With Jesus

One of my favorite Scriptures talks about Peter & John and how people knew they had been with Jesus.

When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13; HCSB)

Years ago at Trenton Nazarene, I started a Tuesday night prayer meeting called “Acts 4:13.” The goal of this prayer meeting was to transform my heart as well as the church community around me. The prayer group normally consisted of myself and another pastor with the occasional church member(s). We met in a Sunday School room and it was their that God affirmed in me that we were called to more. Our prayer was simple; God allow people to know that we have been with Jesus.

We had a variety of things going on at the church during that season but you could sense God was working. During that time we saw the church expand by 75+ people. Not a sheep stealing 75+, a legit people coming to Christ 75+. Most of the new folks were new to the church or giving church a second chance. The pastoral staff did a great job of stretching the congregation during that Christmas season. Lives were changed, needs were met and people were pumped to be a part of the Holy Spirit’s movement. The people of the church were moving from what they knew into the unknown and it was absolutely amazing to be a part of.

Our Senior Pastor was electric from the pulpit and in his life with the congregation. We had several staff pastors that filled voids and rolled with the Holy Spirit. It could have been the message series, it could have been the time of year but I am convinced it was the faithful few who began praying with deep intentions that we could be people who are known for being with Jesus.

This past Sunday at Fairfield Wesleyan Church we launched into a season of prayer using this same passage. Everyone was giving a card with Acts 4:13 on the front and the Scripture on the back. The purpose of this card is to remind folks to pray at 4:13 each day that we are known for being with Jesus. We will be praying this Scripture from now until Easter and I cannot wait to see what the Spirit of God does.

I have been in ministry for 10 years in some capacity and I have noticed with intentional intimacy we create impact. This Acts prayer is to create intimacy with our Savior and one another. When the people of God pray in a united manner the Spirit of God will start moving. When we love God and people more than anything else in this world; God will use us to transform the community.

I believe there are great days ahead for FWC as people start to pray. If we become like John and Peter being bold in the midst of obstacles. If we stand united in prayer. If we walk into the world and people see that we have been with Jesus; there we can overcome anything we face. Remember Acts 4:13. Please feel free to pray along with us.

The Greatest Intentions

I once read:

The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.

I think it is the heart of most people to be a person of grace. I believe most in the church have the intention to go into the world and change lives in the name of Jesus. I am positive people have the greatest intentions in the world for the Kingdom of God to be extended into their communities.

However, I am also convinced that people think it is a task that is too large, too intimidating and allow imaginary scenarios of fear prevent their Kingdom advances. They want to love. They want to invite people to church and know the Savior of all but get stuck in fear of it all.

We are instructed to:

“not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18)

The issue we face is that most often we don’t even use our words to tell people about our church or for that matter our God. How do we move from the fear in our mind, to words and then deeds? Does it even have to be in that order? Can actions come first then words? I am not talking about covert evangelism like buying a meal or coffee for the guy headbanging in the beater behind you… I am talking about lasting actions. The reality of the Christian faith is that:

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 tim. 1:7; ESV)

Words are one thing, we should always be having conversations. We need to engage the world around us with our story and the story of God. So, work on your words, start with friends and tenderly start a conversation that is more than just what happened on the last Grey’s Anatomy. Start with a struggle, share a success and wait… They will relate back.

Now that we have covered words; let’s talk actions… What are you doing in life right now that is a Jesus action? Again, I have no problems with random acts of kindness like the drive thru purchase but we are called to more. I am an introvert by nature. Give me a book, a beverage and comfy pants then leave me alone; that is how I recharge… But I know that if I am fully living a life for Christ I can’t always sit in my comfy pants. So, what are a few actions we can put in play to build Kingdom relationships? Here are a few suggestions on actions that will speak as loud as words:

  1. Work somewhere different. I don’t mean, switch careers, I simply mean get out of the office… This allows you to see people, hear their needs and pray for them. Again, I am an introvert but force myself to get out to local coffee shops. When I am out it is amazing what God does if I am listening. I have been able to hear people’s stories and be inspired. I have overhead (insert stalker comment here) people’s heart and been able to help them. God has allow me to pray with people I don’t know and connect with folks I would have never met. Get out there once a week and sit. Listen to the people, see the people and listen for what God is wanting you to discover.
  2. Use your connections. Everyone has a network and most of us under-utilize it. If you know someone looking for work and you know of a person looking to hire; put yourself out there and connect them. If you use social media for pleasure; look for purpose. Some of us have hundreds of friends that need our prayers and connections.
  3. Giveback. Sure, this and the actions prior to it are big actions to take but they are worth it. Find a charity, not to give to but to serve at. Find the local shelter where people need to be fed. If you, you are in the Hamilton area checkout Serve City. Get plugged into the local pregnancy center and see what you can do there. I know in this area Pathway to Hope is always in need of great people to help educate young men and women on the way God values life.
  4. Make eye contact and smile. Maybe, the other listed actions seem too big for now; just tuck them in your brain and use them later. Right now, literally the smallest deed you can do is acknowledge someone with warmth. People are looking for friendly faces… This is as easy as it gets, open your eyes, brush those pearly whites and shine the light of your smile. People need to know that people see them and a smile is a sign of caring. Just try not to make it awkward… A short look, smile and move on will suffice. Don’t over smile, people will find that odd. Don’t try to force the eye contact by staring at a person until they look up at you; then you will be called a creeper. Just eyes, smile, nod and you will be validating a person in the smallest of ways.

What would you add to your list? I would love to hear it. My hope today is that you read this and find the smallest deed and do it… Don’t settle for comfy pants Christianity, put yourself out there and boldly do what you have never done.

 

 

Emptied

We are apt to say that because a man has natural ability, therefore he will make a good Christian. It is not a question of our equipment but of our poverty.” – Oswald Chambers; My Utmost for His Highest

There is something to be said about what a person can accomplish on their own. Some of us are gifted physically and can champion the sporting world. Some are gifted with artistry and can paint a picture of what could be. While others may have the gift of wisdom and are able to sew a heart back together after a complex surgery.

All of these abilities, these gifts, are wonderful but our talents are only a portion of who we are. We can overcome life with our abilities but we cannot overcome death with them. We in the grand scheme of life are powerless no matter our accomplishments. The struggle is boasting in what we can do and not what God has enabled us to do.

Ability is great and should be developed but our greatest accomplishment is to be emptied before God. Yes, we realize our skills. Yes, we are awesome at our crafts. Yes, we are unique…. However, if we boast only in ourselves and our abilities we fail to realize the point behind them. We can only carry ourselves so far in this world before we realize there is something more to who we are.

Don’t be tempted to think your abilities are given to you for yourself or for your gain. There is something more to who we are… Something that is unseen or perhaps Someone unseen. Our abilities aren’t given to us to spotlight our lives; they are given to us to spotlight His life. God wants to take you from who you are and move you to who He desires you to be to glorify Him. This takes action on our behalf but it isn’t to work harder, it is simply to be emptied out before Him.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:6; NASB)

You are gifted and talented but if we only use our talents for personal gain we miss the point of having them. Challenge yourself to develop your gifts for God’s gain. He is prepping you as you prepare yourself. He has an appointed time for your uniqueness to shine. Be emptied, be open, be available to Him because He will do more through you than you could ever do on your own merit.

Married Men: How’s your prayer life?

This morning as I read through the Word of God I stumbled upon a passage that I had to share.

“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat her with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. If you don’t treat her as you should, your prayers will not be heard” (1 Peter 3:7; NLT)

Now, read this passage a couple of times and see what jumps out to you. I have read this several times over the years and never noticed it… I have drawn out the idea that I need to love my wife but I never realized the end of this scripture. “If you don’t treat her as you should, your prayers will not be heard.”

Men: How is your prayer life?

I understand this passage may sound odd, why would my prayers not be heard, so I looked at a few other versions of this text.

“as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (NIV)

“show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered” (NASB)

“as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (KJV)

If we want a successful prayer life that leads to a full life we must treat our wives with gentle tenderness and love. Our greatest opportunity to glorify God comes to us in our own homes. In regards to how to treat our wives the Bible makes it clear that as men we was must:

  1. Love them and not treat them harshly (Col. 3:19)
  2. Love them as we love ourselves (Eph. 5:33)
  3. Trust in her (Prov. 31:10)
  4. Praise her (Prov. 31:30)

Now, I realize this is a limited scope of how a man should treat his wife but it is pretty apparent that a Godly woman is of great value to man. There will be times when we don’t understand our wives. There will be trials that test our trust in them and they us but we must hold fast in love. If we love, trust, and praise them we will never go wrong. Our prayers will not be hindered and our relationships will flourish.

If you are struggling in your prayer life, look to your wife. How have you been treating her? Have you allowed her to be the woman God has called her to be or have you placed her on the back burner for your life’s goals? Learning to respect your wife will change your relationship with God.

If you make a mistake; fess up. If you are slacking in your household duties, man up. If you are harsh, apologize. Are you sinning behind her back; confess it. Whatever you are doing be sure to be a man. You are responsible for your own actions. You are to be a leader in your home. You are to:

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Cor. 16:13-14)

Your prayers depend on your interactions with your wife. Love her as the Lord loved the church and you will be among the blessed.

 

 

 

 

“I’ve Got the Power!”

Growing up as a child in the 90’s the word “power” had great influence over me and my generation. Even today in the 2000’s the idea of power is prevalent. Think about some of the songs of that time:

  • “The Power” by SNAP!
  • “The Power of Love” by Celine Dion
  • “Ninja Rap” by Vanilla Ice
  • “That Power” by Will.i.am 
  • “Power” by Kanye West

Or consider one of my favorite taglines during this time period:

“I have the power of Grayskull!”

Anywhere you look the idea of “power” is there. It seems as if we are attracted to the very word as if it is a light and we are a moth. Power is a word that we need to be aware of in our culture because well, it’s powerful. Book titles, TV shows, movies all try to incorporate the word “power” or the experience that power can grant someone. In this new year, power is something that can be a blessing or a curse to ourselves and our loved ones. It can take control over us or it can pave the way for change.

This morning as I was reading from “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers I stumbled over the following quote:

It is not on what we spend the greatest amount of time that molds us the most, but whatever exerts the most power over us.

This struck me like a knife to the heart. I am prone to think that whatever I give my time to, that is what is most important to me in life. Chambers gives the impression that whatever exerts or pushes us has the most power over us. This made me think; what has power over me? I would like to give the holy answer of “Jesus” but I don’t think that is always the case. As a pastor watching over the church has power over me. Keeping my family safe, nourished and clothed has power over me. Making sure I have spent enough time with God so that I have the right words to say on Sunday even has power over me. What has power over you?

The vast majority of our lives will be spend working and sleeping. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) people who are employed, between ages 25 and 54 with kids spend their time during an average work day:

Time use on an average work day for employed persons ages 25 to 54 with children

http://www.bls.gov/tus/charts/

If you use their math, 16.5 hours of each day is given to work and sleep. So it is important to identify what controls us during our “free time.” When we are willing to take an honest look at our lives and see what controls us, this opens the door to change. We can sit down take an inventory of our time and how we spend it and most likely not like what we see.

This past week I preached on the idea of doing all things for God. If we want to take 2014 and make something of it we need to identify if He has the power or if something else does. The Bible encourages us:

So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for God’s glory. 1 Cor. 10:31 (CEB)

This passage should sum up our lives. Now, I realize this is a board passage and doesn’t give us insight in to how to do this but at least it gives us a goal. If we can look into our lives and remove the things that aren’t God glorifying we will gain time each day. If we intentionally act to glorify God, we will give our lives a since of purpose. Whatever has power over us, if it isn’t the love of Christ we are cheating ourselves out of something grand.

By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory. Through his honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces. 2 Peter 1:3-4 (CEB)

This year, as explore what you want your life to look like consider turning the power over to God. His promise to us is clear, the more we seek Him the more He gives us. If you allow Christ to become your power source this year prepare for the best year of your life. Stick with Him. Depend on Him. And know He will pull you through. God bless you and I apologize to those who are now singing “The Power of Love” by Celine Dion.

 

 

Be A Man

Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of The Lord your God, walking in His ways and keeping His statues, his commandments, His rules, and His testimonies… that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. (1 Kings 2:2b-3; ESV)

These words are penetrating my heart today. So many times I get distracted in life. I become frustrated with situations, settings or just life in general and forget my mission. The passage above is David charging Solomon to be a man. He didn’t just tell him to man up, he should him through the way he lived and gave him a solid plan to define manhood.

These words penetrate my heart because of my son. Fatherhood has changed me. It has changed my thoughts, world views and mission in life. Prior to my son’s birth I thought my mission was to change the world through the power of Jesus Christ but now my mission has changed. My new mission isn’t the world but my world. I need to foster an environment so my son; the next generation has an understanding of what a man should be.

David did this for Solomon. He charged him with be a man and then instructed him in the ways of The Lord. As a pastor, but even more so as a man, I have to do this for my son. Show him the church isn’t about four walls but the very heart beat of Christ. Show how the Spirit should be as fluid as water flowing in our souls. Teach him that love, true love, is from God and given to others from Him.

I cannot be distracted by the forces in this world. I need to continually fall in love with Christ and show him to my family and church. I think that all men can learn something for this passage. We all need to return to the heart of Christ to define who we are and who are children are to be. The more time we spend in His word, write out our thoughts the deeper the our roots will sink into the the foundation that Christ has laid. My prayer today is for God to help me be a man, a man who sees the world through the eyes of Christ. Be a man; amen.

Remarkable Product

“Create remarkable products that the right people seek out.”

The above quote comes from Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow.” So far this book is about the changes of marketing over the years. The old mindset of marketing consisted of produce the right advertisement and get it to as many people as possible. But over something shifted and the new mindset is make a great product and get it in the hands of the right people. What stands out to me most is the idea of a “remarkable product” and how this idea applies to the modern day church.

Think of it this way; most churches are stuck. They are inwardly-focused and concerned more with the people in the building than the people outside of it. Our culture has shifted though and churches are dying (and have been) although most didn’t notice. We’ve marketed the church to Christians. We have programs that Christians would enjoy. We market books, conferences, retreats and cruises that are “Christ” centered to the church goers. We have events that keep our kids safe and away from the heathen population around us. We have essentially, mass marketed ourselves to well, ourselves. We have stopped worrying about the “product” which we market; in this case Jesus Christ and have exhausted our resources. Old Christians are dying. There are few new Christians to market to and because of this our product of Christ suffers.
The church has the most marketable and remarkable product ever created; eternal salvation, heaven on earth, peace, hope, love, joy all made possible through Jesus Christ. Granted Christ isn’t a product, we didn’t create Him. The idea of Christ as a product is to illustrate an important principle; we have lost focus of the church. If we are weakening Christ and His message by being a self-focused, self-indulgent church than we don’t have the promise product that the world needs to meet.

Here is the bottom line on this train-wreck of a thought: The church mass marketed to themselves their own product which they already have and are failing to market it the right people. The church is decaying due to poor marketing of a remarkable product.

The mission of the church is simple: Love God and love others. The way we love God and live our life will reflect Christ and gives us an opportunity to market this remarkable product to the seeking soul. We cannot do this though if we are only concerned with our church and other Christians.

In the book of Jeremiah God speaks to his people, who have lost their way and says:

“There’s no use offering me sweet frankincense from Sheba. Keep your fragrant calamus imported from distant lands! I will not accept your burnt offerings. Your sacrifices have no pleasing aroma for me.” (Jeremiah 6:20, NLT)

In other words the people weren’t doing what God called them to do; they lost their way. They worried about the impending dangers that surrounded them. They turned to themselves and other nations for answers but failed to focus on God and His message. These folks had God in their corner but failed to do as He wanted. They had a product and failed to market it.

As Christians we are doing the same thing. We live in fear of change. We look toward ourselves for the answer and fail to do as Christ commanded us. Our inward focus has created a medial product. There is hope though. God didn’t leave us out to dry. He knew that we would struggle with inward mindsets and selfishness of His Son but He gave us the solution. The solution is change. Change our view, our way of worship, our way of marketing to ourselves and live a new life for Him.

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

If we do this, if we change from selfish inward views and get back to the mission that Christ exemplified in the Gospels; we have hope. A life of love is concerned with others who don’t know the greatest source of love. The disciples didn’t hangout together all day; they went and spread the message of love. They died to themselves and they died horrible deaths to become a pleasing aroma to God. They took the message to the streets and marketed their remarkable product of Christ to the lost souls who needed Him. That stance, that message should be what drives our churches. It takes sacrifice. It takes difficult changes but it is what we must do to revive our product. Jesus Christ is the most amazing gift to the world; a world that is seeking something and needs to hear about Him. What are you going to do about this church? How are we going to get our remarkable “product” to the seeking souls?