The Process

I’ve been really struggling with blogging the last few weeks as you who follow this blog can attest. I’ve been kind of dry on the creative side and things have been really busy. So, just to get my fingers on the keyboard I want to talk briefly about “the process.”

Every pastor I know wants to grow the church. Now they may say spiritually, but many are really just interested in numbers. That’s how they measure success. Church people think the same way.  I got a call yesterday from a person that I met a few years ago.  He just called out of the blue and asked if our church was growing.  Let me be clear, I want many people to come to Christ.  I want heaven full.  But, Jesus commanded us to make disciples.  The discipleship process is what’s important.

I recently read, Nick Saban’s book, How good do you want to be?.    One of the things he said was to not look at the scoreboard, but concentrate on what you were supposed to do.  If you think about that it makes sense.  If we do what we’re supposed to do the numbers will take care of themselves.

So let’s be busy about the process of making disciples.  It starts with you becoming a disciple and then helping others come to faith in Christ and grow in that faith.  Let’s focus on our part, being and making disciples, and let God take care of His part, the scoreboard.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

I’ve been reading through the entire Bible this year on Youversion.  I’m using a reading plan that is somewhat chronological.  There came a time in the history of God’s chosen people that they rebelled against God.  They worshiped idols of the nations that surrounded them.  Part of the practice of worshipping idols was sacrificing to those idols.  One of the idols was named Molech, the god of fire.  God’s people began sacrificing their first born children to the fire god by burning them alive in a religious ceremony.  Can you imagine?  How gross!  How detestable.  No wonder God was mad at them and allowed his judgment against them.

Very few things get me angrier than when people abuse the innocence of a child.  I completely understand God’s judgment against these people.  It just ticks me off thinking they threw their children in fire!

Children have a special place in God’s heart.  The Scripture say, Matthew 19:14-15 (NLT) 14 But Jesus said “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left. It is true, “Jesus loves the little children.”

Now-a-days, at least in the U.S., we would never sacrifice children to an idol.  We’re far too civilized.  That may happen in backward countries, but never in the U.S.  Really?   I’ve been shocked recently by some of the things that have happened to children at the hands of their parents.  One boy was left to bake in a car when his mom apparently was high and forgot him in the car while she slept.  She realized after about 6 hours that he was in the car.   The child was sacrificed to the gods of drugs and pleasure.

I read an article this morning of a mom who starved her 4 year old.  The child weighed only 15 pounds when authorities found her.   Her mom is a drug addict.  She spends her money of drugs instead of food for her child.  These children were sacrificed to the gods of selfishness and pleasure.

People in the U.S. have tried to sell their children for sex so they could buy more drugs.  These children sacrificed to the god of pleasure.

We have about one million children aborted in the U.S. each year.  These children sacrificed to the god of convenience and sex.

We have become so self absorbed that we no longer protect our children; we  hurt our children.  They are precious and we must value them like God does.  If we don’t we deserve a harsh judgment.

Love your children.  Protect their innocence.  Protect the innocent, the weak, the needy.

Join the Revolution

At least one of my ancestors that I know of fought in the American Revolution.  Edward Beeson was a Captain in the North Carolina militia and fought at the battle of Guilford County Courthouse in North Carolina.  I recently read a book on that battle, Guilford Courthouse: Nathanael Greene’s Victory In Defeat, March 15, 1781.  I really enjoyed reading it and just trying to imagine what my ancestor went through.  After the war, he moved to Alabama and eventually one of his great granddaughters married my grandfather and the rest is all history.

In the book, they showed a monument to another North Carolina Militia captain who had fallen in the battle.  My bet is that he has no great grandson writing a blog today.  It got me thinking about how important family is and what an effect one person has on the generations that follow them.

Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs we have, but one of the most important.  It is so easy to get lost in the day to day grind of life that we can miss the important opportunities we have to effect our kids and future generations.  I’ve known parents who’ve allowed the stress of job, finances and children to distract them from the intentionality of investing in their children. They’ve wished their childrens’ childhood away.  Have you ever thought, “I can’t wait till summer is over and they go back to school.  I need them out of my hair.  I need a break.”?

I recently read the story of Jonadab, son of Recab (Jeremiah 35).  He had such an influence on his family that for generations afterward just because of his influence his family did not drink wine and lived in tents instead of buildings.  What an impact!  I’ve known families that have struggled with alcoholism because of an alcoholic parent, but have you ever heard of someone effecting their family not to drink? For generations?  This guy effected his family positively.  (NOTE: This is not meant to be a commentary on the pros and con of drinking alcoholic beverages, just the impact one parent can have on the generations that follow).

Take it from someone who knows, you’re kids will be gone before you know it.  Don’t wish their childhood away.  Be an intentional parent.  Intentionally teach them your values.  Spend time with them.  Learn to enjoy every moment you have with them.  Because if you don’t, they will know what you value and it won’t be them.  When they grow up they’ll pass that on to their children too.

Look, you are going to effect future generations one way or another, chose to do it positively.  Teach them godly values and that God values them.  Be revolutionary by valuing your time and influence on your children.

By the way, if you’re single, join the revolution.  You too can effect future generations.  Some of the people who effected my life in a positive way were single.  It is in part because of the time they spent investing in me that I am who I am.

We all need to work together to positively impact future generations.  Join the revolution.

Subscription Expired. Time to Renew.

I recently received and email about my subscription expiring on a website I frequent.   There was no question I wanted to renew the subscription.  I didn’t want it to lapse because I use the stuff on that site a lot.  I quickly went to that site and renewed my subscription.

I was reading the Scriptures this morning and came across this verse: 2 Kings 23:3 The king (Josiah) stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. The Israel nation had let the subscription lapse.  They were busy with a lot of other things.  They really had forgotten the one true God and were worshiping other gods.  If you read the rest of the chapter, King Josiah quickly and ruthlessly deals with the stuff that kept them from renewing their covenant with God.

Sometimes I let other things get in my way of staying close to God.  It really affects my spiritual life when I let other priorities get in the way of following God and being close to him.  Actually when that happens I get real dry spiritually.  That’s the time I need to renew my subscription.  I need to quickly deal with the stuff keeping me from enjoying a fruitful relationship with the God of the universe.  He loves me greatly and wants me to remain close to Him and I want to stay close.  At those times I need to confess to Him where I’ve goofed by putting things ahead of him.  Then I need to renew my commitment to follow him closely, listening to what he’s saying to me and doing the things He wants me to do.

How are you doing on your subscription?  Is it time to renew?  If so, renew now!

Lord, I’m sorry I let other things get ahead of my relationship with you.  Thank you for your forgiveness through your son, Jesus Christ.  Cleanse me and Renew me. I will follow you wholeheartedly.  Help me do so like King Josiah.  Help me influence other to wholeheartedly follow you too.  Amen.

Overheard at My Own Funeral

God has a purpose for me to fulfill here on earth. I want to end well so that when I get home to be with our Savior I’ll hear “well done good and faithful servant.”

Hammer365: 107/258 Fly on Wall

I’m a pastor and part of the territory is doing funerals. To be honest some are a joy to do. When a person knew Christ as their Lord and Savior the funeral services are always upbeat. Of course there still is sorrow because family members have lost a love one, but there is this sense of faith hope that knows this person lives now with Jesus and will be seen again. In contrast, funerals of those without Christ are funerals without hope. Oh, sure the family members can rejoice in a life well lived, maybe, but there is no future hope.

If I could be a fly on the wall at my own funeral I hope I’d hear and sense (if a fly can feel emotionally) people rejoicing in a life well lived. I wouldn’t want to hear, “Has anyone got a fly swatter?” I would hope there would be a feeling of quiet contentment that I am continuing life with my Savior. I would want people to say things like, “he lived his life in obedience to God,” “He listened to God and he walked with God,” “He fulfilled God’s purpose for him while he lived here on earth.” “He loved people.”

I’d also want to hear them say, “he loved his wife and was devoted to her all the years of his life.” I’d want to hear, “He loved his children and invested his life in them. They are all walking with God partly because of the legacy he left them.” Of course, I’d love to hear the same thing said about my grandchildren. My hope and prayer is that my grandchildren and their children will walk with the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly. I’d want to hear, “he left a legacy of godly decedents.”

Acts 13:36 (NIV) “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.”

I think some of those things could be said right now, if I were to die today. But, some of those things are not completely a reality and I’ve got a lot of work to do. So, I’m going to hit the ground running to do all that God has for me to do here. I’m going to live each day to the fullest. I hope you do the same.

Of course, the thing I really want to hear and can’t wait to hear is “well done good and faithful servant” when I meet Jesus face to face.

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The Mashmallow Test

I watched this video this morning. It shows kids who took part in the marshmallow test. They were put alone in a room with one marshmallow on a plate in front of them. They were told that if they waited for the tester to return without eating the marshmallow they would get another one. Some waited and got two. Some didn’t and settled for one.

God is like that. Sometimes if we will wait he’ll give us the better option than if we just take what is in front of us. I’m a church planter. I started a church in Miami a little over 7 years ago. My ego has always been my battle in this church planting thing. I’ve battled with God. I’ve wanted a growing (in numbers) church and that simply hasn’t happened. It is not because we haven’t been reaching out to people who are far from God, because we have.

I have learned the hard way that this is God’s church not mine. If it grows numerically, it’s because he grows the church. If it declines and we’re doing what we’re supposed to do then I must put that in his hands. He has other plans and other things to teach me and us. I just know that he is in control and he wants what is best for his church. I could settle for the one marshmallow, but that’s not his best. So I’ll persevere and wait on him for his best.

I told my kids as they were growing up not to settle for second best when searching for a spouse but to wait for God’s best. The same lesson applies to our church. We must not settle for one marshmallow but for two. He’s growing our church the way he wants to. I must trust him in that. He’s got something great in store for us.

What about you? Are you settling for one marshmallow or waiting for his best? I encourage you to persevere. His best is coming. Trust God who is sovereign. He knows what he’s doing in your life. Be patient. Endure.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:36 (NIV)

How to Fight, part 2

1 Timothy 6:11-12a (NIV) 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith...

I’m reading a historical fiction book right now called, “To Try Men’s Souls.”  I’ve read a lot of history books; mostly military history.  I have enjoyed reading about the Revolutionary War and WW II.  I’ve focused my historical reading in those two time periods.  I’m not much of a fiction reader nor historical fiction.  But, I wanted to lighten my load and get lost in a fiction book, so downloaded this book into my (soon to be defunct) Kindle.

What the author paints so vividly is the utter desperation of the Continental Army by December 1776.  You recall the Declaration of Independence was signed in July of that year.  Then the Continental Army suffered a series of defeats and setbacks where they ended up being pushed south into Pennsylvania.  They were so poorly supplied by the Continental Congress that many men had no shoes and some had, no kidding, not a stitch of clothing and it was the dead of winter.  I’ve been cold before, but not THAT cold.

In the midst of desperation, Washington boldly acted.  He crossed the Delaware River in a horrible winter storm at night and defeated the Hessians in Trenton, N.J. on Dec 26, 1776 with a ragtag Army that endured to victory.  They had every right to give up (many of them did and fled).  But those that held on and fought the good fight were victorious.

That brings me to Paul’s words, “endure,” “fight the good fight of the faith.”  Our sheltered Christianity in the U.S. can’t really grasp what this meant to it’s hearers.  Timothy was pastoring a church suffering persecution.  We probably don’t get it.  But, in the intensity of it all Paul encourages Tim to endure and fight.

I don’t know what you’re going through right now.  But, as a good soldier of Christ, you have to endure and fight the good fight of faith.  Don’t give up.  You may have had set backs.  You may be suffering greatly, but don’t give up.

1 Timothy 6:12-13a (NIV) 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you.

Take hold of this incredible life that God has for you.  Fulfill the purpose He has for you.  Don’t give up.  2 Timothy 2:3 (NIV) 3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Just like the Continental Army had to focus on the prize, freedom, you too focus on the prize; a full eternal life in Christ.    You can trust him to get you through whatever difficulty you experience.

Paul said, 2 Timothy 1:12 (NIV) 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

Hold on. Endure! He will get you through this.  He is faithful.  You will experience victory in your life!

How to fight!

I’m at my in-laws this weekend celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary!  Wow!  That’s almost unheard of anymore.   I know that in their marriage they’ve had to endure a lot.  My father-in-law is a World War II veteran.  He had polio in his twenties.  They have lost children.  They’ve endured.  I asked them what they attribute to the longevity of their marriage.   They said it was because the focus of their marriage was Jesus Christ and He’s made all the difference.

As a church planter in Miami, there have been many times where I’ve been discouraged.  Jonah was discouraged because he didn’t want the people in Nineveh to repent. I get discouraged because the people in my city don’t repent and turn to God.  And even when they do, so many of them turn away from him again and again.  I have felt like I couldn’t keep doing this, but I do for the same reason; Jesus Christ.  He’s called me to this, he loves my city more than I do, so I gotta keep on keeping on, until I die or he changes the order. He makes all the difference.

Paul said to Timothy to pursue, among other things, endurance (1 Tim 6:11).  When I think about endurance it just sounds hard.  I’d much rather pursue other things.  I’d rather pursue ease, comfort, and fun.  But, life’s just not that way.  It is hard at times and we have to endure.  The next thing that Paul tells Tim after he tells him to endure is,1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV) Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called… The faith we are called to takes effort.  Not for the approval of God, because through Jesus Christ his grace means he loves us not because we work for it, but because he just does.

The life of faith can be hard at times.  God requires us to do things that are beyond us; that require his movement and strength in our lives and situations.  That’s how faith grows. It is at those time we must fight the good fight of trusting God not yourself and enduring.  Reggie White said, “God places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight.”  I’d add that “can carry its weigh in the strength of God.”  It’s a faith thing; a faith fight.

For those who are going through tough times let me encourage you that God will do something great in and around your life, if you endure.  Don’t give up.  Keep on fighting.  Endure. Keep focused on Jesus Christ! He makes all the difference.

Calling Dad

I got a call from my son this morning.  He’s just starting a career in the U.S. Army.  I am a retired Army officer.  He called just to let me know what was going on with all this new stuff he’s experiencing.  Most of it I too experienced in a distant past.  It was so good to hear from him and to hear about all that is happening in his life.  I was thrilled and so honored to be included in his day.  I was able to take it in and give a few tidbits of thought and wisdom to him since I’ve already been there.

It got me thinking.  Do you think our heavenly Father feels the same way when we come to Him?  I do!  I think he is equally thrilled and honored when we include Him in our day.  When we come to Him and tell him what is going on in our lives and listen to what He has to say about it.

Take time to give Him a call today and let Him in on all that is happening in your day, He’ll love it because He loves you. Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV) ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

Be ready

I read an article about an American Airline flight attendant, Patricia Sund. She, along with two physicians, helped deliver a baby during a fight from Haiti to Ft Lauderdale. It was a baby boy. Sund said, “Watching that baby being born and having him placed in my arms 30 seconds after he was born was an incredibly raw and emotional moment for me. It will remain one of the highlights of my flight service career.”

I wonder what she was thinking when the woman went into labor. My first reaction might have been, “Now wait a minute, women this pregnant aren’t supposed to be on a plane.” Rather I would have at least internally complained to myself. To be honest, it would have been because I wouldn’t have wanted the hassle of having to deal with this woman’s need. You see I’m basically selfish. I don’t want discomfort.

Paul wrote to Titus to tell the church he was pastoring, Titus 3:1 (NIV) Remind the people….to be ready to do whatever is good. As Christ-followers we always have to be ready to do good and that usually involves discomfort. We must always be ready to serve. It’s not about us. It’s about serving people in the name of Jesus Christ, even when we don’t want to. Jesus was worn out when he fed the 5,000, but he always put others needs first. I’ve got to be the same way. It’s not about me.

Did you catch the last thing that Sund said? It will remain a highlight of her career. When we serve and are used by God to meet the needs of others, we will be blessed. It will be a highlight of your life. Be ready for every opportunity you get to serve.

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” St. Francis of Assisi