Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Living Other Worldly

““But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:24-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It is as though Jesus expects his  followers to live with sacrificial discomfort, laying up expectation for the life after this. Lest we be comforted only here, or sharing only in this life, laughing only here while others suffer, and living only for earthly respect. No, as Jesus's disciples, we learn that this life must be lived with a view to comforting others, not just ourselves; and sharing our food with others, for how much can we consume ourselves; and mourning with those who mourn, to build their spirits up; and living with the hope that heaven will speak well of us.

How you doing with that?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Pastor Appreciation

“And God gave… pastors…” Eph 4.11

I was thinking about the job description for pastoral ministry and how much it has changed over the years. Some of the changes have come about because of changes in technology. Some of the changes have come about because of the societal drift away from the standard of the Living God. Some of the changes come with the growth of the ministry. And somethings never change in ministry.

The most recent statistic I have hear about ministers leaving their churches shows about 1500 each month. Ministry is often not very lucrative and it can be frustrating. But it is a tremendous privilege (and challenge) to give direction to a body of believers. As we head into October and toward pastor appreciation Sunday (Oct 23rd at CLC) I asked the staff pastors to explain to me their big ticket items on their to do lists each week. You will find below what they told me and maybe it will help you pray for them.

Prepare sermons
Oversee small groups
Lead worship and worship practices
Lead the team spiritually
Website -
Create and develop
Develop promotional material
Make and prepare Podcasts
Manage the Stage/Platform
Media computers, sound system, projection software
Praying at altar over congregational members
Connection/ follow up with individuals
Counseling and mentoring
Disciple young and new believers
General administration
Plan events
Develop leadership
Plan outreach event
Plan fundraisers
Prayer over team

Schedule leaders for ministries
Manage operations of nurseries, preK and elementary rooms
Prepare children’s message and series
Prepare outreach events for neighborhood
Reach out to hurting parents, missing parents
Model worship and lead worship for kids
Do fundraisers for kids
Christmas outreach
Summer camp
Summer outreach
Sport camp
Planning events (ie picnic)
Social media
Maintain children’s area
Family/parenting Seminars- setting up
Pray for Kids in transitions, and hurting kids

Computer repairs
Social media updates
Representing the church before the city
Connecting with local schools
Planning outreaches and fundraisers
Sermon prep
Telephone counseling
Prayer for the congregation members
Hospital visitation
Social engagement with other ministries
Maintenance (everything from digging holes to changing toilets to rewiring light fixtures)
Fill in for musicians on vacation
Meet with staff to administrate weekly
Meet with the council to report on the general fiscal and spiritual health of the church
Encourage the broken hearted
Snow removal, mowing grass
Work days-
Prayer meetings-
Leadership development
Meet with denominational officials
Accountability partners
Meet with missionaries
Plan marriage retreats and seminars
Develop security plans and safety plans for church

Teach young people about Jesus
Plan game nights, sleep overs, activities
Lead worship
Counsel hurting teens
Telephone counseling of former teens late at night
Develop leadership team for youth events
Computer and media development
Purchase of computer equip for church

I hope that you will lift up your pastors as they seek to live for Jesus and serve him. We need your prayers!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Primal Instinct

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭8:34-36‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Cancer. I had suspected that this word was going to come out of the specialists mouth. Still it hit emotionally. Leaving the doctor and walking down the street I was in a mental fog. Thoughts of loved ones filling my head, "how to tell them?", then the wave of sad and morose thoughts, and finally the prayers, "God give my wife and I the strength..."

The next wave of emotion came and stuck pretty strong with me. It was the will to fight. The desire to live. It is so instinctive, so basic and primal, so fundamental that it surprised me. It didn't have to be ginned up, or wound up. It was just a Primal Instinct.

As I was reading the Word this morning, it came to me that what Jesus demands of his followers is a denial of this most primal instinct. We must live our lives in such a way that denies the instinct of life and surrenders the heart to the will of God. Choosing to lose my life for Christ and living a yielded life is not morose or depressing. It actually can be freeing. Suddenly, I can come to see what really matters in the long run. It gives a sense of divine perspective. Jesus taught his disciples to live out the invitation to the gospel. That whatever battles they might fight inside themselves, this battle to preach to all an invitation to the kingdom of God was the greatest battle. It might require abandoning the amassing of wealth, the investment of self in every other seemingly good thing. It really demands we live out that "Seek first the kingdom of God..." Verse. It is an abandonment to the gospel.

Today I am fighting a battle for survival. It isn't easy. Battles are messy, sweaty, smelly things. But it still remains that my highest call is to deny my instinct for survival, and preach the Word when I can.

Driving Forward

“...I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭9:26-27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There it is again! The need for self discipline is exposed in the self revelatory fashion of the Apostle. Self Discipline is the most despised of Spiritual Fruit (Gal 5.23). It might be possible to blame our lack of love or joy upon some lack in the Spirit's motivation in our life but it is not logical to blame him for our lack of self control. It simply defies logic. Here is a challenge to the very soul of the man or woman of God. It is a challenge to rise up from the pathetic state of being a helpless sinner to being an empowered saint. But , alas, we are more content in assuming the state of helplessness. We are comfortable in being one who is out of control and in need of divine rescue. Certainly, each of us has confessed our 'helpless estate" before the Lord, at some time or another. But something happens in redemption that empowers the sinner into spirit empowered saint. We find ourselves with the reigns to our lives, able to yield or surrender to which ever power we have determined best. That we choose sin so often probably means that we need a good mental cleansing. Rom 12.1-2 reminds us that understanding the good, pleasing and perfect will of God comes at the cost of "a renewed mind". Such a mind refuses to identify with what it once was, or what the surrounding culture tells us that it must be, and stands n its own as one both redeemed by God's infinite grace and surrendered to God's perfect plan.

The word for self control used both here in 1 Cor 9 and in the fifth chapter of Galatians is the word egkrateia which means, according to Wuest, "Possessing power, strong, having mastery of possession of, continent, self controlled'. It refers to the mastery over one's own desires while engaged in the stadium athletic games. Here there is a picture of competence and strength. Paul writes describing this Christian Life as both focused (I do not flail at the air) and determined to bring his body under the mastery of God's purpose for his life. To those outside the faith, the willingness to endure difficulty for the cause of Christ, the determination to press through hardship and suffering to bring God glory, even the living of a spiritually determined and life surrendered to the principles of the Kingdom of God is a strange pressing forward. "Why can't you relax, enjoy, and rest a while?" some will say. But the surrendered heart, knows there are broken hearts to mend, souls to win, and the comfort of heaven that is ours to mete out to the confused.

Paul gives us his reason for his diligence in gaining such mastery over himself. He fears disqualification. Some theologies have difficulty with Paul's words here. Immediately they assure us that there is nothing we can do to "earn" our salvation. But Paul is quick to remind us that we can neglect a salvation, even one this great, by taking it for granted. Paul's warning is to the self satisfied, lazy and undetermined. His warning is to anyone who thinks he stands- take heed lest he fall. Fall into a faith that is undisciplined and completely subject to the desires of the flesh.

There is a term I have heard in the past from those who live this lifestyle. It is not a term of comfort and complacency; it is not a term of rest and renewal; and it is not a passive term. It is the term "Driving Forward". Like the Pauline term, it is a sports term. It demands of us that we dig in our feet and push forward toward the Kingdom Objective that Christ has laid before us. It demands that we not stand complacent and comfortable in the Kingdom half-come, promises partially answered, and prayers unanswered. We must discipline ourselves, bring our bodies under the Spirits control, and push forward to make a difference. Drive Forward.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Raising Godly Kids

Raising children is important. “Of course,” you say, “Everyone knows that.” The sad reality  is that not everyone know this. Some believe that children are born completely blank slates and that they will be able to find their way from this life to God’s kingdom with little help from believing parents. In fact, kids are born with some clear indications of their future path. They have the genetic components that might lead them in a direction toward addictions or alcoholism, they have biological directors that point them toward health issues. There are cultural pressures to move in a direction (usually away from the God of the Bible). Everyone of us has a very real enemy that strives to lead us down paths that embarrass, damage, and trap us. The spiritual ramifications of evil are implications that most in our society does not want to deal with.

Our kids are under the influence of many forces. Neglecting direct involvement in their lives all along their developmental path is necessary for us to allow them the good choices that they need to make. Instead, too many are leaving it to forces under the control of ungodly influences. Our kids watch, on average, 24 hours of TV each week. The public school system has them for nearly 40 hours a week, too. After school they might run with a few of their local friends for an average of 8 hours a week (including Saturday's). So 72 hours a week our kids are getting a steady diet of the world’s values and ungodly world views. How do we counter act that powerful influence that is built right into the system of their lives? With a 1 hour Sunday School lesson? Come on friends, it takes more than that.

Home influence has to be strong. 
So here is a check list of the things that we must be absolutely sure to do to raise kids who love God in our world. I am sure that it is not a complete list, but it is a good start

1. Live a godly and genuine life. Are our church I talk about being the real deal. How do we live out our faith? If we have a Sunday morning only faith we will lose our kids to the influence of the world as sure as the sun shines every morning. We have to be examples of God influenced people. We must be people who have a profound love for God (Luke 10.27) and others.

2. Seek to lead them to Jesus early. It is important that parents guide children to Jesus and disciple them in the ways of Jesus. It is okay to ask them if” Jesus lives in their heart?”

3. Disciple and teach them. We used the dinner table to have faith-relevant discussions on topics of the daily news or events in our children's lives. Your teaching at home will be reinforced by Children’s Church pastors and Youth pastors. We need to prioritize impact in our kid’s lives.

4. Pray for your children. Kids need to be involved in prayer times, and prayed over everyday. Bed time prayers, prayer for protection in the morning, family prayer times when facing difficult times as a family, etc. These show the living faith and give God opportunity to demonstrate his power in the life of your child.

5. Attend church. We need the help of others in raising our kids. Many times a person from the church has earned a hearing in the life of your child because of their position or simply a listening ear and a caring heart. You need to be thankful for the added influence.  Relationships cannot be developed unless you attend church faithfully. Prioritizing your  children means making sure they are at midweek services and Sunday mornings. Quality relationships is spelled T-I-M-E.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

When It Just Won't Stop

Resistance from the demonic realm comes to all believers at one time or another. Usually it's purpose is to take us off our game. One thing our enemy knows is the mental warfare game. When we are young in the Lord, it might only take a few moments of resistance to cause us to shrink back from our assignment. God gives us a word in Ephesians  that is crucial to remember. 6.10 " Be strong in the Lord...." We are called to a walk of spiritual strength. That strength comes from the Lord. We must draw nearer in prayer, calling out humbly to our Father, and pressing in to receive from him our supply of strength. We must resist the temptation to gin up our own strength. No matter how formidable our physical stamina, we are small and frail in comparison to the Devils that attack us. Our strength must be spiritual in nature, and our faith must be in the Lord our God.

But there are also times when the attack is simply unrelenting. A constant bombardment, a thrashing of situation after situation, seeming defeat after seeming defeat, and a piling on that simply is overwhelming. We must ask ourselves if we still believe in the One who has called us. War is an exhausting and demanding effort. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. Once again Ephesians 6 gives us direction. "“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”V 13. AS the enemy comes with relentlessness, we recognize that we must be standing on holy ground that he wants back. We have somehow advanced, and gained a place of worth in the spiritual dimension. 

Shamefully, it is at this point that we often lose our patience with God's seeming slow response for reinforcements. We give up on the fellowship of believers, or we run off to chase a blessing somewhere else because we can convince ourselves that that is better than standing. Yet understanding the motivation of the dark kingdom should stir up a Holy Resistance, a Divine Refusal to release the territory that we have gained and the Savior has conquered by his blood. Do not give in, fight the fight. Stand your ground, do not give up! Even though doubts arise, even though the fire burns for weeks, even though it seems relentless, do not alter your course.

Just don't give up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Who? Me? Judge?

I’m not sure how it happens but pride and arrogance have a difficulty staying in the grave. We begin slowly to think that we are better than we are. We think that we are superior to others around us. It begins to show by little actions of hubris, our humility seems to dissipate, and we begin to judge others. Its crazy! In direct defiance to the command of our Savior and Lord we look down on another. We assign evil intentions to another’s actions. We pass judgement on them. 

Matthew 7.1,2  Do not Judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 

                When the rebuke comes, it is offensive to us. Whether it comes from the gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit, a private word questioning your actions and attitudes, or whether it comes publicly. We have entrusted what was circulating in our hearts to be revealed by our lips. There is enough hubris to salve over the course and ungodly action of speaking it out. Soon we are accustomed to speaking without guarding our lips. Then the rebuke comes. It causes our spirit to recoil. We are offended, we withdraw, and, if we respond well to the Holy Spirit we are ashamed!

Judging another is forbidden. It is necessary to look at another’s actions and discern that those actions are sinful and unwise. It is possible to judge another as ‘unfit for hire’ as an evaluation of their character. These kinds of benign judgments are not what the scripture has in mind. It is the condemnation of another. David Hill says the disciples of Jesus are “not be censorious or condemning in their attitude toward others.” James 4.11 ties the action to include slander of another’s character.

My experience is that this temptation comes to us all very frequently. Be sure to know that this is a revelation, not of your spiritual superiority, but of your pride. For this condemnation can only exist in a heart that is tainted with an inflated sense of self-righteousness. This is why it is so offensive to be confronted with our carnality and sin!

Jesus warned that our judging invites an equal condemnation. This is not something to be taken lightly. God does not wink at his Word. We must be careful to exercise due diligence in judging the sins of our own heart. (It is so easy to let ourselves slide in mercy while wielding a sword of judgment on another) James repeats the threat and adds “Who are you to judge your neighbor?” That maybe where we really fail. We judge thinking we are ‘somebody’. In reality, we are ‘somebody’s’. We belong to another who has an answer to our pride. It is the Cross of Jesus Christ.

We judge thinking we are ‘somebody’. In reality, we are ‘somebody’s’.

 The Apostle Paul said “I die everyday…” (1 Cor 15.31) There is an obligation to die to self and to our ego. Only in the self-less life can we find freedom from the invitation to be “judged with the measure we use”. I pray that you will find the freedom of humility and that you will guard your heart from the troubles caused by the in-creep of pride.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


““Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭58:6-12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

For a while now there has been oppression and difficulty. But God challenged us at CLC with this promise. Like many of God's promises this one is conditional. It is a promise that we will RISE and that the glory of the Lord will make sure this happens when criteria are met. (I recognize that this is an unpopular message to those who misunderstand the grace of the Lord, as it requires some obedience. Let God be true...)

So here is a simple checklist. Perhaps you will go over it from time to time to check to see if your life is the kind of life that God can bless. I encourage you to make adjustments according to the Spirit of God's leading.

FASTING-Are you more interested in what heaven see's when you fast or what men see?
INJUSTICE- Are we speaking up against the unfairness of the system? The systemic racism, economic disparity, the blindness of the eyes of those who have and the oppression of those who have not?
YOKES- Are we interested in keeping people in their place of ignorance or are we teaching them the way of righteousness? Are we living, speaking, and teaching kingdom values?
OPPRESSION- Are we standing in the gap for those who are oppressed by darkness, the demonized and the downcast? Are we setting people free?
FOOD, SHELTER, CLOTHING- Are we meeting the physical needs of those who come to the Lord's house? Are we giving to benevolence funds? Are we sharing what is rightfully ours with those who have little?
GOSSIP and MALICIOUS TALK- Are we done with the petty trifles of interpersonal politics? Are we more concerned with what kind of person we are rather than what he or she thinks about us?

Then we can expect that our "light will rise" even in the environment of darkness. Then we can be assured that the Living God will strengthen us and be our supply; that he will hear our prayers and answer; that he will satisfy us and guide our lives. Then we can know that faith in the Living God is more than the words from our mouths but has become our lifestyle.

And that is the life that God can bless.

Blessings and Curses

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭11:26-29‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I occurred to me as I was reading this text a while ago that the key to a Successful Christian Life is consistency. The roadway of life is littered with the spiritual corpses of those who have been fervently hot one moment and ice cold the next. In this passage, Moses is reminding the people that God was on their side. God was longing to bless. He was (and is) leading that rally for success, blessing, and a lifetime of grace and mercy.

He tells the Israelites that they must proclaim from the hills the blessings of the Lord and the cursings of the Lord. God doesn't change his requirements to keep blessing us. He expects us to navigate life with a desire to be under the blessing of God. Our behavior needs to be oriented towards the blessing of God. In times of victory or success, in times of calm seas and times of relative peace, we are prone to forget that we must steer clear of the rocky shores of compromise. Only in holding a steady course oriented on the blessing of God will we be sure to find all that the Lord desires to give us.

Ironically, while God Almighty longs to bless us, we can be an obstacle to that blessing. So as a reminder God wanted us to be constantly made aware that there is a right way and a wrong way, a way of blessing and a way of cursing. Clearly, God is desiring to bless. But the Almighty is not willing to overthrow your personal will and volition. You choose. Your choice, sometimes daily, sometimes moment by moment, is the way that you will stay under the cloud of his blessing.

Since the choice comes to us over and again success is the consistent navigation of life with the priorities of God and the commands of life's design clearly in your vision. I pray today that you will hear from both mountains the echoes of God's desire to bless you (Deut 28) and also the negative consequences of becoming shipwrecked upon the shoals of disobedience. God desires for your blessing and success in life. God's people, too, are cheering for you to choose rightly. The witness of heaven itself is choosing for you to choose obedience over selfish disobedience. But your choice is the deciding vote!