Is a small world always a good thing?

We all find ourselves at times saying “It’s a small world” when we meet someone from halfway across the world who knows someone we know who lives in a different area where we meet. Or, in my small town life, you know two separate people for years and find out they are sisters. We use this phrase frequently.

Don’t get me wrong! There are things I like about small town life. However, it can bite you when you become the topic of gossip. People tend to know everyone’s business and it becomes second nature to talk about somebody else in the form of a prayer request or just to have something to talk about because you know anyone loves some juicy gossip (and preachers are good gossipers too). 

On a positive note, I was encouraged yesterday to sit in a hospital waiting area while my mom had a procedure done. Every person in the waiting room was a Christian. We didn’t gossip. We bragged on the Lord. I loved having church in a hospital waiting area. 

So the next time I find out someone is running their mouth about me, I must remember that they are giving someone else a break. Life is too short to focus on the pettiness of busybodies who have nothing better to do with their time. Don’t miss those sweet moments in a hospital waiting area or those special unplanned meetings when God puts someone in your path to encourage you. 

Life must be approached with blinders on. So put your blinders on and look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He will allow you to see through His eyes the people you need to minister to and the toxic people that only He can change. It sure does beat the alternative of worrying about what everyone else is saying or thinking.

God Exceeded My Expectations

Last night, I appeared on Niteline. This is a live program on WGGS TV 16 in Taylors, SC. I contacted the station about a way to get the word out about Overcomers Church, our new church plant. I expected a “blip” that was included in their announcements and would have been satisfied with that. However, God exceeded my expectations when the station sent me an application to fill out to be on their Niteline program. I emailed the form back and got a response within an hour to be scheduled for April 19.

The experience was wonderful. I was extremely nervous, but God blessed and gave us a sweet time between my interview and the couple that ministered in song. We have even had contacts since the program. That is just like God to exceed our expectations. Read Jeremiah 33:3 and Ephesians 3:20. 

Maybe you’re wondering about something in your life. You have a little expectation, but God wants to move in a big way. Please join me in praying for God to do awesome things through Overcomers Church. Here is the interview that God so graciously gave.

Your Personal Resurrection

This morning, I preached a message that God put in me back in February. The title was “Wanted: Dead or Alive”. Naturally, everyone thought about the Bon Jovi song. I assured everyone that Bon Jovi did not inspire the message. The bottom line is that God wants us all whether we are dead or alive. 

I preached through the story of Lazarus’ resurrection in John 11. Mary and Martha called for Jesus, but He waited. By the time Jesus arrived to the scene, Lazarus was dead. Naturally, Mary and Martha questioned Jesus and made the statement “If you would have been here, our brother would not have died.” We have all had our moments when we were angry with God and could not understand what He was doing. Jesus told them up front that this sickness would not be unto death but unto the glory of God. Before He fulfilled this, Jesus did something unique – He cried with those who mourned the death of Lazarus. Scripture said that Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus. Jesus did not raise Lazarus until he had been in the tomb for four days. 

There are some special things to note here. First, Jesus does not act according to our timetable. If He did, we would not appreciate what He does and would not bring Him glory. Second, Jesus weeps with us when we are grieving (note Hebrews 4:14-16). Third, Jesus wants to bring Resurrection to us all – those who do not have a relationship with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10) and those who have become emotionally dead through life circumstances.

I closed the message by sharing my story of brokenness in April 2014. I was sitting in a pastor’s office in Shelby, NC trying to figure out what I was going to do as a career since many said God would not use me as a divorced preacher. This man did not believe that lie. I told him that I felt like everyone else lived and I died. He said to me, “What will it take to resurrect you?” I had no answer. It takes salvation to make the spiritually dead alive. It also takes a process of healing to resurrect those who have been emotionally put to death. The process to my healing was slow, but God has brought me a long way.

The song below inspired this message. It is about the story of Lazarus and the implications it has for all of us. I pray that God will use it no matter your current stage in life.

Don’t Miss This Moment!

I am writing this to pastors and church attendees. This Sunday, you have a prime opportunity. People who have a bad taste in their mouth for church may give you another chance to redeem yourself. I know the Pharisee in us wants to rise up and brag on how we are faithful throughout the year while these guests or rare attendees are not, but we are missing the point. They may not come to worship any other time, but they will for whatever reason (family, southern culture, etc.). Please don’t waste the moment!

I have heard many pastors criticize those who came for that one time by saying, “I’ll see you again at Christmas.” This kind of pompous, self-righteous sarcasm is why they don’t come back until Christmas (if they do then).

I want to make a few suggestions to pastors and churches if you are interested in your Easter visitors and sparce attendees coming back and not being bitter with the church and all the trappings that accompany it.

  1. Please don’t make sarcastic remarks like the one I used above. I think I said enough about that already.
  2. Those who haven’t been there in a while don’t need any looks or body language that says, “Nice of you to show up after a year!” Treat them like you want to be treated!
  3. It’s a little late to suggest this one, but stay away from creating a spectacle and focus more on praying that people have a real encounter with God. People don’t want fake, and they can see right through it.
  4. Please make sure your Easter service isn’t a repeat of last year and every year before that. Most people attend out of annual habit and know the songs they will hear and the basic idea of the sermon. I heard a statement that “predictability leads to low impact”. Be passionate and relevant. Shoot for the heart through your music and message.

This is your one shot, so be real! I can’t emphasize it enough. Your ultimate prayer should be that Jesus will be evident in everything from the time they drive onto the property until the time they leave. It’s all about Jesus anyway NOT having the biggest or most popular church.

That’s Mine (No, It’s God’s)

I have been humored by how territorial we are about things. I am, by no means, dissing your right to be protective over your personal property. However, I don’t want you to forget who was gracious enough to allow to you have it. Yes, you may have achieved it through hard work. That’s commendable, but remember God gave you the job and ability to make that money that you used to purchased that. 

Now to a church application of this! I have seen people get territorial over things in the church. I’ve seen grown women fight over choir books that the church funds paid for (and the women fighting over the books may not have even given a dime to the church, but I digress). People fight over seats and even leave a cushion in the pew to save their place. It’s crazy!

As a church plant, we may lack in funds and attendance as we are still in our infancy, but we understand that Overcomers Church does not belong to me as pastor or to the people. One thing I admire about our people is that they jump in to help meet a need in our services. Every week, there is almost someone different projecting lyrics and sermon outlines. My wife did so today for the first time. No one gets territorial. We rent a room in a building that doesn’t belong to us. We don’t save seats. We understand that the concept of the church was set forth by Jesus Christ, and we strive to be real. We don’t have to vote on anything. We allow God to determine our direction because it is His Church. It is awesome and refreshing!

The next time you want to start World War III in a church because your great grandpappy was the first deacon, built the handicapped ramp outside, and taught the men’s Sunday School class for 100 years and the nominating committee picked someone outside your family to teach the class when he died, remember who created the heavens and the earth (the same One who created the concept of the Church). This is not ours! If you have a relationship with Christ, your citizenship is in Heaven anyway (Philippians 3:21). Thank God for the things you get to borrow on this earth and look forward to the joy that awaits you forever in the presence of your Savior.

Always in the Presence of the Lord

A young lady was asked recently if she removed her nose ring when she “sang before the Lord” because she is on her church’s worship team. This person replied “no”. When I was told this, I said we are always “before the Lord”. 

Think about that for a minute! We are always in the presence of the Lord. This means that he sees everything we do (even if we think our sin might be a lesser sin because we didn’t do it in a church building). He knows our thoughts and motives. I could go on and on. 

If you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Bible says the Holy Spirit is in you. That means you are ALWAYS in the presence of the Lord. When you and I violate His commands, we grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). So what do we do about that?

This is intended to heighten our awareness that everything we do is in the presence of God, so we should step it up. I’ve heard people say, “I can’t believe you did that AT CHURCH!” Isn’t something wrong no matter where you are?

With this in mind, our desire should be to always enjoy His presence. The best way to enjoy His presence is by striving to please Him in all you say, think, and do. When you live with a clear conscience and a clean heart, you can enjoy God to the fullest.

Public Platforms

(Image Courtesy of Pinterest)

It is so easy to let everyone know how we feel. We have every possible platform to make known our thoughts and feelings on any given subject. Everyone wants to know, right?
Sadly, most people take this freedom of speech too far. Whether you want to view the Bible as the authoritative Word of God or just an historical book, it says that a fool utters all his thoughts (good wisdom no matter how you view Scripture). Ouch! That one hurt! 

Whether we use pulpits, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, or any other public platform, we should not forget to exercise common courtesy toward others. I, or anyone else, should be able to voice beliefs respectfully. If someone disagrees, these public platforms are not the place to landblast those who disagree with you and “set them straight”. 

Within the last 24 hours, I saw two examples – one positive and one negative. A friend of mine posted a faith-related post and was torn to shreds by other people who share her faith but disagree on biblical perspective. I mean it got ugly! The other example is personal. Someone whose belief system is on the opposite end of the spectrum shared one of my posts. He and I engaged in some dialogue and were totally respectful despite our differences. Another who believes much like the blogger who shared my post also commented and was very kind though we disagree. To those of us who proclaim to be followers of Christ, we are killing our testimony as we tear each other apart over pettiness while those who have nothing to do with Christianity can get along with this writer who makes no apology that I am a conservative Christian but tries not to be a jerk about it. I don’t say that to brag on myself but to say that it is possible to disagree, discuss the areas in which you disagree, and still be civil.

This is a reminder to myself as much as it is to us all. Despite our beliefs, we must use the public platforms available to us to help others. We must not hide behind them as we use our words as a machine gun. Have I done this? Unfortunately yes. Has the same been done to me? Yes. I know how it feels, and I want to try to be guilty of love and kindness rather than trying to spread a message of love with a hateful spirit.

Hypocrite Factories

DISCLAIMER: What I’m about to say is not anti-church or anti-Christian school. I believe in both. However, I see a danger in both if we are not careful.

Because I have grown up and worked in both, I know the inner workings. When both function correctly, it can be a beautiful thing. The biggest problem I see in both is that many teach outward conformity without inward transformation

Romans 12, in its first two verses, speaks of how we do not need to conform but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. This means that we do not need to outwardly conform to the world’s or the church’s standards. Our way of thinking needs to be transformed (changed) by the Holy Spirit.

I have seen people in both organizations look the part and go back to who they really are once they get away from the pastor or Christian School teachers. Sadly, I have seen pastors do the same thing. This breeds hypocrisy. Eventually, people get tired of living two lives and decide to live the one that is most comfortable – the one they live outside the church or Christian School.

For me personally, the thing that almost turned me away completely was being taught that a ton of things were wrong without receiving Scripture to support it. I heard this list of wrongs presented in a hateful, condescending spirit. Who really wants that when the Bible says to “speak the truth in love” and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”?

It is high time that we balance grace and truth (John 1). Jesus came full of grace and truth. The “do as I say not as I do” has been turning out hypocrites for years. People are tired of the game. The same game is played at home. Some children grow up and choose right anyway and some don’t. The bottom line is that as long as we teach people how to fake it, there will be many who stand before the Lord Jesus and will be sadly disappointed that the “fake-ianity” didn’t get them into Heaven when they truly needed to be changed by the power of His Holy Spirit through a genuine relationship with Christ.

Ask yourself these questions today:

Is what I have fake or real?

Have I conformed to someone’s standards or has Jesus changed my life?

One Day We Will Meet

I have had the privilege of blogging for over a year and a half now. The experience has been wonderful. I have met my greatest encouragers here on WordPress. I was just contemplating how I would love to have a bloggers “reunion” or something of that nature. The likelihood of that is slim.

I do know one reality. For all those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, I will see them in Heaven. I will join my fellow Christian bloggers, believers who have gone before me, and we will surround our Savior with praises for all eternity. 

Heaven will be far greater than any of us can imagine. I will see more people than I realize who paved the way for me to be saved and walk within my calling. There will be many great encouragers who never realized their impact on this side of Heaven.

Never underestimate how God will use you here! The level of impact can be massive, and you may never know it here. Our Lord and Savior will reward us there.

If you do not know Christ, turn from your sin and ask the One who died for you to forgive you and turn your life around. He will do it. He is faithful to His promise!

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