A Letter From Dad

This blog is different than most others I have written.  While I believe anyone, who is in any type of ministry, will find it very useful I am writing it specifically for two people.

This past Sunday night my wife and I had the privilege of watching our daughter, Angela, and her husband Eric, be installed in their first pastorate at River of Life Assembly of God Church in Demopolis, Alabama.  Outside of laying hands on them at the end I did not participate in the ceremony.  That was beautifully handled by Rev. Ed Wilson.  I was just there as Dad.

However, like any Dad, I couldn’t help but think of what I would have told them. Ministry, of any kind, is a tough position to be in and, again like any Dad, I want to make their way smoother.  I don’t want them to make the same mistakes that I did.

So, here goes.

My dear children,

As you embark on this exciting stage in your life I want you to do so with the greatest possibility for success.  So with that in mind I have three things I want you to understand as you undertake the care and feeding of River of Life Church.

Eric, I don’t know how much you told Angela about the conversation we had when you asked for her hand but I remember three distinct things that I told you.  I want you both to apply those three things to your new position.

First, I told you that you did not deserve her.  I wasn’t being funny when I said this nor was I being mean.  If a man goes into marriage with the attitude that he deserves his wife he will not treasure her and I wanted, and still want, my baby treasured.  In the same way, the two of you do not deserve the honor of being pastors.  None of us do.  We are not placed in the ministry because of what we deserve.  We are placed in the ministry to treasure the body of Christ and strengthen it.  Jesus wants His baby treasured.  You were not given this positon because you are so spiritually mature and wise.  You are put there to grow into it.  When the two of you first got married you THOUGHT you understood marriage.  I am sure, after 11 years together, you have a completely different view of things now.  After a few years of pastoring you will also have a different view than you have now.  That’s ok.  That’s called growth.  Treasure the pastorate you have been given.  Be careful with the people’s hearts.  Lead your congregation into growth but don’t push them.  Above all, be honored that you have this privilege.

installation

At the installation service with, left to right, Eric Jr., Parker, Eric, Angela, Maryanna, Debbie myself and Sydney

The second thing I told you, Eric, was to keep your own relationship with Christ strong. This was one of the two requirements I had for any man who married my daughter. I told you that you would be a lousy husband and father if you did not do this.  In the same way the two of you must keep your individual relationship with Christ strong.  No matter how naturally talented the two of you are, neither will have anything to give without a strong personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  There are times when doing this will seem difficult.  The job of ministry, and just life itself, will get in the way.  You may be tempted to just go through the motions.  Don’t do this.  Your personal relationship with Christ is the foundation upon which every part of your ministry is built.

Finally, I told you the second requirement for marrying my daughter was that her husband must love her with all he’s got.  That is because I knew for the marriage to last you had to be prepared to love her even during the times she would not be very loveable.   You know how much I love Angela.   I know how wonderful she was and is.  At the time we talked I also knew how irritating she was and is.  As her Dad, and as a husband myself, I knew her husband needed to love her enough to look beyond her faults and always adore her.  She was, and is, more than worth the effort.

The two of you must now do the same with the people of River of Life Church. Everyone I have met so far seems wonderful.  I think these people will really have your back.  Yet, if there is one truth in ministry that every shepherd knows it is that sheep bite.  Sooner or later someone is not going to like something at the church.  It may have nothing to do with you directly but the two of you will feel the heat.  This is where love comes in, not when things are going well, but when they are not.  Love them through the disagreements and difficulties.  Love them when they are unlovable.  Love them like you would want to be loved in their situation.  I guess I am saying love them with all your hearts.

Angela, when I laid my hands on you at the installation service I did get emotional.  I thought back to when you were born and your mother and I gave you back to God just as we did with your younger brother.  I thought about all that has transpired since then.  You are, and always will be perfect in my heart, though you are not perfect in this life.  Your Daddy is more proud of you than you will ever know.  It is your time to mother the church that has been entrusted to you.  You will do a wonderful job.

Eric, you know that you are not a son-in-law in this family.  Debbie and I don’t do the in-law thing.  You are son to us and I am also proud of you.  You have come a long way as you have grown as a man, as a husband and as a father.  Now you will go further still in your walk and development.  Don’t try to be perfect.  Like the rest of us you are not.  You were not perfect when you started your roles as husband and father so why would you expect perfection now?  Be the shepherd your people need.  Be the kind of mentor that Steve Hill and Al Roever were to you.

Should you need anything Mom and I will always be handy.  Better yet, Jesus will always be there.

Love to you both,

Dad

The book Dirty Christians tells the story of how one small Church learned to serve their community in a big way following hurricane Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill.  You can order your copy today by going to https://squareup.com/store/dirty-christians-llc

Follow us on Twitter @dirtychristians for daily encouragement

Like us on facebook @dirtychristiansbooks

Contact info:  dirtychristians@gmail.com

                    Post Office Box 191056

                    Mobile, AL 36619

Please note that any advertising you see on this site was placed by WordPress and does not necessarily reflect the views of this author.

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A Real Cup of Coffee

When I was very, very young I remember sitting at some restaurant and informing my family that I did not want milk to drink.  I wanted the grown up drink. I wanted coffee.  Though very small I was convinced I could handle this strange elixir that seemed to

parker

My grandson Parker pretending to guzzle coffee

captivate all the adults.  Imagine my surprise when they told me I could have some.  I was thrilled as they took my pint of white milk from me and poured the tiniest bit of coffee you can imagine into it.  Truthfully, I was drinking slightly tinted milk.  However, in my mind I had made it.  I was doing what the grown-ups did.  I was very pleased with myself.  I was now drinking coffee.

Today as I sit in my local coffee shop typing this I have to laugh at myself a bit.  That coffee would never satisfy me today.  It was far too watered down for my tastes.  The man would never accept it although the child didn’t know the difference.

I think the same thing is happening in the church today.  We have too many who accept a watered down version of discipleship the same way I as a child accepted that milk with a drop of coffee in it.  We think we have become so mature and so deep in our walk when the reality is we are still receiving baby food.  The writer of Hebrews addressed this when they said. . .

Hebrews 5:12-14 (NLT)
You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.  For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.  Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

I think there are a few things we must do if we want to become grown up disciples who can handle the real thing.

First, stop acting as though we have all there is.  For me to think I was getting real coffee as a child makes for a cute story.  When
Christians think they have maturity they do not possess is dangerous.   Christianity is a growing process.  If you stop growing you have stepped out of the process.  The apostle Paul said we are to . . .

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

People who are to grow in every way more and more like Christ always have room for improvement.  The mature Christian recognizes this and realizes that consistent growth is the best sign of a healthy believer.

Second, we must insist on the real thing.  We cannot be happy with things that only make us look, or feel, good.  No imitations will do.  We cannot twist the Word of God to say what we want.  We have to speak, and seek, the real over the imitation.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT)
Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

Little kids like to play.  Adults have to do more than that.  It’s time to have a real cup of coffee.

 

See you next time.

The book Dirty Christians tells the story of how one small Church learned to serve their community in a big way following hurricane Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill.  You can order your copy today by going to https://squareup.com/store/dirty-christians-llc

Follow us on Twitter @dirtychristians for daily encouragement

Like us on facebook @dirtychristiansbooks

Contact info:  dirtychristians@gmail.com

                    Post Office Box 191056

                    Mobile, AL 36619

Please note that any advertising you see on this site was placed by WordPress and does not necessarily reflect the views of this author.

The Addict’s Cry

If the Church is going to learn to reach out to those bound by addiction, then we will need to understand the power of the addict’s cry.  The addict’s cry is not necessarily an overwhelming, uncontrollable physical craving to indulge in whatever life controlling substance they are bound by.  It is not necessarily triggered by huge trauma.  It is not necessarily a scream in their soul. It is often a small, stubborn attitude that does not want to go away.

The addict’s cry is often a quiet feeling within the heart that tells people, often in a matter of fact way, that their life will feel much better if they indulge in the addictive behavior.  During the addiction this becomes so much a part of life that it is often linked to one’s perception of pleasure, coping skills, relief from boredom and is seen as part of daily existence.  The addictive behavior has become, in the eyes of those struggling to break away, as necessary as breathing.  In their minds it is not a want but a need.

The addict’s cry is developed by the addictions focusing on the highest point of pleasure ever received during the addiction.  It is not necessarily based in alcohol or drugs.  Addictions can be based in food, sex, work, leisure and a million other things.  Whatever the bondage, the addicts cry ignores all circumstances and focuses only on the immediate act.  This often leads to more and more brazen, and often dangerous, behavior.

For the Church to help those bound turn away from this cry we need to start recognizing a few things. First, repentance can be immediate but developing a new mindset takes time.  Even Christians who have never dealt with a serious addiction have trouble walking in a transformed mind the way Paul directs in Romans 12:2. How much harder is it for those whose minds have already been transformed in the wrong direction by an addiction.

Second, meetings do help but that is all they do.  When people are struggling to get out of an addict’s mindset they need much more than a meeting.  They need someone to walk with them.  They need someone to recognize that at this time of their life they are going to be, what is commonly called, high maintenance.  They have to be helped as individuals not just as a group.  Helping in this way does not require special training.  It requires a straight talking friend who can share the Word in love.  They need to gently, but firmly, be reminded of the truth of the Word.  All believers should remember that the truth, no matter how uncomfortable, is not our enemy.  Jesus promised, in John 8:32, it’s the truth that sets us free.

We also need to realize that meetings designed to help addicts cannot always stay in areas the Church is comfortable discussing in public.  Indulging addictive behavior often leads to bondages and compromises in sexual behavior and much worse.  These things have to be dealt with honestly and directly.  Often, you do this in a private counselling session, but many times this is best dealt with in a group as many people are having the same, or similar issues.  Too many of our addiction recovery meetings turn into just another church meeting instead of meeting the need of the one struggling to break free of the addict’s cry.  We need to help those who want to get free learn to block the addicts cry in their mind.

The truth is the addict’s cry is lying when it lays claim to a believer’s mind.  It is relying on old habits, attitudes and reactions to claim a place in the believer’s life it does not have a right to.  When people come to our addiction recovery ministry we emphasize one verse more than any other . . .

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
17  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

The church needs to not just emphasize the newness that is in Christ but help the addict grow in this.  We need to stop treating every stumble like a permanent failure.  We need to extend the same grace, to those struggling with letting go of the addict’s cry, that we want extended to us when we struggle with the less obvious sins.

I believe we in the Church have inadvertently encouraged the addict’s cry by relying on rehab, or disicipleship, programs to do our work.  We will always need long term programs for some. However, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if each church would commit to reaching the addicted in their community?  Notice I said in the community not just in the Church.  What would happen if we were willing to be inconvenienced enough to reach out to every addict we can find?  Is it possible we can help them replace the addict’s cry with the song of the redeemed?

See you next time.

The book Dirty Christians tells the story of how one small Church learned to serve their community in a big way following hurricane Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill.  You can order your copy today by going to https://squareup.com/store/dirty-christians-llc

Follow us on Twitter @dirtychristians for daily encouragement

Like us on facebook @dirtychristiansbooks

Contact info:  dirtychristians@gmail.com

                    Post Office Box 191056

                    Mobile, AL 36619

Please note that any advertising you see on this site was placed by WordPress and does not necessarily reflect the views of this author.

Who is Leading Your Dance?

As you have likely noticed, or experienced in your life, there are many forms of dancing.  Some types of dancing involve a group and require very specific steps   Others are more individual and are done in a freestyle.  Still, more formal styles of dance require one person to lead and another to follow.  What normally determines the best type of dance to use is the style and tempo of the music.  We may be competent in many different types of dances, but it’s the music that usually determines the right dance for the occasion.

Just as a dancer should know the right style of dance to use, so also disciples should know when we can follow others (group dancing), when we can use our own logic (informal dancing), and when we need to let the Lord lead (formal dancing).

Am I stretching my point here?  I don’t think so.  First of all, following the group is not necessarily a bad thing. We can follow the general example of others as they follow Christ.  Paul told the Corinthian Church to do this in . . .

1 Corinthians 11:1 (NLT)
1  And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.

Other believers who are following Christ, according to the Bible, can be a great help in giving us general guidelines to apply for our lives.  Keep in mind, this only works for general guidelines.  For example, just because we follow Paul’s example does not mean we should all be apostles or all must go to Macedonia.  Those were specific directions for a specific man.  God was not sending those instructions to the entire Church.  Yet the example of Paul in following Christ can be, and should be, followed.  General principles can be modeled by anyone who is properly following Christ.

There are times when group follow is ineffective such as when you have to make decisions that require more than a general guideline.  These are the times when you should be able to make a decision using your own abilities.  This is when the decisions are more specific to your own life.   God did not intend you to turn off your brain when you accepted Christ.  I think it’s safe to say that He expects you to take a look at your situation and make logical decisions within the framework of His Word.  As a matter of fact, one of the primary purposes of the Bible is to help you do just that.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Whenever someone asks my counsel about a romantic relationship my first question to them is “Does this relationship line up with guidelines in the Bible?”  If the answer is no, they don’t need my advice.  They need to get the relationship lined up with Biblical principles.  We have the ability to make decisions, but, the framework of those decisions must be provided by the Word.

There are times when logic is not enough.  Sometimes you have to decide an issue in which there are sides with equal, and compelling, sides.  Your logic is often not enough in such situations.  There are times when you feel in your Spirit that God has a different plan or times when pros and cons are tough to weigh because they are nothing alike.  This is when you need leading.

Leading trumps logic.  Leading also comes at times you least expect it.  Christians should always be open to the leading of God so that when it He speaks we hear it.

Remember that it can be hard to hear leading, especially with the noise of decision making filling your mind, so here are a couple of steps to help you.

First, know what music’s playing.

If this is the kind of situation that goes beyond the simple logic of everyday existence, then seek wisdom from God.  To try and figure out, with human logic, that which requires the leading of God is like trying to dance to rock and roll with polka music playing.  God is not going to be upset if you seek His wisdom.  He actually wants you to do this.

James 1:5 (NLT)
5  If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

Some people want God to speak to them directly about every little thing.  However, far more never seek His leading when they should.  In dancing, when both partners want to lead it does not work.  It’s the same thing when we follow Christ.  One leads, one follows.

Micah 6:8 (NLT)
8  No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

The humble person can follow the lead of God in life’s dance.  Which leads us to our second point. . .

First you seek leading, then you follow leading.

Leading is knowing what to do.  That is basically wisdom.  You have to get wisdom.  This is a two-step process.  First, you go after it.

Proverbs 4:7 (NLT)
7  Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.

You aren’t born with wisdom.  You either develop wisdom, through experience, or seek it from one who is wiser than yourself.  Wisdom starts with an understanding that we respect God and His will over all else (Proverbs 1:7).  Sometimes the problem with getting wisdom is not that God is not ready to give it.  It is that we are not ready to receive it.  Jesus even told his disciples. . .

John 16:12 (NLT)
12  “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.

God will only give us what we are spiritually ready to receive. If you are not ready to follow the leading, you are not ready to receive the leading.  Following the leading is the second part of the process.  God leads us to do something.  Doing is very important to God.  In the book of James we are warned about the importance of doing in . . .

James 1:22 (NLT)
22  But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.

Just as we must apply the word of God so we must apply the leading of God.  To seek the leading, yet refuse to follow it, is the height of folly.

Finally, you must trust the timing.

We all want leading to come immediately.  Then as soon as we know what to do we want to see it immediately accomplished.  Sometimes the quick fix is there.  Sometimes things take longer.  God moves when He knows the time is right rather than when we think it is right.  He has His own schedule.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)
1  For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

If you are trying to tell God WHEN to move you are trying to lead the dance when you should be following.  You are not paying attention to what dance is playing.

Imagine if a song was playing in one tempo but the dancer moved to a completely different tempo.  What would happen if the dancer refused to start at the right time?  This would not be good.  Some of us use logic instead of leading because we are impatient.  God is not moving fast enough to suit us. This usually occurs when we are scared of the circumstances and are afraid of the future.  God is the Master of the Dance and He knows when the dance should start.

It’s time we listened to the music and started dancing the right dance.  It makes life much easier and much more fun.

See you next time.

The book Dirty Christians tells the story of how one small Church learned to serve their community in a big way following hurricane Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill.  You can order your copy today by going to https://squareup.com/store/dirty-christians-llc

Follow us on Twitter @dirtychristians for daily encouragement

Like us on facebook @dirtychristiansbooks

Contact info:  dirtychristians@gmail.com

                    Post Office Box 191056

                    Mobile, AL 36619

Please note that any advertising you see on this site was placed by WordPress and does not necessarily reflect the views of this author.

5 Things Every Servant Should Remember

I often see books and articles listing things that Christians should remember, pastors should remember, leaders should remember, parents should remember and so on and so on.

It’s sad that we so seldom see a list to remind us of what we should do as servants.  Since being a servant is at the heart of our discipleship you would think that this topic would be constantly addressed.  Many people today are burning out in service (both in and out of the pulpit) and I can’t help but wonder if this burnout is caused by a lack of appreciation, encouragement and direction.  So, with that in mind, here our five things for every servant to remember.

  1. Never forget you are a servant

This first one would seem to be a no-brainer, however, service is not emphasized in the Biblical sense.  Too many churches today emphasize only service within the church itself when they promote service.  This seems to be the opposite of what Jesus did.  He did not limit His service to the halls of Heaven or the religious structure of earth.  He went about the Father’s business wherever that business was found.  He served not just the Father but the people around Him.

Matthew 20:28 (NLT)
28  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Remember, since Jesus sent us as the Father sent Him, we are also to be servants.

  1. Never forget you are a child of the Master

Years ago a friend of mine did a series showing the difference between a child of the house and a servant of the house.  The servant had an employee’s attitude.  In other words, they served as long as they received something in return.  The child served the house with a different attitude.  The child had the best interest of the house in mind.  We need to remember that right now we are God’s children.  As such we look out for the concerns of the Master just as Jesus did.

John 10:11-13 (NLT)
11  “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.
12  A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock.
13  The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

 If we only serve when we see something in it for ourselves, we don’t have the Master’s concerns in our heart.  We serve regardless of any perceived return in this life.  With that in mind . . .

  1. Never forget you are appreciated

Many times people will not show appreciation for what you have done.  You might as well get used to that.  You should also get used to the fact that God is keeping track of how you service and plans to show his appreciation for your obedience at the right time and in the right way.

Matthew 6:4 (NLT)
4  Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

It is good to know that God sees, God knows and God appreciates.  This is especially true since He is the one we really need to please.  If we keep our minds on this fact the appreciation of people, or lack thereof, becomes inconsequential.

 Never assume you have done your duty.

Have you ever worked with a clock watcher?  You know what I mean.  The kind of person who looks at what they have done and assume it’s enough for that day.  They can’t wait for quitting time.  As servants we don’t have a quitting time and we don’t determine when we are done.  Only the Master can decide when we have done our part.

Luke 17:7-10 (NLT)
7  “When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’?
8  No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’
9  And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not.
10  In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”

 Notice in the example Christ gives in Luke 17 He points out that the servants had come in after a day full of work.  He then makes clear that their job was not finished until all the Master’s needs were met.  It is not for us to tell God we have done enough.  It is also not for us to tell God what we are willing to do.  He is the Master.  He gets to decide.

  1. Never fail to consult the handbook for direction

There are many books that will make you more productive and help you sharpen your abilities.  Still, there is only one book that does all that and gives you direction.  I am speaking, of course, of the Bible.  Current Bible study is essential to effective serving.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)
16  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
17  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work
.

The Bible is not given for us to pose with or to simply memorize.  It was given to get us ready to serve like Jesus.

Go get ‘em servant!

See you next time.

The book Dirty Christians tells the story of how one small Church learned to serve their community in a big way following hurricane Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill.  You can order your copy today by going to https://squareup.com/store/dirty-christians-llc

Follow us on Twitter @dirtychristians for daily encouragement

Like us on facebook @dirtychristiansbooks

Contact info:  dirtychristians@gmail.com

                    Post Office Box 191056

                    Mobile, AL 36619

Please note that any advertising you see on this site was placed by WordPress and does not necessarily reflect the views of this author.

This is Really Going to Hurt

The lady before me looked as though she were ready to break down and cry.  It was obvious she had already been crying and the tension in her face betrayed the weight she carried on her heart.  She, and her husband, were faithful workers in a ministry designed to set people free from the hell of addiction.  She had just witnessed some of the people they had invested their lives in, and had grown to love, reject freedom to pick up the chains of addiction once more.  It hurt her to see people she had grown to care about take life destroying steps.  It hurt a lot.

It’s time we got something straight.  Ministry hurts.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I love being in the ministry.  However, I cannot deny there are times it hurts a lot.  Maybe one reason we lose so many pastors, as well as people in other types of ministry, to burn out is because we do not prepare them for the part of ministry that hurts.

First of all, we need to understand, if we are going to love like Jesus we open our hearts up to the possibility of being hurt.  Remember, Christ’s pain was not just the physical pain of the cross.  It was also the pain of a broken heart.

But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep.  “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.  Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side.  They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.”
Luke 19:41-44 (NLT)

While Jesus rejoices over the one sinner who returns to the fold there is also weeping over each one who says no. If we are investing ourselves in loving people we must understand such investment leaves us vulnerable to being hurt.  Some say we have to learn not to care so deeply.  I think the day we stop caring enough to hurt is the day we have resigned our ministry.  Loving people is not just about the good times.  It is also caring enough to take the risk of being hurt.  Perhaps that is why the Word says . . .

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)

If love were only about the good times this verse would be unnecessary.  Ministering the love of Christ requires us to be willing to be hurt to bless others.  It’s not all about having a hallelujah breakdown.

Part of this hurt will come from the fact that we will lose far more often then we win when it comes to reaching people.  This fact was established by Christ Himself when He said . . .

 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.  But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT)

This makes it clear we lose more people then we win.  So do we just give up?

Never.

All this pain and failure should motivate us.  It should motivate us because it makes each victory that much more important.  It should motivate us because this kind of battle cannot be won by soldiers giving half-hearted effort.  It should motivate us because Christ reached through all the rejection and pain to find us.  How can we do less for others?

Ministry can hurt.  It can hurt deeply.  Yet, there is no reward as sweet as when you find a life ready to take the right road.  That victory is more than worth the price.  If you don’t believe me just ask Jesus.  His life modeled the truth of loving through the hurt.

See you next time.

The book Dirty Christians tells the story of how one small Church learned to serve their community in a big way following hurricane Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill.  You can order your copy today by going to https://squareup.com/store/dirty-christians-llc

Follow us on Twitter @dirtychristians for daily encouragement

Like us on facebook @dirtychristiansbooks

Contact info:  dirtychristians@gmail.com

                    Post Office Box 191056

                    Mobile, AL 36619

Please note that any advertising you see on this site was placed by WordPress and does not necessarily reflect the views of this author.

Are You Ready to Invest?

Let’s start off this blog with a blunt statement that likely applies to almost everyone reading it.  Most Christians, especially American Christians, are too cheap to invest in their own discipleship.  If anyone is still reading this please understand that when I say too cheap I am talking about much more than finances.  I am talking about investing yourself in following Christ.

Salvation is free.  There is no question about that.  The Bible clearly states that . . .

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)

We are often ready to jump at the free benefits of salvation, offered through Christ’s work on the cross, but we cringe at the price of discipleship.  Discipleship does cost and if we are going to build disciples, and not just converts, we need to acknowledge this and point out to new believers the benefits of making this investment.  Jesus Himself explained this when he told those following Him . . .

 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.  And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.  “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?  Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.  They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’  “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him?  And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away.  So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.
Luke 14:26-33 (NLT)

We reach many converts but we develop few disciples.  Maybe that is because we didn’t make the cost of discipleship clear.  Perhaps, in our rush to “reach” new people we have created a host of converts who do  not realize there is a cost to discipleship.  They start out fine but, like the man in the aforementioned parable, they fade when the cost starts piling up.  Have we made them the victims of a bait and switch?  That is an old and unethical sales technique where you advertise one thing to get customers in the store but what you are  actually selling is a different item.  If we have presented following Christ  as without cost than I fear we our guilty of misrepresenting the walk of a disciple.

People need to see Biblical discipleship modeled.  Sadly, we are often guilty of modeling only how to engage in religious activities.   As long as one hits the right religious activities, at the right time, they are OK. Right?  Not right!  Religious behavior can be accomplished on the outside with no change in the inner man.  The Pharisess were perfect examples of this.  Their activities looked great but their character was ungodly.  Jesus spoke bluntly about them when He said . . .

 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.  Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matthew 23:27-28 (NLT)

We need to remember religious behavior is a cheap knock off of discipleship.  It’s like buying a sports car that looks right on the outside but is missing everything you want, and need, on the inside!

The greatest investment of your discipleship will be the investment of who you are on the inside.  To invest in discipleship requires us to love God above all else.  Not in some vague, general way but in day to day life.  It requires us to seek to spend time in His presence in prayer and to seek to know Him more through His Word.  It requires a submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit as we develop the character of Christ in every way.  It also requires us to grow.

Growing in not an option for a disciple.  It is a command.  Bearing fruit is not something we hope to do, instead, it is something we are commanded to do.  If you are not growing in your discipleship you may need to check your investments.  You may be neglecting to invest yourself the way the Bible tells you to.

The call to discipleship is absolute and it’s only path is through the cross.  It requires dying to self and living to Christ.  This dying is not with words but with actions that reflect the very character of Jesus Christ shining through everything we do and say.  It requires forsaking everything we are in order to become everything He is.

Is this a lot to invest?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  Yes.  There is no better return in the world than the life of a disciple.  It is the greatest investment return in the history of the world.

See you next time.

The book Dirty Christians tells the story of how one small Church learned to serve their community in a big way following hurricane Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill.  You can order your copy today by going to https://squareup.com/store/dirty-christians-llc

Follow us on Twitter @dirtychristians for daily encouragement

Like us on facebook @dirtychristiansbooks

Contact info:  dirtychristians@gmail.com

                    Post Office Box 191056

                    Mobile, AL 36619

Please note that any advertising you see on this site was placed by WordPress and does not necessarily reflect the views of this author.

Bring in the Amateurs

In politics today there is a large movement that wants to get away from leaving everything in the hands of the professional politician and putting it into the hands of the non-professional.  This is a movement that we could also use in the church.

We need to bring in the amateurs.

Too often when someone needs prayer, needs to be led to the Lord, needs to be visited when ill or needs almost anything they are directed to a church or pastor so the “Pros” can handle it.  When it’s time to worship many people stand and just listen to the worship leader/team instead of entering into worship themselves.  Once again we abdicate our responsibility to the “Pros”.

Before you yell that’s their job, let me point out, that you are right.  It is their job, but not so much because they are pastors or worship leaders.  It is their job because they are believers.  It is the job of all believers.  Look at the job description given to believers . . .

 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.  Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.  These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.  They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”  When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.
Mark 16:15-20 (NLT)

These are some of the instructions given to disciples.  All Christians are supposed to be disciples.  All disciples are supposed to be Christ sharing the gospel, praying for the sick and letting God work through them.  Look through the Word and you will see it is God’s people who are called to worship and not just the church leaders.

Take a peek at what Ephesians says about the responsibility of a pastor . . .

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)

The body is being prepared to do the work of Christ. The body is being prepared to measure up to the standard of Christ.  The body is not being prepared to enjoy all the blessings while passing on all the responsibility.

It’s time for a new reformation in the Church.  A reformation where the body, all the body, rises up to fulfill our responsibility, both as individuals and, as a group.  It’s time for the amateurs to rise up, not to take control, but to step out in obedience and minister to both the church and the world.

It’s time for a new reformation among pastors. It’s time for pastors to equip people, not just to help in the nursery or around the church, but to reach out as disciples in their daily life.  It’s time for pastors to remember they must do this as examples.  Pastors need to rise up and fulfill their responsibilities as believers before their responsibilities as pastors.  We are Christians first and foremost.  We, speaking as a pastor myself, need to focus less on fulfilling the calling of pastor and more focus on fulfilling the call of a disciple.  Truth to tell, no matter how successful we appear, if we are not fulfilling the call of a disciple we are useless as pastors.

Imagine the impact of an army of believers sharing the gospel, praying for the sick, worshipping and acting the way the body is supposed to act.  Imagine the impact of disciples applying the Word and ministering 24/7 without confining the work of Almighty God to a meeting schedule.

Let’s bring in the amateurs.

See you next time.

The book Dirty Christians tells the story of how one small Church learned to serve their community in a big way following hurricane Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill.  You can order your copy today by going to https://squareup.com/store/dirty-christians-llc

Follow us on Twitter @dirtychristians for daily encouragement

Like us on facebook @dirtychristiansbooks

Contact info:  dirtychristians@gmail.com

                    Post Office Box 191056

                    Mobile, AL 36619

Please note that any advertising you see on this site was placed by WordPress and does not necessarily reflect the views of this author.

The Best Time to Fail?

A young man and I recently spent the afternoon reaching out to a mutual friend who was trying to find his way out of drugs and back to Christ.  The meeting went very well and we both left feeling great that our friend was, once again, embracing Christ and rejecting the hell of addiction.  A few hours after our meeting I sent the young man who had ministered along with me a short message with some unsolicited advice.  I simply said . . .

“Guard your heart tonight.  Our greatest failures often follow our greatest victories.”

Far too many people fall because they don’t realize the easiest time to fall is right after a spiritual victory.  Sometimes this fall is something that can be easily corrected and moved on from.  Sometimes the fall is devastating and destructive to all who are touched by it.  In either case, this often happens because we don’t realize how vulnerable we can be immediately following a victory.

Remember when Peter confessed Jesus as the Son of God?  Jesus praised him and told him he was blessed by God.  You would think this would be a major turning point and the next time we hear about Peter he would be riding this to an even greater victory.  Right?  Wrong!  After Jesus told the disciples that He would be killed and then rise again Peter decided to correct Him.

But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”  Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Matthew 16:22-23 (NLT)

This had to be one of Peter’s greatest failures.  It’s interesting that it came right after one of His greatest spiritual victories.  This is the kind of thing that seems to happen to Christians quite frequently.  I think there are many reasons for this.  Sometimes, instead of watching out for the devil walking around as a roaring lion, we let our guard down.  A man who lets his guard down is a vulnerable man. Sometimes, whatever we were doing leaves us physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually exhausted.  An exhausted man is a vulnerable man.  Sometimes, we allow ourselves to consider a temptation that we are exposed to as we are in the midst of ministry.  A man who entertains the thought of temptation, instead of fleeing from it, is a vulnerable man.

It’s time we stopped snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  When reaching out to others, when you are in a spiritual battle, or even when you are in the midst of a blessing, keep your guard up.

See you next time.

The book Dirty Christians tells the story of how one small Church learned to serve their community in a big way following hurricane Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill.  You can order your copy today by going to https://squareup.com/store/dirty-christians-llc

Follow us on Twitter @dirtychristians for daily encouragement

Like us on facebook @dirtychristiansbooks

Contact info:  dirtychristians@gmail.com

                    Post Office Box 191056

                    Mobile, AL 36619

Please note that any advertising you see on this site was placed by WordPress and does not necessarily reflect the views of this author.

Walking, Waddling Or Wallowing

Are you a walker, a waddler or a wallower?

Such a simple question, but the answer can make the difference between a Christian life full of power and a religious life full of noise.

As you probably have guessed by now, you are supposed to be a walker.  You are supposed to walk in the steps of Christ.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2:21 (NLT)

In order to walk in the steps of Christ we have to go where He leads.  This is done by following the Holy Spirit instead of guiding ourselves.

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
Galatians 5:16 (NLT)

Many older translations will say “walk in the Spirit”.  In our modern language we would use “live” for “walk”.  In the Greek the word walk signifies so much more than just walking.  It implied one who walked through every part of life.  This is what Christ walkers do.  They walk through every part of life under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. Their steps are sure because of the Word.

How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.
Psalm 119:9 (NLT)

The Word of God serves as their walking stick. It gives them balance in their life.  It serves as a weapon when attacked and allows them to probe the next step when it’s too dark to see.  These people walk in power and obedience.  The road may not always be easy but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the balance provided by the Word of God, they are effective.  They can do what God wants, when God wants, the way that God wants.

Waddlers are a bit different.  People who waddle have lost their balance.  They are stumbling.  Waddlers often get off center because they are not allowing the Spirit and the Word to lead them.  They either try to follow the Spirit without the Word, which leads to fanaticism, or they try to follow the Word without the Spirit, which leads to legalism.  Either way they are off balance.  Once in a while they stumble on to the truth but for the most part they live in weakness causing great damage to themselves and others.

Finally, we have the wallowers.  When one wallows they throw themselves into something usually for their own pleasure.  These folks just want their life to be “good.”  They are interested only in what brings them pleasure.  Worship is not about pleasing God, instead, it is for their own enjoyment.  To them, the Bible is not there to mature them but only to bless them.  The blessings are all that matter to them.  These sad folks will stay in their small, insufficient comfort zone never walking the path of discipleship and service.

God has not called us to stumble around doing more harm than good.  Neither has he called us to focus on ourselves above all else.  We should be constantly walking in the footsteps of Christ.  As we do this, according to His Spirit and His Word, we will be balanced.  We will be able to enjoy His blessings at the right time while still reaching out to others in Jesus name.

See you next time

The book Dirty Christians tells the story of how one small Church learned to serve their community in a big way following hurricane Katrina and the B.P. Oil Spill.  You can order your copy today by going to https://squareup.com/store/dirty-christians-llc

Follow us on Twitter @dirtychristians for daily encouragement

Like us on facebook @dirtychristiansbooks

Contact info:  dirtychristians@gmail.com

                    Post Office Box 191056

                    Mobile, AL 36619

Please note that any advertising you see on this site was placed by WordPress and does not necessarily reflect the views of this author.

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