Category Archives: God

Trust in God from Genesis 12

In Genesis 12 we have the story Abram.  In my series Walking with God, I spoke about Genesis 12:1-9 because of the great promises made to Abram for following God by faith.  After all, Abram left everything he was comfortable with to follow Yahweh to a place that was still not clarified to him when he began to literally walk.  In fact, he was even able to get some people to go with him!

Genesis 12:1-9 is a great look into what it means to place all of your faith (hope, security, control, physical well-being, trust, and etc.) in an invisible God.  This is a great story since Abram lived in a time of great idolatry.  Yet, he heard God!  He heard God in contrast to those idols who cannot speak.

In Genesis 12:10-20 Abram doesn’t do so well.  In fact, all of that faith that he placed in God seems to be for a fleeting moment.  In fact, this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to actual faith.  A famine broke out where Abram was.  Here is one of life’s circumstances that simply occurs beyond our control.  However, Abram’s stomach begins to control him because he decided to move on to Egypt so that he, and those who were with him, could find food.

In contrast to the earlier part of this chapter, where I bragged on Abram’s faith, Abram was not told by God to go to Egypt.  Let’s think about this for a moment.  Abram left to go to the land that God would show him and for incentive God made great promises to him and those who were to come behind him.  In my mind, to leave in the first place, I would have to literally trust God to take care of me and my crew.  Yet, that is not what we are seeing here; at least from my vantage point.

Listen, if God was going to do all that He said He would do, then why didn’t Abram simply stay put?  Abram’s earlier trust should have come across his mind.  God had assumed responsibility for him.  He should have stuck it out, but he didn’t.  In fact, he told his wife to tell a half-truth that she was simply his sister.  Abram told her that since she was beautiful, he would be treated well and spared his life because of her.  Wow!  Where did the trust in God go?  He now seems to think that between the abilities of Pharaoh and Sarai that will be saved.

Even more troubling is that he allowed Pharaoh to take his wife to be his wife.  It is good to remember that God is Holy.  John Oswalt once said, “God is Holy! He is Holy for our good and our ill.”  Even though Pharaoh seems innocent, God is just and afflicted he and his people.  This seems to be God’s Holiness that brought ill on Pharaoh.  Further more, Abram is accumulating wealth at the expense of his wife being wife of Pharaoh!  So now we have innocent people being hurt since Sarai was born too soon for women’s rights to help her.  Likely, she didn’t have a choice in Abram’s decision; not to mention what was happening to the Egyptians people for not fault of their own in this situation.

Remember the promises God made Abram?  Since we know the story Abram, who later became Abraham, we know that God promised him and Sarai a son.  Yet, later since God seemed to be taking so long in fulfilling that promise Sarai she offered to Abram her servant Hagar.  So Abram impregnated Hagar and had Ishmael.  Nevertheless, this was not the Promised Son.  The Promised Son was to be born 14 years after Ishmael.

We have to consider how Abram’s decision to go to Egypt impacted this.  Is it possible that Isaac, The Child of Promise, could have been born sooner?  There is no way to know for sure, but consider that God would not want any connection possible between Pharaoh and Sarai.  After all, Pharaohs generally thought of themselves as gods on earth.  And for sure, I can imagine the talk among those in the camp with Abram and Sarai.

If this assessment is possible, then how much impact does a lack of faith have on God’s people?  It seems that we can prolong the good that God has in store for us by not following Him by faith.  In fact, it seems best to remain in the situation that brings you struggle until you hear from God.  Famines that drive us to make decisions irregardless of God are meant to be a time of testing our faith.  We may find that when we continually try to escape uncomfortable situations that we are demonstrating a lack of trust in God’s ability to maintain us in spite of what we face.  How much sooner would those in the camp with Abram have seen God’s power if he remained where he was?  And how much sooner would Abram and Sarai have received Isaac?  Thoughts to ponder.

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Filed under Faith, God, Holiness, Leadership, Miracles

Rethinking the Christian fight for America

I often wonder what types of things that I would think about and do if I wasn’t a Christian.  In particular, I wonder about those situations that occur in my life that I didn’t create.  In other words, would I handle certain situations different as a person who doesn’t care about what God thinks?  I think the obvious answer is yes.

On the other hand, I wonder if there are some things that I would like to do differently as a wiser Christian.  What I mean is maybe there are some situations and issues that I found myself in as a young Christian that I would like to do over.  My guess is that anyone who thinks there isn’t anything they would like to do over is full of self and likely thinks, “I am right.” “Everyone else is wrong.”

Since I’ve been a Christian I have seen an evolution take place in my life; maybe I should say a type of transformation in my life.  When I came to Christ I joined the “fight.”  All I knew was that I wanted to “do” for Jesus.  I remember yelling at family members who did not want to get saved.  Some of them I talked to them daily about getting saved.  Needless to say, they avoided me after a while, and looking back I don’t blame them.

Some of the “fight” was to “re-take” America.  I remember boycotting Walt Disney, shopping malls because they allowed certain “bad” stores to do business in them, ABC, and the list goes on.  I assure you that my motives were not bad.  I just wanted people to live for Christ.  Politics and preaching were important to me if “we” were going to take back America.

What happened to me was that I realized that we Christians who want to take America back actually created an “us” and “them” scenario.  There was a wall built between “us” and “them” that created a disconnect from God and His children.  The children being those who He created in His Image.  This includes both “us” and “them.”  We Christians were in one camp, and many still are, while those who did not believe the exact way we did were in another camp.

In our camp, we knew that the other camp was going to get theirs one day for all of the bad they have done to America.  But, the funny thing is that we in our camp never realized that we might what we deserve for all of the bad we have done to the Kingdom of God.  After all, we are the “enlightened ones” who know the will of God and understand His mission.  We should realize that there will be accountability for us too.

Consider that there are two camps, at least according to our thinking and behavior.  This means that those who follow Jesus are not living among them like Jesus did; and still does through the Holy Spirit.  Our message to the world has been, “Think and act like we do or we are leaving your behind to suffer.”  We haven’t communicated that God loves them and wants good for them and us.  He wants to be the Father that many of us haven’t had and wants to care for us while teaching us to care about others.

As a result of this misguided motivation, we have caused those in the other camp who try to venture to ours, to think that they have to get themselves together.  In other words, they need to clean up their lifestyles and then come to church.  At least that is what they’ve heard from us, whether or not we meant to communicate that.  Wow, Jesus is still cleaning me up because I can’t do and would never be able to do it; that is why we needed saved by the Savior.  In fact, they don’t see this because we have avoided contact with those who do not believe the way we do.

Thankfully, God began to remake me and to work on my focus.  I learned some time ago that those political fights lead us no where.  In fact, seeking a political solution to certain issues instead of a spiritual solution has created disdain from Christians toward those who practice different lifestyles.  Further, it has created disdain from those who are secular toward Christians too.  After all, before I was a Christian I didn’t care what Christians thought of me.  What is more, I didn’t care what the Bible said, and only a little about what God thought.  In fact, I’m not sure that I was afraid to go to hell.  I heard you gasp.  Listen, I felt that my life had always been hell.  I was used to it.

Now we come to the fight that The Church should’ve been more vocal about rather than political issues.  We Christians must learn to put coercion aside and focus persuasiveness when it comes to sharing Christ with those who are not living for Him.  Notice I didn’t use the term “Those who do not know Him.”  Newsflash! There are many who are aware of who Jesus is, or at least a version of Jesus, but sadly, we established the wrong fights and communicated that some shouldn’t even try to be saved.

I propose that The American Church get up in arms over all the hurting people who have felt pain all of their lives.  What I mean, instead of fighting to get prayer back in school, we should fight to get it back into homes.  In fact, we should be teaching “Christians” how to love like Jesus does.  This eliminates disdain, since we can’t possibly lead anyone to Christ through disdain.  What if Christians started caring for the community that they find themselves in instead of fighting against it all of the time.  Can you imagine telling someone who has not known the love of a father and mother that Jesus loves them?  How about telling someone that God never meant for them to suffer like they have?  Of course, this would have to replace the famous, “Well, God has a reason.”

What if we focused on developing healthy relationships with those who have none?  I think sometimes we Christians have become so used to our camp that we have forgotten to set those in the other camp free by persuading them to receive Christ’s love and ours.  To do this, at least in my mind, we can’t just settle for a food drive event, or a clothing drive, and etc. Instead we have to be willing to develop a lifestyle, everyday way of living, that includes living among those who are not following Jesus.

This proposal eliminates the camps structure and leads to win others through love and compassion.  Plus it takes the hope out of politics and places it back on Jesus Christ with a demonstration of the peaceful life, that if trouble comes, has hope for this life now through Jesus our Lord.  This demonstration is not the type where we can put our Christian masks on for and event, but we have to be transformed because we are living among those who are learing about Christ and His love through watching us and trusting us enough to learn from Him through us.

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Filed under Discipleship, God, Living it, Missional Resources, Relationships, Sacrifice, Salvation

From Jesus to my students

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Teens and adults need to spend some time meditating on these Scriptures, taken from Matthew 6:25-34, and consider what real importance is in this life.  These statements and rhetorical questions were spoken by Jesus while He delivered The Sermon on the Mount to the Jews.

Interestingly, the Jews who taught about God and served God, were stuck in a philosophy of being important in the eyes of others.  A lot like we Western Christians are today.  They focused so much on material things that it is possible they actually were  miserable and did not realize how important to God they were and are.

So to my students that I sub for, I want you to know that you all are very important to me.  What is more, you are extremely important to God.  Jesus said that we are worth more than the birds of the air.  It is a timeless truth.  God is going to give you what you need.

When you use the things, or friends, and popularity, to measure your happiness with who you are we all lose.  Whatever situation that you find yourself in, you need to know that you matter greatly to God.  You will never find your happiness in dating someone.  You will not find your happiness in owning cool things.  Unless you have ’69 Camaro SS.  Just kidding.  You will never find happiness in being like someone else.

You must never define your self-worth considering whether or not you have friends that you think would be good for you.  You must never find your happiness in doing things sexually for someone because you think you are really making them and yourself happy.  It won’t work.

What happens is that you might think you will find happiness in being wanted by others; or think that you are important in the sight of others.  Yet, it won’t work.  We must find our delight and peace in the words that Jesus spoke to the Jews, 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

We must find our joy in the fact, that Jesus gave Himself on the Cross so that not only would we be able to escape hell, but that we could live a truly happy life knowing that we have a God who is in Heaven that smiles on us because we make Him happy and are worth everything to Him.  He hurts when we hurt too.

These are some things that I wish that I could have understood when I was a teenager.  I want you all to know things like this about God because I care about you, but God cares even more.

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Filed under Discouragement, Faith, God, Teenagers, Youth ministry

4 Gravitational Pulls All Churches Experience

I took these notes from Andy Stanley at the Newspring Leadership Conference in September. 

Text: Acts 15:1-21

One of his comments about the Scripture was that a controversy arose about the need for surgery to be saved. 

He also said that every church has a “they.”

1) Churches always gravitate toward insiders and away from outsiders.  Jesus liked people who were nothing like Him.  The people liked Jesus who were nothing like Him.  Resist this pull in the way you preach, build, and etc.  We must keep our churches externally focused. Red flag prayer requests. Sin, sorrow, and death are what makes our message more important!  Lost people are what matters!

My take: Prayer requests must be centered on people finding Christ.

2) Churches gravitate toward law instead of grace.  People think categorically instead of relational.  Love must always overcome rules.  Acceptance paves the way to influence.  Use grace to sort things out.  We will have to accept people who sin; not the sin.  Homosexuality, abortion, fornication. 

My take: Those who live this way must not be influenced away from the church. The Holy Spirit can still work with them and that is His job. 

3) Churches gravitate toward complexity instead of simplicity.  Clarity.  Partner don’t pioneer; fund and volunteer for other organizations that are already doing it.  Don’t lose your uniqueness in your community.

My take: We are all unique and have a purpose in God’s plan.  Sometimes we need to simply cut the fluff away and focus on the one thing we do.  Discipleship should be a clear process too. 

4) Churches gravitate toward preserving and not advancing.  The Jews were trying to preserve the Law of Moses.  The same Law that God gave him.  Do not move into a protection mode instead of moving into the community.  We cannot protect assets before fulfilling the mission.  Think like a church plant. How did we think when we did not have money? 

My take: Protect mode really brings everything to a stop.  The assets that we protect are Gods; we must watch burying our one talent.  

4 Commitments

1-Be more concerned about who we are reaching instead of who we are keeping.

2-Let’s error on the side of grace.

3-Remain focused on our unique calling.

4-Remain open-handed.  We started with nothing we may end with nothing; and that is okay.   

This is great advice.  I think this advice is great for a small church pastor.  There is a lot to chew on and ponder on here.  Everything in these notes I took are applicable even my small church situation.  I recently shared this with my board.  My goal was to help us focus on what is important.

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Filed under Church Attendance, Church Health, compassion, Faith, God, Homosexuality, Leadership, Missional Resources, Newspring Leadership Conference, Small Church, Vision

What I want Teens to know

As a pastor I hear many stories from teenagers who struggle in different situations that they find themselves in.  Sometimes it is because of their own choices.  Other times they are in situations because of someone elses choice.  Parents, when you have kids there is more to life than thinking of yourself.  Sometimes it just works out that teens are placed in a hard situation.  Sometimes, it could be God who placed teens in a bad situation.  Just being honest. 

Here are some things I want to tell you that I wish I would have known.  I grew up in a hard situation too; and like you I did not understand why.  I was terribly angry, bitter, and hateful, toward people. 

You may find yourself being the class clown; but you know that it is not really you.  Sometimes you wonder, when nobody else is around, why you have to continue to be the person you show yourself to be.  The answer, you need to know someone pays attention to you.  What I want you to know is that God does because He has dreams for you even when others who are supposed to be important in your life don’t. 

You may find yourself alone.  You might think that nobody cares if you live or die.  Don’t fall for that!  More people do than you think, and again, God really does.  What looks like to you a situation that will never change, God knows it will.  You see the now in your life, but God sees the later (future). 

You may find yourself feeling the need to be sexually active because that is when you feel at peace and connected (I mean what seems like a good relationship because someone is listening) with someone.  Stop, because you feel worse and become angrier and more hurt.  You need to know that the other person is likely just using you which, at this point, is the last thing you need.

You may find yourself at odds with teachers and authorities who are in your life.  The problem is that they don’t realize, sometimes, how hard your life is right now.  They are trying to live their lives too.  You need to focus on the good that they give to you instead of the bad you receive.  Now consider, if you were in their place, you might bring the discipline too.  If you fight against those in authority over you, you will lose.  Don’t confuse giving respect, that is deserved, with getting pushed around some more. 

You might only have a relationship with one parent, maybe not even one, but I want you to know that this is not what God wanted for you.  Sometimes parents make mistakes, and they get caught in a cycle that keeps them from being able to change.  You might not know how hard they had it when they were in your shoes.  But God can make things happen for you, if you live for Him now.  What I mean is that if you live for Him now, He will have a better life for you later. 

I want you to know that all of the hard times that you face now will make you a strong person later.  And if you rely on God now, you will be a strong Christian later. 

I want you to know that you don’t have to choose to be uncaring.  It is okay, in fact, it is good to care even while it seems that nobody does for you.  This is character building because when things are good, it is easy to pretend to care for others. 

I want you to know your life that seem so bad now will get better.  I want you to know that I am frustrated for your sake and that I am mad with you.  But, I want you to have hope with me for your life later.  You are going to be great to your kids.  But you will have to choose it.  You have to ability to break the chain that has bound your family. 

I want you to know that not do I care for you, but God cares more than you know.  You can ask me things and you really need to ask Him things.  Read your Bible.  He is not angry with you and is not making your life hard because He doesn’t care.  He cares.  He can help you now.  Read your Bible and you will see this.

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Filed under Discouragement, Faith, God, Pain, Parenting, Reality, Youth ministry

Filling God’s Heart with pain

As a pastor, especially when I was a youth pastor, there are times when you pour good into people continually.  Sometimes, you pour the good things of God into people and believe that you have diverted them from making wrong choices.  It doesn’t always work.

God knows this feeling of frustration that Christians have when we spend time with others teaching about spiritual matters.  There is pain that we feel.  But God felt that pain a long time ago before we existed. 

In Genesis, the creation story starts out with God pouring good into His creation.  Everything is good for a while.  It is good for God, good for Adam, good for Eve, good for animals, good for the earth, and so on.  Then sin entered the world.  When sin entered the world, it steamrolled out of control; for humans, because of God’s free-will.

In a few short chapters, this is what we find in Genesis 6:5-6,  “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” 

This means that we can hurt God.  When I was lost, I sinned greatly.  A lot of that sin was, according to my will, designed to hurt God.  I don’t know how I knew that since I did not know anything about Scripture.  Yet, inside I knew that I was hurting God.  

How does sin hurt God?  Because it destroys human lives.  It really is that simple.  Since God loves us so much, by sending His Son to die for our sins, we are able to fill God’s Heart with pain.  How profound.  I can hurt God.  Sin doesn’t destroy God.  It only hurts Him.  Sin destroys us. 

When I sinned against God, I thought I was damaging Him.  Yet, I was damaging myself. 

Pastors and Christians, this is the good news.  If your heart becomes filled with pain because someone you have spent time with trying to encourage them to live for the Lord sins, then you have found that you have a Godly love in your heart.  On the other hand, if you are not hurt by the sin of others, then you may not have  the heart of God in you.     

If you do not know Christ, and you are mad at God, then you need to understand that the sin you commit not only hurts God, but it destroys you.  What you need to know is that God loves you with a love that you cannot understand; a love that you may be looking for. 

Finally, after God flooded the earth, in Genesis 9, everything should have been good again but sin stepped off of the ark.  In that chapter, we start out with blessing again, but end up with cursing.  Thank you Lord for Jesus.  Because now, instead of us filling God’s Heart with pain, He has given us an opportunity to fill our hearts with Him.  This is how we keep from destroying ourselves and from hurting God. 

Therefore, accept Christ as your Lord and Savior.  The choice is yours.

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, God, Holiness, Pain