Category Archives: Sacrifice

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

Believing toward freedom

Before I came into a relationship with Jesus Christ, there was a point in my life that I wanted to be a good person.  In fact, I desired to become a good person for several reasons, such as, I felt sick about how I didn’t care for others, I wanted to be respected in the community, I wanted my wife to have a good husband, and I wanted to be different so that my children would not behave as I did.  What I found was that while I tried to do these things, I could not achieve peace with myself about the results.  Now the results were not simply centered around right actions; they also included right thoughts along with right actions.  I soon found that I could not become the person I wanted to be.

After a few years of trying to be different, I decided to try God.  I thought that if I got saved that somehow that would establish me as the person that I longed to be.  I decided to read the Bible, mostly because I didn’t know many Christians who would help me and from my experience I did not want to be associated with them.  As I read, I found that God had an entirely different plan for, not just my life, humanity as whole.  This knowledge enlightened me to the point that it became about desiring to know this God of the Bible instead of simply being saved.

Many people who are not associated with a community of believers realize that there is something missing in their lives as I did.  The problem is that God has outlined what is best for us in the Bible, but we generally do not find out for ourselves.  Instead, we rely on other Christians to tell us spiritual things that will make us feel better.  The problem is that most Evangelical Christians get stuck at the point of belief.  What I mean is that most simply point out that believing is what God does to make you and I saved.  Then the problem becomes that you and I, who have not been associated with church, find that we are still the same persons we were before getting saved.

Finding out that nothing has changed, both internally and externally, becomes troubling to those of us who have not been properly pointed to Christ.  After all, Evangelicals simply believe that we should get saved to avoid hell and to be ready for when we die or Jesus Returns.  This type of believing causes many of us who are giving church and Jesus a try to give up.  We learn quickly that simply believing has not helped us in this life now.  We are still in bondage to our poor attitudes and behaviors.  Yet, those of us who will turn to the Bible can learn that Jesus wants humanity to believe toward freedom.

Believing toward freedom, means to me, now that we believe in Jesus Christ and received Him as our Savior, what does that demand that we do?  Think about; the Bible is full of God’s plan for His people and continually communicating the importance of being different. This is where much of our problem occurs.  God wants us to be different from who we were before we established a relationship with Jesus.  Yet, we Evangelicals continue to be reluctant to tell those outside of the Kingdom, along with those who are new in the Kingdom, that God expects our belief in Jesus to bring us into freedom.  Freedom is being free from the internal and external issues that troubled us in the first place, which is why we investigated who Jesus Christ is.

God wants us to do more than simply believe in Jesus.  He wants us to become more like Jesus.  In fact, if we don’t and simply are satisfied to just believe, then are we really saved?  These are questions that are age-old, but these may need to be wrestled with again in the Evangelical circles.  Consider the Fruits of the Spirit, these are those characteristics that I longed to have but could not on my own.  Why?  Because Jesus was not involved in the change.  In fact, simply just believing in Jesus can also lead to Jesus being uninvolved in our character reconstruction.  The Fruits represent the freedom to be who, I and Jesus, desire me to be.

This is what I call believing toward freedom.  Freedom means that I am not locked into the hatred, jealousy, pride, and anger I felt all of time anymore.  So if you are someone who believes in Jesus, but you are not free to love God and others that would demonstrate that you are becoming more like Jesus, then you may not really be saved.  My Jesus came to set the captives free.

Here’s what you need to do.  Seek Him with all of your heart.  In other words, you have to desire Him for more than just avoiding hell.  You need to seek Him while surrendering yourself to Him so that He has the freedom mold and shape you into someone He wants you to be; this better than the person you tried to become without Him.  Pray to Him regularly.  Read His Word regularly.  Meditate on Him and His Word regularly.  Incorporate His commands into your new lifestyle.  Don’t give up.  If you surrender you life in these ways, then you will have the freedom be the person that loves God and others.

We need Christians to start teaching lifestyle change instead of lifestyle acceptance.  We need Christians to teach lifestyle change now instead wait until later change.  The Church needs people who model this change in a positive light instead of an unhappy negative light.  Believing toward freedom makes more sense than simply believe and you will be saved.  So what are you going to do about it?  Believe toward freedom.

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Living it, Sacrifice, Salvation

A Guide to Learning How to Love

This is a very vague guide and I admit that.  Yet, it is also very simple.  Since I first got into ministry, 1997, I’ve learned a lot about the Lord, and people.  Often people notice that they have trouble with the many different relationships they have.  This is a lot of a pastor’s ministry; helping people to become “better” in the relationships that they have.

The relationships that we have with each other are very important.  However, some are more important than others.  You will see this in this little guide I have.

Often people have trouble with their heart feeling right in their relationships.  This can be helped by the Holy Spirit working with His people to change.  I like to think of it like this . . . He brings the change to pass, but our part is to set our minds and hearts on what is acceptable to God.

So here is a priority list that may be helpful for people who want to do a better job of loving in their relationship with God and others.

Priority list

  • Jesus
  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Church
  • Job
  • Friends
  • Money

There may better listings.  Nevertheless, this seems workable.  Notice that often, people flip-flop this in their lives.  Those who flip-flop this list are both those who attend and do not attend church.  I believe that our troubles with relationships would be decreased greatly if people lived by this simple list.  In this list, we can see the proper place of money.  Money should not be valued more than those ahead of it.

Just a thought. Blessings.

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Filed under Love, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Sacrifice

Altar-ology

I had athoughts recently about Christian altars in the Sanctuary.  As a pastor, I wonder if anything of supernatural value actually takes place at them as part of worship service.  I also wonder if they are a fad that has been passed by, after all, they don’t seem to make same impact that the mourner’s bench did. 

Many fight coming to the altar today.  Christians and church-goers alike do not want to go because of fear.  Yet, it is not a right fear; if there is one.  It seems that people do not go because they are afraid of what they will look like in front of others in the church.  They are afraid that people will know that they have work to do in their spiritual lives.  Hey, we all do. 

Some have a healthy fear of the altar.  The altar should represent death to us.  It should be a place where people come to die to selves.  In other words, this is where we come to put our inner-man to death.  Yet, some might be afraid that the pastor is going to find out something or ask them to do something that is too personal.  Well, that is what God does. 

A problem I see with is that real work is may not be happening there anymore.  When people finally respond, some might be there to “help” the pastor because they do not want him to become discouraged.  When they arrive, some may think the pastor is taking too long in prayer.  Some may be there because someone shamed them.  Some may go down there because their friends are there.  They do not want to be left out.

Here is the challenge of the altar we Christians need to consider again.  As I mentioned earlier, the altar should be a place where someone goes to die.  This is a harsh act.  We do not want to put our egos to death.  We should not see Christians who were moved to come down, simply get up from the altar because the pastor said Amen.  Instead, people should be distraught and broken while at the altar.  I find it amazing that God works on people just before lunch and accomplishes what He wants to just in time to go to lunch.   

At the altar, people should be praying through; not simply going to say sorry without having the intention to change. Praying through means that we need to stay at the altar earnestly pleading that God change us from who we want to be into who He wants us to be.  This is why the altar is a place of great work that can only be performed by the Holy Spirit.  It should be an emotional moment in our lives.  It is at the altar that we go to be transformed; not to clear our consciences, but to cleanse them. 

Spurgeon saidonce  that the altar was a place where you and I can feel the sting of sin which helps us to get away from sin.  Many today simply want to stand up or raise their hand when the sermon is over so that the pastor will dismiss them in a timely manner.  Yet, I believe that God has more that He wants to accomplish with them and bids them to come and die in front of the church so that they can be transformed. 

I realize that God can work on us anywhere, but the altar still seems to be a place, when rightly used, to accomplish His tasks.  Laying broken at the altar is when the Spirit begins to recreate that which is distorted in us.  Where else are we going to have the best chance to die with our brothers and sisters in Christ?

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Filed under Faith, Holiness, Sacrifice, Worship

Christian classification

One of the characteristics that I see in the American Christian Church is the way Christians, both Lay and Clergy, blow off certain churches.  The thinking seems to go along these lines: That church will not change.  That church is too old. That church is out of touch with reality.  Nothing happens at the church.  That church has bad music.  That church has a bad preacher.  That church has a bad doctrine.  I think you get the picture, some churches get classified by people because they have a different organic make-up than others. 

Another reason for the blow off could be money.  After all, we living our Christian lives in the era of the mega-church.  This means that there is not enough money to do the ministry the way it should be done.  Well, the way it should be done according to different groups of people.  Yet, should we classify a church according to her wealth?  I think not.  The problem with money is that it has the tendency to focus on the new fad of Christianity.  Moreover, it has the power to hinder pray between a church and her Groom. 

If the church is really the Lord’s, then there is not a money issue.  Yet, if a church is not the Lord’s, but has money, it may take a while to know how that church should be classified. 

Another way we classify churches is through leadership.  Pastors are continually competing with each other so that we can attract people.  Church leaders look for certain types of men and women in hopes of trying to find the next Rob Bell, Perry Noble, Rick Warren, and etc.  I don’t know the stats, but I wonder how many books are being written to teach pastors how to be like these guys as leaders, compared to how many books are being written with the purpose to teach pastors how to be Spirit led.  You know, Spirit led instead of CEO leading. 

Some churches seem more likely to be used by God because it makes sense to most Christians.  Yet, if unlikely churches preach the Cross, then church classification could be dangerous.  After all, doesn’t it just seem like a wise choice that some churches cannot be effective and others can?  Maybe the Bible had some of this mind when it addressed the way we tend to think.  “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).

Ultimately, God can work through any church He pleases.  The moment Christians start classifying a church is the moment that God is no longer trusted to be God. 

If you, no matter who you are, have written off a church because you have classified it, then you need to examine whether or not you are using the wisdom of the world or the foolishness of God to make your judgments. 

God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him (1 Corinthians 1:27b-29). 

Christians, stop the classification.  I have been part of a church that was down to 8 people and witnessed what God did those who believed that He could.  Christians if you want a challenge, go where it seems unlikely for God to work.  You will be surprised at what He can do.  😉

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Leadership, Living it, Missional Resources, Sacrifice

Right Worship

While at Family Camp this week I have enjoyed the worship and preaching.  This year our district had The Difference from Southern Wesleyan University come to lead our worship in music segment of the nightly service.  It is great!  I’m blown away with the amount of talent that God has given to the SWU; it is like that every year.  Let me tell you, those young guys and gals, I guess I can say that since I am 40 now, really give it up to Jesus.  Hey, isn’t that awesome!  I say yes!

I have sensed that not everyone is excited about allowing a different style of music to be played during our Holiness    camp setting.  It is possible that some think it is the world being mixed in with the church.  I confess, as a person who was young in the Lord, I entertained those types of thoughts some time ago too.  I think God brought me out of that by showing me that He is not limited in the ways that He chooses to connect with people.  Besides, what is right worship?  Jesus said that it is in spirit and truth.  In the OT God desired obedience over sacrifice and noted that His people worshiped Him with  their lips but their hearts were far from Him. 

One thing that I come back to time after time is the thought that people who are lost (those who are not trusting in Christ as their Savior) are not having heated debates about what style of music should be played during church service.  American Christianity is something else sometimes.  We continuously find ways to focus on everything but what matters.  Jesus forgive us!  Listen, I can worship traditionally, or worship with older tradition like chants, or contemporary.  You get the picture. 

Without going into a long story about an experience I had with Christ I will tell you that the outcome of it was that I sent an email to my pastor and his wife and asked them if they wanted to come over to my house to worship with me.  It was in the middle of the day and everyone else was at work or I would have called them too.  Now this was a lot like a child calling another up and asking the child to come over and play games for the day.  I didn’t have any special music in mind, I only knew that the Presence of Christ was with me and that I wanted my friends to worship Him with me. 

Wouldn’t we Christians do better to focus on bringing the lost to the Presence of Christ so that they could make a decision to accept Him or reject Him?  I think so.  But, most of us believe that before we can invite someone to church that the music has to be a certain way or that the pastor has to be a certain way.  We Christians are wasting precious time that some who are lost do not have debating over whether or not modern music is better than traditional music and vice versa. 

It is funny how many are in a continuous search for the right ministry or church to be part of.  Can we ever be honest admit that it is ultimately about us instead of Christ?  It tires me.  The path that leads to the Presence of Christ is to truly seek Him and only Him through humbleness and Holiness.  Good, or bad, music has less to do with it than we would like to admit.  It is a tool that the Spirit uses to help put me into the right attitude.  Seeking Him is about thirsting for Him and when you find Him you bring others to the drinking hole where you found refreshing. 

So what is right worship?  Is it seeking Christ with the heart?  Or is about finding the right pastor, the right type of music, and making sure things are done the way they have always been done?  Then if everything meets our standards then we will give approval and consider that to be our worship for the day.  Let me tell you that giving our approval is missing the bulls-eye by a mile.  Meaningless.  It is about us coming in to His house so that we can receive His mercy.  Then we adore Him because of who He is.   

So I say let’s not burn up our energies on this issue.  Instead, let’s use our energies to seek Him and bring the lost to Him.  This is right worship to me.

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Filed under Holiness, Living it, Sacrifice, South Carolina Wesleyan Family Camp, Unity?, Worship

What do you want by Kerry Willis

Here are some hi-lights from a sermon by Rev. Willis on Wednesday night.  He used many different Scriptures but here are most of them.  1 Samuel 13:14, Psalm 37:4, Matthew 5:6, Psalm 139:23-24, Psalm 84:1-12

Matthew 5:6; desire God and He will give Himself to you; this should not be a verse used by us to seek worldly gain. 

Psalm 139:23-24; our thoughts matter to God.  This should be something to think about.

Jesus does not want 1st place in your life.  Instead, He wants to be your life!  The Rich Young Ruler’s story is baffling because of how it ends.  Consider, all those who were in this ruler’s life were only around him because of what he had in wealth.  They wanted to be his friend because of what he could do for them.  Yet, Jesus told him to sell everything and follow Him and you (the ruler) will still have Him (Christ) near.

We should be convicted when we let intercessary prayer be about the people getting what they want instead of it being about God getting what He wants.  This is because we want to please people instead of God. 

Rev. Willis’ advice is not choose silver over gold.  Christ is the Gold.  Here are some things that are silver: Prosperity, Possessions, and Pleasure.  These are at least 3 pieces of silver that we want more than Gold (Christ). 

Application

We need to get over doing something great for God too because we should be content with His Presence.  Be delivered and desire to know God.  After David’s sin with Bathsheba he wrote Psalm 51 and begged God to take away His Spirit. 

Definition of evil according to the Bible in Sermon on the Mount is those who do not know Christ.  Many Christians busy themselves with things, and even God’s work, but never take the time to know Christ.  This will be bad when we stand before Christ. 

In John 1:37-38; these two disciples sought the Presence of Christ.  After John the Baptist noted who Jesus was they promptly followed Jesus.  Paraphrase: Jesus said what do you want, they answered to know where you are staying. 

A thought I had

The problem with Christians is that we want to run the discussion about following Christ into the ground.  We want to talk theology and theory, but we do not want to get down to the real business of dying to ourselves.  Stop being busy looking and trying to do something great and be satisfied with His Presence.

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Filed under Holiness, Living it, Sacrifice, South Carolina Wesleyan Family Camp, The Wesleyan Church