Category Archives: Christian

Breaking tradition: It’s time for ministry outside of the pulpit

PhotoGrid_1432925643414Are we serving God traditionally, or according to His Word? These days, whenever we talk in the church about breaking tradition, we suggest removing some things because they’re “religious”. As though there’s something wrong with religion. My Bible tells me in James 1:27 that there is a pure and undefiled religion. Religion is only in vain when the man himself isn’t changed (James 1:26), but there’s nothing wrong with religion itself. However, when it comes to spreading the Gospel, tradition is a threat to stifle what God wanted spread to the world.

It is in fact The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) that tells us to go. Our ministries are called to be mobile, outside the church walls. The days of sitting still in the pulpit waiting for an opportunity to preach are past. This isn’t to suggest that anyone disrespect leadership or strike out on their own. However, it is to state that God has provided so many different avenues for ministry these days that it’s almost lazy for associate ministers or evangelists to sit still inside of a church and do nothing with their calling, and shortsighted for pastors to not allow room for those associates and evangelists to explore avenues outside of the church where the gospel can be spread.

Now, I realize that this thinking may get me in trouble with some traditionalists. I’m definitely on the radar for saying it out loud, but this has always been my nature: Think about it, pray about it, wait for confirmation, and then speak about it. Some pastors have progressed to the point of encouraging those under them to grow in their calling and go into the world and help to spread this Gospel. They keep a watchful eye to make sure that purity and context are maintained, but they’re also encouraging. But, let’s be real. There are plenty of ministers that have been trained, not to speak, but to sit still and quiet. There are still plenty of pastors that believe that those beneath them are to be seen and not heard until they’re comfortable in their own spirit. While this is wise in some cases (as some just aren’t ready), where there’s an obvious anointing on others, it’s counterproductive.

Understand that this isn’t a strike at older pastors. There are many younger pastors that hold to some of the same traditions because that’s how they were brought along (hence, tradition). However, it is a strike against holding to tradition instead of yielding to the Holy Spirit. There are times when God will anoint and ordain outside of what our traditions call for. There are times when God will elevate sooner than our timetable suggests that He should. There are times when God will break up our traditions just to make us aware that He is in fact God and that He is not beholden to the same rules that we try and hold man to.

Times are different now, and therefore, we must understand that ministry needs to be different to meet the needs of the time. There was a time when the only way the Gospel could be spread from city to city, state to state, and country to country, was through physical travel. While pastors were necessary, it was in fact evangelists that spread the Gospel beyond the church walls. However, with the advent of things like the internet, social media, cell phones, and independent publishing, along with the progression of television and radio ministries, we have a lot more avenues to reach the masses. Because of all of these advancements, we can’t allow tradition to stifle the spreading of God’s Word because “we’ve never done it like that before”.

It’s amazing that we sometimes believe that growth should stop with the invention of the thing that we excel in. What that means is we have many pulpit preachers and pastors that can’t handle the progress that ministry has made. The idea that someone could reach people using something other than just the pulpit can be intimidating to someone that only knows that model. What’s often overlooked is the fact that preaching the way that they preach was once new, different, and questioned as well.

Consider the fact that some preachers, and even pew members in the black church still don’t feel as if someone has “preached’ if they don’t get excited or “whoop” in their sermons, as if that’s the only way that God’s Word can be proclaimed. The truth is that God’s Word has prevailed through many changes in delivery over the centuries and millenniums, and there’s no reason to believe that it will stop because a minister has tapped into a new way that God has provided to spread the message.

This is not an endorsement for any and every one to start blogs, YouTube accounts and Facebook pages to spread just anything. A person still needs to be trained in the Word of God, they still need to be mentored, and they still need to be tried and proved before they embark on The Great Commission. After all, that’s what Jesus did with the disciples. But the notion that the pulpit provides some sort of validation that the truth is being spoken is shortsighted. Many a preacher, and even some pastors, have stood in the pulpit and spoken Scripture out of context, as well as given their own theology in place of what The Bible teaches.

The fact is every generation goes further than the previous, because God never downgrades His people. We can’t allow traditional ways of ministry to stifle the growth of the Kingdom. Some of God’s best preachers and evangelist are sitting in a pulpit silent because some pastors have a traditional mindset towards the Gospel. Because some of these pastors have this mindset, they’re silencing people that God has ordained to speak to the masses and to a new generation of believers, in languages and ways that they can comprehend. Some of these traditionalist are attempting to protect the sanctity of “their” pulpits, while at the same time attempting to silence many of God’s new spokesmen and women.

It’s not that God changes, because the Bible says that He doesn’t (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). However, God always presents us with advancements. In technology, in learning, in thinking, and yes, in His servants. The idea that God hasn’t improved on the preaching, teaching, and evangelism of His Gospel is to sell God short. It is to limit God and to say that once He created all of the great preachers of years past, that He somehow became unable to top Himself. But as I’ve often mentioned while teaching Bible class, God has a replacement for all of us, and it’s an upgrade. Even if it isn’t necessarily in ability or delivery, in may be in sincerity towards the work of the Gospel.

The idea of tradition in itself is to suggest that the way it was done before and all of the years since was not only the best way, but the only way, the pinnacle, and there can be no modifications or improvements. To change anything at all is to damage it. How would that have worked out if we never improved from rotary phones to cells? From typewriters to computers? From the horse and carriage, to the Model T, to what we drive today? Some traditions are good and never need to be removed. However, every tradition should be periodically checked, and modified if necessary to reflect the times we live in now. Failing to do so will cause stagnation. The only thing worse than watching the world pass us by has to be standing still without even trying to keep up.

The church has a great many traditions. Some were meant to be oppressive, while others were there to maintain order in God’s house. But our overall mission should be that the Gospel is spread and souls are saved. We can’t get caught up in arguments about how, as long as it’s done according to God’s Word. If something is done according to the Word of God, that’s not tradition. That’s just doing things the right way. But when something is done in a way that we’re unaccustomed to and it offends our sensibilities, that’s when we are to rely on the Holy Spirit. Just because we don’t understand a way that’s new to us, doesn’t mean it isn’t God’s way.

God is not on our timetable, and He may be moving faster because the time in nigh. If we do what we’ve always done, we get what we’ve always gotten. We’re in a new level of spiritual warfare these days, as the Bible warned us we would be (2 Timothy 3:1-7). The devil has tweaked his approach (internet, cell phones, etc), but his message is still the same: death and destruction. Why can’t we do the same thing? Tweak the approach, but maintain the message (eternal life through Jesus Christ).

The blessings in “all things”

FullSizeRender(2)How thoroughly do you read your Bible? Do you skip over words that seem insignificant, but in fact, they hold some significant power in the verse? We’ve all done it before. We look for the most majestic words in a sentence, all the while overlooking the strength that God has hidden in the small and seemingly unimportant. By simply taking the Bible word for word, you can receive the fullness of what God has to say to you.

Look at Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”. Now, we all know that there’s power whenever Christ is mentioned in the text. However, once we get beyond Jesus, we often seek the power in the words “I can”. Yes, it’s in our human nature to focus on what we can do. However, when we do that, we often miss “all things”. Sometimes we misunderstand and misapply it, while other times we overlook its significance. We often see “all things” as an opportunity. We see it as God blessing us with gain. Also, “I can do all things” becomes a battle cry against those that oppose us or in instances where we’re trying to achieve things. But we often miss the entire blessing in the words “all things”.

These two words cover a multitude of things. We must remember that doing all things through Christ covers things beyond what we desire for our material growth. Those words also cover our healing. They cover grief when you feel like you can’t make it through. They cover broken homes and financial hardships. They cover wayward children. And yes, they cover church dysfunction and spiritual growth. Yes, when that scripture tells us that we can do all things through Christ, it really means all things!

One of my pet peeves is Scripture being taken out of context. All of us have been guilty of pulling Scripture out just to make a point, while not really considering the context in which it was spoken. Philippians 4:13 falls into this category. We see that we can do all things, but we don’t go back a few verses to find out exactly why the Apostle Paul was making this statement.

An examination of the Book of Philippians provides some insight. Paul, writing this letter to the church at Philippi from jail, is still rejoicing in The Lord. In the midst of his circumstances, he remains confidant in Christ! Sometimes we struggle to look past our circumstances to the God that controls it all, but as Christians we must always look to Christ rather than focusing on the bars that imprison us. If we aren’t trusting God in all things, we begin to focus on our limitations, and not His power.

By Philippians 4:11-12, Paul tells us in those verses that he has learned that Christ sustains him, no matter what his situation may be. Whether he’s rich or poor, hungry or full, or whether he’s high or low, he knows that Christ is his strength. This gives us the proper perspective. Does this verse apply to our various quests in life to be prosperous or to overcome our adversaries in life? Yes, it does. But we must also remember that this verse is a survivor’s verse. It’s a verse that reminds us that no matter what we may face in life, we can conquer it through Christ (also see Romans 8:35-39)!

Scripture also tells us in Philippians 2:5: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”. So we can’t trust God in “all things” with the mind of the unsaved. When we fail to look to Jesus in all things, when we lack the faith that God can bring us through all of the situations that we face in life, we are thinking with an unsaved mind. Not to suggest that you are unsaved if you lack confidence, but you’re engaging in unsaved thinking.

Its human nature to have fear and anxiety in certain situations, but we as saved Christians ought to have a new nature. We ought to be different. We ought to have a change in our mindset. A change that will allow us to see things in the spirit, not the flesh. Keep 2 Corinthians 5:17 in your hearts: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. Not some things. Not a few things. Not the things that we thought we couldn’t outrun. No, if you’re in Christ, ALL THINGS become new!

The pulpit is not a boxing ring

Old-NewHave you ever really considered the brutality of boxing? The primary goal is to beat your opponent until you win or until they quit. Often times, they’re beaten so badly that they’re knocked out cold. We often sit back and watch all of this happening without really considering the pain of the loser. In fact, we even root for the knockout. While this kind of battle is fine within the confines of sport or a boxing ring, such battles anywhere else would seem barbaric.

What’s worse is when something like this happens in a place that’s supposed to offer love, peace, understanding, loving correction, and salvation. It’s not healthy when the people of God have to sit ringside while a fight is happening between the pulpit and the congregation. An unfair fight because the congregation is fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

A wise preacher told me as he was preparing me to preach my first sermon to never listen to the rumors of the crowd. He told me that when you do, you start to preach for them, or if you disagree with them, you’ll preach at them. As I’ve grown in ministry, not only have I learned how true this is, but I’ve also learned how dangerous this can be to the local church.

The pulpit is not a place to work out your personal beefs with the congregation. This thought was confirmed for me as I listened to a sermon on this past Sunday evening as one of my brothers in the ministry was being installed as pastor. The Pastor delivering the sermon for the occasion reminded us: “If God told you to do something, you don’t need to explain it over and over again. Just stand on it!” It’s a simple statement, but a powerful one. Once you start trying to convince people to stand with you rather than standing with God, your “position” becomes suspect.

We haven’t been called to combat rumors about us. We’ve been called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A preacher must sometimes close his ears to man, while always keeping his heart open to God. By doing this, he’s sure to always speak what God has told him to speak.

For example, if someone is speaking ill of a preacher or questioning his motives, as a man or woman of God, they should expect that. Jesus warned us about such things (Matthew 5:11-12). The fleshly reaction is when fired upon, return fire. But the spiritual reaction, the Godly reaction, may be to preach a sermon about love and let that marinate with the people that are allegedly hating on you. Proverbs 15:1 says: “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger”. It’s all about what God would have you to say, not about your feelings being hurt or you being challenged.

The truth here is that God often gives instructions to his mouthpiece that wouldn’t be understood by others. In fact, at times, those instructions are not fully understood by the individual He’s spoken it to. So it stands to reason that if you can fully explain it, there’s a good chance it’s your idea and not God’s. Following God requires faith because we don’t always know where we’re going, what we’re doing, or even why we’re doing it. But if man can break the “plan” all the way down, there’s a chance God isn’t in it. Moses is one of the greatest examples we have of this.

When we turn the pulpit into a battleground against anyone but Satan, we’re not edifying the body of Christ. Think about that boxing match for a moment. Rarely do you find people that just wanna see a good fight. Whether openly or secretly, we’re all rooting for one of the fighters to win. If you’re preaching at someone, the people will begin to choose sides, and when that happens, the perception of choosing between “good and evil” is present. A spirit of separation, or “us against them”, is then fostered. This can cause friends to go against friends, and even family members can be divided. I know this because I’ve experienced it personally.

The call to preach is a scared call, but that can be easily forgotten when we allow ourselves to get caught up in the flesh or in man’s perception of us or what we’re doing. No matter how long you’ve been doing it, your feelings get hurt and you wanna fight fire with fire. This becomes even more dangerous on Sunday morning when we have everyone’s attention, the microphone, and a platform where there’s no allotment for Q & A. It’s so easy to want to get even or to set things or people straight. But is that what you’re called to do?

The only person that man should follow blindly is God. So if you’ve done or said something that people can’t grasp, you shouldn’t be offended if they can’t get behind it. Their faith should be in God, not man. If in fact God told you do something, stand on it! All will be revealed in time. If you remain a man or woman after God’s heart, He’ll be sure to continue to speak to yours, no matter what the people are saying about you or what you’re doing. God has a way of bringing all of His plans to fruition without ever needing man to explain anything. All we have to do is continue to walk in the call and continue to abide in Him. True people of God aren’t coming to church to hear us defend ourselves. They’re coming to hear us defend the faith.

Why is the “church” so mean?

Rev JacksonThis may not apply to everyone reading this, and if it’s not you, consider yourself blessed. But if it’s not happening where you attend, don’t assume that it’s not happening anywhere. If we’re being honest about things, the local church (not the universal body of believers) can be one of the meanest places that we’ll ever attend. Not all churches, but a lot of them. There’s gossip, backbiting, judgment, sinful behavior, and people with self-serving agendas. All of this amongst people that claim to be worshipping a loving God. All of this amongst people that claim to love everyone. How can a place established by a loving Savior be a haven for this kind of behavior?

Understand that this behavior isn’t representative of the God we serve. The reason so many people go running out of the church after being mistreated is because they fail to remember that they’re serving a perfect God amongst imperfect people. Only people that are still capable of hurting one another can cause a term like “church hurt” to become popular. But that isn’t God’s plan, nor is it His doing.

Being mean, disrespectful, or hurtful is like a disease, and any disease that goes untreated can fester and become a detriment to your overall health. Pretending that it’s not there doesn’t help either. We all know that church can be a difficult place at times, and some of us are even brave enough to say it out loud. But knowing it isn’t the same as addressing it and treating it.

How many times will we turn a blind eye and deaf ear to things happening in the church that we know are wrong? How many times will we allow those with the wrong disposition to continue on without correcting them in love? And how many times will people go running from our churches in pain, and rather than trying to fix what’s wrong, we either try to convince them to come back to a bad situation, or just let them go?

Let’s look at 5 things that I believe that are causing our churches to be mean, and one word that we can all look to in order to change it all:

1. Lack of group study – Loving those that love us is easy, but we must be taught to love everyone else. The Bible classes are the least attended service in the church, and yet our pews are filled each Sunday morning with people that claim to have a deep understanding of God and His Word, just based off of church membership. But even a 9 to 5 job will send you to training periodically just to make sure you’re still capable of performing. In the church, such training isn’t mandatory, but it’s even more necessary. But if it’s not mandatory and we don’t see the benefit, we will refuse it.

We’re quick to tell everyone that Jesus was all about love, but we don’t study Him enough to find out just who He was loving on: people with issues, people with illnesses, people with demons, and people less fortunate. He even loved people that blasphemed His name and crucified Him. And yet, we struggle to love people that disagree with us from time to time because we refuse to acknowledge that we’re all capable of being wrong.

How can we throw our Bibles at people when we don’t know it as we should? I’m amazed that we feel that we’re able to know and love the God of the Bible, and carry out His mandate, without ever spending time in His Word with fellow believers (Hebrews 10:25). In order for us to truly know how God wants us to live and how God wants us to love, we must go away from our own understanding and get to God’s understanding (Proverbs 3:5-7). If we can’t stand one another to the point that we can’t even study together, how will we ever carry the love of Christ out into a world filled with sin and in need of genuine love?

2. We don’t preach about sin anymore – We’ve become so afraid of offending, that we’ve softened and/or watered down our message. These days, no one is offended, but at the same time, many don’t know when they’re out of order. Preaching about sin isn’t to be done in order to beat the people down. It’s done to let them know where God’s boundaries are. When we fail to correct the church, how will the church ever know what is and isn’t acceptable, according to God and His Word?

The truth of God’s Word should never be compromised for the fleshly comfort of the people. There are no comfortable seats in hell, and not telling people the error of their ways not only puts the preacher in danger, but it also causes naïve Christians to go out into the world and live below the Word of God, due to a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).

When we fail to raise the bar of Christian conduct in our churches, we in effect adopt an “anything goes” attitude. If we don’t understand the sin in mistreating one another within the church, how much harsher will we be outside of it? Something we must all understand is that people that are kind in church may or may not be that way outside of it, because man can’t look at the heart so we don’t know whether or not a person’s heart is genuine. But if a person is mean in church, it is highly doubtful that they improve outside of it. In fact, they’re probably worse.

3. Our preachers are now celebrities – This isn’t all the preacher’s fault, but many times it is. For most celebrities, the primary focus is to get people to like them in order to garner support. This often means compromising their truth in order to be what the public wants them to be. Preachers must guard against such things.

If there’s anything that isn’t popular, it is truth. Therefore, it stands to reason that popularity and preaching should often be at odds. If you’re preaching in truth, there will always be a section of the church that doesn’t want to hear you. I may be old fashioned, but I grew up in a time where people may have loved their pastor dearly, but if they weren’t living right, he was anything but popular among them because of the message he carried.

Celebrity preaching goes hand in hand with the lack of preaching on sin. Such preaching may garner some people screaming “amen”, but has anyone been changed? Has anyone been challenged about their ways? Has anyone been rubbed the wrong way because what you said hit too close to home? Has anyone questioned your call, not because your theology was incorrect, but because you dared to speak God’s truth, even if it meant that people wouldn’t speak to you after?

Understand that some preachers are popular through no fault of their own. Some are naturally charismatic and that draws some people with impure motives and inauthentic praise. Some preachers are gifted with song and that draws people that have no interest in God’s Word, but they just want to be close to what they perceive to be a man-made fire.

This isn’t to suggest that any popular preacher isn’t preaching in truth. This is to suggest that any preacher that preaches to gain celebrity status and not to spread the Gospel truth of God’s Word, even if it offends those closest to them, will compromise their message. And anything that isn’t the whole truth is a whole lie, and there is no saving power in a lie.

4. The old guard fears their replacements/tradition – No one wants to move forward. People are comfortable where they are and they’ve dug in. Seasoned saints won’t engage the youth in a spirit of training and preparation to take over, and the youth are afraid to challenge the status quo. In our flesh, we all feel threatened when we think we’re being replaced. In the church, we often feel threatened when it seems that God is ushering in a new way of praise, a new way of worship, and even a new way of preaching The Word. And when people feel threatened, they fight.

Doing things the way you’ve always done it, with the same people, is a good way to stunt church growth. The arguments often come about because the next generation tends to mature faster than the previous one, which means young people may be prepared for leadership sooner than the generation before them were. This can breed resentment and animosity from older church members that not only believe more in time (how long it takes to achieve certain positions in the church) than they do in God-given gifts (something that’s beyond our understanding), but also aren’t quite ready to move over or let go. This poisons the congregation and causes infighting.

The truth is God never changes, but we do. Because we change, how we do things changes. We’re serving the same God, but generations and methods of communications change. Some traditions should remain because they are our link to the past. Some traditions keep order in God’s house. However, there are some traditions that need to change in order to keep the church both fresh and relevant. When the old guard refuses to train their replacements, not only do they hold on to traditions and positions too long, they also block the progress of the church and things become stagnant. Who can maintain a pleasant disposition in a situation like this? You either leave or you stay and become bitter.

When you refuse to let go of the position that you’ve held for 30 years in the church, God can’t give you the next assignment that He has for you. We must release this idea of being “old and useless” in God’s church. As long as there is breath in your body, God has a use for you. We should never discount the role of seasoned mentor!

5. Politics – God has been phased out in favor of factions and cliques. People that aren’t doing anything in the church have control of certain positions and certain people. If you don’t kiss up to them, they’ll sully your name throughout the congregation, even when it’s obvious that God has a call on your life. Study of The Word would show them the dangers of such things, but political people don’t feel that Bible class is as important as membership.

I stated on Facebook once that principles haven’t driven people out of the church, politics has. The idea that you need man’s approval to do anything is God’s house in a hindrance. A Holy Spirit-filled church has the ability to see when God has called someone to do a work for Him. It doesn’t matter if that person has been in the church 10 months or 10 years. If you’re filled with the Spirit, you can see God’s hand on someone’s life, and when God is ready to elevate them, you’re ready to receive them.

When we look at the world we live in, politics are only used to push certain agendas and often to crush the voice of people that supposedly have no power. It’s also used to cause divisions and create anger and animosity among the people. Is this how God wants us conducting ourselves in the church? Does God want us so political in church that we drive more people away than we draw? Politics are designed to control the actions and thinking of people. Aren’t we supposed to be under God’s control?

So what do we need?

If there’s anything that’s made us mean in the church, not only has it been bringing all of these worldly attitudes and attributes into the church, but it’s also been our comfort level with these ways. However, acknowledging one word can help us to rid ourselves of these things: Accountability. We have to stop letting it go. We have to stop saying “That’s just them, they’ve been like that for years”, because if that’s true and we’ve said nothing, we’re partially responsible for who they are. We have to stop pretending that we don’t see it. We have to stop pretending that we aren’t hurting.

We must get back to being Bible-based, and not agenda driven, because agendas can and will clash. God’s Word is steeped in His way of love and His judgment. Therefore, we must remove our will from this equation and live His way.

It’s strange that we’ll sing songs about challenging the enemy, but we refuse to challenge him when he’s in our congregation. When he’s destroying the very fabric of what we are, we won’t lean on James 4:7 which tells us to resist the devil (stand on the Word of God) and he will flee. We must confront the wrongdoing in our churches with The Word and with prayer. If we can’t love in the church, then surely we can’t love in the world. It’s time for a change. It’s time for love. But we’ll never get there if we don’t address the hate and anger.

Our statement on the marriage equality ruling

Image-1[1]I believe the Bible is God’s Holy Word, without error. Therefore, I do not believe that God in any way ordained same-sex unions. I don’t believe in discrimination. I don’t believe in bullying. I don’t believe in violence against those that aren’t like us. I don’t believe any Christian can say with any certainty that there aren’t any homosexuals that have claimed Christ in heaven because we’ve never been and we don’t know who repented. My Bible doesn’t teach me that homosexuality is an unforgivable sin or a greater sin than others, but it does state that it is sin, along with many other things that we as humans do (Romans 1:18-32). Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, which means that we’re all guilty of something.

I believe in love and I believe that God loves us all, but I don’t believe that His love for us is a license to do as we please. He has defined in His Word what is right and what is wrong. This Word is for the Christian community and this Word is what WE (the Christian community) can and should govern ourselves by.

If someone isn’t of the Christian faith, I understand that they wouldn’t accept the Bible as their moral compass. I also understand that there are some that profess Christianity that don’t necessarily agree with all that is in the Bible. Again, that is their prerogative and I respect their right to feel however they feel. My Bible tells me that God never changes, thus, He hasn’t changed His mind about homosexuality or any other sin. If others disagree, again, that’s their prerogative and I respect their right to do as they please. However, these are my beliefs. I don’t expect everyone to share them. This is simply what I believe and I have a right to that belief, just as others have a right to disagree.

Since the Bible has been at the center of this discussion, the Bible is therefore appropriate to use in stating our position on the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriages. Scripture says:

“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (‭Romans‬ ‭12‬:‭18‬ NKJV)”.

So, having said that, the best laws in any country are the ones that don’t cause anyone to go against their moral beliefs. Whether inside or outside of the Christian community, people are going to disagree, and from those disagreements, people should live their lives as they wish, within the law and without infringing on anyone else’s right to do the same. So live and let live isn’t the only order of the day here. Live your life and don’t force anyone else into your standard of living must also be adopted.

We have to move beyond the fallacy that tolerance must be accompanied by agreement. That would be nice, but it’s just not realistic (as many people have tolerated Christians for years, though they didn’t agree with them). Yes, we should love one another as God commanded, but we must also practice tolerance from BOTH SIDES, meaning respecting one’s right to live as they wish, along with respecting one’s right to respectfully and peacefully disagree, and not participate if they feel that strongly about it.

My Bible also commands me to love eveyone as God does, and I still do. No court ruling will change that. I must love this way because God loves me beyond what He disagrees with in my life. As long as a worldly law doesn’t oppress anyone, then we can all live with it. And oppression is in the mind of the beholder, so we shouldn’t try to figure out what is and isn’t oppressive to someone. As long as we allow one another to live according to their own morals, without EITHER SIDE trying to force what they believe down each other’s throats (and BOTH sides are guilty of this), we can more than accomplish the tenets of Romans 12:18: To live peaceably with one another. This is my prayer.

May God bless and keep you all.

God favored you

IMG_1486You were built for this. Before the foundation of the world, God had the design on your life. He favored you. Not because you were better than anyone else, not because you were more talented than anyone else, and not because of anything that anyone did for God on your behalf. God simply chose you to do His will and His work, so that others might come to know Him, glorify Him, and be saved by Him through Jesus Christ. It’s as simple as that.

These words of encouragement aren’t just for you, the reader. They’re words that I use to encourage myself as well. When you’re doing a work for The Lord, it’s easy to forget who called you to the work if you’re not focused. You begin looking at man and the difficulty he can often pose while you’re simply trying to walk as God has commanded. You become discouraged because they can’t see what God has put into your heart, your mind, and your being. The one thing you want everyone to accept, many (some of them close family and friends) reject.

It’s odd, but the more difficult we think something may be for us to do in the way of serving God, the more difficult we think it is for others to do. We often transfer our limitations to one another. And when we’re not doing that, we assume that if God chose someone, we’d automatically see it due to all of our time in the church, or our many years of being saved. After all of the miracles we’ve read about in our Bibles and some that we still witness today, we’re still capable of forgetting that God can still do things above our understanding. And that includes choosing people that we never suspected to do great work.

It can be quite difficult to stay focused on your call when you come face to face with people that have set out to discourage you and roadblock your success. We’re still human and in the midst of persecution, we forget that the God that’s for us is greater than any force that comes against us. And when things don’t fall into place as we expect them to, we wonder if we are in fact on the right path.

Sadly, the place where the most discouragement comes is the place where we’re first called to do the work. For Christians, that means that we’ll face some of our most difficult challenges within the church walls. There are all kinds of jealousies, cliques and agendas that will make working for The Lord the most challenging thing you’ve ever done.

I addressed this very thing once on my weekly radio broadcast. I talked about the jealousy that often exists in the preaching ministry. Preaching is a difficult and often lonely task. It seemed to me that if there was ever a time to welcome another soldier to the army, it would be in the ranks of preaching. However, there are times when other preachers don’t want to see others called into the ministry because they believe it will take something away from them. I surmise that any preacher that has a jealousy of another preacher probably hasn’t been called, because true preachers of the Gospel know that we need all the help we can get. Those of us that have been called welcome the help.

Difficulty in God’s favor also comes in the form of people that have a hard time accepting the transformation that comes in your life. They assume that everyone that God has preordained for the call simply walks out of their mother’s womb into the call. They fail to realize that the vast majority of us have to go through some sort of major transformation before we can really realize the work we’ve been called to do. As I often state, in our flesh we’re only interested in completed projects. We have no time or patience for works in progress.

Where home (the church) should be a place of reinforcement and encouragement, it often becomes a place of rejection and discouragement. People are willing to believe that God can part the Red Sea so that the children of Israel can walk over on dry land. They believe that Jesus Christ can raise a man from his grave after he’s been dead for four days. And they believe that the Son of God can be raised from the dead after 3 days. But they struggle to accept that God can transform someone that they never suspected into one of His greatest servants.

They fail to see that by not accepting God’s hands on your life, they’re not downplaying your ability to do God’s work, but they’re in fact downplaying God’s ability to transform you into a capable vessel to do His work. They’re not really selling you short. They’re selling God short!

As we look at Romans 8:28-31, we see that it is in fact God’s plan that the chosen among us do His will and His work. When you read those verses, it tells you that in His infinite wisdom, God chose. He didn’t do so based on man’s standards or expectations, because the moment He acquiesces to our standards, He ceases to be God.

So a preacher may or may not look like you envisioned. An evangelist may or may not look like someone told you they would. A pastor may or may not look like tradition has told you they would. It’s all according to God’s plan. And when you consider that scripture tells us that God will chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27), we must understand that we may never know why or how God chooses. All we need to know is that He is a sovereign God that doesn’t need anyone’s permission, nor does He have to explain His choices.

Even in Jesus’ ministry, His life was designed in such a way that He would be able to reach out to the poor and less fortunate. The rich Pharisees of His day had no compassion for those people, nor did they know how to reach them. However, they responded to One that came from the same impoverished areas that they did.

The same is true in ministry today. God is using new, radical, and non-traditional looking people to carry the Gospel forward. People that can reach the world today. Tradition doesn’t save people. The Word of God does. So when God calls something unexpected to the forefront, rather than question it, we should see it as God using something that He had already set aside for this point in time, and for His own purposes. It may not be your cup of tea, but there’s somebody out there that’s thirsty for what God has brought forward.

If you find yourself in a position where it seems as if man is trying to prevent you from reaching your God-ordained destiny, you must remember that God is more than the world against you. He favored you before anyone could ever disapprove of you. He gave you a foundation before anyone could ever attempt to tear you down. You are already marked for greatness and man can’t prevent what God has signed off on.

We understand that the world may not receive what God has placed on our lives. However, the church hurt is often difficult to get past, and at times, can be depressing. It’s sad to say, but the church itself does more to try and kill many ministries before they get started than the world does once they’re up and running. Mostly because of tradition, but also because of the fact that many don’t approve of what God has done, and it’s easier to challenge God indirectly (attacking you) than directly. But don’t you give up on God.

If Jesus had to leave home to have an effective ministry (Matthew 13:57-58), the same may be true for you. But as Jesus went through ridicule, rejection, abandonment, torment and torture, leading to the crucifixion, remember that the grave wasn’t the end of the story. Keep doing The Lord’s work. I promise there’s a Sunday morning in your future if you do. When you have the favor of The Lord, nothing can stop you.

Never stay past your season

20150609_162857 (2)Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that there is a season for everything. That means that everything (including you and I) has a beginning and an end. This scripture also tells us that there’s a time for every purpose under heaven. While the text goes on to spell out all of the different things that have a time and purpose in our lives, we must understand that we too have a time, purpose, and season for what we are to do and when we are to do it. The key is to never stay beyond your season.

There are times when we all overstate our importance in things. We’re often quick to identify our rights, while ignoring our wrongs. We’re quick to identify when someone else’s season is over in our lives, but we often fail to see when we’re out of season. God’s purpose for you in someone’s life or in certain situations isn’t necessarily never ending. Yes, God actually can hire us for seasonal work. Pride may keep us from seeing this, but humility can open our eyes.

So how does this happen? Well, we often get comfortable where we are. We start out going places because God directed us there. We begin the work, we have positive results, and we sometimes figure that we can permanently set up shop. Unless the work is uncomfortable or taxing on us, we’re not looking to finish up and move on so quickly.

However, when it comes to the ministry of our lives, we must always be ready to be on the move. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 starts with the word “Go”. Which means God has called us to mobility. He’s already made us aware that we may be planted for a reason and a season, but we must be at least willing to carry the work that He’s called us to do from place to place. No matter how much we may like where we are, there may be an expiration date on the work that we’re called to do in a particular place.

God knows that comfortable sometimes breeds complacency, which can lead to resting on our past accomplishments, while not giving our best in the present day. We must be continuously inspired to go further, go deeper, and maybe even go away, in order to continue the work we’re commissioned to do. Resisting the call to move on when your season is through can lead to conflict with God and conflict in the place you’re serving.

The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 14:33 that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace”. Therefore, when He sends you to do a work, there are times when it may ruffle some feathers, but its end is peace. When the work you’re doing causes more problems than progress, you may be out of season. God will often send us into places to stir the nest, but it may be someone else’s call to settle things back down. And once things are settled, it may then be another person’s job to take things to the next level.

The Apostle Paul spoke of such things in 1 Corinthians Chapter 3 when he made the distinction between himself and Apollos. He reminded a church that was arguing over who was the better preacher that we are all servants of God. One may plant, one may water, but it is in fact God that will give the increase. Once we understand that it is in fact God that makes it all grow, we can better accept it when our season is up. We can better understand that once we’ve done our work in service of The Lord, He has someone else to carry the work forward. Our job is to plant what we have for the edification of the people, and then move along as instructed so God can complete His work.

If I may use an example, when an apple tree is planted, its purpose is to produce apples when the season is right. Once those apples are ready for the harvest, they should be gathered to be consumed. If you don’t gather them in season, they fall from the tree. They begin to rot. All sorts of insects come around and begin to destroy the apples, and now the tree and its fruit represent a nuisance. The fruit can no longer be used for its intended purpose, which was the edification of the body. It’s now poisoned and no good.

The point here is when things, people, or situations are out of season, they can be hazardous to your health. Spiritually, we must not consume things that are no longer good for the (spiritual) body. While we are all trying to watch out for things that are in our lives that are out of season, it is just as important to make sure that we don’t stay in places longer than God intended.

We can’t be so arrogant in our spirit that we refuse to believe that we can outgrow our usefulness in certain situations. God calls us to certain assignments, but not necessarily forever. The message may be everlasting, but the assignment may be temporary. Be sure that you’re in season wherever you are. And if you’re not, don’t assume that God can no longer use you because the harvest has come. God can still use you, He just may not need you where you are anymore. Move on to the next assignment. God may not be changing your call, your purpose, or your message, but it may be time to change the recipients.