Sunday, May 26, 2013

"Glittering Garbage"

Philippians 3:7-16

Where is our focus as the Body of Christ?  Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between us and the world?  We at times run the church as an organizational business as opposed to a ministry.   We treat each others as associates as opposed to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We rely on our strengths, talents, and abilities as opposed to relying on Jesus.  We still find our worth and our strategy for success in what the world tells us.  We are taught from an early age to: 1.  Go to school.  2.  Get a good education.  3.  Have a successful career.   4.  Provide financial stability for our family.  5.  Give our kids what we did not have.   All these things are fine but it can leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled.  Because no matter how hard we strive to obtain all these we will always feel as if we are falling short.

So we should seek after what brings us wholeness and not self-contempt.   Our education, careers, and experiences are easy to fall back on.  But the Word of God tells us to put no confidence in these things.  The Apostle Paul put it best when measuring the confidence he had gained from his life of education, career, and experience "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:7)."  He saw that there was no greater value to anything else in life than knowing and growing in Jesus.

How many times do we chase after education, the promotion, or the one in a lifetime experience.  We fill our lives with things that will quickly fade as opposed to filling our lives with something that is eternal.  We will gladly take on the financial burden of paying for college but we struggle to give 10% of our income to the Lord.  We will work overtime to earn extra money on the job or get that promotion.  However we neglect to spend five minutes in God's Word or prayer.  We seek to "live in the moment" and experience something new.  But we are hesitant to devote the necessary time to develop ourselves spiritually.  The problem is we have not considered everything we could gain, carry out, and do as rubbish when we compare it knowing Jesus.  The truth is everything else is "glittering garbage" when it comes to knowing  and growing in Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

When we consider everything else worthless in the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus we understand that we can only rely on Jesus and nothing else.  Our education does not qualify us for or give us a special place in God's Kingdom. Our careers cannot not gives us the fulfillment we seek. And our experiences are good but they do not make us any more righteous or wiser than the sinner in need of grace (Philippians 3:9).  Instead it is our faith in Christ Jesus that brings fulfillment, righteousness, and salvation  (Philippians 3:10).  So anything else we count as a loss and not a gain.

And we humbly understand that none of us have obtained this yet.  None of us are perfect and complete.  We are all lacking in this area, not one of us have arrived.  Despite our shortcomings we diligently and intentionally move towards Christ.  We make it our goal above all to know Jesus for ourselves and grow in our relationship with Him daily because He is our God and we are His Children (Philippians 3:12).  So forsake who we were, who we could become, what we could get, what we have, what we have done, or what we could do all for the sake of Jesus.  Our goals get rearranged and our focus gets readjusted, the only thing we really strive for is to know and grow in Jesus (Philippians 3:13-15).  So we pray to the Lord He will help us to view Him as the most important thing in our life if we are struggling in this area (Philippians 3:16).

I am not condemning any of us for wanting to improve ourselves through education, advance our careers, and experience the wonders of life.  But I am saying that Christ is the central thing and our highest priority in this life and for all eternity.  Because nothing else matters.  Stay focused, you can do this!

"In His JOY!"

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Save the child, they will thank you later"

Exodus 2: 1-10

Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. "This is one of the Hebrew babies," she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?" "Yes, go," she answered. And the girl went and got the baby's mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you." So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water."

Life is all about decisions and choices that we must make. Every action that we take directly impacts not only our lives but the lives of those around us all. Abortion is a choice that some people will make today but regret later. And make no mistake that the decision to end a pregnancy is a tough one. My definition of abortion is to stop a potential life. I define abortion in this way because I am aware of the debate about which stage of pregnancy life begins. So for the sake of time and unneeded debate I always define abortion with the definition before stated.

Although you may have stopped a potential life yours still must go on. I have set and talked with people who went through the process of an abortion and their stories broke my heart. I expected to hear them tell me, "Well, I want my life" or "It's my body and I can do what I want" but that is not the case. What these Christians told me was their decision to go through with the procedure was more so fueled by the pressure from others. A pastor who fears embarrassment by his affair with his secretary pays her to have the procedure secretly done, a mother who is high esteemed is the church sends her daughter to the clinic (but will not go with her) because of her reputation as a God-fearing woman, or the prominent family who does not want to look as if the lost control of their child, will have it discreetly done.

These situations do not parallel to everyone who has had or is considering an abortion. But there are some expectant mothers who are sitting in the pews of our churches right who are facing dilemmas just like these. The fear and feeling the pressure to get an abortion for the sake of a reputation, someone's validation, or just to keep up a level of respect in  the church. This is little blip right here is for those who are in a predicament like those mentioned and feel "stuck in the muck of it all". I want you to know that  the child you are having is not a mistake or an accident. From what I read in God's Word,  He doesn't make accidents or mistakes with anyone (Psalm 139:13). Your child may have come into existence because of fornication but they put together in the womb by a loving God who wants nothing more but to cover them with His love, mercy, and grace. Secondly I want you know that God loves you and nothing can change that (Romans 8:35-39). And lastly you are not alone and He is always here with you (Hebrews 13:5).

I know some people are telling you things like "Think about yourself, you can't take care of this baby! You are a baby yourself!" I know they are offering to pay for it and asking you to act like this never happened. But trust me if you make the righteous decision to take this baby to full term and let it experience life on this Earth in the abundant manner in which God intended, God will honor you and your decision. He will not forsake you or your child. It may mean tougher times ahead but I promise you the present sufferings of your situation will be far outweighed by the future glory of seeing your wonderful child go on to do great things.

Think about Moses for a second. His mother knew that all newborn babies would not survive being thrown into the river.   But in the face of unrighteousness she choose to fight and save her child. God provided for Moses who was later "adopted" and  set God's people free. So I am asking you to choose to fight for that wonderful possibility of life in your womb. I am asking you to press on because you can do this (Philippians 4:13). I am asking you to consider adoption if you feel you cannot raise the child yourself or you feel you do not have the support, if you need more info on  this than inbox and I will send you some.

But I am a realist and I understand that we have Christians who had abortions on Saturday and went to church on Sunday. We have Christians who succumbed to the pressure and now are trying to move on with their life.  First understand that God loves you and has already forgiven you so don't allow others to condemn you or place guilt upon  you (Romans 8:1 ).  Secondly, find a GOOD and GODLY CHRISTIAN support group and get some help! Don't try to walk this path alone. The Word of God tells us shoulder the burden of our mistakes together (Galatians 6:1 - 2). You may have not made the best decisions but today make the right decision and talk with someone who and can help you.

Life is precious to God, more so than we can ever know. Abortion is a "hot button issue" and some of you may not agree with me or even think I understand this situation at all. And I am okay with that, however it  will always be my prayer that if you are considering abortion you would choose life and not death.  Stay focused you can do this!

"In His JOY!"

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Ain't No Woman Like The One You Got!"

Ephesians 5: 25 - 33

Husbands, love your wives,
just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

 I graduated from college when I was 23 years young. Excited to take on life and all the adventures that it held out there for me.  I had big dreams and ambitions to do carry out wondrous goals and tasks for God. One of them was moving to Atlanta, Georgia and start a church called Joy! And man I could not wait, I was looking at jobs in Atlanta, reading the local newspapers from Atlanta, and trying to make contacts with churches rooted in Atlanta.  I was living and breathing the ATL to the point that it  was all I would talk about. It was my time and my moment so nothing was going to stand in the way of my dream.

Well, I take that back almost nothing was going to stand in my way. The only obstacle I had to overcome was my wife. You see, my wife felt I was not ready to pastor, unsure if  I was even called, and just flat-out did not want to go Atlanta. To me she was crazy because to me anyone could clearly see God's Vision for my life. I just hypothesized  that she was afraid to step out on faith and did not believe in me. Every time she challenged me I would become angry and hurt because I thought she was not supporting me, I would think "Come on now, you are my HELP MATE WOMAN! Get it together!" It was hard because I was just so sure that she was holding me back. But one day that all changed.

After a church service on Sunday afternoon while we were driving home, my wife looked over at me and said, "Where do I fit in your vision?" Stumbling for words that I could not find I replied with something like, "You're my wife so you will have your own ministry in the church." Friends let me tell you that this was the wrong answer. When I realized that she had no part in my vision I realized that my ministry was all about me and me alone.  I knew what God had called me to do but I was consumed by the glory it could bring me. In doing this I neglected to concentrate on the bigger vision and calling of my life….it was being married to wife.

First and foremost I had to understand God had given me a suitable helper ( Genesis 2: 20 -22) and not someone who would work to fund my ministry, nor was she my private secretary. Instead she was the one to whom I was to love as myself and the one I willingly left my parents for (Genesis 2: 23-25). In short she was my wife. I was viewing my wife in a title role of my vision, you know I just saw her as the "Assistant Pastor" or "Leader of The Women's Ministry." The problem with this thinking  was simple, when I saw her only as a title it became increasingly easy to treat her like an object and not my lover. I can avoid having a relationship with a title, not talk to a title, or even fire a title! But I can't do this to my wife because the bible tells me I am to love her and take care of her (Ephesians 5: 33).

Look around at all the ministries where the pastor treats their spouse like a business partners in the coƶperate ministry and not as their lover. These type of marriages won't last long because the wife feels like she was just an object of service, whose job is only to support the Pastor and not  love her husband. Marriage is an intimate and God blessed relationship that is separate from all others.  Marriage  in itself resembles God's relationship with the Church ( Ephesians 5: 25-26).

So how are you are treating your wife Pastor, Deacon, or Minister ? Does she feel loved by you or does she just feel like she works in your ministry. The Word is clear that we are to love our wives and take care of her.  And I know the Bible talks about living with a wife who is quarrelsome is like a humongous thorn in your side in Proverbs 19:13 but IT DOES NOT SAY  DIVORCE HER! It tells us that you should take care of your ministry of the home ( 1 Timothy 3:12) first and the ministry of the church second. So I am calling on you pastors, evangelist,  deacons, and whomever else,  to love your wives as Christ loved the church. Show her the affection she deserves, make loving her the top priority over everyone and everything else. Your greatest ministry will always be in the home, so please I am calling you to fulfill that calling. Take a chance today and be a minister to your wife through love. Let her KNOW you LOVE her because she is worth it.

"In His JOY!"

"Stupid King"

Ecclesiastes 4:13

To listen to instruction is knowledge but to use knowledge is wisdom. I think from time I was born I never liked being told what to do or how to do it. Even if I made mistakes and created issues from myself I did not want anyone helping me. I would rather do it my way and my way alone. Because I did not want to admit that I had flaws or made an error. I would rather suffer than get advice from anyone. I look back now and say "What an idiot I was back then!" 

Listen we cannot walk through life without taking advice or seeking help. At some point in your life you will need help. To walk around thinking you have all the answers is the greatest mistake you will ever make. The Bible tells us that it is better to a poor and wise youth than an old foolish king who does not take advice (Ecclesiastes 4:13:. In other words it is better be an inexperienced person (youth) who seeks advice and uses it (wise) than an experienced person (king) who purposely neglected any form of aid (foolish).

In other words if you think just because you know what you are doing or have a grasp on the subject you don't need help, you are acting foolish. No matter how many years of experience you have, how many times you have done it, what your degree is in (ouch!), or who you think you are if you fail to take advice, you are acting as a fool. When we shrug of the advice of others we isolate ourselves from them. We indirectly tell them that their way is inferior to our way and it can make people feel belittled by you and worthless. But over time we will gain a reputation as an "old foolish king" even if we are successful we will find ourselves ruling a kingdom that is not known for its wealth but its lack of Christian Character. And eventually you will find yourself alone and even though Facebook says you have 495 friends you will really only have 2... you and yourself.

Look we need each other, we need to take advice from each other, but more importantly we need to talk to each other. A problem is easier to solve and the reward is even better if we work together (Ecclesiastes 4:9). When we go through rocky moments in life and they shake us to the core we sometimes falter and give in to the pressure. But when we have a friend, confidant, and a Christians there to help us get back on our feet how blessed or we but when we think that no one can help us and we are all alone how sad is that (Ecclesiastes 4:10). When need to hear that voice of comfort, that speech of wisdom, or that ray of hope shines in our darkest hour how blessed are we to have a friend that is there for us, but if we constantly push people off we will the feel cold wind of self-isolation (Ecclesiastes 4:11). And when we battle the struggles of this life...struggles of sin, pressure, hurt, pain, etc. it is a blessing to have a friend fight the battle with us to overcome it, but when we push others away we fight alone and we often lose (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12).

So we as Christians need turn to one another from time to time and seek help. We need to look to each other for Godly advice. We are not alone in the plight of life. But open up your mouth and get some help. I have met Christians who force their daughters to have abortions because they don't know how to ask and fear of this sin will ruin their reputation. I have met men who struggle with pornography and homosexuality but they won't seek help because they think they can defeat it on their own. There our Christians in the church who are struggling with addictions, alcohol, and depression but they refuse to seek help. Listen if that is you, your pride will be the cause of your fall (Proverbs 16:18). Getting help is not a sign of weakness but it is a sign of strength and trust.

Do you see yourself as the "wise youth" or "old foolish king"? Open up and let others end and you will learn to enjoy to Joy of fellowship that God has blessed us with (Hebrews 10:24-25). Stay focused, you can do this!

"In His JOY!"

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it must be a cow...wait what!"

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12: 9-21

Growing up I was such a deep, philosophical, and (sometimes) strange person. I made knowing God so complicated for people. I was bound by rules, laws, and everything in between. My version of Christianity was so complex and complicated I would compare it to a maze the had no real way out. It took wise counsel from my parents, siblings, friends, mentors, and some maturing on my part for me to change.

I say all that to say this. Christianity is simple, it is we who make it hard and difficult. Romans 12: 9 - 21 to breaks down what being a Christian looks like. Christians are authentic, transparent, and sympathetic people. Look at the words used in this chapter; “Devoted, Not Proud, Hospitality, Spiritual Fervor, Love, and Honor” These are not hard characteristics to obtain but they will require effort, time, and maturity to develop. As I read these verses I ask myself, is this me? Can I every obtain this kind of character and reputation. I mean, I make mistakes all the time and I am not perfect?

What is the answer to that complex question, it is very simply we rely on the Grace of God (Romans 5:20, 2 Corinthians 12:9))! My sin can never out way God’s Grace (Praise Him)! Because we all will sin at some point and appear to make a mockery of Christ in front of others, but despite this we press on. We make every effort to read God's Word, follow His Spirit, and accept correction.

For example I remember when I was in the Army and one day I choose to give into sin as opposed to submit to Jesus. I could have easily just made excuses and said “Well not every body is perfect” instead I took accountability for my behavior in front of the person in which I set the bad example, apologized to them, and pressed forward (Philippians 3:12-14). This walk is simple and should not be made hard by anyone. Right now you may not look like the Christian described in Romans 12: 9 - 21 but trust this, if you submit to the Lord and His Way will get you there (Galatians 5:16). I hope this was a help to you and your walk. Stay focused you can do this!

“In His JOY!"

"I am a REJECT!"

Luke 10:1-16

We live in a world where we want the approval of others as opposed to respect. We will hold back the truth and tell a lie to make others comfortable. We stand up for what is convenient and shy away from what could cause controversy. All in all we do not want to endure rejection. We do not want to experience life as an outcast of popular society. It's like we immature kids in "High School" trying to fit in with the cool kids.

This world needs more people who are willing to stand up for truth and be unashamed about it. We need more people who are willing face rejection for the sake of Christ. Jesus made it clear that there are people yearning for truth but there are not many people willing to share the truth of The Gospel (Luke 10:2). And He said we should pray to the Lord that He will raise up more people willing to go out and share God's Truth.

We must have the willingness to go out and proclaim God's Inconvenient Truth to a world that would rather bathe in comfortable lies. We have to understand we will be like foxes being chased down by a hunter. We are the prey in a hostile world (Luke 10:3). But this does not stop us from sharing the truth. It also means we will face rejection, called intolerant, and unwise because we are trying to call rebels to repentance.

We cannot run from our responsibility to share God's Truth and His Message of Salvation because we fear rejection and ridicule. Instead we should find delight in sharing God's Truth regardless of how others may view us are treat us. Because the real travesty is that they are not rejecting our truth but rather they are rejecting God's Truth (Luke 10:16). And this does not mean we are harsh, condemning, and arrogant. No instead we speak the truth in love and not in hate (Ephesians 4:15)

So we are rejects in the world's eyes as well as outcast. But despite all of this we are still God's Children and we have the wonderous JOY! of experiencing His love, the freedom that comes from walking in and knowing His Truth, and the peace of His Salvation. This alone should compel us to share God's Truth with others so that the may experience what we have.

Stay focused, you can do this!

"In His JOY!"

"Burnt Cookies"

Matthew 16:15-18

After 3 years of serving my country I received an honorable discharge and came to the great state of Colorado. I went from being a Georgia Peach to a Colorado Rocky overnight. It was an awesome thing for me and my family, we left Georgia to come up here and be Associate Pastors in Colorado. Things started off well but they ended terrible. My last day was hideous, I labeled a devil. Through prayer and faith I resigned from my job. At that point I in the unemployment line but the person who was the cause of the lies was still gainfully employed, I did not see justice in this.

From that point on everyday became a struggle not to hate and lass out in revenge. I had to deal with the internal conflict of choosing love over walking in hate. Especially when I had the right to hate because of what happened to me. I had to search my heart and consider my thoughts, feelings, and how Christ would handle the situation. But that raw emotion would sometimes get the best of me and I would want to lash out in anger. I had a burning desire for justice and not mercy, I longed for vindication and public humiliation of my offender. I wanted others who took his side to see his error, discover his sin, but see my holiness and acknowledge my righteousness. Friends my inner behavior afterwards and his actions during both fail to bring God glory.

I had to learn what it means to forgive someone for an offense. God's Word says to forgive them from our hearts or we will not receive forgiveness from God (Matthew 18:21-35). The problem is we do not want to let go of the hurt, we would rather keep it and be bitter. But this causes us to look at that person with an unforgiving eye. When we fail to forgive someone we will only see them in a negative light. Everything they say, do, or even post through social media we will see as a direct attack against us. That is no way to live.

But what do we with an offense, I mean how do we handle it? Jesus gives us 3 easy steps in Matthew 18:15-20. 1) Talk with the person who has offended you and try to restore your relationship (Matthew 18:15). We miss step one so many times, instead of talking to the person who sinned against us we take to Facebook, Twitter, or text the world about how we feel. We will talk to everyone in the country before we talk with the person. But if they do the same we become vengeful and upset because they put our business all out in the street. That brings us to step 2. 2) If step 1 does not work we go find a biblically sound person who is not biased and discuss the offense in the hope of restoring the relationship (Matthew 18:16). Here we miss it too. Some of us will go and get someone else but we go and get somebody who is on our side. We get someone who is just like us and is just as offended. We find the person who will agree with us and condemn our offender. We find someone who will acknowledge our feelings but not challenge our actions. We want the person who will vindicate us and not tell us the truth in love. When we do this we make the person who has offended us feel as if they have gained an enemy and the world is now against them. We make them feel secluded and alone. This is wrong. This brings us to step 3, 3). Bring your offense to the Body of Christ and discuss it. The church will hear both sides and try to restore the relationship. If the offender decides not listens and refuses to change, we let them go in the hopes that they will someday return (Matthew 18:10-14,17). Many Christians never bring it to this point, because they don't want the church in their personal business. Instead we talk to our friends who are just as unforgiving as we are. We talk to people who we consider "to keep it real", but we know they have no biblical foundation. And churches are so worried about attendance that they don't want to ask anyone to leave let alone get involved in their personal affairs.

It always amazes me how we would prefer to do things our way and complain to God about the result yet we fail to even try to do it His Way. You can't complain about the burnt cookies if you failed to follow the cooking directions. How have you dealt with the offenses in your life. How is your relationship with those Christians who hurt you. Do you see them as an enemy or as your brother or sister in Christ? Have you forgiven them or are you holding out for justice instead of extending mercy (Micah 6:8)? If you are reading this post and feel justified then you missed the point. We do not seek to talk about the offense just to show the other person error, we talk about the offense to restore our relationship. We talk about the offense to others not to prove ourselves good and gossip. We talk about the offense to others so they can show us if we are just being ultra sensitive, thin-skinned, gain wisdom. We talk about the offense with the church so nothing is hidden and we both can get help.

Don't miss the point, God wants you to reconcile with those who have offended you. He does not want you to give them the silent treatment. He does not want you to treat them cruel and He doesn't want you gossiping to the world about that person's flaws. Because through the sacrifice of Jesus, God reconciled you to Himself despite how much you have offended Him. He does not give you the silent treatment but listens to your prayers, concerns, and hurts. He does not treat you cruel and banish you to Hell because He has forgiven you through Jesus Christ (this applies only for those who accepted Jesus). He does not gossip to others about your flaws but He does tell others to pray for you. So what am I telling you in regards to all your like Christ and not yourself.

Stay focused you can do this!

"In His JOY!"