Uninteded Priorities

This is going to kind of piggyback off the post from Sunday.  I have been thinking the past couple days about the message you send with the priorities you have in your life. Most the time, it is in an unintentional message. It is simple decisions you make every day that when looked out from the worldly point of view, show that you value things of the world over things of God.

So what exactly is it I am talking about here? Let me give you an example. Most churches across this country have the same schedule. Sunday morning services (a combination of Sunday school/worship service). Then you will have a Sunday evening service and a mid-week services (normally Wednesday night).  The most attended service is normally always the Sunday morning worship, which makes me ask one question: where is everyone during Sunday school, Sunday evening service and Wednesday evening service?

Now, the answers are going to be something like this:

  1. I can’t get up early enough to make it to Sunday school.
  2. My household is so hectic, I can’t get everyone ready in time to make it to Sunday school.
  3. Sundays are the only time off we all have as a family, so we need to take the time in the evening to do family things.
  4. I am just so tired by the time Sunday evenings roll around, I can’t get motivated to go back to church.
  5. I or my kids have (insert any workout or sports practice) on Wednesday evenings, and just don’t think it is fair to them to not have them participate.

I am sure there are some others that I am forgetting here, but those will be the main ones. These are very common and not outlandish reasons to not attend the services outside of the main Sunday evening worship service. Most would look at this list and say there is nothing really wrong. But I am here to tell you that this list is one of the major reason the church, families, and even the country is in the shape we are in today.

Let me rephrase the question of why are people only attending Sunday morning worship. Instead of asking why do people not come, put it this way: what do you have going on in your life that is more important than worshipping God? See, when you put it this way, it suddenly becomes a much more uncomfortable discussion. Because now you have to look at the unintended consequences of your actions. Not just for yourself, but also for those around you and your children. Everytime you say “I am not going to church because of….” you are telling people “I am placing this activity over celebrating God.” You are making all around you know where your priorities lie.

Now, if you think I am being a little over dramatic here, simply using this to shock people, let me make it clear I am not. I could not be more serious. You are placing it out to everyone who sees your actions that it is ok to put God second in your life as long as YOU are comfortable. As long as YOU need that extra hour of sleep, or need to be a little tougher on your children, or have to tell your teens they will not be able to do the activity they want too, YOUR life will be less hectic and more comfortable.

But by doing this, you are also letting your kids, your teens, and those around you not in Christ that it is ok to put worldly things over Godly things. It is ok to place activities that are temporary over that which is preparing you and them for the eternal. People around me hear me speak everyday about the importance of putting God first in everything you do.

There are many other forms of unintended priorities in our daily life. From the movies we watch to the companies we support, every choice and action we take shows the world around us what we prioritize. So urge you all to stop for a moment, and think about the small choices you are making and thinking about the unintended priorities they are showing your family, your friends and all you come into contact with on a daily basis.


Beauty and the Agenda Beast

I was simply going to let this one pass. Every day, I see many stories pop up which affect how we, as Christians, should live in society. Through the endless scrolls of Facebook and Twitter, I come across so much agenda driven material, I would do nothing but write all day long on the things I see. So when I saw Disney was going to slightly insert the gay agenda into their newest Beauty and the Beast release, I rolled my eyes with an “Of course they are, because the director of the movie wants to rip apart bibles in the hotel rooms he stay in.”

I made one post on my Facebook about this (around the same time I urged my Christian brothers and sisters to avoid The Shack as well).  I figured enough believers would realize how destructive the movie would be to their children and simply make the Godly choice to not subject their kids to this sin. Apparently the power of a complaining 7 year old is more powerful than the call to stay strong in God, because as I type this, the movie is about to cross the $170 million barrier in just 3 days. That will make it the highest grossing PG movie opening weekend ever.

More importantly, this gives Disney and all the other studios open season to continue to trickle sinful behavior into material designed for children. All they have to say is “well, you Christians had no issue it with it in this movie, so we will just continue to indoctrinate your children with the sins of the world.”

I am sure I will lose friends on my social networks over this posting, because I saw in my feed throughout the weekend that many of them went to the movie, and raved about it. I also saw many of my friends went to The Shack last week. My question to you is simple: At what point did you decide to simply forgot our call to Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col. 3:2 NKJV). When did the Christians of this country think is was ok to ignore God’s Word when it tells us Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV). Did you discern that the will of God was to have you sit through a movie which promotes homosexuality? Did you think it was good, acceptable and perfect?

“But it was just one little scene” is what I am sure some of you will say. My response is simple, that scene is in a violation of God’s Word, and should never be put into your mind. Period, end of discussion. There is no other response.  Playing the “it was just one small scene” card is EXACTLY what Disney was hoping for Christians to do. They were counting on us as a church to not draw the line and say enough is enough. We will no longer allow you to put sin into our mind. Instead, the Christians of America simply opened their wallets and said “take what you want, so I don’t have to say no to my kids”.

This is not just a gay issue. It is EVERY form of entertainment coming out of Hollywood today that promotes unGodly ways. I was stunned last month when I saw two pastor friends of mine excited to be going to Fifty Shades Darker. Another could not wait to step into John Wick 2.  These are people who are charged with leading churches excited to be going into movies which completely destroy God’s Word. I wanted to scream “what are you thinking!!” But then I remembered, everyone must come to realize on their own what is right and what is wrong in God’s eyes.

As Christians, we should be showing the world through every action we do every day what it means to live a life led by the bible. Part of living that life is NOT supporting things which are against the bible. I heard two quick little things this week which to me hit this point home. In our Wednesday night bible study, my pastor said “If the world embraces you and your behavior, there is probably too much compromise in your life”. Then this morning in his sermon he said “If the world thinks we are one of them, what we are doing is actually denying Jesus.”

Powerful things to think about the next time you decide to download that new disc, tune into that TV show or put your money down at the box office.

Plant where you are placed

I recently started to trim down my follow list on Facebook. This was not the normal trimming I encourage everyone to do to get rid of things which are ungodly. No, I started trimming churches from my likes. Oh Patrick, how could you do such a thing?!  you might ask. It’s simple, I began to become jealous of things other churches were doing that mine wasn’t. I was falling into the church comparison trap. 

It is perfectly fine to look at other churches and ask yourself “is this something that would benefit our church and our community if implemented?” What is not ok is to say “why can’t my church be doing this?” This is what I was doing. I would see something and instantly run to my pastor saying “we need to do this, it will be awesome for the church.” Instead, I should have paused and asked God “is this something that you want me to move forward with in the church?” 

It comes down to one thing we all need to start doing: learn to serve in your home church and stop looking for “bigger”chances. God will provide you with the chances to spread His Word, you just have be willing to do it. When we learn to listen to God’s leanings in our heart and stop wanting to follow our own desires, we will do the most impactful work for the Kingdom. 

You are placed where you are because God believes that is where you can best serve Him. By fighting this, you are saying you know more than God. Is this really the message you want to be putting out in the world? 

I came to my home church with big ideas. I was going to make all kinds of changes, make the church “cool”and “hip” and “modern” (my words here). The problem is, none of those things were needed in my church. What was needed was my skill and abilities in other areas I never thought I would be called into.Three years ago when I walked through the doors of my home church, I never dreamed I would be standing in front of the congregation on Sunday evenings giving the message. Or on select Wednesday nights. I never dreamed I would be called into action to help organize the county summer park vespers services. 

But I finally stopped fighting God. I tore away the blinders that something “needed fixed” and instead accept I would be used anyway God wanted to use me where I was. I stopped looking for something better and realized what I had was more than anything I could ever want. 

I encourage you all today to pause and reflect on what you are doing in your local churches. Are you playing the church comparison game I was playing? If so, stop and look into your own church walls and ask God “what can I do to serve You in this building today?” You will see that God will open doors to you to minister that you did not even realize were there. 

Are You Ready?

Think about how many times a day you ask this question, or something similar. “Kids, are you ready for school?” “Is that report ready?” your boss may ask. “Is dinner ready?” “Is my dry cleaning ready to be picked up?” Over and over again, we ask it in one form or another. 

But the most important “are you ready?” is never one we think about. Are you ready to meet God? Are you ready for eternity? Are you ready to go create disciples in the world? 

The above scripture passge lets us know that there are only two types of people in God’s eyes: those who produce good fruit (words / works for Him and His kingdom) and those who produce bad fruit (words / works for Satan and the world). There is no gray area or fence sitting here. So you need to ask yourself, are you ready to face God and answer for the fruit you have produced while here on earth? Are you ready to say yes, I have been a good and faithful servant, doing all I could let people know about His kingdom, about repentance and about salvation through Christ. 

It is a simple question with a complex answer. Because I don’t think any of us would be willing to say there are ready. Because all of us know there is more we can do to help move God’s Kingdom forward here on earth. We know there are many missed opportunities every day to tell someone about Jesus’s blood and love. But we don’t. We don’t because we are too busy getting ready for the things of the world, and don’t take the time to produce the good fruit we are called to produce. 

Emotions like anger, jealous and doubt creep into our minds and make us stay quiet about God. We make excuses like “I don’t have the money to do this” (one I am ashamed to admit I have used many times in the past) when in our hearts we know we don’t need a dime to tell someone about Jesus. We get our feelings hurt when we are told no by our church (once again, no problem admitting this one as well) when upon reflection we realize that no was the right answer at the time. 

Are you ready does not mean do you have the money, resources or man power to do something for Jesus. Are you ready means do you have the spirit inside you to say yes God, use me anyway you want to use me on this earth for Your good works. 

Making yourself ready to do God’s work is the first step. God will provide the tools you need to produce His fruit, you just need to be ready to accept them. 

Why Do We Go To Church?

This morning, my pastor shared on article on his Facebook page that I thought I was going to hate. (you can see it here). The title told me I was in for another one of those “us vs. them” lectures on how bad modern church worship is. I was all ready to type out a response, but I figured it would be a good idea to actually read the article first.

The first third was exactly what I thought it would be. But at the start of the second third, I realized the writer was conveying the message I delivered on a Wednesday night in church a couple months back. And that message is simply one single question: Why are you stepping through the doors of your church?

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,

‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:14-17)

The article quoted some scripture, but to me, this is the entire key verse in regards to the modern worship movement. It to my own paraphrase on it:

To the church of America write, because you are disengaged, I will vomit you out of my mouth

The issue is not worship styles, or the “entertainment” factor, it is the engagement factor when people leave the walls of the church. We take for granted the privilege we have to be able to walk into a house of worship and openly praise God. All over the world, people are walking 5 miles to a church with no electricity or water, and share a bible and sing praises to God. Yet we want to argue about what instrument should be played on Sunday?

The point of the church is worship, but so often, we do not even know what this word means. I read two definitions of worship that I think sum it up best for me:

  • An offering of your life to God in response to His life in you
  • A response to who God is to you and what He does in your life

In other words, worship does not just take place in a building 2 hours on Sunday morning and an hour Wednesday night. It is a continuous process of thanking God for all the blessings He has given you.

I do agree with the author of the article in that I sometimes think that the more glitz and glamour that are added into worshiping God, the less worship actually takes place. It becomes more about the show than the substance.

I know this sounds incredibly strange coming from me, someone that is pushing for more and more tech in my church. And the reason I am pushing for a more modern looking church is to attract a more, shall we say, youthful demographic. So I am completely aware that what I am typing go against the things I am pushing for in my home church. But, those things I am pushing for are geared to bringing more of the unchurched in our community through the doors. Once those new in the congregation come in, why are they staying? That is where the key question is. If all the new purchases we are making do not bring about a worshipful spirit in church walls, then honestly I have to ask the same questions brought up in the article. Worshiping God should be the top priority we have in walking through church doors, and anything blocking our path do doing that needs to be put aside when we enter.

Which brings me to the second reason we should be coming to church, and that is to learn. We should be coming through the doors of our churches with our minds focused on learning and understanding God’s Word better. In our Sunday school classes, we should be bringing to the table questions we have from our bible reading the week before and then we should be offering up answers to others questions.  During the sermon message, we should be taking notes on what we hear, and going back and looking at those notes as we read through the bible passages that are mentioned. Your mindset should be on gaining biblical knowledge and understanding. And do to this, your mind needs to be free of any and all worldly distractions what might be in it.  YOU MUST BE ENGAGED. And you cannot be engaged if you are concentrating on other things other than the message that is being presented.

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.  (Acts 17:10-11)

Self-evaluation – you should be made to feel uncomfortable and want to make a change in your life every time you leave the church. What is said from the pulpit should make you examine your life, and make you want to make actionable changes to draw closer to Jesus. If you are not feeling moved to change when your leave your church, either your pastor is not telling you the truth or you are not engaged in what they are saying enough to see the areas in your life which they are talking about.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. (2 Cor 13:5)

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. (James 1: 23-24)

You see, if we simply sit in church each week and hear the words being said up here, without actually listening to what is being said, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We should be made to feel a need of action in our lives about what is being said up from our pastor. If we are not, either the pastor is being ineffective or we are simply choosing to ignore those parts which will make us question the way we are living.

And finally, we should be coming to church for community.  I have spoken many times about how the church used to be the center of social activities in communities.  And I am convinced this has stopped being true because we have become disengaged with our own community. The church as a whole has lost the urgency to create a feeling of community.  When you come through the doors of your church, you must be of the mindset that the church is the focal point of your community.

Since joining my church, I have witnessed firsthand how, when it has the right mindset, can show what a loving community is can be. Both with my mom’s passing and with my accident, I came to realize how I had fallen short in engaging myself into the community mindset.

This is one of the reasons I decided in 2016 to give control of the music booking website to someone else. I realized that I was focusing on the wrong things, and that my time and energy should be placed locally in helping achieve the things I am speaking of here.

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. (Acts 4:32-35)

We love the idea of community.  Everyone engaged and involved and connected, but how many people show up here longing for  someone to reach out to them, shake their hand and have more than a 2 second conversation.  – Craig Groeschel

 So while I am not agree with everything in the article linked above, I do understand the need for us all to question why it is we walk through our church doors. Is it for the entertainment, or is it to draw closer to Jesus. I say it a lot: It is ok to bring the lost through the doors with the fun stuff, but once you get them through the doors, it has to turn serious. And there is nothing more serious than eternal life.

Do Something 

Last night my church had our annual Birthday Party For Jesus skate night. 173 children and adults came out for free roller skating, fellowship and to hear God’s Word delivered through a message and music. It was simply awesome to see so many people in one place together, even if it was just for the free skating. The reason is was so awesome to me was that every single person in that building was told of Jesus. 

Every song that was played through the sound system conveyed Christ’s message of salvation. The short message that was delivered in the middle of the party showed the children (and adults) how to come to Christ. And just walking around the facility, you could hear converations of God’s love for us. No one left that place without knowing Jesus loved them, cared for them, and wants them in His heavenly family. 

And that was the entire point of the night. It is a simple gesture. Just paying a little money to open a building up for a fun activity to the community brought almost 200 people under one roof to hear the message of hope through salvation. 

I finally got the chance to watch Let Hope Rise (the Hillsong movie) last week, and there is a line it that has stuck in the back of my mind. “We are not called to do everything for God’s Kingdon, we are called to simply do something.” 

One of the biggest problems with the mindset of modern day society  (be it in the church or outside the church) is we believe if we can not completely fix something, then there is no use even trying to make things just a little better. Instead of doing everything we are capable in our abilities to do, we instead sit back and say “if only I had just a little more of this or that, I would be able to fix the problem.”

It is time we as Christians stop with this mentality. It is time we start doing the little things to help make our church and our communities better. Stop tyring to fix the entire problem, and instead start doing what you can. Even the smallest gesture can, in the words of the outstanding sisters of LoveCollide, turn a ripple to a wave. 

The Final Destination

2016 is coming to an end soon. And the past week has seen three “icons” (for lack of a better term) in the entertaiment industry pass on into eternity. As we watch the tributes and reflections of the lives of George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, we will remember fondly the joy they brought us for a brief moment through their work. And this is fine. It is good to remember where you were the first time you watched Star Wars, the first time you saw the classic Singing In The Rain, or the first time you heard Father Figure or Careless Whisper. It is ok to let those memories put a smile on your face. 

But the importmant thing you should take from the passing of these entertainment figures (along with the others we lost this year like Prince and Gary Shandling) is a question. And that question quite simply is: Did they know Jesus as their Savior? Did they have a relationship with the God of the universe? If the answer to this question is no, then they are damned to a life of eternal torment.

This is a reality that society does not want to think about. But just because you do not want to think about it and accept it, does not make it any less true. Whenever we read or hear about someone passing away, be it a famous figure in our society or a friend or family member, it should make us examine our relationship with Jesus. It should make us get our house in a little more order. It should make us reach for our bible for comfort and security in knowing where our final destination will be. 

I hear all the time after someone passes “I pray they are in heaven now”. It is too late for that prayer once they have left this earth. Right now, today, we should be praying for those who are not in Christ to come to know His love and mercy. We should be making sure that we are doing everything we can to bring people to Christ. 

Once someone leaves this earth, the decision is made. And not making a decision is a decision. Ignoring God and Christ is a choice. You can not stand in front of God and say “but I did not know” because the bible is clear that everyone will be given a chance to come to know Jesus. 

For those who are not in relationship with Him, there is no guarantte of tomorrow. Romans 5:8 tells us:

But God demonstrates Hs love towards us, in that while we were still sinner, Christ died for us. 

Make no mistake, you, me and every single person you encounter today is a sinner. There is no one walking this planet today that is not living in sin. What you need to ask yourself is, are you sins covered by the blood of Christ? If you know they are, then you know your enternal destination is secure in God. If you don’t know that they are, it is time to stop what you are doing right now, and accept Christ as your Savior. 

If we learned anything from this past week, it is that our time on earth is not guaranteed. It is now time to start making your final destination plans. It is only one of two choices: heaven or hell. There is nothing in between. And the choice is completely and totally up to you.