.  Instead of giving her presents, would they donate $9 each to charity:_water for water projects in Africa.  She sent up a birthday page for donations at the charity:water website.  In her own words recorded on the page, she let’s us know she hoped to raise $300.

I first heard of this type of campaign at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. I thought, “What an idea!”  A kid giving up their birthday presents to give a drink of water to a child.  It sound like Jesus to me. (Mark 9:41).

Rachel’s 9th birthday was June 12, 2011.  She had her donation site set up and told her friends.  Unfortunately she only raised $220.  She was a little disappointed but the story doesn’t end there.

ON July 20, Rachel was with her family riding in a car when two trucks collided to create a 13-car pileup. Their car was hit and Rachel was left in critically condition.  The rest of her family was unhurt.

Church members and friends, seeking some way of showing support, began donating on Rachel’s birthday page — charitywater.org/Rachel.

Her family and friends told Rachel at her bedside—not knowing whether she could hear them — that she had exceeded the $47,544 that the singer Justin Bieber had raised for charity:water on his 17th birthday.

When it was clear that Rachel would never regain consciousness, the family decided to remove life support. Her parents donated her hair one final time to Locks of Love, and her organs to other children.

After her passing, news began to spread about Rachel’s last fund-raiser. Donations poured in, often in $9 increments, from all over the world.  So far her website has raised over $1 Million dollars for clean water in Africa! This outpouring is explained this way:

Scott Harrison, the founder of charity:water said,
“Adults are humbled by the unselfishness of this little girl.”

Rachel’s mom is planning a trip on the anniversary of her daughter’s death next year to see some of the wells being drilled in Africa in her daughter’s name. She said.

“It’ll be overwhelming to see Rachel’s wells, to see what my 9-year-old daughter has done for people all over the world, to meet the people she has touched.”

Lord may we all learn the lesson of unselfish activism from this one child’s sacrifice.

If you’d like to give to Rachel’s last birthday wish go to: http://mycharitywater.org/Rachel/

Dominos: Little Thing Can Have A Big Impact

As I prepare for sermon next week called Dominos: Cause and Effect I am reminded of the Butterfly Effect (How a seemingly insignificant action can have a great effect such as a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon may cause a hurricane in the Pacific.)

Tonight Monday August 1st, 2011 we are hosting an event called Stop the Traffic Freedom Drive. Can a little thing like signing a car make any difference in the huge, world-wide issue of Human Trafficking?  I mean there are 27 billion slaves in the world today…more than any other time in history.  It’s a multi-billion dollar industry and the fastest growing criminal enterprise.  Can my signature make any difference?

It can when it’s on a driving petition headed for Washington, DC to ask for stronger law to protect the victims of Human Trafficking.  It can when it raises awareness of how often this issue happens right in the U.S.  I know one thing, doing nothing will have an effect.  The slavery of children for deviant, sexual bondage will continue to grow.

Doing nothing, is like a butterfly wing causing a world-wide storm of injustice.

Sign the car, 7:30pm tonight.  House of Praise, 1688 Route 9, Castleton, NY 12033

Beyond Redemption

A few weeks ago I preached a message on how the church should treat gay people.  I called it Out of the Closet and Into the Church. (http://sc.fhview.com/sc_customplayer/seriesitems/1/118751) The goal of this message was for the church to examine our attitudes towards this particular people group.  After the message an elderly woman approached me.  She was wearing oxygen and walking with a walker.  I must admit I thought, “Here we go.”  I expected her to rebuke me for not condemning homosexuality during the sermon.  Much to my surprise she asked a simple question…

“What about murderers?” she inquired.

There was an unexpected brightness in her eyes, a curiosity and vigor for life one wouldn’t expect given her frail frame.

“Excuse me?” I muttered.  Really it wasn’t that I didn’t hear her, I just needed a moment to collect my thoughts.  I was prepared for an onslaught of fire and brimstone senior saints, not an inquisitive truth seeker.

After all, I had just preached the most controversial sermon of my career.  I opened with “If you came here expecting me to condemn homosexuality today, you will be disappointed.” I chastised the church asking why we celebrated a straight couple who was sexually active, even living together, coming to church. We allowed them time for God to work on them without judgment but let a gay couple walk in holding hands…whoooo.  They weren’t welcome.  I did my best Jesus imitation calling us hypocrites.  The church just nodded.  I the weeks to follow, not one letter or disagreement.  I’m so proud of our local church and their Christ-like love.

Anyways, here I was after that sermon, expecting a fight, instead facing a sweet senior saint who still wanted to grow and learn in her last years on this earth.  Humbling.

“Excuse me?” I muttered.  “Murderers.” She repeated more forcefully. “They are much harder to love and accept than homosexuals. What about murderers? Can they be forgiven and go to heaven?”

I explained that the Apostle Paul helped to kill early Christians before his conversion and that god didn’t just forgive Paul but wrote 2/3 of the New Testament through his hands.  I excitedly told her that Michael Franzese was coming to answer that very question.  To tell her how a Mafia Boss, a murderer, can be forgiven…and that no one is beyond redemption.

Three weeks later, my eyes lighted upon a pair of bright, excited eyes in a back section of a packed sanctuary. She was back to hear the former Mob Boss’ story of redemption. She smiled at me as she pointed to a row full of her family.  Full of confidence in God’s love for all sinners, she had brought her family to hear that there is no one beyond redemption.

The First Tool for Life

I’m reading a book called The Ultimate Checklist for Life and it causes me to ask a question.  Are you prepared for life’s unexpected turns?

Life is a journey of twists and turns that take you around blind curves not knowing what’s around the bend. There are perils and pleasures, advances and set backs, obstacles and opportunities (sometimes the obstacles are the opportunities!) Fear if the unknown or fear of failure could paralyze a traveler on this journey called life.  How can we minimize anxiety and maximize success?

As any seasoned adventurer will tell you, it’s best to adopt the Boy Scout motto and “Be Prepared.”  To be prepared one must know the right tools to take.  Campers take things like tents, compasses, matches, water, bug spray, first aid kits, even things like emergency flares or a gun for protection. What are the right tools to take along the journey with you?  How can we be prepared?

The most important tool is the word of God, the Holy Bible.

I know it sound cliche but it’s true.  And I know, it is God’s love letter to humanity, and it is the story of God’s relationship to us, but it is also a guide book.  It is the instruction manual written by the creator of life on how this whole thing operates!

Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live. – Psalm 119:144

His word helps us to understand this life He’s given us so that we may live.  Scripture talks about almost any topic you need, relationships, work, money, sickness, heartache, forgiveness, education, family, love, lust, even interest rates and cosigning a loan! (Bet you didn’t know that was in there!)

To be prepared for life, start with God’s instructions for how to live.

Life is God’s novel. Let Him write it. – Isaac Bashevis Singer

Next Week: Tool #2

Breaking Religious Taboos

Did you know that Jesus didn’t follow all the religious rules of His day? His methods weren’t welcomed in the established places of worship.  He hung out with the wrong crowd.  He overcame social and cultural barriers to reach people.  Jesus had to break many religions taboos to make a way to the Father for all of us.

In John 4:1-30, there is a story of the brief interaction between Jesus and a Samaritan Woman at the town well.

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”  He was alone at the time because His disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. (v7-9)

Samaria was conquered Assyria 722 BC. The Samaritans intermarried with the foreigners. Therefore they were not regarded as fully Jewish. At the time of Jesus there was a lot of hatred between them. Jesus’ dealings with this woman illustrates His ministry breaking down barriers between Jews and Samaritans.

Jesus broke several taboos with this meeting.  He broke the racial prejudice that Jews had against Samaritans.  He broke the religious bias towards the Samaritans as being inferior Jews or ‘unclean’.  Last Jesus tackled the chauvinist view of women that was prominent in His culture.  Jesus often broke taboo as to how women should be treated.

Mary Magdalene; Joanna, the wife Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and other women traveled with Jesus contributing their own resources to support Him and His disciples. (Luke 8:1-3) This was scandalous for a woman to leave her homes and travel with a rabbi.  Unheard of!  Unthinkable!  Yet Jesus had several woman travel with Him throughout His ministry time.  In the orthodox, first century temples women and men were separated by a screen.  Jesus was one of the world’s first feminists treating woman as ‘joint-heirs’ of salvation.

Why is this important to us today?  Because to truly follow Jesus we must break down the social, cultural and even religious taboos we have been taught.  These things keep people from following God.  More next blog.

Did Jesus Talk about Hell?

I have never liked fire and brimstone preaching.  It is His kindness that causes us to turn to Him.  I believe that when people understand the love of God, that is the fact that draws us to Him.  However, if we read the rest of this verse there is a warning of the dangers of rejecting Christ.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. – Romans 2:4-5

Talking about Hell isn’t pleasant. No one should enjoy it, but it is important.  In over a dozen years of preaching I’ve never devoted a sermon to the reality of Hell.  So we decided that it was time to address the reality of Hell.

As an introduction our media team did “on the street” interviews in Albany.  In over an hour during the First Friday celebration, they could not find one person who believed in Hell.  Our Youth Director Michael commented in his blog that it saddened him. A friend of his then publicly rebuked him on Facebook for his condemning people.   She was doing what she accused him of, condemning Michael for his views.  Here’s my problem with it…it’s not Michael’s view.  It’s a biblical fact.

Described in many places in scripture as a place of fire (Mark 9:43-45, & 13:49-51) and torment (Revelation 14:10-11) Hell wasn’t meant for us.  It was created for the devil and his demons (Matthew 25:41).  God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell (John 3:16). It is our rejection of Christ that causes us to go to Hell.

It’s like this, light can’t exist in the darkness.  You turn a light bulb on in the room darkness is expelled.  God is light. He is holy.  Sin or darkness can’t exist in His presence. It’s expelled.  We are all sinners (Romans 3:22-23) and therefore can’t enter heaven on our own.

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. 48 When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. 49That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, 50throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 Do you understand all these things?” – Matthew 13:47-51

We are all wicked but some are made righteous by the blood of Jesus.

The response to a discussion on Hell is sometimes, “But Jesus taught about love and forgiveness, not hell.”  Actually, the quote above from Matthew 13 is Jesus talking.  He never wanted anyone to go to Hell, that’s why He came to make a way for us to heaven.

Enduring Excellence

Excellence isn’t really excellence unless it endures until the end.  Think about it.  I can be the fastest guy off the blocks in a race, clear the first few hurdles with ease but if I trip over the last hurdle or slow down before the finish line and other runners pass me, was it an excellent race?  Of course it wasn’t.  To be truly excellent at anything we must finish as strong as we begin.

Paul said this near the end of his life:

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:6-8

The prize that awaits is worth running this race with excellence, but how do we do that?

Begin with Duplication and Delegation

Exodus 18:13-26 – Moses & Jethro

Jethro decides to check on his son-in-law Moses and see how his life as a leader is going.  He sees Moses handling every minor dispute that arises for a whole nation!  He tells him this isn’t good. You won’t have enduring excellence, you’ll wear out!  He instructs Moses on duplication and delegation.

Moses you teach the people and delegate the smaller decision to faithful, honest people. Then delegate the authority to make decisions.  Leaders make mistakes by delegating tasks and not authority because of fear or control issues. Moses sets up leaders over 1,ooo; 100, 50, and 10.  Each according to their ability.

There were good people standing around Moses all day learning by watching him make decisions.  they just needed a change to be able to help.  Duplicate yourself in faithful, honest people then give them a chance.  The help you need is already around you, waiting.

Jesus went beyond Delegation to Discipleship

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” – Matthew 4:19

Jesus kicked it up a notch by saying in effect, I’ll mentor you.  I’ll teach you how to do what I do.  Jesus fed 5,000 but He duplicated Himself in 11 men and then He delegated the care of the Kingdom of God on this earth to them!

If Jesus can trust the care of His word and the eternal destiny of billions of souls to some uneducated fishermen, don’t you think you can delegate some task to those you are training?  Of course they will make mistakes, after all that’s how you learned.

If the people around you are willing to follow you, put your DNA into them and turn them loose!  After 3 years of discipling thieves, liars, uneducated fisherman and trouble makers Jesus was frustrated too.  He asked how long He had to put up with them and why they had such little faith but He entrusted His ministry to them.  Wow. Don’t make those you disciple wait until their perfect before you trust them because they never will be.

What’s this have to do with enduring excellence?  Jesus did the work better than His disciples. You can always do it better yourself. However, Jesus understood that excellence would come from the disciples eventually.  More importantly He knew that enduring excellence means building something that lasts beyond yourself. How long will the excellence you strive for today last?  Until you get tired? Even if it’s until you die, it’s not truly enduring.

Some new things to learn from the Christmas Story

Most of us know the Christmas story. However, a couple new things stuck out to me when reading the Christmas story this year:

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. – Luke 2:16-18; 20

Most people talk about the worship aspect, how the shepherds were low on the socio-economic ladder, or even how there was no room at the inn, but how many of us focus on what the shepherd did AFTER meeting Jesus?

First, the shepherds told everyone what they had experienced.  Don’t skim over that.  Hearing the good news and seeing the Savior caused them to share their experience with others.  One thing we should learn from the Christmas story is those that hear the good news of the Messiah and meet Him should tell everyone they know.  Some will reject the message but some will be astonished and seek Him for themselves.

The second thing, that is a very simple truth yet may be profound, is the shepherds went back to their flocks.  This statement by itself it seems so unimportant.  No one would make it their memory verse yet there is a profound truth here hidden in the mundane.  God has already placed you in your mission field.

Many people want to be in “full-time ministry” but the truth is you already are.  The shepherds, were shepherds.  They went back to their jobs and we may infer, continued to tell everyone they met about Jesus.  The Metalsmith who made their shears would hear, the other shepherds they would pass in the fields also.  Maybe the farmers whose lands they would buy water rights from would end up seeking the Savior or the tent maker’s wife would hear the good news.  The point is this, they went back to their simple lives and brought the wonder of that first Christmas with them.

We need to do the same.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 27: We Are Ambassadors

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. – 2 Corinthians 5:11

A “fearful responsibility to the Lord” Paul wrote to the church at Corinth.  Words to take notice of.  We have a responsibility that we should fear not fulfilling!  What is this awesome responsibility that is so important the Holy Spirit would choose those words to record it for all eternity?  Persuading others to follow Christ.  I know, you’re thinking “We know, we’re supposed to share the good news with people.”  It’s more than that.  If you were in your last 30 days to live and asked “What should I do to make sure I’m right with God?” We might talk about forgiving others or repenting of sins but probably not “go tell someone about God’s love.”  Yet this is exactly what this verse is saying.

Later in the same chapter the Holy Spirit (through Paul) reminds us of our purpose on this planet.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

We love to quote the verse 17, “We are new!  The old life is gone.” but WHY? So that we can be Ambassadors for Christ.

An ambassador is an official representative of something. Paul tells the Church in Corinth that We Christians are Christ’s ambassadors. His official representatives. Christ has sent His message to us and through us for the world to hear and see. We are sent with Christ’s message of reconciliation. So your title is “Ambassador of Reconciliation.” Now that is a calling. So what is reconciliation? Reconciliation according to the Encarta Dictionary is a “renewing.” The “ending of conflict.” So Christ came to reconcile us with God….. renew us with God, so we would not be condemned to death. And as Christ’s ambassador we are called to encourage other to become renewed…. In faith, and focus on God.

If the time we had left on this planet was less than 30 days we should spend them representing the one who is calling us home to His heavenly country.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 26: Overcoming Doubt

I apologize for falling behind with these devotionals.  Between going to Syracuse to see my mother-in-law and being home sick for a couple days myself it couldn’t be helped.  I will try to catch up…let’s talk about doubt.

Some people have the wrong idea about faith.  Faith isn’t the absence of doubt but real faith overcomes doubt to believe in something yet unseen.  Thomas needed to see Jesus to believe but Jesus told Him “blessed are those who have not seen yet believe.”

As a person faces the last 30 Days to Live, sometimes they will have doubts about God.  That’s ok. Real faith overcomes those doubts to focus on their faith.  It was like that for James the brother of Jesus.

James didn’t believe his brother could be God.  “MY big brother?  No way!”  He didn’t believe that the Son of God had grown up right in his own house.

Jesus’ brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even His brothers didn’t believe in Him. – John 7:3-5

James had his doubts, we all do.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe, it’s ok.  We just can’t STAY there.  We have to remember we have met the Risen Lord who we can trust in.  James saw Jesus after the resurrection and then He believed. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

Mary had doubt about Jesus even being born.  As the angel told her she would conceive and bear the Messiah, she had a question.  “How can this be since I am a virgin.”  As the angel explained that all things are possible with God and that the miracle birth would happen via the Holy Spirit, Mary’s response shows her faith.

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” – Luke 1:38

It wasn’t that Mary didn’t have questions or even doubts, it that she overcame them by focusing on the word that God had given her.

In conclusion, James and Mary show us the keys to overcoming doubt and walking in faith, meeting the Risen Lord and believing His word.  You may be facing overwhelming obstacles or even a crisis of faith, remember when you met Jesus and rehearse His words to you.

Prayer

Lord, I admit that I sometimes doubt. I know you love me but sometimes I doubt that you’ll protect me or that you’ll provide for me.  Help me to remember the way I felt when I first accepted you as Savior.  Remind me of the scriptures you’ve shown me.  I choose to trust you and help me to believe your promises more than what I see.  In your name I ask, Amen.

Thoughts

  • Do I doubt that God will protect me?
  • Have I come under condemnation during times when I doubted?

Action

  • Memorize 1 promise from the bible.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 25: Enduring Trials

As a person is told they have 30 Days to Live, they face a trial few living today can identify with.  It would be the ultimate testing of one’s faith, facing eternity.  How we endure a trial like this ultimately clears up any questions about whether our faith is real or not.

This Mother’s Day was a difficult one.  It was the first Mother’s Day without my mom (see Facing Forever) and we went to see my mother-in-law who is in the hospital losing her battle with cancer.  What happens to your faith when real trials come?  My mother-in-law, while always having been a religious person, has turned to reading the Bible daily and praying more.  Is she afraid? Sure, but her faith has increased through this trial and she is actually being brought closer to God through it.

My wife and I are asking God for a miracle for her mother, but if one doesn’t come, our faith will not be shaken.  Why? Because we trust in God’s word that when a love one faces 30 Days to Live, the Lord is there.

Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

Our faith is not real if it cracks in a trial.  Good time faith isn’t really faith at all.  Even death can’t separate real faith from the believer.  Death is just another trial to endure and conquer.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.  And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and He never tempts anyone else. – James 1:12-14

No one sells books on “patient endurance” and it wouldn’t be a most popular sermon download on YouTube but it’s a key to God’s plan.  When we close our eyes on this planet for a final time, the crown of eternal life is given to those who have endured through their trial and still have faith in Christ in the end.

The last words I ever spoke to my father as he laid dying in a hospital bed were “Keep the faith.” and those are my last words to you today.  Even if the trial you face is death itself, keep the faith.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to remember that no matter what the trial is, you haven’t left me.  Help to remember also that you didn’t send me this trail but you will bring good things out of it, even if the trial is death.  I will patiently endure all hardship because I know you will carry me through it.  I love you.  Amen.

Thoughts

  • Have I lost faith during past trials?
  • If I were to face the death of a loved one would I blame God?

Action

  • Pray this week for those whom you know are in trails that they may not lose faith.

___________________________________________________

Written May 2010: prayers for Fran and our family gratefully accepted.

30 Days to Live – Day 24: Reality

Today the reality of 30 Days to Live hit us in a very personal way.  My wife (Pastor Joanne) found out that her mom (Fran) has terminal cancer.  As Joanne sat in the hospital room with her mom and other family members, the doctor told Fran to “get her affairs in order.”  Her response was, “So this is a death sentence.”  It is one thing to be writing about facing your final days on this earth it’s another when death actually is right in front of you with someone you care about.

While we are praying and asking for God to do a miracle, first responsibility is to make sure your loved one is ready for life after death.  Fran has believed in God and has been attended church regularly so there was no need to convince her of her need for God’s forgiveness.  Instead Joanne focused on forgiving others.

The truth is we are all under a death sentence.  Maybe not as brutal and short as the one my mother-in-law just received, but this life is short and we are not promised tomorrow.  We must all “get our affairs in order” to make sure we are ready to meet our Savior.  One place people usually overlook is forgiving those who have hurt you.

As we prepare for the next life we want our sins to be forgiven and if we want to be forgiven for our sins we must forgive others. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray He gave us an example that has become called The Lord’s Prayer.  In it Jesus prays this:

Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. – Matthew 6:12

As Jesus was teaching His disciples to pray effectively He knew that our prayers are useless if we refuse to forgive others.

Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37

Why is this such a big deal to God?  Because HE is the Righteous Judge.  If we decide to judge others we are in effect saying we want to sit on God’s throne and do His job.  He has never tolerated that, just ask an angel named Lucifer.

Prayer

Pray this 3 Step Forgiveness Process:

  1. I take back any authority I gave the devil in my life through unforgiveness, especially towards ______ for what they did to me.
  2. I choose to forgive this person for what they did to me.
  3. I ask you God to help me to forgive this person, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thoughts

  • Who has hurt me?
  • Have I chosen to forgiven them?

Action

  • Forgive all the people who have hurt you, now.

___________________________________________________

Written May 2010: prayers for Fran and our family gratefully accepted.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day – 23: Assessing Your Finances

As we looked at assessing our life yesterday we focused on general happiness and career.  In this blog we’ll look at how our finances and our relationships affect our emotional health.

As we’ve looked how we would respond if we had 30 Days to Live we discovered that finances are looked at differently.  Money is no longer a goal but a tool.  If you missed that e-Devotional please review it.  When departing from this world the only financial worry people may have is not leaving bills for their loved ones.  In assessing our lives, financial pressure can play a huge role.

1. Do my finances cause stress in my life?

Really Pastor Lon?  Doesn’t finances cause stress in everyone’s life unless their rich?  No, they don’t.  There are people out there who live within their means including a budget.  I know we’ve done it.

Financial pressure is a major cause of divorce, suicide, domestic violence, heart disease and much more.  My wife and I had periods of our life where the financial pressure was overwhelming (either because of sickness, unemployment or poor financial decisions).  We had to make some hard decisions to change our lives.  First, I decided to go back to school and change careers. Second, we began to adjust our spending.

Now before you give me “you don’t understand” comments.  I went back to school when I was 30, married and had a kid.  I worked, volunteered 15 hours a week in my church and carried a 3.9 gpa in college.  I’m not saying that to brag, simply to say stop making excuses!!  I should have gone to school two years earlier but kept talking myself out of it.  “We can’t afford it.”  “I don’t have time.”  Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.  Once I got fed up with my situation, I sucked it up and did what I HAD to do to be happier.

Having said that, a new career or more money isn’t always the answer to financial pressure.  It has been my experience that people with poor spending habits will always stretch the finances to the max not matter how much they make.  I have counseled people making over $100,000 a year that were in worse shape than couples making $18,000.

2. Do I have a budget I FOLLOW?

Solving financial pressure is NOT about getting more money.  It is about having a spending plan.

A budget is a dirty word to some people.  They think of it as restraining and rules to make them unhappy.  I don’t agree.  It’s simply a spending plan.  There’s guilt free freedom when you go out to dinner and know it’s in your entertainment budget.

A budget needs to plan for monthly expenses, emergencies, debt reduction and savings.  You need a plan no matter how much you make.  Usually people wait until they are so far in debt they feel hopeless before trying a budget.  Don’t wait!  There isn’t time in a blog to explain a budget but here’s a good resource.

Crown Financial is a ministry with great articles and lots of free resources including a budget sheet. (http://www.crown.org/GettingStarted/)

3. Do I tithe?

People will say, “I’ve prayed and asked God help me with my financial problems but nothing happened.”  If you don’t acknowledge God in your finances then you have no right to ask Him to help you.

“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.  You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” – Malachi 3:8-10

If we call ourselves believers but don’t tithe then we have put a curse on ourselves.  the good news is this, as with any sin, we can repent and be forgiven.

Did you notice the last two sentences in this bible passage?  It is the ONLY place in all scripture where we are told to test or try God!  Any other time putting God to the test is a sin. God tells us tithing is so very important that actually tells us to give it a try and see how big His blessing will be.  Seven different times I’ve challenge people I was counseling to try tithing for 90 days.  I told them if God didn’t bless, I would give their money back.  That’s right a money back guarantee on God!  You know what?  Not one person asked for their money back.  Every one was amazed at what God did.  One man got a promotion, another a new job. One lady paid a huge debt off with less than half what she owed! A different lady got an unexpected inheritance.  God doesn’t lie and His scripture is the key to success in your finances.

Prayer

Lord, help me to live within my finances.  I know you provide for all my needs as I put you first in my finances through tithing.  I ask in faith for your help and thank you now that you will answer.  I am confident in your provision and refuse the pressure financial issue can bring by trusting in you.  In your name I pray, amen.

Thoughts

  • Do I tithe in faith, expecting God to provide?
  • Do I know what I spend?

Action

  • Create a budget this week.
  • If you’re not tithing, commit to for the next 90 days.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day – 22: Assessing Your Life & Career

When people have 30 Days to Live they normally assess their life.  They either are content saying they have had a good life or they are full of regrets at unfulfilled dreams.  Today, I’d like to give you simple questions to help you assess your life and determine if there are changes you need to make now.  Let’s live like we’re dying.

Here are a few questions organized by the different areas of your life to help you get started.

Emotional Health

1. Do I generally feel happy? – I know “happiness” is a relevant term but be honest with yourself…do you feel happy most days?

If the answer is no, or I’m not sure then you must find out why and fix it.  If you are truly depressed first seek prayer and healing and then please find out if there’s a medical condition causing it.  If you’re depressed because you’re physically sick in some other way, then do the same, prayer and medicine. Yes, while you’re waiting for a miracle God uses medicine too.

Most often happiness is a choice.  You have to choose not to sweat the small stuff.  Usually we get upset over silly little things that won’t mean anything 1,000 years from now. Sometimes the issue may financial pressure or relationship problems.  I’ll cover those tomorrow.

2. What do you do to bring fun and joy into your life?

We all need activities and people that refresh us and bring joy to us.  Spend extra time playing with the kids, see the new movie, read a book, pray longer, go for a walk outside, exercise…what works for you?  Take the time to recharge your emotional battery.

A cheerful heart is good medicine,but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. – Proverbs 17:22

3. Do I feel fulfilled and motivated by my career? (School if you’re a student.)

I’ve had those jobs where I dreaded getting up to go to work.  The people were difficult, there was no room for promotion, the money wasn’t good etc.  It drove me to go back to school at 30 years old.  Education and training is a key to greater career fulfillment.

A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables. – Proverbs 24:3-4

Occasionally you have the degree and that’s not the issue. I still say studying a new field or getting training for a promotion may be the answer but…

If you hate your job, do something about it. I know you need to pay the bills, keep the job you have now and start looking for another.  It’s always easier to look while you have a job so you won’t settle again for new job you’ll hate in a year.  Networking with people you know is key.  Tell them what you’re interested in and see if they know someone in that field.

For 10 years I worked in the technology field in graphic design and the Internet (when it was first starting.)  I loved it for 9 years!  Then it began to seem meaningless to me.  I realized that I wanted to be in ministry to help people and began to move towards that goal.

If you like your career or company but feel capped because there is no advancement or your bored doing the same thing for years, education can break that cycle also.  It could be a simple as more in-house training or taking an on-line certification.

The best advice I can give someone is to do something you feel passionately about.  You will spend a third of your life at you job so make sure it’s fulfilling.

If you’re a student then school IS your career.  Put your effort into it.  If you don’t like your major, change.  The discipline you learn in school will to a large degree, determine how successful you will be in your career.  Now I know some people aren’t book people, then do vocational training and learn a trade.

Whether you are a student, a supervisor, a business owner, a public servant or a long-time employee, where you are right now is your mission field.  That’s right we can feel much more fulfilled when we look through eternal eyes to see that God has us there for a reason…to CONNECT OTHERS to Christ!

More assessments tomorrow.

Prayer

Lord, help me to be honest with myself about life.  Help me to not be so negative or worried about small issues.  Remind me to do activities that recharge me emotionally and spiritually.  Give me the courage to make the career changes I need to make.  Help me to see where I am as a mission field you sent me to and give me the boldness to speak when you open opportunities.  Lord make me the person you created me to be. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Thoughts

  • Am I in the job the Lord wants me in?
  • Do I feel challenged and fulfilled by my career choice?

Action

  • Do one activity that bring you joy this week.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day – 21: Traveling Light

We just returned from an eventful trip to Los Angeles, CA.  I took my wonderful daughter Moriah to check out a challenging college program at the Dream Center called ‘The Movement’ but that’s not what this blog is about.

Have you ever noticed that experienced travelers travel light?  You don’t hear them say, “I should have brought more.”  No they have only brought the necessities.  Experiences travelers realize that there is a cost for ever bag and a weight limit also.  It’s the same way in this journey we call life.  We don’t need heavy baggage slowing us down, delaying us from getting to where we want go.

When someone has 30 Days to Live, they readily drop the heavy bags as they prepare to depart for their final destination.  The emotional and spiritual baggage holds us back from living for the eternal.  Take ONLY the things that help you get to heaven.  Those essentials are the people, things and decisions that equip you to face the challenges ahead or push farther on your journey.  You want to leave behind the people, things and decisions that slow you down, offer no return on investment or even harm you.  How do you know what or who to take with you and what/who leave behind?

Three E’s to Take

  1. Energize – Keep the things that motive you or foster an atmosphere of creativity, people that are enthusiastic for life, and then renew your energy by doing things that refresh you.
  2. Excite – Keep the things that make you happy even if they seem silly or sentimental to others.  You know that special someone who makes your heart skip a beat or that friend you can’t think about without smiling?  Spend more time with them.  Do what you are passionate about.  Why waste your time in a career you hate?
  3. Empower – I know…it’s an annoying word but educate didn’t seem to cover it fully.   Keep thing that challenge and teach you.  Spend time with people who are willing to share their knowledge, experience, and skills and THEN challenge you to go farther with that knowledge. Take the actions that will catapult you further in your relationship with the Lord and others or in your career.

Three D’s to Leave Behind

  1. Drains – You know what they are.  Those things, people and actions that when you are done with them make you feel like a video game warrior who has taken too many body blows and whose life force is depleted.   Don’t let them suck the life out of you until it’s gone!
  2. Depleters – Things, people, and action that aren’t necessarily hurting you but they don’t help either.  These are the time wasters that deplete your resources (time, talent and treasure) without giving a return-on-investment.  You only have so many resources to give, put them where there is the greatest return.
  3. Destroyers – These are the things, people and actions/decisions that can damage us physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially or in our reputation.  There isn’t much to say, run away!

I know some of my faithful readers are thinking, “Can you be more specific?”  No, I can’t.  These lists are very personal and yours are yours, mine are mine.  What energizes you may deplete me and visa-versa.  If you will honestly evaluate the three E’s and 3 D’s for yourself you make great leaps towards the person you want to be.

Prayer

Dear Jesus help me to travel light.  Help me to take with me things and people and make decisions that energize, excite and empower me.  Help me to make the hard decision to walk away from the things, people and actions that drain, deplete or destroy me.  I thank you for giving me the ability to make these changes in my life to become the person you created me to be.

Thoughts

  • Am I happy?  If not, what are the Three D’s I need to remove?
  • Am I productive?  If nor, what can I do to better leverage the Three E’s?

Action

  • Dump one D and begin one E this week.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 20: A Risk-Taking Church

We heard a challenging word from Pastor Matthew Barnett this morning.  He spoke one becoming a Risk-Taking Church.  I found that amusing since I had written on taking risks that morning.  Today’s blog is based off the notes I took during that sermon.

Churches start out as Risk-Taking Churches.  The word to describe them would be DARING.  We’ve heard the stories. They left the comfort of jobs, friends, and families to run after a dream God gave them.  The focus is vision or calling.

Matthew Barnett did that.  He left one of the largest churches in America that his father led in Arizona to start the Dreamcenter in downtown Los Angeles. He was 20 years old and had 7 people with them.  Then when they were still small but growing, they purchased a 4 million dollar hospital when their weekly income was $1,500.
Everyone told him it was foolish.

There will always be well-intentioned people telling you why you can’t do what God has told you to do during the daring phase.

Then the church gets buildings, salaries…there is more to lose.  This the Care-Taking Church.  The word that best describes this is the word DUTY.   This church focuses on maintaining property and programs.  They care most about meting the needs of its members. The problem is if you’re not going forward in God you are in fact backsliding.  You can’t maintain.

The Care-Taking Church becomes the Under-Taking Church.  It becomes a dying memorial to what God had done.  They talk more about what God did in the past than what He has called us to do in the future. They study history and work to amass the knowledge of scripture. The word that best describes this is the word DEAD.

Here’s what will blow your mind.  The Under-Taking Church isn’t always a dead church meaning; no miracles, no presence of God.  Under-Taking is a death of vision a death of the Great Commission.  Sometimes this church focuses on the ‘next experience’ with God but the gift is emphasized over the giver.  It’s not about what God wants us to do when we leave His presence but simply the next experience I can have personally.

Reading Hebrews chapter 11 we see the ‘Heroes of Faith’, God’s Hall of Fame.  They were all Risk-Takers!  Noah had no support when he responded to God’s word.  Noone believed He had heard God.

You can’t walk by faith and walk safe.

“How to” becomes the question of safe walkers, trying to manage miracles.  You can’t manage miracles.  You leap into the unknown and pray God catches you.

Jesus risked the salvation of all mankind on 12 fearful, dysfunctional, difficult underachievers and one of them was a traitor!  That’s taking a risk.  What if they didn’t do what they were called to do?

Our problem is that we want security more than glory.  You can never be great without taking a risk.

In closing let me say this, failing to take a risk is a sin.  If we care more about our image than advancing the Kingdom of God, it’s a sin.  God’s plan for you is bigger than your potential!  God’s vision for our church is greater than we can even comprehend.  We certainly can’t make it happen without Him.  Give God the chance to do great things through you.

Don’t be afraid to go where God has already gone.

Prayer

Dear Jesus help me to be a risk-taker not an excuse-maker.  Help me to fear missing your destiny more than what others will think if I fail.  I choose to take a leap of faith rather than playing it safe.

Thoughts

  • Is our church playing it safe or taking a risk?
  • How can I support my friends in their Risk-Taking adventures?

Action

  • Take a risk by praying for a stranger who need a miracle.
  • Start a ministry for God that needs His supernatural touch to succeed.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day 19: Taking a Risk

Taking a Risk

As a person faces death they often regret certain things in their life.  They may regret the hurt they caused a loved one or not spending more time with their family.  Yes, moral failures or relationship failure are regretted but not usually the adventure tried and failed. What do I mean?

You don’t usually hear people say, “I regret trying a new business or trying to make a difference in ministry.”  No, it’s usually the adventure NEVER tried that is a regret.  “Wish a wrote that book.”  “I should have gone back to school so my family would have a better life.”  “I should have tried that business idea.”  “I should have tried to save my marriage.” “I wish I would have done more for God.”  Those are some more common ones.

At the end of their life people regret risks not taken. Often it is the fear of losing something that keeps us from taking risks.  God wants us to trust Him enough to live like that now.  To live like we have nothing to lose. There is story of 4 men in scripture who had nothing to lose, so they took a risk.  They found that God’s blessing often lives on the other side of a risk taken.

In 2 Kings chapter 7 is a story of 4 leprous men.  They have shunned by society because of their contagious skin disease and because they are considered cursed by God, religiously unclean.  (The closest thing we would have in our society today is a homosexual person with full blown AIDS.)

Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gates. “Why should we sit here waiting to die?” they asked each other.  “We will starve if we stay here, but with the famine in the city, we will starve if we go back there. So we might as well go out and surrender to the Aramean army. If they let us live, so much the better. But if they kill us, we would have died anyway.”

So at twilight they set out for the camp of the Arameans. But when they came to the edge of the camp, no one was there!  For the Lord had caused the Aramean army to hear the clatter of speeding chariots and the galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching. “The king of Israel has hired the Hittites and Egyptians to attack us!” they cried to one another.  So they panicked and ran into the night, abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, and everything else, as they fled for their lives. When the lepers arrived at the edge of the camp, they went into one tent after another, eating and drinking wine; and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and hid it. – 2 Kings 7:3-8

As the 4 lepers took a risk to change their situation God intervened for them!  If they had done nothing they would have died where they were wondering why God had never helped them!!

Have you ever wondered why God usually shows up right at the end when we can’t make it?  I don’t think it’s because He likes to make us wait.  I believe most times it’s because we wait until we’re desperate to take a risk and make a move.

When God blesses it usually more than expected.  The lepers were hoping to survive but God gave them more than they could carry.  This abundance caused them to think of others.  (Usually when you’re hurting it’s hard to think of blessing others.)

Be a risk-taker not an excuse-maker.  Risk-takers fail more but they also achieve more.  Noone ever gained ground in a battle by watching from the sidelines.  You have to get in there, fight, bleed and risk it all!

Finally, they said to each other, “This is not right. This is a day of good news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone! If we wait until morning, some calamity will certainly fall upon us. Come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.” So they went back to the city and told the gatekeepers what had happened.- 2 Kings 7:9-10

The reward to the risk taker is meant to be shared with others.  We are blessed to be a blessing.  Don’t wait until your last 30 Days to take that life-changing risk. Risk takers accomplish more for God and also take others around them to new levels in God, thereby gaining bigger blessings themselves in the process.  To fulfill your destiny on this planet you can’t play it safe.

Prayer

Dear Jesus help me to be a risk-taker not an excuse-maker.  My desire is to fulfill your destiny for me on this planet and I know I can’t do that by playing it Safe.  I give my fear of failure, my insecurity about what others may think of me and yes even the lack of trust I have in you.  Point me in the right direction and I will take a leap of faith knowing you’ll be there to catch me if I fall.

Thoughts

  • When is the last time risked failure to achieve a life goal?
  • When is the last time I took a risk to accomplish something BIG for God.

Action

  • Ask God for a vision that is too big for you to accomplish on your own
  • Take one step towards your impossible dream today.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day 18: 30 Days to Glorify God

Bill Morgan gives us a glimpse of what he’ll be teaching this Sunday.

Isaiah 43:7 – Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory.

When one is facing the end of their life their entire perspective changes. One of the questions that comes up is “Did my life count?” For those of us who know Christ, given 30 Days to Live we can make our life count.

First we must recognize that God makes it simple. It is man who complicates the gospel for his own gain. The prophet Isaiah spoke the words of God plainly, “I have made them for my Glory.” Who is the “them” in this verse it’s those who “Claim Jesus as their God”. I have asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and I “Claim” Jesus as my God therefore I was made for God’s Glory.  If I was made for His glory then how do I give glory to God?

There are many answers to that question, many ways to glorify God. Anything that I do to further, promote, or expand the Kingdom of God brings Glory to God. When I read the bible and begin to change my thinking into the thinking of God, I give God Glory. When I love like 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, I give God Glory. When I feed the hungry, cloth the naked and give a cup of water in Jesus name, I give God glory. I know understand that the list is endless.

If I were to sum it up it would be this;

Matthew 6:33 – But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

If the question is, “Did my life count?” I could say, “Yes it did.” Why? Because I talked to someone about Christ and I lifted up a brother in need. I helped the poor whenever I could.

In the Song of Solomon it says, “Catch us the little foxes who spoil the young buds on the vine”. The buds become flowers and the flowers become the fruit of the vine. It’s not the big things that spoil the entire vineyard; it’s the small things. Likewise, Jesus says that if we are faithful in the small things we are worthy of bigger things. Giving God glory is not about the big things it’s about the little things. Offering to pray with someone who is down, inviting someone to church and even simply stopping in the middle of your day and thanking Jesus for being a part of your life. All of this brings glory to Him who made you.

When we give God Glory we are fulfilling the purpose of why we are here, we are making our life count.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, show me how to glorify you today.  Make me aware of the opportunities I pass by daily unaware.  I want to glorify you in every way.

Thoughts for Today

  • What did I do to bring glory to God yesterday?
  • Do I put God’s Kingdom first?

Action List

  • Ask one person if you can pray for them today.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 17: Dying Young

Hi everyone.  While I’m on the road, Randy Hartwig is filling in with these profound thoughts on dying young.

During Isaiah the prophet’s lifetime, God’s chosen people, Israel, were backsliding. In other words, they were not living for God and were far from Him. Their value system and the things they were concerned about were so messed up that they didn’t care or even ask, “Why?” when good people died before their time.  Here’s the direct quote from the prophet: (Isaiah 57:1)  Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why.

In our culture, when someone good dies “before their time” it can cause a lot of people to struggle and question God. As we consider death in this series we have to ask ourselves, what is my attitude concerning death in this type of  situation? The fact is good people DO die young. Even some godly people die seemingly before their time…..preachers, parents, young children, famous church leaders. What if you find out you will die young or if it happens to someone you love dearly? How will you respond to God

Read the rest of what Isaiah said in this verse! “No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come.” That is really interesting. Does God take people BEFORE their time to protect them from evil? Well, if we believe the Word to be true, that’s exactly what it says. That can shed a whole new perspective on death. It doesn’t necessarily bring instant healing of the grief you feel when you lose someone young or godly, but it sure can give you something positive to focus on. My loved one will NOT suffer the evil that is to come.

In the next verse Isaiah gives this promise: (Isaiah 57:2)  For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.  The paths we should choose while we live should be those that cause us to act godly – like God. We need to ask ourselves, “If God was in the same situation I am in, what would He do?” Then we determine to do the right thing, the biblical thing, the thing HE would do. The result is godliness and that brings peace.

So as you face death everyday, choose those things that will keep you on the godly path that leads to peace. Death is not something to be feared. It is rest. It is an exit from a world full of evil to an eternity of joy in the physical presence of the Lord.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, I don’t always understand why somethings happen, especially why some people have to die when they’re young.  Help me to give my grief and questions to you.  I choose to trust you even when I don’t understand.

Thoughts for Today

  • Have I ever thought about how death can be a relief from suffering?
  • Do I have questions and grief over the death of a loved one I need to give to the Lord?

Action List

  • Begin to live like I have 30 Days to Live because we are not promised tomorrow.
  • Share Christ with those I care about before it’s too late, even if they are younger.

Sand Dollars

One of the areas that is thought about the least yet impacted the most during a person’s last 30 Days on this planet is their finances.  In their last month most people stop thinking about paying their bills, saving their money or earning that first million.  Their thoughts instead turn to their relationships, their regrets or their eternal home. If they do think about money, those thoughts are usually motivated by concern for a loved one.  There is either a desire not to leave a financial burden to their families or instructions on how to obtain inheritance carefully set aside for those they love.

No, with 30 Days to live there is no longer a hustle and bustle to earn but an urgency to give.  People become generous, even frivolous at times with money.  No longer looking at money as the goal but as a tool to bring some pleasure to themselves and others with their fleeting few days.  When we think about it, isn’t that the true purpose of money?  It is at best a temporary tool to make life better while we’re here.

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” – Matthew 7:24-27

We shouldn’t build our lives on money or around obtaining it because it’s temporary.  Sand Dollars is what they are.  (No, not the kind on the beach I’m cleverly using the same wording.) The money we have is made of sand, here a little while then washed away.  Ask anyone who has build their life on the pursuit of money…they will tell you in the last 30 days of life it’s meaningless.  To be wise and build on the rock we must look at what God says about money.

How, begin by tithing.  By giving God back the first portion of all He has given us, we are in fact acknowledging that He is the giver of all we have.

“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! – Malachi 3:8-10

The tithe doesn’t belong to us.  It is the Lord’s.  He doesn’t tell us to give it but to bring it because it belongs to Him.  After that, ask God what else to give and be generous.  It isn’t always money He wants but a giving attitude, open your home, give rides or serve in church.  A great way is to give even AFTER you have gone.  People with 30 Days to Live often think of that also.

Remember held money is temporary money. Money given is a seed. A seed that can sprout endlessly all the way into eternity.

Some ways to build God’s Kingdom after you depart this planet are:

  • Take out a low-cost, term life insurance policy with the your local church as the beneficiary. (Please do this after providing one for your family, not before.)
  • Set your estate up to tithe to your local church as your assets are distributed.
  • Name the charity of your choice with a lump sum in your will. (Please see your attorney to set up these last two.)

By doing any of these your finances will actually be building the Kingdom of God on the earth even after you’ve gone on to glory!

Prayer

Dear Jesus, thank you for every good thing you’ve given me in my life.  My home, job all the money I have come from you.  Help me to always acknowledge you as my Lord through tithing then help me to be generous with what remains.  I don’t want to be controlled by money but use it as a tool for your Kingdom.

Thoughts for Today

  • How often do I think about money?  Is my life dominated by the need for more money, the pressure to pay bills or the desire to have certain lifestyle?
  • Do I put God first in my finances?

Action List

  • If you’re not tithing, start now..
  • If you area tither, pray about ways you can be more generous.
  • Set up a plan to give to work of God (such as your local church) after your death.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 15: What’s My Life All About?

As a person looks at the last 30 Days of their life they often wonder what their purpose for living was.  Searching for answers some people may think “Maybe it’s about family.”  Others may think they made a difference in the planet by helping the environment but we all search for meaning at the end of our life.  What’s my life all about?  I submit to you this thought, only that which will live on in eternity matters.  Of the eternal things there is nothing more important than a soul saved from hell.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. – John 3:16-17

This is the most quoted verse ever but do we really understand it?  God doesn’t want anyone to perish and go to hell.  In fact, this is such an important concept that He was willing to separate the Trinity and send the Son to earth…to earth to suffer and die.  That’s how important the salvation of each and every person is the Lord.

Then he (the thief on the cross) said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:26-43

Even in His very last moments on earth Jesus was still reaching out to others, saving them from damnation.  He was clear on what His purpose in life was, ‘to seek and save those that are lost.’  We need to understand that the very reason we are still on this planet is to help connect others to Christ and to help them gain heaven.

Worshiping God is very important, but worship is better in heaven.  Studying the word of God is a key to our lives but Jesus is the Word made flesh and will spend all of eternity revealing new facets of Himself to us.  Fellowship with the saints (church) is important for our spiritual growth but we will be fellowshipping forever with all the saints in heaven.  There is only one thing we can do here on earth that we can not do in heaven, win a convert for Christ.

Our very purpose here on this planet, the reason we are still taking in breath is to make Christ known to others.  So why don’t we think about it more?  Why don’t we do anything we can to reach people for Christ, every day?

Prayer

Dear Jesus, please forgive me for not sharing the gospel more.  Forgive me for fearing what people would think more than them going to hell. Jesus help me to follow YOUR example. Even on the cross you were saving a soul from hell.  Cause me to have compassion for people that are far from you, even if they are difficult people to be around.  Give me opportunity to tell them the good news of salvation and give me the boldness to speak. Amen.

Thoughts for Today

  • Do I believe that saving souls from heaven is the call of every believer?
  • When was the last time I saw someone I prayed for or shared Christ with become a disciple of Jesus?  (A disciple is not someone who says a prayer but someone who leaves there old life and follows Jesus.)

Action List

  • Write down and pray for 3 people that do not follow Christ, for the next week.
  • Pick at least one of those people and spend time with them within the next week.  (Look for divine opportunities to talk about God or pray for them but don’t force it.  Build relationship first.)

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 14: A Godly Perspective

God’s View of Life is Different Than Ours

The Lord doesn’t view our lives the way we do.  His perspective is as different from ours as ours is from an ant we are watching.  As we look down on the ground from our chair we can see where the ant will walk if he keeps going forward, where a good food source may be and even potential predators. God understands our live as He looks on as the one who sees all time and space instantly.  He knows the best path to take through life.

Consider this conversation between Peter and Jesus.  First, let me give you the background.  Peter just told Jesus He is the Messiah, Jesus tells Peter that only God could have revealed that to you.  The rest of the boys are slapping Peter on the back.  He’s feeling pretty good about himself then something funny happens.

From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead.

But Peter took Him aside and began to reprimand Him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”  Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”  – Matthew 16:21-23

Jesus knew it was necessary for Him to die.  Peter didn’t.  Jesus had the eternal perspective that his death, however brutal and painful would lead to His resurrection and ultimately our salvation.  To Peter it was unthinkable!  He’s thinking, “We just found out for sure that you’re the Messiah.  There’s no way God would want you to suffer and certainly won’t let them kill you!”  We don’t see things from God’s perspective; therefore we don’t always understand the way life goes.

Through it all we must trust that God has a plan.  We must understand that He sees things differently from us.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

It reminds me of a story I read. There was a picture-perfect small town in Maine.  You know the kind you would see immortalized in a Norman Rockwell painting.  The government informed the townsfolk that it would be building a hydroelectric dam nearby.  The dam would cause the town to flood. The officials told the town’s people that they would be paid and relocated to new homes. The town was scheduled to be demolished in less than 3 years just before the dam was finished. During those 3 years the town stopped repairing the roads, no one painted their house, they even stopped cutting their lawns.  The quaint town became terribly rundown. When a reporter enquired as to why this had happened, it was explained this way, “When there’s no faith in the future, there’s no power in the present.”

We must live our lives with faith that God will give us a future and a hope for eternity in heaven. Without this eternal perspective on the future we become hopeless and we allow our ‘spiritual houses’ to fall apart.  You may not understand everything you go through in life but trust the one who does.  Keep up your spiritual disciplines to stay connected to Christ and HIS plan for you.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to remember that no matter how severe the trial I am in today, that it is temporary. Amen.

Thoughts for Today

  • Have I let my ‘spiritual house’ fall apart?
  • Do I trust God with my decisions or do I have to keep control of my life?

Action List

  • Do a ‘spiritual house cleaning’ by repenting of any sins.
  • Continue the cleaning by forgiving anyone who has hurt you.
  • Begin to repair the house by reading and praying daily as well as going to church weekly.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional: Day 13 – What do You Believe about the End?

As we are examining how we would live if we had 30 Days to Live, it occurs to me that there has been an increasing emphasis on the end of life lately.  The world has been discussing the end of the earth, as we know it, with the 2012 hysteria and even the Left Behind series.  I have always avoided looking at the end times controversies until this year because I felt it was more important to look at how to live today.  I now realize that what you believe about the end of your life will influence how you live today.  Also…

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. – 2 Timothy 3:16

Therefore, then even the book of Revelation will affect how we would live our last month on this earth.  Are we searching for deeper understanding or are just receiving whatever the latest fictional novel tells us? It’s really the whole fear-based and defeatist approaches I object to.  It is because of this that some times I gloss over end-time passages of scriptures. I used to believe that they were not relevant to today.   I’ve even made jokes like, “I’m a pan-millennialist.  It’ll all pan out in the end.”  Ok, enough with the collective groan.  It was funny in the 1990s.

So, when my many people in our church wanted to do a study on the Book of Revelation in regards to the 2012 Predictions in the news, I reluctantly agreed.   One of the things we learned was, HOW a person approaches the end of life, greatly influences HOW they live their time on the earth.

If a follower of Jesus has an “escape mentality” that God won’t let us suffer then if they face a 30 Days to Live death sentence from a doctor their faith may be rocked. An example of this happened in China. Mao Zedong and his regime slaughtered over a million people with over 50 million people dying under his dictatorship eventually. I am told that when the communist dictator took over and began to kill all Christians who wouldn’t denounce Christ, locals believed him to the Anti-Christ of the Book or Revelation.  Hundreds of thousands of believers backslid. They denounced their faith not just because of the threat of death but because they actually lost their faith.  Why?  Because they believed God would catch them away in rapture before this kind of persecution.  The thought, “If we were wrong about that maybe we were wrong about everything.” became the attack on their faith.

The attitude that “the end of the world doesn’t matter” can also be damaging.  How?  If a follower of Jesus never considers how their life will end they may live for the present only instead of eternity.  We should live like we only have 30 Days Left to Live.

Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. – Revelation 1:17-18

We don’t need to fear the death, the grave or even the end of the world because they One who created it all in the beginning will be there to bring us home in the end.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to remember that we will all stand before your holy throne of judgment someday. Help me to live today with eternity in mind, thinking of your holiness as I make decisions. Help me not to compromise with sin.  Amen.

Thoughts for Today

  • If God were to ask you why should He let you into heaven what would you say?
  • What would you say to a person searching for truth who asked you about the end times?

Action List

  • If there is a sin you’re struggling with, confess it to your Small Group Leader or a trusted Christian friend.
  • Live today with eternity influencing your decisions.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 10: Why Should I Love?

As a person approaches death, facing their final 30 days, they usually turn towards those they love.  Most people don’t ask to work extra hours, or even take one more trip.  They certainly don’t wish for more TV or screen time.  They ask to see their loved ones.  They even reach out to relatives and friends they haven’t talked to in years.  Dying people try to mend broken relationships with their last breaths. Look at this verse:

Let love be your highest goal! – 1 Corinthians 14:1

As people face their last thirty days it all suddenly becomes crystal clear.  Like the morning sun breaking through a cloud bank, they see for the maybe the first time, what’s most important…LOVE.  Why wait?  If love is the highest goal, the most important thing, we should love now.

Another reason we should we love like we’re dying is because love is one of the few things in this world that actually is eternal.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Of these few eternal things, love is the greatest. Faith in the living God will be carried into the next life.  Hope in the eternal bliss of heaven carries us through our last 30 days to live but the one thing we can aspire to that is the greatest is love.  Poets have mused about it, song-writers have sang its praises but how many people truly understand love.  To begin to understand why we should love, we must start by understanding that love is eternal.

Jesus thought it was so important to love that He made it a commandment.

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. – John 15:12

Jesus commands us to give that same kind of unchanging, self-sacrificing love He gave us to others.  We CAN love like Him or He wouldn’t command us to.  He’s not a cruel prankster, giving His followers a command that He won’t give them the ability to carry out.  No.  We can love like Jesus because He lives in us by His Spirit.

Today, love someone the way Christ loved you.  Looking past the sin, their harshness, even their rejection of the gospel to love them.  If you do, you’ll be a little close to Christ then when you started the day.

Prayer:

Lord help me to love as you have loved me, not looking at people’s faults and sins but at their potential.  Father I choose to forgive them for how they have hurt me because you forgave me all the times I’ve hurt you.  Fill me with your love right now that I my love as you do.

Thoughts for Today:

  • Do I show the love of Christ on a daily basis to people I’m around?
  • if love were the only measurement of Christianity would my neighbors know I’m a Christian?

Action List:

  • Do a random act of kindness to someone today to show God’s love.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 9: What Good is Suffering?

God works in every circumstance for those that are His children. We see good or bad but God sees opportunity in either.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

So, if God works good in everything for those who follow Him, then why do we suffer?  We are never closer to God then when we suffer.  Yes, we may get mad at Him during loss or unjust treatment but ultimately we end up with nowhere else to go.

Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.  – John 6:67-68

When things go bad we realize like at no other time that there is nowhere else to turn but Him.  When it’s really bad, people can’t help.  It has to be God.

If God works good for me in all things what’s the good in this horrible situation?  Well if nothing else we turn to God in a deeper way, and that is important indeed.  See God is more concerned with our character than He is our comfort.  He is more concerned about eternal treasure in heaven than temporary trials here on earth, more concerned about our relationship with Him than our success in this life. He’s not uncaring; He just has a different perspective on our lives than we do.

The words of King David give us hope if we’re in a trial of our own making.  David committed adultery and then murder to cover the affair, yet after that He was called a man after God’s own heart AFTER these sins.  Why because he repented and turned to God. (Read the story yourself in 2 Samuel 12.)

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. – Psalm 6:9

God heard David’s prayer and accepted them.  If you’re hurting because of your own sin, it’s ok.  God has already forgiven you and is waiting to use even that situation for the good I your life.  Talk to Him about it right now.

Prayer:

Lord help me to not wait until there’s a problem to turn to you but to seek you each day.  When I do fall into trails, help me to remember you are there, and to seek you immediately.  I will not to blame you for my problems or suffering because I know you love me.  I trust you Lord.  I know there’s nothing I can face today that you and I can’t handle together.

Thoughts for Today:

  • Am I serious about my prayer life or do I just call out God when I need Him?
  • Have I been afraid to turn to God for help because I thought He wouldn’t answer?

Action List:

  • Spend time with God today telling Him how you’re hurting and asking Him to help.

30 Days to Live, Day 7: Do you want a good life?

Do you want a good life?

I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! – Deuteronomy 30:19

It sound silly but we have to choose to have a better life.  He wasn’t saying choose between “suicide and breathing.”  The Lord made it clearer by saying choose between blessing and cursing, between having a good life and terrible one.  Choose between hope for the future (That’s what He was talking about when He mentioned your descendants.) and hopelessness.

Do you want a good life?  It seems like a silly question but it’s not.  Our choices play a huge part in determining how good are life is.  God says choose life or death and then just in case we can’t get it, He say “OH!!!! That you would choose life!”  He’s yelling louder than any coach, “Please! Choose right! I love you and want you to have a good life.”

So, do you want a good life? Then choose to follow the ways that will bring God’s blessing, not the devil’s curses.

These 30 days can be the greatest spiritual growth of your entire life, if you’ll choose to do the work, to learn, to change, to have a good life.  I’m choosing change, I’m choosing LIFE.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to choose life today.  Help me to avoid that patterns that cause me to make poor choices. I give you my fears that may keep me from making good and Godly choices.

Thoughts for Today

  • What choices do I make that make my life harder?
  • How can I choose blessing instead of cursing today?

Action List

  • Make a good choice today that you have been putting off!
  • Choose to put God first today by spending 15 minutes with Him.

Live the Dash

The one thing we all have in common is death.  Rich, poor, hard worker, lazy, good person, criminal, Christian or Atheist, e will all die at some point

You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. –  James 4:14

Life is short and sometimes hard, yet most of us want to live as long as possible.  We are always trying to invent medicine that will cure terminal diseases, we try to eat healthier to cheat death a little longer, but in span of eternity, life is brief.

When I think of death I often think of cemeteries and gravestones.  On a person gravestone there is a name, maybe a picture or a cross, sometimes a one-line epitaph describing their life like “beloved mother” …different styles and sizes, but they usually all have a birth date and a date of death.  A simple, thin line called a dash separates these two important items. That dash represents our whole life!

We have no control over the date we were born and little control over the date when we die.  The only thing we can control is the dash! How we live and what we do with the brief time we have on this planet is all we can dictate.

The dash is an appropriate symbol because most of us dash through our lives and don’t stop to consider what our purpose is.  A few years back there was a movie called “The Bucket List.” In the movie, billionaire Edward Cole and working class mechanic Carter Chambers have nothing in common except for their terminal illnesses. While sharing a hospital room together, they decide to leave and do all the things they have ever wanted to do before they die, a list of things to do before they “kick the bucket”* hence the name, “The Bucket List.”

Maybe it’s not living longer that should be the goal but living FULLER.  Live the Dash, it’s all you’ve got.

Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” – John 10:10

God wants us to have a full, rich life.  Don’t waste time on temporary things that don’t matter.

Last, faith, hope and love will last forever.  Put your time and energy into these things that will follow you into eternity.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to remember that this life is brief.  Help me to remember that only that which is done for you will last and to prioritize my life with an eternal perspective. Help me today to live for eternal things.

Thoughts for Today

  • What did I do yesterday that helped make someone’s life better?
  • If I found out I had 30 days to live would I be happy with what I’ve done with my life?

Action List

  • Do one thing off your bucket list and enjoy!
  • Do one thing to enrich someone else’s life today.

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* Note: the term kick the bucket comes from England in the late 1700s where people who would commit suicide by hanging would often stand a bucket in their barn, tie a rope around the beam above and on their necks, then kick the bucket over to hang themselves.

Facing Our Fear of Forever

Facing Our Fear of Forever We Find Freedom

I’ve had the privilege of being with many people as they face their last 30 days on this earth.  People facing death receive a new freedom, a “license” to say what they really feel and to do what they really want.  What keeps us from doing that now?  Fear of what people think.

Jesus was free of the need to please people, to gain their approval.  He rebuked the influential pharisees and refused to be intimidated by the powerful authorities in the Roman government.  Jesus knew He would be dying soon and therefore what was there to fear from people?

Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. – Matthew 10:28

What would you do differently if you no longer had to worry about what other people thought?  If you only had one calendar page left to flip? Would you go to a mission field and not worry about having your own home?  Would you tell everyone knew about God’s grace because you now feared facing Him soon more than the rejection of others?  When you suddenly worry not hearing “well done good and faithful servant” nothing else matters.

Facing Our Fear of Forever We Find Faith

“Death is the thing most feared because it appears to be the end of everything.” – Aristotle

The fear of death comes from not knowing what happens when our eyes close for the last time on this earth.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

When we realize for the Christian that death is but a shadow of something passing that can’t touch us, we gain faith.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25

Do you believe this?  Then live like it.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, trust in the promise of heaven.  Help me today to not fear death nor fear what people think.  Help me today to live like I was dying.

Thoughts for Today

  • Do you fear death? If so why?  Aren’t you sure of heaven?
  • What would you say to someone if you knew you had 30 days to live?

Action List

  • Talk to one person that you’ve been avoiding and be honest.
  • If you’re not sure that you would go to heaven, ask Jesus to forgive you and save you right now.  Give Him your life and surrender control to Him as your Lord.

30 Days of Putting God First – Part 2

If we only had 30 days to live an important change would be to put God first in every area of our lives as we prepare to spend eternity with Him.  Yesterday we discussed giving God the first day of every week and the first part of every day.  Today we look at two very practical ways to put God first.

Give God the First Part of My Income

As a person faces eternity, somehow money loses its importance.  The last 30 days of a person’s life they become extremely generous, realizing that you can’t take it with you.  Jesus told us to store up treasure in heaven, not here on earth.  The best way to do that is to give to God first, before everything else.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first part of everything your land produces. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with the finest wine. – Proverbs 3:9-10

As we honor the Lord by returning the first 10% of everything He has given us back to Him, He then increases our blessings.  If we wait until after the bills, after home repairs etc. there’s usually little left to give.  If we give to God first, He multiplies what’s left supernaturally.

“I never would have been able to tithe on the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” — JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER, SR.

As we are faithful in the temporary things He can trust us with eternal things.

Give God the First Consideration of Every Decision

People will ask, “Does God really care where we work or where we live?”  YES, He does. He cares about the smallest details of our lives because He loves us.  (The very hairs on your head are all numbered. – Matthew 10:30)  There is nothing to small for Him to care and nothing to big for Him to handle.

If we had 30 days to live we would ask God to heal us.  In the grand scheme of the countless years of eternity and the vastness of the universe, whether one person lives 100 years of 30 years is meaningless.  What I’m trying to say is, to God all our requests are little things so don’t be afraid to ask.

Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:6

By asking God what His will is the various parts of our lives we involve Him in our day-to-day lives.  If He’s involved, then we have His wisdom, His presence and His blessing.

Remember, Give God…

  • The First Day of Every Week
  • The First Part of Every Day
  • The First Portion of My Income
  • The First Consideration of Every Decision

And you will soon find yourself living for eternity.

30 Days of Putting God First

As we are on this 30 day journey, it is my hope that we will learn to put God first in our lives.  When people have 30 days to live, most turn to God…even those that are mad at Him, even those that haven’t talked to Him in years.  It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey with God skeptic or a pastor, we can all grow closer to Him by putting Him first over the next 30 days.

A simple way to do that is to give God the first portion of everything.  Here’s some practical ways to do that:

Give God the First Day of the Week

Long ago Christians decided to gather together on the day the Lord rose from the dead (Sunday) and celebrate.  They also were applying the ‘first fruits’ principle when they set aside the first day of the week for God.

Give God the first day of your week by setting aside Sunday as ‘His day’.  Attend the church of your choice, spend sometime praying or reading, and just think more about Him on Sunday than you normally do.

Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25

Give God the First Part of Every Day

I know we’re all busy and rushed in the morning.  I know that many of us are not morning people.  If we will give God the first 15 minutes of our day, He will make the rest of the day go smoother.

If you read 15 minutes a day you can read through the whole New Testament in less than a year.  I would suggest reading 10 minutes and praying 5 to start.  This should be doable for anyone. 15 minutes a day, such a wonderfully small sacrifice to understand the love of the Father and the freedom He has given us.

By asking God what His will is the various parts of our lives we involve Him in our day-to-day lives.  If He’s involved, then we have His wisdom, His presence and His blessing.

Remember, Give God…

  • The First Day of Every Week
  • The First Part of Every Day

And you will find your life is more fulfilling, more effective and more meaningful.  In short, you be living more like you’re dying.

Tomorrow’s devotional: Give God…
• The First Portion of My Income
• The First Consideration of Every Decision

Born to Die

We’re all dying from the moment we are born. The difference between us and Jesus is this, He came to this earth knowing His time here was short.  He lived with great purpose because He knew how limited His time was.  As we celebrated His Resurrection on Easter we learned how to make the most of this life, remembering how short it can be.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

Do you believe in the eternal?  The majority of Americans do yet we spend so little time thinking about eternal things.

In the book Miracle on the River Kwai ther was a powerful seen involving allied soldiers who were captured by the Japanese during the World War II. These Prisoners of War (POW) were forced to work as slaves on a railway through the jungle.

One afternoon, a shovel was missing. The Japanese officer in charge lost his temper. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. No-one moved. No-one said anything. The officer got out his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot. It was obvious that he meant what he said.

One prisoner stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. The soldiers picked up his body, and carried it away.

There was a second tool count where is was found that no shovel was missing. There has been a mistake at the first count.

Why did this man step forward and say he had stolen a shovel then? This innocent man had sacrificed his life to save the prisoners. Jesus did the same thing.  He sacrificed His life to save the lives of those enslaved by sin.

Why was Jesus born on this earth?  To die.  His whole existence was for the purpose of dying for you and me.

He asks us today to die to ourselves and put His kingdom first (Matt 6:33).  Why?  Because we are all ding from the moment we’re born and only that which is done for God will last.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless, as it would be if there were no resurrection. – 1 Corinthians 15:58

God Bless, Pastor Lon

Prayer

Dear Jesus, thank you that you have given me assurance of eternal life.  Help me today to think about eternity.  Help me to live today in such a way that I will draw people closer to you.  Give me opportunities to love and serve you by loving and serving others.

Thoughts for Today

  • What would you do differently if you were going to face eternity in 30 Days?
  • Have you ever thought about the fact that our lives a but a moment compared to eternity?

Action List

  • Do one thing that has eternity attached to it.  i.e. Pray for someone, share Jesus with someone, forgive someone, do a random act of kindness for a stranger, serve God by doing something practical to build His kingdom…etc.
  • Write down one thing you did today that will still be important 1,000 years from now.
  • Tell me your ideas for eternal actions.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional

What would I do differently if I only had 30 Days to live? That’s quite a concept.  Most people give a flippant answer such as “quit my job and max out my credit cards”.  I don’t think that is what most people who really have one month left on this earth.  Take the 30 Day challenge to become the person you want to be in eternity.

Introduction

I’m so glad you decided to take this 30 day challenge to change they way we live.  It is my prayer that this resource will help us to Connect to God in a significant way.

This e-devotional is meant only as a tool, it doesn’t contain the answers to life’s big questions BUT God can use it to communicate to you.

If you will take these four simple steps I believe God will greatly impact your life in a powerfully positive way.

  1. Every morning, ask yourself what you would do if you had one month to live—then live that way.
  2. Each day read this e-devotional, pray 5 minutes about its contents and act on the changes you wish to make.
  3. Each day read scripture for 5 minutes. I also recommend the One Month to Live book as a reading resource
  4. Write down the top 3 changes you would make if you had One Month to Live.  At the end of these 30 days, evaluate where you are in making those changes.

Sound good?  Then let’s get started!!

Pastor Lon

Someday Syndrome

Are you suffering from the “Someday Syndrome”? Someday, I’ll go to college, someday, I’ll quit smoking, someday, I’ll clean the clutter off my desk, someday, I’ll get healthier, someday, I’ll live for God, someday, I’ll spend more time with family, someday, I’ll get my finances in order, when I have more time, when the kids are older, when I feel better, when work isn’t so crazy, someday, someday…someday never comes.

This Easter we will begin a journey called 30 Days to Live. This journey will focus on helping us to stop waiting for “someday” and make the most of our lives.

When Christ came to this earth He had a purpose in mind, saving you and me.  He kept that purpose in the forefront of His mind because He knew His time on earth was short.

“Why did you need to search for me?” He asked. “Didn’t you know that I must about my Father’s business?” – Luke 2:49

He kept focused on the task with the urgency of a builder facing a deadline.  Have you ever had a school paper or a work project due tomorrow that you scrambled to finish on time?  We all have.  Starting Sunday we’re gonna live like we’re dying, to quote the lyrics of Kris Allen.

What if you only had 30 Days to Live?  How would you live differently?  What’s keeping you from doing that now?

Trust is Earned

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6

I have heard people say, “Trust is earned.” or “A person must show themselves to BE trustworthy before I’ll trust them.”  I want to ask a question…Has the Jesus done enough to earn our trust?

King David proclaimed God’s trustworthiness by attaching it to God’s character.

All He does is just and good, and all His commandments are trustworthy. – Psalm 111:7

If God is just and good then all He asks us to do must be just and good.  Therefore, we can trust what He says. The commandments He gives us in scripture are worthy of us trusting and building our lives on.

What are you building your life on?

I want to encourage you today, trust the Lord.  Trust Him with your hopes, your dreams, your future.  Trust Him with you relationships, your career, your present situations.  Trust Him with your past, your hurts, your disappointments,  your failures, your betrayals, your sins.

What part of your life have you not given to Him?

The Next Level, What Got You This Far Won’t Get You There!

Many people talk about “getting to the next level”.  We here is in business, from financial gurus, from relationship advisors and in our churches.  This year we’re going to a ‘Hole ‘Nother Level! (HNL) Have you ever wondered how?

Most people don’t enjoy change but the stark reality is that we can’t get to a HNL by doing the same things we did to get to this level.  I’m a big fan of consistency and realize that many things may be accomplished simply by not quitting BUT leaps in success or growth are almost always preceded by changes in behavior. One definition of insanity is “to repeat the same behavior over and over, expecting a different result.”  The method, the priorities, the effort, the staff, the relationships…something has to change.

As I look at how differently people perceive church growth I realize that usually the first thing must change is people’s perception of the situation.  Whether it’s a person who looks at a picture of themselves on the web and says, “Am I that fat?” or a business who makes excuses, “We’re losing customers because it’s a bad economy.” or a church that stops to realize that they haven’t experienced God converting more than “two sinners to saints” in the same year in so long, they can’t find a record for it…HOW the situation is viewed is the key to change, which is the key to beginning to grow.

I’ll talk more about church growth next blog but for now, please take a hard look at your relationships, your finances, your body, your career, your spiritual life, are your growing in that area or are you stagnant?

After the realization that a change is needed, ask the question “What needs to change?”

Next blog I’ll apply this to growing your church.

Who is my neighbor?

The Bible has a lot to say about neighbors.  In the Ten Commandments alone we are told:  not testify falsely against your neighbor;  not covet your neighbor’s house; not covet your neighbor’s wife; or their maid or pool boy; or their mode of transportation; or anything else that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16-17)

Jesus said, loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself is as important as loving God and the summation of the whole Old Testament law! (Matthew 22:35-40)

What does that mean to us today?  It means that we need to understand how to treat our neighbors right if we want to be right with God.

So, with this being such an important concept in scripture and the teachings of Jesus Himself, it seems reasonable that someone would ask, “Who is my neighbor?”  A Pharisee (a teacher of the Jewish law) asked that question in Luke 10:25-37.  Jesus responded with a story that we call the Good Samaritan.

A Jewish man was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road.  A priest walks buy and does nothing.  A church Deacon (Levite) looks at him but doesn’t help.  Finally a despised Samaritan stops and helps the Jewish man.

The Jews truly despised the half-breed Samaritans, they were unclean to them.  Damned by birth.  It would be like a 1960s African American man stopping to help a Klu Klux Klan man and the Pharisee knew this bigotry.  Jesus asked him a question:

Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”

The Pharisee couldn’t help but replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus responded, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

His command to us today is the same. Be like the Good Samaritan.  If you are in a position to help someone, do it.  God will put people in your path, maybe even people you don’t relate to, maybe even people you have a prejudice towards…be Jesus to them.

Your Experience Does Not Entitle You to Lead

The statement by Nancy Ortberg hit me like the chill that you get when you first jump into a cool pool on a hot summer day.  At first there’s the gasp of air leaving the lungs and the and the tightening of my skin just like when we first react to the cold.  Then something strange happens.  There’s a soothing feeling that follows as your body adjusts and remember why you jumped in. Sitting in the sun had caused you to become heated an sweaty, you wanted to be cooled down.  The water shocks at first but them soothes as as it cools.  Nancy’s statement did the same thing.

As I recovered from the brief shock, there was a soothing sigh of “Yes, that’s why I came.”  She brought out many insights on leadership in her session.  Experience doesn’t entitle a person to lead calling and character do.  I often articulated to people that maturity isn’t measured in years but in how much of the fruit of the Spirit one grows.  I had long felt the same way about leadership.  “Just because you’ve been in the church 15 years doesn’t mean you should be an elder.” was one discussion but I struggled to make it clearer.

I the soothing that Nancy’s teaching brought.  Saul couldn’t face Goliath but a teen shepherd boy could.  (1 Sam 17)  David asked why no one would fight the giant.  the reactions were interesting.  First, David’s brother accused him of being prideful and wicked for coming to the battle but David was just following his father’s instruction.  David ignored his brother and went to others again asking why none of them defended the Lord’s name.  Finally they brought him to Saul.  Saul reluctantly relented to David’s story of the God giving him the lion and the bear.  “Alright, you can go but wear my armor.”  Saul breathed.

In other words, “Ok, maybe God has sent you but do it my way.”  Saul had the experience to lead.  He was a king and a warrior.  But God didn’t call a warrior.  God knew no warrior could stand against the might of a giant who was a warrior since he was a youth.  No God called a shepherd boy.  New methods emerged.  A sling and stone instead of a sword and a spear.  Faith was his protection not a bronze shield.

I know understood how to articulate to others what the Spirit of God had been showing me.  Calling and character are what gives people the influence to lead not title nor experience.

Thanks Nancy.  That alone was worth the price of the Catalyst Conference and we’re just getting started!

Presenting the Gospel in a Visual Society

We opened with a 10 minutes drama of people’s different fears, death, public speaking, heights, snakes, drowning etc. I’m so proud of our creative and drama teams! It was awesome. I think the sermon was very well received also.  Were the drama and message effective?  Well, 2 people gave their lives to the Lord for the 1st time!

I loved the drama opening for the sermon but that sort of thing always brings questions into some observers mind. “Why do we need all those lights?” or “Is this just a show?”

Why do we use drama, video, decorations, give aways etc. to present the gospel?  It’s because we live in a visual society.  We are trying to reach a generation raised on television, movies, graphic design and the web.  Most of their classes in school will suppliment the teacher’s lecture with videos and Internet information.  Does this water down the gospel? No.

Presenting the gospel with more than words isn’t something new.  Jesus used imagery such as a “camel passing through the eye of a needle” and “a sower who planted seed.”  No, presenting the truths of the Kingdom of God in a visually stimulating medium isn’t a new idea or even’s man’s idea.  Jesus was doing it thousands of years ago.

The key is using the visual presentation to reinforce the message or present the message in a different way but the message never changes!!  It’s still that we are all depraved sinners worthy of judgment and damnation but God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to horribly suffer taking our punishment, then die, rising again to bring us the impossible reward of eternal bliss in heaven.

We will use the methods that will reach the audience but always remember to keep the message the same, we need Christ and thankfully He wants us.

Conquering Monday Morning Blues

You grab your favorite cup of coffee, sigh deeply and go to work. It’s not that you hate your job, well sometimes, but there so many other things you would rather be doing.  So many other people you would rather spend your time with.  You know you work for a paycheck but you wish that could be a little better too.  The week seems so long.  How can I conquer these Monday morning blues?

Maybe you’re a student and you can’t bring coffee to school.  You don’t fit in with the kids in your classes.  There’s that one teacher that seems to have it in for you.  I can’t believe the weekend went so fast.  How could I forget that assignment? Ugh.  How can I conquer these Monday morning blues?

Maybe you’re a stay at home mom with small kids, or a retired senior facing another day of cleaning the house and isolation. Sunday was great but now what? How can I conquer these Monday morning blues?

It’s simple really.  Change your perspective. Worker, it’s not about the paycheck, sure it helps but that’s not why you are there.  Student you’re not in school just because it’s a state law or just because you need an education.  Mom or retiree, you can still make a difference.  You have all entered the mission field. [Insert Twilight Zone music here.]

See if we really believe that God orders our steps.  If we really believe that He knew us before we were born then He placed us where we are today.  It’s not meaningless it’s a mission.  So to beat the Monday morning blues, take all teaching you received Sunday, all the Spirit of God you were filled with, all the joy you received, all the encouragement and love the church members gave you and give it away TODAY!

Mission trips don’t just happen in Africa. They happen every Monday. God has strategically placed you in your job, school or neighborhood.  Meet the day with expectation for God to do miracles today.  Expect God to provide you with an opportunity to move someone a little closer to Christ TODAY.  You are a missionary on assignment to Connect Others to God & Church today.

Encouragement

We all need encouragement sometimes but what should we do when it seems there is no one to encourage us?  The answer comes from King David.

David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD His God. – 1 Samuel 30:6 (kjv)

David encouraged HIMSELF in God.  There comes a point where you have to encourage yourself.  The people you thought were with you turn on you. You have no one to help you.

In David’s life he survived his leader turning on him (Saul), his family attcking him (Absalom), his own sin (that whole Bathsheba thing) and his friends that have pledged loyalty to him talking about stoning him.  How did he do it?  He learned early this simple truth, sometimes there’s only God and you so you have to get your encouragement directly from Him yourself.

David rehearse the past protection of the Lord to encourage himself.

The LORD who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine! – 1 Samuel 17:37

Stand on the promise that God won’t allow you to be tempted more than you can take.  He will rescue you before you are overwhelmed.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.
God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.
– 1 Corinthians 10:13

In closing, there are times when we must encourage ourselves.  The best ways to do this is to remember the good things God has done and to rehearse His promises to us such as the one just mentioned in 1 Cor 10:13.  So no matter what you’re going through, choose to encourage yourself today.

World’s Dumbest Criminal, a Lesson for Us

I love the TV show called “World’s Dumbest Criminals” (I know but I like to see dumb people get arrested.) Recently I saw a story of drug dealer name Daron.  The police had surveillance on him for over a month and came with an arrest warrant to pick him up.  They knocked on the door and asked, “Are you Daron…?”

Daron replies, “No, my name is Herbert Spinkleman.” Or some ridiculous similar name.

The police officer then looks at Daron’s forearm and points to his tattoo. “You have you name Daron tattooed on your arm.”

“No that’s my girlfriend’s name Da-Ron.”  He replied.

You can’t make this stuff up!  He was trying to fool the police pretending to be someone else and his name was tattooed on his forearm!  Then he denied it was his name!  Priceless.

Daron tried to pretend he was someone else but his true name was evident.  Many people do the same thing.  They say they are Christians but the name of Christ is not on them.  Christian means “little Christ”.  It’s like saying “Jesus Jr.” you look like your dad.

Many people call themselves a follower of Christ but the name tattooed on their arm is “liar, porn addict, judger of others, thief, fornicator, gossip” etc.  They try to fool people but hypocrisy is evident to most.

Jesus said, “Why do you say you love me but don’t obey my commandments?”
We know that many people will be shocked when their lives end because they will say didn’t we do all these “Christian things for you?” and He’ll reply, “Depart from me, sinner.  I never knew you.”

Don’t be like Daron.  Don’t try to fake out Jesus because you’ll only fool yourself and you also will be taken away in chains.

Reaching Young Adults

I found out today that in our church (House of Praise) 30% of our adults have not yet seen their 31st birthday.  Out of the 200 adults that come to a Sunday Service on avg. 60 are between the ages of 18 and 30!  That is a blessing but that also brings the questions of how to properly care for that niche.

In our Sunday Service we have modern music, high energy presentations, video & technology, drama & art, and life-application teaching all targeted at getting the attention of the under 30 crowd and it’s worked.  Then what?

The Amercian church has done a great job of teaching Sunday school or children’s church.  We also have good youth programs for teens.  In the last few years we’ve gotten better at helping established couples with the marriages and finances.  We haven’t discipled well the young adults, the college and new career age. (I don’t think we do a good job at ministering to the retired and older either but that’s for another blog.)

To continue to challenge and grow the young adults we started with small groups to build relationships.  We had midweek series called “Dating, Mating, & Relating” that was enthusastically received by people. So much so I may resurrect if for a Sunday series.  BUT some how the young adults still feel disconnected.

We must be proactive about a three-fold approach.

  1. Hang time – there has to be organic times in the schedule for causual conversation about real issues.  Cafe’s that stay open all day Sunday, comfortable nooks and reading spots in the church for people to come during the day and sit.  Think, Starbucks or Barnes & Noble, the quad on the college campus.
  2. Serving – I know this seems to be the contradictory but if a young person is serving there’s a sense of ownership.  Here’s the important part though, not serving for serving sake.  Church leaders have to give young people a vision they can believe in and a task they are passionate about.
  3. Giving – We have done a poor job of teaching stewardship to the young adults. Just look at the fact that there is more credit debt for the 20-30 years old now than in any time in our nation’s history and you can see that.  Giving breaks a “what about me?” mentality and begins to get God involved in their finances.  Again, it also created a sense of purpose and connection with the church vision.
  4. Relationship & Decision Making Teaching – The big issue for this age is making life changing decisions especially in the area of relationships.  More young people leave serving God because of dating an unsaved person than all other issues combined!  Teach them that it is a sin to be yoked together with an unbeliever. (2 Cor 6:14) Tell them not to take counsel from ungodly people (Psalm 1). Help them to make Kingdom First decisions (Matt 6:33).
  5. Leadership – Having under 30 people in leadership roles, especially that are visible, helps young adult know that you don’t see them as kids.  I’m not just talking about youth and children’s pastors! We have had worship leaders, church secretaries, creative directors, service MCs, media directors, greeters, even ushers that are under 30.  It send the message, “You matter.”

In closing, I don’t have all the answers but I know we can’t minister to a 25 year old the same way we do a 55 year old.  They have different needs, desires and speak a different language.

We need to continue to modernize our methods while not compromising our message and we need to be intentional about discipling the young adults.

Citizen of Heaven

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.
– Philippians 1:27

Paul said it was most important for us to live as a citizen of heaven.  That means, we don’t always or else he wouldn’t have to remind us how important it is.

If we obey God’s commands then we are living as citizens of heaven and people will believe in God because of our conduct.  (Deuteronomy 28:9-10)

If you’re not obeying scripture.  If you are still sinning everyday then maybe you’re not a citizen of heaven.  That should lead to the next question…

How do you become a citizen of heaven?

In Acts 22 Paul reminds the jailer that it isn’t legal to whip a Roman Citizen without a trial.  The commader comes and basically says “How did you become a citizen?  It cost me a lot of money.”  Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!”

We can’t buy our way into God’s Kingdom.  We must be born into it…more correctly “born-again” into it.

To become a citizen is to become a child of God.  It is to humble yourself like a little child and say, “Lord, I can’t control my own life. I give full control to you.”

If you haven’t done that, do it now, then tell me about it.  God bless.

Seek & Respond Well to Change

We heard a great message from Pastor Randy Hartwig called “Change the Key to Victorious Christianity”. Here’s some of the highlights:

Change is a Constant Process for a Victorious Christian.

2 Cor. 3:18 – We who reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory…

A Christian who doesn’t want to change is like a caterpiller that doesn’t want to become a butterfly.  We need to actively seek change to become all that God wants us to be.

Change opens the fullness of God’s Kingdom to us.

Matt 18:1-4 – Jesus teaches us that unless we change and become like a little child we will never see the Kingdom of Heaven.

Change Brings Revival.

Look at the great revivals that God has brought, they are almost always preceded by a change in thinking and methodology.  For example:

  • Martin Luther changes our doctrine when he reveals salvation by faith not works
  • The Baptists reveal the truth of full water immersion for believers after salvation
  • Pentacostals bring the restoration of the Gifts of The Spirit including healing, speaking in tongues and prophesy

Are you a spiritual pioneer or a settler?  Pioneers push beyond the known limits to conquer new frontiers, to expand the Kingdom…

Why is the American Church in Trouble?

Don’t think the Evangelical church is i trouble in the US?  Consider these statistics:

•   The number of people in America that Do Not attend church has doubled in the past 15 years.

•   50% of  churches last year did not add one new person being saved

•   Only 15% of churches in the United States are growing

•   Just over 2% of churches grow because of new salvations

In the era of Mega-churches most believing churches are slowly dying. Why are some exploding while other shrivel?  I can answer this quesrtion best with an illustration from today’s sermon.

In Mark 2:13-17 Jesus calls Levi to follow Him and become His disciple.  Levi does, leaving his job, his neighborhood, financial security all to follow the Lord.

The next time we see Levi he has invited Jesus and His disciples over for dinner but he also invited his friends over.  The Bible calls them nortorius sinners.  The religious people couldn’t believe Jesus would eat with such scum.  Jesus replied that He didn’t come for those who think they are righteous but those who know they are sinners.

Levi understood what the Pharasees didn’t. From the moment we become followers of Jesus we must be inviting others to meet Him.  if we want God’s presence with us we must invite the people He wants to be around.  Sinners.

No new converts, none of God’s favor upon our churches.