“You’re Not Feeding Me! So I’m leaving!”


Just for a moment, I would like you to do the following exercise….

  1. Take the thing you love the most and put it away so you don’t see it.
  2. Turn off your phone.
  3. Sit in a place of solitude (a place where you won’t be bothered).
  4. While in your place of solitude, imagine yourself on a remote island. Not a tropical island, but a dank, dark and dreary island.
  5. Then imagine you cried for help and no one answered.
  6. Then imagine you just wanted to have a conversation, but no one was there.
  7. Then imagine every time you try to get off the island, a storm kicks up and knocks you back to the shore of that deserted island.
  8. Then imagine that no matter how you try to survive, everything you build gets destroyed by the creatures of that island.
  9. Now do this with your eyes closed.

How did you feel?  Did you feel the sense of loneliness?  Did your stress level go way up?  What about the sense of not being able to escape, the sense of hopelessness?  How did you feel about the creatures destroying all you were trying to accomplish?  Were you angry at them?

What you just experienced is what faithful ministers feel regularly.  They are working hard at preparing sermons, organizing meetings, visiting their congregants and working within the community.  Yet even though they are doing the work they have prepared for, they still get feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and anger.  Why is this?  Think of it this way…

Typically, a to write a really good sermon it takes approximately 20-30 hours.  This time is spent on prayer, study, research and writing.  Now add meeting times, maybe 3-5 hours per week, visiting congregants, another 3-5 hours per week.  Finally, add time with the community, another 3-5 hours per week.  Already you are working 45 hours per week.  What this doesn’t include is sermon practice time, Sunday morning or any time concerning the physical church building needs.  As we imagine this, we begin to see that many ministers spend 50-60 hours per week working.  This is if you are a full-time minister.  If you are a bi-vocational minister, add another 35-40 hours per week.  This means that bi-vocational ministers potentially can work around 90-100 hours per week.

If you do research on churches hiring pastors, many of them are now asking for bi-vocational pastors to step up to the plate.  This means that the church cannot financially support the pastor and his family but needs to have a leader that can train them on proper living.

From personal experience I can tell you that managing 2 vocations and giving both vocations your 100% plus spending time with your family is nearly impossible.  Yet many ministers, throughout the world are bi-vocational.

Now if you spent all of this time, away from your family, serving others, preparing good sermons yet the return on those efforts were apathy, complaints, pain and suffering, wouldn’t you want to leave?

Did you know that pastors today, average less than 5 years in ministry?  In fact, I read an article that stated the fruit of the effectiveness of a pastor doesn’t happen until his 7th year.  So why are so many men leaving ministry to pursue other careers?

Many churches today demand a lot of their pastor.  They demand a pastor do almost everything in the church.  One church I used to attend, the pastor did everything.  From sermon prep to counseling, to financial to even mowing the lawn.  It was as if the entire congregation decided they were too busy to take care of the place where they worshiped.  Needless to say, that church is no longer in existence.

But I have listened to both congregants and pastors moan and complain about each other and what each other’s expectations.  Many times, congregants will complain the pastor is not doing his job, yet they cannot quantify what that means.  Pastors complain about the apathy of their congregation, yet cannot quantify what that means.  So why is this happening?

I believe the reason why this happens is because of sin in the church.  I’m not talking about a pastor having extra-marital affairs, nor am I speaking of congregants being addicted to drinking or pornography.  What I am talking about is the lack of efforts on both parties to recognize that sin in the church can be as simple as, not spending time with our Savior, both singularly and corporately.

We have forgotten about spending time with Christ in prayer, in study and in service.  We have made serving others our god or studying our god, but we have forgotten that anything outside of Christ is idolatry.  (I only understand this because I have been there.)

When we forget about the purpose of the church that Jesus Christ set forth, we make everything else our idols.  We may have the best church programs but if we are not spending quality time with our God, then what we do is nothing more exhausting efforts.  We may have the best sounding music, but if we are not spending time with God, we are simply playing a concert.  We may have the best speakers in the world, but if they and we are not spending time with God, then it is nothing more than an educational lecture.

But did you notice that I never said, “prayer was an idol”?  The reason is because prayer is our method of directly communicating with God.  So if we are in prayer, we are communicating with God.  Prayer is our primary source of staying on track in ministry.  Without prayer, everything we do will ultimately fail.

We see the importance of prayer in Scripture.  The psalms are filled with prayers turned into song.  Jesus spent a lot of his alone time, praying to the Father.  Even Paul says, “pray without ceasing”.  Prayer is our life-line, our umbilical cord to a healthy Christian life.  Prayer allows us to focus our thoughts, cry out to God and even lowers our blood pressure.  It calms us in the midst of life’s storms.  It encourages us when we are depressed.  It gives us strength when we are at our weakest point.  Prayer is more than just words; it is God’s way to fill our lives with Himself.

If we want to solve the problem of pastoral loneliness, hopelessness and anger, I would suggest that both the minister and the congregants spend adequate time in prayer both alone and together.  If we want to resolve the bitterness a congregation may feel towards their leaders, I would suggest praying both alone and together.  If we want to see the church of Jesus Christ grow beyond any of our wildest dreams, I would suggest we all pray both individually as well as corporately.

Once we begin to spend time in prayer together, only then will God move the hearts of individuals to accomplish what He wants in our local churches.  As we spend time in prayer, we will begin to see more encouragement rather than discouragement.  Both ministers and congregants need encouraging, but the only way we are going to begin to do that is by spending more time alone and corporately in prayer with the Creator of everything.

Let’s begin changing the world, by first allowing God to change us in prayer.  We can be better together if we spend more time in prayer.  God bless and encourage someone today.

Advertisements

“Hello God…”


So… here’s a story for you.

Apparently, today…I spoke with God….ON THE PHONE!  I couldn’t believe it!  I wanted to ask him all a bunch of questions.  How long will I live?  When will your Son return?  Can you give me the money I asked for?  I had an incredible conversation with him.  He told me how big He was, how much money he makes and how he affects my entire life.  He told me that I needed to satisfy his needs.

Now before you go all crazy on me…  I did have a conversation with someone today who told me he was my god.  He told me how big he was in business, how important he was to my job and how I have to do exactly what he wants.  Here’s the reality… what he does isn’t all that.  In fact, it doesn’t affect me at all.

The problem was this person saw himself through the eyes of his pride rather than the eyes of God’s love.  It’s like this…  A person is born, lives and works in a small town.  They are friendly, successful and enjoy their work.  However, that same person only does work in that same small town.  They never go outside of that town.  As the town grows, so do they.  As the town buys, he becomes richer.  No matter what happens, everyone knows him and he knows everybody.  When someone from the outside comes into that town to try and do business with him, he refuses and begins to tell that person how important he is and how he is the only one who can help the newcomer in business.  He then compares himself to God and says how nothing happens without his knowledge and authority.   What he does is he only sees himself through his own eyes.  That is called pride and it is the cause of so many of our problems.

We have redefined pride to communicate our feelings towards life itself.  We say things like, “Have pride in your country” or “Take pride in your work”.  The problem is when we “take pride” in something, we communicate how good we are.  When we have pride in our country, we say to ourselves and others, “My country is so important and the best in the world”.  We emphasize “My” rather than “country”.  When we “take pride” in our work, we communicate that our efforts are what get us where we want to be.  But both of these understandings couldn’t be further from the truth.

The book of Proverbs has some good things to say about pride and how God views it.

“When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

“A person’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” – Proverbs 29:23

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” – Proverbs 16:18

Pride is one of those things, we have twisted.  Isn’t “funny” how we do that?  We take the things God calls bad in life and twist the definition to fit our own desires?  We do this with literally everything.  God says to Adam, “When you eat of the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.”  The serpent then says to his wife, “Will you surely die?”  They focus on their desire to eat good fruit rather than God’s command and viola…we have sin.

When God tells the Israelites to leave Egypt with Moses, they do.  But when they become hungry, they focus in on their own stomachs rather than where God told them to go.  They complain about how good it was in Egypt.  How slavery wasn’t that bad.  They focused in on themselves and what they wanted rather than God’s command for them.

When Nebuchadnezzer (king of Babylon) defeats, captures and enslaves Israel, he believes that he is the greatest king to ever live.  He allows a decree to go forth to worship him and only him.  He felt he was so good at what he does that no one can touch him.  (Until God makes him lose his mind…)

Pride is no different.  God warns us that when pride (focusing on ourselves and our own abilities) enters into our life, the next thing that comes is dishonor, depression and destruction.

When we believe we are the best at what we do, we dishonor others and treat them improperly.  We communicate how good we are rather than help them at what they need.  We puff up our own ego to the detriment of the emotions of those around us.

When we believe we are the best at what we do and someone proves us wrong, we become depressed.  We go from the “drug induced’ high of pride to the “withdrawal” of depression instantaneously.

When we believe we are the best at what we do and are proven wrong, we can also enter into a destructive way of thinking.  We think to ourselves, “I am going to prove them wrong’ or we convince ourselves that they don’t know what they are talking about.  We then go after people and position in anger only to succumb to sleepless nights and people removing themselves from us.  We destroy relationships and ultimately we destroy ourselves.

Pride doesn’t build up… it breaks down.  Pride doesn’t give…it takes.  And this is the polar opposite of what God wants from us.

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another…” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” – Romans 14:19

“…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-17

We are called to build up, not break down.  We are called to encourage, not discourage.  We are called to speak the truth in love, which means we have the ability to share truth without sounding like we know everything.  We speak the truth because we care not because we have more knowledge.

When we build up, it benefits everyone.  When we build up, it gives to others out of love.  When we build up, we execute the exact evidence of God’s love and purpose in our lives.

As we build up, we no longer need the approval of others.  We no longer need to dwell on our past problems.  We no longer need to prove everyone else wrong.

Doesn’t that make you feel free?  When we forsake pride and embrace God’s love, we begin to love others by serving others.  When we forsake pride and embrace God’s will, He grows His church.  He displays His love through our acts of love and kindness.  God is praised when we obey His calling to build up.  God is honored when we help those who cannot help themselves.  God is worshipped when we surrender our pride and embrace His love.

Can we do that today?  Can we serve others and show them how much God loves them?  Can we forget about our denominational differences and display God’s love by serving side by side?  Can we admit that we aren’t the best and aren’t perfect and encourage someone who may be struggling with depression?  Can we finally show the world that what God has commanded is the best and what we desire is nothing in comparison?

Let’s do that today.  Let’s build each other up.  Let’s forsake pride and embrace God’s unconditional, always forgiving love.

God bless and encourage someone today.

From Perfection to Forgiveness


Normally, I do not do political posts, but the last year of so, I have been watching the political climate and reactions thereof.  What I have found is quite disturbing.

What happens when one politician disagrees with another?  They call each other names.

What happens when one politician wants their agenda to pass but someone else’s to lose?  They create sympathetic stories for their specific view.

What happens when a bunch of politicians get together to question someone who has been selected for a specific position?  The politicians require perfection throughout life.

Perfection.  It’s a crazy word.  We use it when we call someone a “perfectionist”, someone who needs to have everything in order perfectly, in their eyes, otherwise they cannot proceed.  Perfection, however, goes way beyond our culture of needing our books alphabetized on our shelves, or our knick-knacks perfectly lined up on the window sill.  Perfection is something we, as human beings can never achieve.

Perfection can be defined as:

  • A condition, state or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.
  • Completely and totally flawless, without blemish

Here’s a question we should all ask ourselves in the mirror at night… did I live a perfect life today?

I know I didn’t.  When I get cut off on the highway, my mind and sometimes my mouth exude “words of encouragement” – NOT!  Sometimes, when my kids say or do the wrong things and I overreact to their actions or words, I remain imperfect.

Over the last few weeks, and more so today, we are seeing, before our very eyes, the hacking of political chaos.  When one side does not want a nominee, for whatever their reasoning, they require total lifetime perfection.

It is very unfortunate that we, as a country, have stooped to the level of requiring perfection from all that we disagree with, meanwhile, we do not require perfection from ourselves.  No longer can someone make mistakes, if they don’t think like the majority.  No longer can actions be problematic, if they don’t agree with the news agencies.  No longer can our words be honest, in love, without the repercussion of persecution and name calling.  It is very unfortunate, but there is someone who does not require perfection.

Long ago, a carpenter left his family business and began to recruit people to be his students.  First, he chose someone who was a political thief.  He picked someone who stole from his own people in order to make himself wealthy all the while paying the government only what they required.  He also chose a fisherman who had a way of not keeping his mouth and sometimes his actions unfiltered.  He chose two brothers who always fought and had anger management issues.  A prostitute followed him.  A woman who couldn’t hold a relationship together followed him.  In fact, he also chose a banker who would eventually betray him.

In the same light, this same man was rejected by the political leaders of is day.  They felt that their motives, their actions and their agendas were perfect and if he wouldn’t follow their ways, he couldn’t be perfect either.  The problem was this man was perfect.  The only one who ever was and the only one who will ever be.  Yet in spite of his perfection, he does not require perfection from us.

This man is Jesus.  He died so that we may live.  He is perfect.  We are not.  He chose imperfect people to accomplish His will in this world.  This is the beauty of the Gospel.  Jesus does not require our perfection, but He requires our obedience to Him.  Part of being obedient to Him is to forgive others who have wronged us.  It is not about not suffering the consequences to their actions, it’s about the position of being human beings, made in the image of God, in need of a Savior.  Forgiveness heals both the offender as well as the victim.  It allows us to free our minds and hearts to give that person another chance.

When Jesus was asked about how many times to forgive someone, here is what He said…

“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Now that’s an odd way of answering a question but there was a reason why Jesus said it this way.  In biblical times, it was thought that if you forgave someone seven times, you were considered above reproach.  It was also understood that if that person wronged you an eighth time, they no longer were worthy of your forgiveness.  What Jesus was communicating was not to forgive a specific number of times, but to forgive unconditionally.  This means that as those who wrong us over and over again, we should forgive them over and over again.  When we do this one of three things will happen.

First, they’ll keep wronging us, we’ll keep forgiving but at some point, the relationship will fade and the two will part ways.

Second, the person wronging you will get tired of your forgiveness and will leave because their wrong will appear to have no effect on you.

Third, the person who is wronging you will stop out of guilt and will change their ways and wrong you no more.

We all want the third option, but the first two are realities as well.

Today, we are watching as Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford go before the Senate Committee to testify about Judge Kavanaugh’s actions back in High School and College.  We are watching the deformation of character from both sides, but we are not seeing acts of forgiveness.

At the same time, this should be a warning for us as well.  The sin we act upon in private, in our past, will one day surface to the top of our public lives.  Should Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford done the sinful things they both did in their former days?  No.  I feel for Dr. Ford.  But I also feel for Judge Kavanaugh.  Both are now suffering from their prior actions.  Both are trying to save their professional and personal lives by accusing and denying their actions.  The question in my mind is not whether they did those things or not.  The question in my mind is, “What about all of our public figures?  What is in their past that is questionable or rebellious that would disqualify them from their office?”

I am confident that if we were to use the same rule of judgement as we are seeing in today’s hearings, almost all of our current politicians would be disqualified from their office.  I am also confident that if our leaders were to begin showing acts of forgiveness, our country would be greater than it has ever been.

When we require perfection, we abandon forgiveness.  When we require forgiveness, we accept imperfection and embrace our commonalities rather than our criminalities.  Our country needs to be forgiven and needs to show forgiveness.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NASB)

We NEED to turn back to God.  We NEED to forgive others.  We NEED to look hard in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Was I perfect today?”  And if, like me, you can answer, “Not perfect”, then we have the opportunity to ask God for forgiveness.  And guess what…. He will.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 (NASB)

God is ready to forgive us.  We just need to admit our wrongs to Him.  Once we do that, He will give us what we need to forgive others.

If you and I have been forgiven by God for all that we have done, then why can’t we show that same forgiveness to others?

No one is perfect.  No one ever will be.  Let’s begin the healing process by first asking for forgiveness, then giving forgiveness to others.  God bless and let’s forgive someone today.

It’s as Easy as 1…2…3…


Have you ever been traveling into work, listening to the radio and something just smacks you upside the preverbal head?  That’s what happened to me this morning.

As I was driving into work this morning, I was listening to my favorite radio station K-Love.  As usual, I was listening and singing with the songs they were playing.  Then as I was enjoying the music, the DJs then told us about a statistic which was extremely disturbing…here is it…ready???

“More than 50% of Christians don’t know what the Great Commission is.”

WAIT, WHAT!  THAT CAN’T BE TRUE!!!  How could we call ourselves Christians and not know what the Great Commission is?  Well, before you get your imaginary undies in a bunch, let’s first understand the possible reasons to this statement.

First, it is possible that those polled may or may not have been actual Christians.  Just because someone says they are a Christian, doesn’t mean they have given themselves over to Jesus Christ.  It’s like having a gym membership but never going.  You have access to everything you need in order to get in shape (other than round), the equipment, the locker room, the personal trainers, but you never make the effort to go there so you lose out on all that you have access to.

Second, it is possible that those polled were Christians who never read the Bible.  They heard the Gospel message, responded but never went any further.  They may be at the infancy stage of growth, not realizing that the milk and nourishment they need is in the best book ever written, the Bible.  Because there was no one guiding them or taking care of their spiritual infancy, they stagnated and figured, that they know they were going to heaven so that was good enough for them.

Third, the church-isms like Great Commission aren’t being used on the pulpit.  The Great Commission is explained but other words are used to communicate this mission.  Churches communicate the concepts, but do not use the lingo of our past fore-fathers.

Lastly, and the most disturbing, is that church leaders are not properly communicating the mission of the church, here on earth.  Unfortunately, I think this may be the most probable reason for this disturbing statistic.  If this is true, then the church needs revival now, more than ever.

Have we become so enamored by the social and political divisions of our societies that we have forgotten to communicate the one message Jesus gave us?  Could it be that churches are teaching more about concepts that don’t matter and not the fundamentals of our Christian faith?  Is it possible, that we have pastors, teachers and leaders who know so little about Scripture that they don’t know how to communicate what Scripture says from the pulpit?

Recently, I have been learning and teaching on unity within the church.  No matter what denomination you are from, unity within the church is essential in ensuring the Great Commission is completed.  Each denomination may have secondary differences, but the primary mission is the same and is as simple as 1…2…3…  Let me explain.

One (1)…

There is only one way to heaven, Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one goes to the Father except through Me.”  This means there is no other way outside of Jesus Christ.  No matter what society says, no matter how high up on the smart-meter you may be, there is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ alone.

Two (2)…

Once we recognize this, there are two things we need to do.  One…we need to acknowledge that we are sinners saved by His grace, because of the work He has done.  Two… we need to accept Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.  This means every action, reaction, decision or step must be taken in light of His mission and the direction He has for your life.   Once this is completed, you are ready for three (3)…

Three (3)…

Jesus gave us three things we need to do for Him, in this life.  This is what we call the Great Commission.  He explains this in Matthew 28:19-20…

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

One….we need to make disciples.  As I’ve stated in other blogs, this is not like making a cake.  Instead, the word here for make means to lead.  It means we have a vested interest in leading someone to Christ.  We lead them by helping them understand how like them, Jesus saved us and wants to save them too.  We lead them in prayer by helping them understand how to ask for forgiveness and cry out to God for salvation.  We lead them into becoming a disciple.

Two…we lead them into their first act of obedience, baptism.  We lead them into publicly proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to their family and community, through baptism.  We show them the excitement of being saved and encourage obedience with this first act.

Three…we teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded us.  We teach them by leading through Scripture.  We can’t teach if we don’t know what Jesus commanded and we can only know what Jesus commanded by studying Scripture.  We teach them by leading and showing how joyous it is to serve Jesus Christ by serving others.  We teach them by leading and showing what the Beatitudes mean and how to live by them.  We teach them by leading and showing what it means to be compassionate toward others that hate us.  We teach them by leading and showing what grace is, towards a lost and dying world.

It’s not complicated.  In fact, the mission is very simple…

Be united in a divided world by leading others to Christ, to baptism and to obedience.

As leaders, we need to teach this from the pulpit and in private.  If we, as leaders, are not pointing our messages toward the cross of Jesus Christ, then we are being disobedient to our God-given mission.  Our jobs are to equip the saints (Christians) to do the work of the Great Commission.  But we can’t expect our people to do the Great Commission if they don’t understand what it is.  We can’t expect our people to do the Great Commission if we are selves aren’t practicing the Great Commission.

If you’re like me, you probably want to see your church grow.  God will only grow our churches if we are obedient to his Great Commission.  Once we all take part in teaching our people what the Great Commission is and how to do it, then and only then will God allow our churches to grow.

Let’s be sure that this statistic changes from over 50% not knowing to over 50% knowing and doing the Great Commission.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Better Together


Over the last number of weeks, there has been a reoccurring theme in my everyday life…unity.

Everywhere we look, there is something or someone trying to divide us.  Whether it is CNN versus Fox News, who is for versus who is against the President, Republican versus Democrat, or one of my favorites, those who are tolerant versus those who are intolerant.  No matter where you look, there is a “spirit” of division that is increasing in strength and power and for evangelical Christians, this is becoming an increasing problem.

What problem you may ask?  Well, if you’re in any church regularly, you will find those who stand on one of the sides of the political/social fence.  The problem comes in when those same people decide to take a stand for one of those sides.  Once someone does that, another person comes around to argue how wrong the other party is.  Then over a very short period of time, this argument increases in intensity and frequency causing a division among those who are supposed to worship together.

When outsiders come in, they don’t see this behavior right away, but as they come week after week, some of them make the assumption that our churches are divided just like the rest of the world.  They question whether they should they keep coming or just stay home?  They hear about who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for them, but in reality, they see people who are supposed to be joyful and changed, but those same people argue over divided topics of the day.  The actions of individuals taint the Good News for plain old regular news.

So how can we change this perception?  What can we do to ensure the Good News stays good?  We need to be better together.

In John 13, we see Jesus serving his disciples by washing their feet.  Then during the Passover meal, he lets his disciples know that Judas was going to betray him.  Judas immediately leaves and the rest of the disciples stay with Jesus.  Right after Judas leaves, Jesus communicates the following:

“A new command I give to you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35 NIV

Did you notice something?  This is a command, not a suggestion.  Jesus knew that his disciples weren’t going to agree on everything.  In fact, Jesus, being God, knew that over time, there would be various denominations based on how people interpret theology.  Unfortunately, He also knew that over time, the “love of most will grow cold.”  It is because of this love growing cold that division reigns and grows stronger.

So how do we love one another?  How can we show the world we aren’t like the rest of the world?  We can do what Jesus did.

Remember, right before Jesus tells them to love each other, He goes out of his way to wash their feet.  This action of washing their feet was a representation how to love, forgive and serve others.  Jesus wanted to display the kind of love we need to have with others.  First, as his new command was to love each other, he also wanted us to forgive each other as well.

Peter tried not to have his feet washed by Jesus, but Jesus told Peter that if he didn’t allow him to wash his feet, Peter could not have any part with Jesus.  Then Peter said, “Then wash my whole body.”  Jesus then reminded him that only those who are dirty over their entire body need to be cleansed.  Peter only needed his feet to be cleansed.

What Jesus was telling Peter was, “Son, I have already made you clean.  You don’t need that.  What you need is forgiveness in your daily walk.  That is why your feet are dirty.”  Isn’t that a wonderful application?  Our walk in this life is not a clean one.  Many times, we do things or say things we regret.  We shout when we should be silent.  We act when we should wait.  We look towards when we should look away.  No matter how you dice it, our daily lives need daily forgiveness.

This is where the command of loving each other comes in.  Just as Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, signifying daily cleansing, Jesus also did the washing.  When we forgive others for their sins towards us, we wash their dirty feet.  When someone forgives us for something we said or did, they wash our dirty feet.  We display our love for each other by forgiving each other.

We also display our love by forgiving the sins of others outside of the church.  If you look at any social media outlets, you will find millions of postings pointing the finger of negative news from one person or group of people to another.    We hear things like, “It’s Obama’s fault” or “It’s Trump’s fault”.  We read posts which invoke hatred rather than love.  We see images of condemnation rather than forgiveness.

Prior to Jesus’ death, he was asked, “How many times should we forgive others?  Seven times?”  In biblical times, it was thought that forgiving the same person for the same sin seven times was enough grace and mercy.  However, Jesus had a different idea towards this.  His reply was, “Seventy times seven.  This is how often you need to forgive.”  It wasn’t the number that was important but the idea of forgiveness.

We can’t keep track of how many times we forgive others, especially, if it is continual.  Jesus knew this.  So he gave the disciples a number they couldn’t comprehend, according to their tradition.  The disciples immediately knew that forgiveness should be unconditional and ever present.

What would our society look like if we stopped all the division and presented a pattern of forgiveness?  Forgiveness to those who sin against us over and over again.  Forgiveness to those who display hatred towards Christ and His church.  Forgiveness that is unconditional and ever present.  How would our neighbors react if our display of love went beyond those who look or act like us?  Forgiveness is not just for those who attend church, but it is also for those who are lost.

We also display our love towards others by serving them.  Jesus served his disciples.  He didn’t want them to wash his feet.  He wanted to wash theirs.  This meant that as a leader, He was willing to do the dirty work, while others reap the benefits.

Imagine if churches today, served their communities.  What if the church went out of its way to serve the community they worship in?  In biblical times, the temple was the epicenter of society.  Everything revolved around the temple.  Markets were all around the temple for travelers who couldn’t bring their sacrifice.  People met, worshipped, talked and lived around the temple.

In Acts 2, we find the early church serving their community while meeting in the temple for worship.  What would our communities look like if we centered everything we did around the church?  It used to be.  What would happen if we tried this again?  How would the people in our community react?

Down the block from my church is a Sheik Temple.  No matter what time of the day or evening, there is always hustle and bustle around their temple, why?  Because they believe in community living.  They live, work and shop in places owned by them.  They know that if they support each other, they also support their local temple.

This was the early churches mindset.  The early church went out of their way to help others.  They took care of those who were left for dead.  They adopted unwanted children.  They gave to those who were in need.  They supplied the needs and cares of those they lived among.  Why don’t we do the same today?  It is because we have forgotten the new command Jesus gave to love each other.

When we love each other, we will have a tendency to forgive and serve each other.  Once we do that, we then move into our communities and forgive and serve them as well.  In this way, we display the kind of love Jesus commanded and when outsiders see this, they will know we are His children.

However, when we share hateful, hurtful or condemning words, we prove to the world, that our form of Christianity is no different than the rest of the world.  Our calling was not to stand up for one political agenda or another.  Our calling goes beyond the boundaries of the United States.  Our calling goes into all the world.  Our calling is to love one another and love the lost.

We are called to live lives that are different than the rest of society.  One way we can display that difference is in loving each other, loving outsiders and serving our communities.  Once we get a handle on that, then we can discuss the differences.  Only when we display our love towards all and serve all, can we understand that the things that divide us are not meant for our good, but are meant to destroy.

Live different lives.  Live better lives.  Live unified.  Know that we are all better together when we love others just as Jesus Christ loves us.  God bless and encourage someone today.

Like our Fore-Fathers


Have you ever read something and just can’t get it out of your head?

Yesterday morning, as I was doing my devotions, I read through Amos 5.  Although the entire chapter was intriguing, I found a few of the verses quite compelling to my mind:

“Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?  It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him.  Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20 NASB)

It wasn’t the prose that gripped my mind, but it was the essence of what these words mean.

At this time, Israel had rejected God and gone after idols and sensuality.  They had rebelled against the very one who had rescued them time and time again from their enemies.  The kings of Israel had decided that it was better to lead the people in the ways of immorality, idolatry and ignorance.  They had experienced the temporary happiness of wealth, wine and women and forsook the eternal joy of their Creator.

However, even though they had forsaken God, they still observed the “rules” and “traditions” contained within the Torah.  They completed the festivals, burned the offerings and did each task as required, but their mindset was one of rote instead of gratitude.  We know this by God’s reaction to them in the next few verses:

“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.  Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24 NASB)

The Israelites continued to worship in the methods and traditions they always had.  They completed the tasks and rituals they were supposed to.  They sang the songs and recited the prayers as they had always done.  However, their hearts were not present.  So why did this grip me the way it did?  Recently, as I study church history, I noted a pattern within the church that is exactly the same in ancient Israel.

There are two topics here that are very prevalent within today’s church.  The first is concern with the End Time events.  When will the Lord return?  When will the rapture take place?  When will God’s judgement be poured out on sinful mankind?  These are the questions of today.  We discuss, debate and degrade each other when we cannot come to a consensus.  We concern ourselves with the details of the events, the bewilderment of figurative or contextual language.  We look toward the sky and cry out to God about the sins of the earth.  We sing the songs of the Psalmist and shout praises from the mountaintops.  Yet in all of this, we forget the heart of God and where His heart remains; for the lost.

This is not to say that the topic of the return of Christ isn’t important.   It is.  Paul, John, Daniel and others examine the events surrounding this time, which is yet to come.  However, as we read through the text, we seem to forget that it is not a time to rejoice in, but to mourn.  We mourn because those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior will suffer His wrath and eternal damnation.

God had picked Amos, the shepherd, to proclaim His words to His people.  God wanted Israel to know that the day of the Lord is not something to look forward to.  It is a day to beware and mourn, a day of reckoning and a day where people will run from one tragic event to another, only to find themselves in the grips of death.

Amos said the day of the Lord is like a man who fled from a lion but meets a bear as he flees.  Or after he flees the bear, he runs home, exhausted only to lean on the wall to be bitten by a snake.  Then the venom of the snake rushes through his body and courses through his veins.  It begins the process of breaking down blood cells, killing the coagulation agents and finally killing the tissue it comes in contact with.  It is a time of great suffering for those who do not believe.

We have forgotten the love, grace and mercy for the lost.  We proclaim about injustice in the world.  We cry about our rights being taken away.  We shout against Republican or Democrat, Socialist or Communist.  We forget that it matters not what party you belong to, what color you are or what social environment you are a part of.  What matters are there are lost people who don’t realize that they are headed toward eternal separation from God.

It is when we forget about the lost, that God deems our worship invalid.  When we forget the lost, our songs are just noise from our lips, not making any sense nor pleasing to the ear.  When we forget the lost, our offerings are rejected and not used, our sacrifices are looked upon as dung.  When we do not have the heart of the Father, there is no use in our worship, no worth in our worship.

When I look at social media, I find many who proclaim the rights of American over the love of Christ.  Many proclaim the evangelism of democracy rather than evangelize the lost, showing that the love of democracy supersedes their love of God.  This is the basic definition of idolatry.

Like Israel, we have a golden calf.  I love my country and know beyond any shadow of doubt that this is the greatest country in the world.  I love the stars and stripes, Old Glory.  The red stripes representing the blood spilled to unite our country and fight the tyranny of England.  However, I love the stripes of Jesus Christ all the more.  His blood which was spilt to save us who are lost.

So how do we solve this dilemma?  How do we change our mindset and actions?

First, we must repent.  Repentance is turning around and walking the opposite direction we have been going.  We must forsake our idols which so easily entangle us both individually and corporately and turn around toward the cross of Jesus Christ.

Second, we need to study.  Scripture has been given to us for our benefit.  It proclaims the love and redemption of God and provides us insight into how to proceed in sharing God’s message.  It warns us, encourages us and teaches us about the wonderful saving message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Third, we must pray.  Simply put, praying is how we communicate and commune with God.  It is how we cry out to Him when we are hurting.  It is how we proclaim His glory.  It is how we intervene for our loved ones and it is how we show our concern for the lost and our enemies.  Prayer is an essential part of our daily lives.

Fourth, we must fellowship with other believers.  This is more than just spending time together.  It is an intimate process.  Because of Jesus Christ, our lives are intertwined with each other.  We are now brothers and sisters.  Regardless of our looks, cultural background or past experiences, we are family and are to care for each other.  We are to share our struggles, confess our sins and encourage each other into a closer relationship with God.  Without fellowship, we deny ourselves the necessary nutrients for our spiritual bodies.  We starve ourselves from the relationships God desires us to have with each other.

Lastly, we must reach out.  This is more than just sharing the Gospel.  It is getting involved in people’s lives that are lost.  It is caring for those who don’t care for us.  It is loving those who have been deemed unloved.  The best example of this was Jesus Christ.  He ate with the dredge of the earth, tax collectors, adulterers and sinners.  He healed those who were hurting and freed those who were slaves.  Like him, we too must not be afraid to associate with those who are hurting, with those who are hungry and with those who are thirsty for something more than just this life.

The Scriptures have warned us.  We are not to be so enamored by arguable doctrines rather we need to be enamored by sharing the heart of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.  As we move away from our idols and toward the cross, we will find that the things we once fought for are just like a dust in the wind.  We will find ourselves loving others as Christ loves us.  We will find ourselves serving others and sharing the Gospel with those in need.  We will find that our own hearts and those of our churches will once again be transformed because of the renewing of our minds.  We will find that all we stand for can be solved if we just place our trust in Jesus Christ and His mission, to seek and save those who are lost.

God bless and encourage someone today.

I Survived and Lived to Be a Difference – #isalt


Over 80 years ago, there was a movement that would change the course of history.  A charismatic leader began to speak to the public, promising a life filled with happiness and security.  Many times, this leader would speak with children by his side to show his support of the furtherance of securing the children’s future.  The problem was not what was promised, but rather the method by which he felt this security and prosperity would occur.

In 1923, this same leader wrote a book, while in prison, called Mein Kompf (My struggle) where he filled the pages of why he hated Jews so much.  In this horrific text, Adolf Hitler gives his hate-filled explanation that Jews were the reason why Germany was in so much trouble.  Obviously, this was influenced by the Prince of Darkness, Satan, himself.  However, out of this terrible time period of history, influenced by evil, there were countless stories of survivors.

Some had survived mass military style executions.  Some had survived the concentration camps.  Others ran for their lives and hid while their families were gathered for execution.  Regardless of the stories, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their survival, there seems to be a common theme among each of these survivor stories – they survived and wanted to make a positive difference.

Have you gone through something so traumatic, so horrific that you wondered why you survived?  Do you think it may be possible that your survival was meant for something so much more?

These questions came to mind after my experience in 1993.  After I had survived an attack while someone was attempting to steal my car, I began to look at my life and ask myself some questions.  Why did I survive?  What was I supposed to learn from this?  How can this be used to benefit others?  I also began to look back at my life and realized something, God had been (and continues) protecting me all my life.

In 1972, as a young toddler, I pulled a piping hot coffee pot onto me.  I had been burned on most of my chest.  When I was a little bit older, I had a habit of climbing up into trees that swayed freely in the wind on branches that shouldn’t have held me.  As time went on, I had fought every day for 3 straight years because I had been fed up with being bullied.  Right after high school, I had made a trip to Haiti with my church only to find out that within minutes of taking off to leave Haiti, a coup had occurred and our safety would have been in jeopardy, had we stayed or been delayed.  Even after all of this, God allowed me to survive the attack in 1993.  It was because of this, I concluded that God had been saving me for a purpose.

As I began to pray and reach out to God, he graciously began to reveal why I had been allowed to survive.  He showed me the story of Peter drowning but surviving because Jesus Christ had pulled Peter to safety.  He showed me the stories of Paul, who was shipwrecked at sea and stoned for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Both of these men had once rejected God, rejected the Savior and yet it was the same Jesus who called them into a relationship with him and allowed their survival to have a purpose, to make a positive difference in the lives of others.  It was through these stories that I realized my life was not my own.  In fact, my life was saved for the same reason as Paul and Peter, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, before I could share the Gospel, I also needed to realize that my life was not where God wanted it to be either.  It was then I began to make the commitment to grow in the faith given to me so that I can help in fulfilling the greatest commission ever given to mankind:

“Therefore, go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

It was during this time of learning that I found out how inefficient I was at sharing the message of Jesus Christ.  God allowed me to realize I had preconceived ideas about people groups and philosophies.  He showed me that to neglect those who are considered the lowest of my time is to reject Jesus Christ and His message.  It was revealed to me that my prejudices, my dislikes were not toward a specific action but toward a people who were different than I.  How could I make a positive difference if I held so many sins in my life?

You see, I learned my life was an anger filled, hatred, bigoted and filled with lies.  I was able to convince people of things that never even happened in my life.  The process of learning who I was, was not easy.  It hurt.  It was very painful but it was necessary.  It was necessary for me to allow God to destroy the wickedness inside of me to produce a branch that had good fruit on it.  This good fruit would benefit others in a positive way by leading them back to the Savior.

Through Scripture I learned that I was a new creation in Christ.  The old me had passed away and the new me was birthed.  This then led me to the painful journey of evaluation.  I needed to ask God, what David asked of him, to destroy any wicked way in me.  From there, I needed to realize that those who tried to take my life, did so out of ignorance and blindness.  The book of Romans teaches that all have sinned and we all fall short of the glory of God.  Therefore, the only difference between me and my attackers were that Jesus called to me and I responded.  They have yet to respond to His calling.

After this, I learned that Jesus ate and spent time with people who were thought to be useless in society.  He had healed those who had ailments from birth, sickness for many years, people who were thought to be property and not people.  The leaders of his day asked how he could eat and spend time with such people.  It was then Jesus showed his compassion by saying that the sick need a doctor, so these people need him.

You and I need Jesus in our lives.  We need to rely on His power, His strength and His wisdom to get us through each and every day.  We may struggle with being a survivor, with anxieties and paranoia but we also are called by Jesus to be His because He loves us.  Survivors, like us, are meant for something bigger.

Over the past few years, I have watched as people I know have passed away for various reasons.  Some from cancer or accidents or old age.  I evaluated the lifestyles of each of these and came to the following conclusion….life and death are in the hands of God.  It is not up to us how long we live, it is up to God.

Being a survivor means, God has given us the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others.  Being a survivor means, that we have a purpose greater than ourselves.  Being a survivor means we have been saved to share that experience with others to lead them straight to the cross of Jesus Christ.

If you ever wondered why your life was spared, read the book of Acts.  Read about those who survived many trials and tribulations, yet had the fortitude to proceed with the responsibility that God placed into their hands.

Hopefully, you and I can also live lives that God is not only pleased with but that will make a positive difference in others.  So what do you say?  Are you ready to begin the next phase of your journey?  Are you ready to help others?  Are you ready to share your story?

How has your survivor story positively influenced others?  Share your story in the comments box.

May God continue to use you as He sees fit.  God bless and encourage someone today.