Cut the Line of Bull


Have you ever looked high and low, wondering if you’ll ever find the real deal? I have. As long as there are hypocrites, those I speak of here will exist. Pastors who pretend to care. Family who pretends to love you. Christians who pretend to be the holiest people ever. Coworkers who pretend to be on your side, but watch out for that knife they’re preparing to put in your back.

These people are everywhere. Why do they do this? Some think they are impressing God. Others think they are impressing people. Don’t dare tell me how great you are because I’ll assume the opposite! I won’t believe you care until you demonstrate it. Call me skeptical, but I have seen enough of these cases. They actually humor me. I can just about predict every case.

The table in my life turned when I was going through counseling after my marital separation and impending divorce. The counselor stressed authenticity. Just be real! In that process, I began to see how I was pretending to have it all together when I was broken. I lost my family, career, and some idols that needed to be brought down. This prepared me to minister in a different way.

Now I’m a hospice chaplain. People don’t feed me bull like they used to when I was a pastor. I see all kinds of dynamics. I overheard one patient’s family member say, “The GD preacher is here.” I didn’t like that he used God’s name in vain, but at least he wasn’t faking who he is. 

Jesus made it clear that fake doesn’t impress Him. In Luke 18, two men went into the temple to pray. One was a religious man (note the word religious) and the other was a tax collector. The religious man arrogantly prayed and bragged about what he did and didn’t do and spared no length of words. The tax collector (who was probably a rather crooked businessman) couldn’t even lift his head. He prayed a simple prayer: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

At the end of the day, God isn’t impressed with fake. You can carry a family Bible, quote tons of Scripture, wear appropriate clothes, and sing hymns by memory in perfect pitch, but I can promise you that God is not sitting on His throne telling the Angels, “Hey! Look at that!” Bottom line: fake is sin! Get real! It will bless the heart of God, and people will respect you more.

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When God Says No


From the time we are born, there is one word we hate hearing – the word “No!” We don’t mind saying it, but the devil comes out of us when we hear it. This generation hates it more than ever because we have this crazy idea that God is our fairy godmother rather than our sovereign Heavenly Father who knows and wants what is best for us. God has told me “no” on several occasions, and I am coming to accept it more than I used to.

On September 6, 2015, I resigned a vocational ministry position. By the end of the week, I heard from four different churches. If God opens the door, I will at least explore it. With each situation, God said “no”. I had a fifth contact that I pursued a little more heavily after I was pursued, but God said no by the pastor never bothering to call me back like he promised. I have no doubt why God didn’t send me there.

So why does God say “no”? He’s preparing you for something better! It may not be your definition of better, but it is in the mind and heart of God. We struggle to accept it, but it is always for our good. God is developing us. We were born to fulfill His purpose and plan which is so much better than ours. When we grow up emotionally and spiritually, we find the grace to accept it and find God’s “no” to but so much sweeter than our selfishness.

Divorce Discrimination 


If you know me, you may think this is an axe to grind. You can make that judgment call, if you will, but you must admit that there is such a thing as divorce discrimination. You won’t find it in most workplaces or in average daily life, but you will find it in the church. 

Divorce discrimination is normally masked beyond Scripture. The verse in Malachi 2 about God hating divorce is often quoted. Have you ever thought that God hates other things? Is it just divorce? First, let me say that God instituted marriage with the idea that man and woman would stay together until death. However, sin entered the picture. When that happened, God clarified that divorce is not His design but He would make provision for it and grace to cover it. I am not promoting divorce, but I am saying that God gives grace and forgiveness.

As to what God hates, he gives a list in Proverbs 6: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, feet that are swift in running to mischief, the person that sows discord among brethren, etc. Don’t single out one thing because it’s your hobbyhorse!

This divorce discrimination has led many to limit what someone can or cannot do in the church. I know I will have those who disagree with me on this, quoting the “husband of one wife” phrase from I Timothy 3. This is literally translated “a one-woman man.” One can be safe going to the extreme right with this. However, God constantly used throughout Scripture those who would be considered disqualified today…adulterers, prostitutes, liars, thieves, etc.

Now for a few modern examples. Even the most conservative people carry a Scofield Bible, and C. I. Scofield was divorced. Charles Stanley (pastor of FBC Atlanta and founder of In Touch Ministries) is divorced. So is John Hagee and the late John Osteen (father of Joel Osteen and founder of Lakewood Church). God will use those He chooses. 

Be careful in going too far with this divorce issue. There are great people out there who love the Lord and happen to be divorced. They still have something to offer other than their money into your offering plate. We still have gifts and abilities useful for the kingdom work. Feel free to disagree. Disagree or not, God has the final say!

When Image and Talent Trump Character and Experience

I have noticed a trend in churches that is becoming more popular, that is the trend of making the “face” of the church (pastors and platform personalities) more appealing (muscular, fashionable, slender, etc.) and valuing that more than having proven character and experience. The church has developed a Hollywood mentality. Preachers, worship leaders, and other key leaders have to be hot and sexy while having some kind of ability to do the job. That sounds funny, but it’s true. Who wants a fat guy with several years experience or an old guy who has a great track record with church growth?  Nobody! Let’s look for someone with more energy and little to no experience because our church wants to be cool. The sad part is that committees made up of the most popular people in the church (or those who won the beauty contest) decide who the next church staff member will be. They poll the congregation for an age range, number of children, etc. and God is not even consulted. These committees often contain those who aren’t very committed to the church. It’s sad, really. What benefit or harm do these decisions have on the church?

The power and popularity get to the heads of these leaders who are promoted before their time. God honors humility. Scripture says that God hates a proud look, yet arrogance in ministry infects traditional and contemporary churches alike.

These inexperienced leaders are looking for the next best thing. Your church will just be a resume builder for them. They’ll hang out at your church for a couple of years until a better opportunity comes along. And you’ll wonder why.

Their inexperience will create unnecessary drama if you choose not to mentor them. Give them free reign and they will think they own the place. I have seen guys like this go into an associate role of some sort only to think they should be running things. Just because a guy looks hip with his guitar and skinny jeans, that doesn’t mean his heart is pure.

They will assist your church in taking the focus off Jesus. You want your people to come to your church because the preacher is awesome, right? Maybe because the band rocks? As good as those things are, they amount to nothing if Jesus isn’t the hero of the day or the star of the show.

I know you want to grow your church. I hate to burst your bubble, but you can’t. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1). Jesus also said in Matthew 16:18 that HE would build HIS church. You obey God and let Him do the building. Then give Him all the glory and humbly take your place as His servant.

Fairy Tale Endings 

  
You and I must admit we all love happy endings. The couple falls in love and lives happily ever after with no arguments or disagreements. The 1980s sitcoms would have a conflict that would be beautifully resolved by the end of the show. This is real life, right? WRONG! 

Please understand up front that I am not saying life is full of doom and gloom. That would be another extreme. Unfortunately, people have bought into this lie that they deserve nothing but happiness and they should never have problems. If you’ve lived long enough, you know that as long as people exist that problems exist – the drama queen/king at work, the bill collector, the ex spouse, etc. Life will present its problems.

The biggest lie of the day is that if you become a Christian that you won’t have problems. High dollar preachers sell that lie to countless people and rob them of their money. Then their whole world is shaken when the preacher with the million dollar home didn’t deliver on his promise that Christians would have the same success he has.

Jesus was a realist (and still is because He is alive). He said in the gospel of John that we would have tribulation (difficulties) in this world. He followed that by saying, “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” He didn’t promise a world without problems, but He promised to see you through it. There’s a difference.

I have heard countless people refer to Christianity as a crutch. Your paycheck is a crutch for that matter. You depend on that, don’t you? It lifts you out of debt and trouble with bill collectors. Jesus isn’t my crutch; He is my Rock. He has been the one steadfast person in my life when I wondered if anyone was there. While I had problems, He provided help. He answered prayer. The list goes on.

I haven’t had a fairy tale ending. I went through a divorce that cost more than I realized. About 200 miles are between me and my children. I resigned the pastorate, wondering what would be next. I have debt, but God still meets my needs. He has given me a great wife now and a job with coworkers I love dearly. 

Don’t go chasing fairy tales (or waterfalls😀). Spend time with the Lord who promises to help you through your problems, not take them away. With a proper perspective, you will live a life with less disappointment and more reality. You and I must be prepared so we know what to do when difficulties come. Psalm 121:1 says, “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help.” Look up!

You’re Not Alone!

Have you ever thought you were the only person going through a particular struggle in life to discover that many other people are in a similar boat? We have a horrible tendency (at least I do) to carry certain burdens and not talk about them. I have improved in that area over the last few years, but the tendency still exists. 

What do I suggest? Based on the reality that you are not meant to walk alone, reach out to others. Somebody else knows some of what you are going through whether it be work-related, financial, marital, parental, or whatever the case. When you’re struggling, don’t isolate yourself! This is the time to surround yourself with godly people who really care. Even greater than that, this is the time (and not just now) to spend time in God’s presence. He hasn’t moved and is waiting for you to draw near to Him, and He will keep His end of the bargain and draw near to you also.

Regurgitated Church

  
Beautiful word picture, right? If you have a weak stomach like I do, you can’t even stand the thought of it. Nevertheless, this is what so much of church has become. What do you mean, Matthew? I’m so glad you asked😀!

Churches do the same thing over and over and over, expecting to get great results. This year’s calendar looked like the calendar five years ago. Nostalgia is great until you look around your church to find that everyone but you and a few others have died. I heard a phrase once that stuck with me: “Predictability leads to low impact.” People get bored if they always know what is coming next. Call them unspiritual if you want, but even the Bible commands us to grow (aka not staying the same)!

Churches copy what another church did and expect the same results. When Rick Warren wrote “The Purpose Driven Church”, his intention was to teach principles. Instead, a lot of preachers got these wild ideas that they were going to turn their backwoods churches into Saddleback Community Church. Saddleback is in California. California and the rural Southeast are different worlds. Churches change their music, approach to Sunday School, government structure, etc. in an attempt to copy the growth another church experienced. 

The bottom line is you and I cannot manufacture, reproduce, or regurgitate a move of God. I have no problems with planning and programs, but never allow them to replace prayer, Bible study, obedience to God, and the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus is magnified, He said He would draw people to Himself. 

Is your life stale and potentially similar to dry vomit? Maybe you have neglected your personal time with God. Maybe you no longer live by faith. Maybe your Christian life is more about performance than it is about being in God’s presence. Too many people emphasize the church more than the Christ. Your life can be full of joy. Join me in recapturing the freshness of following Jesus.

When My Faith Is Tested

I must say that this has been the most challenging week for me in the area of faith, specifically to finances. Many may assume that I would be full of faith because I am an ordained minister, but I want to be real and confess to a struggle that many in my position would try to hide.

Balancing God’s provision with my ability to provide has been an issue, and I think most men struggle with this. We, as men, feel like our success is based upon how much money we make. If we aren’t making enough to provide a certain lifestyle for our family, then we feel like a failure. Many men work more, only to sacrifice their family. I only have one chance with my family. 

We naturally lean toward looking at the circumstances of life and computing things outside of God’s perspective. When we should be exercising faith, we are inclined to doubt in the face of massive debt.

I found myself overwhelmed by owing the IRS, finally having to pay back an enormous amount on student loans, and then my AC goes out on my car (which could be, and I pray is, a minor problem). I look at all this and beat myself up for some of it and regret allowing certain people to influence poor financial decisions. 

When it comes down to it, I could have all of life’s possessions taken from me. If that ever happened, I would still possess the most valuable thing of all – a relationship with my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  George Beverly Shea wrote the words, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold. I’d rather be His than have riches untold. I’d rather Jesus than worldwide fame. I’d rather be true to His holy name than to be the king of a vast domain and be held in sin’s dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.” 

If all you have is stripped away from you, will Jesus be enough?

Are Revivals for Today?

Years ago, churches would have nightly meetings with a guest preacher that would last a week or more. In recent days, they have been cut back to Sunday thru Wednesday if at all. People are extremely busy, so it seems useless to some to even bother scheduling services with such an emphasis. Some people think that only those who are 60 and above who aren’t afraid to drive at night will attend.

My family and I attended one this week. The music was contemporary and relevant while the preaching was convicting and the Spirit of God was welcome to do His perfect work. I am typing this with thoughts that I will miss going back tomorrow. I have been to few of these meetings that were like this one. No one seemed to be in a hurry to get out. 

There are still those who want more than just the regular predictable church. They want a meaningful encounter with the Lord. You can call it revival or whatever you want, but we desperately need an awakening of some sort. Will you join me in pleading with God to move like He did in the early church?

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