Enjoying the Journey

As I was conversing with my coworkers, we were discussing the upcoming arrival of another baby in May. One of my coworkers asked me if I was excited. I had to admit that I’m more nervous than anything. This will be my fifth child (I can’t believe I’m typing that because I feel like I’m creating my own tribe). I have always been one who gets caught up in all the details about provision, etc. I think that most men have that on their mind.

I also began to think about how my oldest three are growing up. They are 14, 12, and 10. I see them every other weekend. So many weekends, I focus more on what I can’t give them rather than the personal investment of my time and love that I can freely give. I don’t want to miss this.

We often spend our lives worrying about the destination rather than enjoying the journey. I should be enjoying the sweet, sassy, hilarious, strong-willed, and stubborn moments I go through with them because they will soon be college students then adults. They will go on to marry and give me grandchildren (which I hope will be in at least 10+ years because I don’t want to age any faster). Seriously, why rush life? The book of James says it’s a vapor.

Sure. I can treasure what I see in the rear view mirror…first words, first steps. Funny moments. I can also treasure them now. New moments of laughter. Some moments may frustrate me now, but we will look back and laugh one day.

One final application to believers – stop focusing so much on the evil in the world and looking forward to Heaven that you don’t enjoy life and try to get others on the Jesus journey with you. I know way too many people who call themselves Christians whose anthem is “this ole world is an unfriendly world to me”. It might be, but you have a friend named Jesus who gives you songs in the night and joy in the morning. What a wonderful Savior we have!

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Culture versus Truth

I most definitely feel least qualified to write on such a subject, but I am disturbed by how many people who claim to be Christians allow American culture to take precedence over truth. Honestly, it’s not just American culture. Other ethnic groups have forced their culture upon Scripture, and God’s absolute truth has been thrown out the window.

In the southern part of the United States, sacred cultural cows consist of Bible versions, musical preferences, pastors wearing suits, pews versus chairs, wooden pulpits versus plexiglass, etc. People are dying without Christ, and people in the church are fighting over things that don’t matter. Or the other extreme is forcing modern lifestyle preferences by pimping a twisted view of a permissive God Who does not care about what we do as long as we are happy and mean well.

Many churches and pastors are paralyzed today by people in their congregations who care more for culture than they do Truth. We can be culturally relevant without compromising. God meant what He said in Scripture. He said, “I am the Lord; I change not.” Does that mean that He decides to allow certain things because it’s 2018 and we are a much more tolerant society? NO!!!!!! Despite how many people tried to convince me that morality is a gray area, I beg to differ.

When it comes to culture versus truth, I pick truth because it is from God. He is Truth! When it comes to tradition or truth, I pick truth! When it comes to what my family said or God’s truth, I pick truth (no disrespect to family). God’s Word is forever settled in Heaven, and no good intentions on my part will change His standards of holiness and truth.

What’s the Answer? The Church or the Christ?

I cannot tell you how many times I have talked with people about their loved ones’ standing with God. This is a good thing. I have loved ones and pray for their standing with God. The thing that has disturbed me about how some have requested me to pray is that they ask me to pray that they get back in church. Honestly, I believe there is a much better prayer to pray. The root of this issue is this – Is the answer the church or the Christ?

The answer is Christ. I pray that people will fall in love with Jesus not an institution. You may think, “But you’re a pastor! You shouldn’t be praying such things or publicly blogging such things.” My response is that no one should exalt a building over the One who died so that those who trust in Him can meet together to glorify Him and grow together in Him. The true church is not an organization but people all over the world who have trusted in Christ to wash away their sins. Believers in nearby locations meet together for worship and growth. The way they do that doesn’t have to fit cultural expectations. The church gathered has taken on many expressions, and many of them are different but still accomplishing the Great Commission. I will not criticize a church because it doesn’t look like mine. God uses us all to accomplish His Kingdom Work.

With all that said, the answer is the Christ. The church may help lead people to the answer and grow deeper in Him, but people will face a Christless eternity if they put the cart before the horse. You can say a thousand prayers, sing a thousand churchy songs, get wet in a baptistery, join a church, and serve on 15 committees and die apart without a relationship with Christ. He is the answer. So here is what I say…Take me to the King!

Is Your Church Growing? If So, How?

The denominational statistics in numerous denominations display a disturbing percentage of churches that are plateaued or declining. This is disturbing. What is even more disturbing is that they often do not want to change anything, so eventually they die. Another disturbing trend is among growing churches. This trend is that many growing churches are growing because of transfer growth (aka Betty Sue got mad because her husband wasn’t elected to be a deacon so they uprooted and joined another church…no offense to godly ladies named Betty Sue because I know one).

To those who are following my blog, how many of you are experiencing conversion, meaning that you are growing because people are giving their life to Christ, being baptized, and becoming fully devoted followers of Christ? What is the difference in your church’s culture versus the ones that are “sheep swapping”? Is all the evangelism coming from the leadership? Do you have countless people in your church sharing their faith? Is it event-driven?

Please share about your growing church that is growing because people are being born again. Please comment. We want to hear your story.

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bath Water

I grew up in a denomination that, for the most part, is pretty liberal. I know some great conservatives within it, but it is more well known worldwide as liberal. The pendulum of my life went to the other side to a denomination that is very conservative. On one side, I found love without doctrine. On the other side, I found doctrine without love.

For fear that the conservative denomination may be associated with liberalism, it generally did not embrace the season of Lent. Although I grew up in a denomination that was fairly liberal, I had a relationship with Christ and appreciate the various parts of the liturgical year. I embraced the emphasis of prayer and self denial (something that doctrinal conservatives could embrace more). Good Friday deepened my appreciation for the death of my Savior as He shed His blood for my sin. Easter Sunday was much more meaningful because we had taken that 40-day journey from Ash Wednesday to Resurrection Sunday.

Because of fear that we may be negatively associated with a group or person, we often throw the baby out with the bath water. We refuse to celebrate Lent because some liberal church does it. Conservative churches also celebrate it. As a friend of mine from college said in the midst of a ridiculous argument, “Eat the meat and leave the bone.”

I would like to close by asking do we “eat the meat and leave the bone”, “throw the baby out with the bath water”, or “throw out the baby and bath water along with the tub”? Hear this plea for balance and choose the first option.

Some Time Alone (Communication in Relationships)

For the first time in a little while, my wife and I got to enjoy dinner alone. My oldest 3 spent time with my mom while the baby spent time with my mother in law. A huge thank you to both! These ladies love their grandchildren (and us too).

I was telling my wife how nice it was to be out with just her. She looked at me and told me how she doesn’t need that time because she is such a people person. I love spending time with people, but I enjoy when she and I can simply enjoy the company of each other without children. I personally need a little bit of alone time, and I communicated that to her verbally. No guess work necessary!

Many marriages struggle because one of both parties are poor communicators. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Talk! Talk about your joys, sorrows, irritations, expectations. Verbalize your appreciation for the other. Let it be positive not just negative. If something is on your mind, talk to the other person before you go getting counseling from people who have no business knowing the more intimate details of your life. Ask questions rather than jumping to conclusions. Say what you mean.
  2. Listen! God gave you two ears and one mouth. Hence, we should listen more than we speak. Listen to what is not being said as much as you are what is being said. Be caring enough about the other person that you know when he or she is struggling. Communication is both verbal and non-verbal.
  3. Seek counsel if necessary! I recommend someone who is trained in this area. Some pastors will admit that they are not the best in this area. If one or the other is emotionally constipated, there is nothing like a counseling laxative.
  4. Let God guide the relationship! Many relationships fail because Christ is nowhere near it. The relationship is about what makes one or the other happy. What about honoring God and the other above self? A relationship without Christ as the foundation is a setup for failure.

Alone time is more than just “intimate relations”. Kevin Leman said it well in his book “Sex Begins in the Kitchen”. He explains the way to spice up the bedroom is to have intimacy in other areas of life. Set some time aside sooner rather than later to share your heart with your spouse.

My wife made my evening when she said, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” She knows I’m a visionary, so I said what I Envision. She lives in the moment, but it thrilled me for her to ask. These moments mean more than you think. Make communication a priority.

Get the Facts First!

Over the last week, I have assisting with setting up a website for someone. It is still a little bit of a work in progress, but I encourage you to visit and follow hisexcellentgrace.com. It tells the story of a lady named Anissa and her disability that began at infancy due to a reaction to a medication. This is told from the viewpoint of her mother who is a grounded follower of Christ. If you are a caregiver for anyone who has had seizures and is completely dependent, this story will move you and connect with you.

Back to my original point. In working out some technical issues, some wires got crossed. The bottom line was that people were taking action before they got all the facts. How many of us know the danger that can cause? We tell stories without knowing all the facts (gossip). We jump to conclusions. We blow things out of proportion. Then we have a mess to clean up. This can create more work, sever relationships, and do more damage than if someone knew all the facts rather than having fun glamorizing something they know little to nothing about.

May this be a lesson for us all, especially if we are in leadership. Know all the facts before making a call. Respond rather than react. You’ll be glad you did.

His Greatest Fear Came True : The Government Stole Him

The mental health system is doing this young man a huge injustice to say the least, and those who love him are suffering too. Hear this mother’s story and help if you can.

The Way Online

“Why did you do this? Now they are going to kill me” Those were my sons last words as he was escorted from his Grandma & Grandpas by the Port St. Lucie Police Force in the early morning hours of December 6th, 2017. Every fear he had imagined over the past few weeks had just came true, the government stole him.

The following week he whispered into the phone “If I disappear mom, I didn’t kill myself” still convinced that the hospital staff was trying to poison him and that any minute the government was coming to kill him. His worst nightmare happened yet again, as police officers barged into the mental health facility he had be remanded too for trying to kill himself in jail, and ripped him out of a suicide observation room.

Now he sits in Port St. Lucie Jail in a Behavioral Unit on 23-24 hour…

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May I Interest You in Some Roast Preacher?

Roast preacher? Maybe you’ve never heard of it. This is one of the easiest dishes you can prepare. You can prepare and consume roast preacher anywhere and at any time. No appliances required. All you need is ill intent, a gossiping tongue, and a voice to project it. You may or may not be surprised that it is a very popular dish. People consume it at home, church, work, and tons of community events. Do you want to find out more?

I first heard the term “roast preacher” used by one of my former pastors. He spoke of some divisive people in his congregation who spoke ill of him. Their son was struggling with a lifestyle that dishonors God. This couple went to another city and church where they belittled the pastor in front of their son, and the pastor had lost credibility with the son due to his parents belittling the pastor’s every move.

Why do church members have “roast preacher”? The biggest thing I see is that people who attend church often have unbiblical expectations of a pastor. What might those unbiblical expectations be?

  1. The Bible says nothing about a pastor visiting people. Churches demand that so they can justify (in their minds) giving him a paycheck. Read Ephesians 4. It says that pastors equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Makes sense, right? A pastor leaves, so the people continue doing what they have always done (if they are doing what the Bible says). Otherwise, you have a church that depends on a pastor (or what they view as a paid professional) to do what every Christian is supposed to do. When he leaves, they are up in arms because they listen to the Bible but don’t obey it. I’m not against visiting people. In all honesty, I hate the term “visit”. It works great for me as a hospice chaplain, but I would prefer to say I’m just stopping by to hang out. I feel like pastoral visits often make people uncomfortable in their own home. I am just as willing for my family to hang out with your family at a park, go out to eat together, etc. Remove the pretense.
  2. The Bible gives the same qualifications for the pastor as it does for all believers for the most part. No believer should be exempt from godly character. Don’t expect your pastor to walk on water when you aren’t willing to step into a bathtub.

I have seen so much damage done by people who say they have been changed by the Lord and constantly badmouth other people. We all mess up in this area at times, but there is a serious problem if you can do this without sensing God dealing with you about it.

To those who are called to pastor, you may want to find out about a church before you consider being their pastor. They may be premiere chefs at roast preacher prep. All I can hear are the lyrics, “Oh here she comes. Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up. Oh here she comes. She’s a man eater.” Don’t fall prey to a preacher-eating church unless you know for a fact God has called you there. As for me, I prefer not to be a cannibal.

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