What are you doing with your resources?

(Please note, this post is not meant to single out any one church or organization my area. If you are a local pastor or leader, it is not a direct attack on you, but on the American church as a collective group)

What I want to talk about today is a question we as Christians will be faced with then we stand before God. It is a question what we should all be keeping in mind as we go about our lives.

“What have you done with the tools I have given you to advance My Kingdom?”

For a lot of people this is a scary question. Because when we look at how we use our time and resources, I think we can all agree that we are not using them to the best of God’s Kingdom. Most of us prefer to sit back and complain about what it happening around us instead of stepping up and trying to make a change.

I live in an area of the country that is just ravaged by drugs, heroin in particular (last stat I saw had my area as the #3 per capita in heroin us in the entire country). This drug brings with it prostitution (sex slavery) as well as rampant alcoholism.  Yet most churches in my area simply sit back and watch this epidemic spread more and more without want to take any action. Yes, it is on every prayer list (and do not mistake me, prayer SHOULD be the first step in any decision we make) but normally that is as far as it goes.

It comes down to this simple fact: most churches today have an inside out model instead of an outside in model. They want to cater to everyone inside their church walls, and not worry about those outside the walls.  Yes this stings to hear if you are a church leader, but seriously examine how much sincere and true outreach do you do?  What is the ratio of resources your devote to discipleship in the church versus outreach beyond your walls.

And I am not talking about missionaries outside of your area. I am speaking about right in your community.  Once again, do not misunderstand me, I am in no way saying local churches should not support overseas missions. But we should not be doing so at the expense of outreach right outside our front door.  “What did you do with the resources I gave you?” This should be the question on your mind as you go about making decisions on where to put your time and money. It is not about YOU or your church getting praise and glory. It is about bringing people to Christ through any means you have at your disposal.

The battle of traditional versus contemporary, praise and worship versus hymns, chairs versus pews  and all the other mundane arguments that occur in the modern church today take away from the most important function of the church: to bring people into God’s family.  And this goes to any organization who profess to have a mission of bringing people closer to God. As soon as you start putting limitations on how you are going to deliver God’s Word, you instantly lose your stated goal.

Jesus did not say “go out and preach only the King James bible using only hymns and piano”.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV)

Notice there is no mention at all of the teaching method. It simply says go and teach. People learn and people come to Christ in different ways, and we need to stop focusing on the “how” they are coming to know The Lord and instead begin focusing on the “if” they are coming to know God. Just because you might not like a certain type of music, or a certain style of preaching, does not mean the person who is sitting next to you who is not saved will not be able to connect with it.

We live in a society so worried about offending people that we have let this attitude invade our churches. No longer are different styles of worship allowed. We have put a dividing line in place, saying this is how we worship in this building and if you don’t like it, there is the door.  We have shut our minds off to any possibility that someone may be drawn to Christ in a different way than we are teaching, so we keep on doing the same things over and over and over, and then complain that it is not working.

I have heard people say “well, people will be drawn through the doors of a church when God calls them”. Well if that is the case, why even do any form of outreach at all? Why bother witnessing to anyone?  This statement always makes me laugh. Our job as Christians is to lead a life that helps people see Christ through us, and then make every effort to lead those around us to Christ. This does not mean only those we are comfortable with. This does not mean only those who walk through our church doors.

We are to get outside of our church walls, into our communities, and let me people know about the love of Christ. We are NOT to simply sit on our churches and wait for them to come to us.

The biggest and most valuable resource we all have the equal supply of is our time.  It costs no money to lead a Jesus led life. It cost no money to tell someone about God’s plan for salvation. It costs no money for any of us to go out into the world and tell others about Jesus.

What is does cost us is time. Time away from Netflix, Facebook and Instagram. It makes us focus on what is important, and causes us to make to difficult decisions in how we best allocate the resource of time. If you were to stand before God right now, and have to answer “Did you do your best with the resources I provided you”, how would you answer?

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I’m Saved, Now What?

The modern church does one thing very well, and that is brag about the number of baptisms it does on a weekly basis. We see pictures of churches setting up pools in their parking lots, and “dunking” hundreds or even thousands of people on a weekend. We see the numbers flash across the big digital displays about how many people “came to know Christ” on any given Sunday. The list goes on and on. But the one thing we never hear about is what happens to those people after the baptism. We never hear the plan these churches have to help strengthen those new in Christ. And the reason is because there is no plan. It is all about the flash and spectacle of the baptism, and then just push them aside for the next group of dunkees.

So to those out there who may be asking “Ok, I am saved, now what?”, I want to give you a little help, because I was fortunate enough to be become a member of a church who does not believe in the dunk them and leave them strategy. If you feel like you are wandering, wanting to know Jesus more, but have no idea how to, let me guide you a bit (which some help from a discipleship notebook I have been going through).

The first step is to pray. And not just a recited prayer written in a book somewhere. Have a discussion with God in a private, quite place. Tell Him your fears, your sins and your dreams. Let Him know what is in your heart. Let Him HEAR you say why you need Him. A prayer spoken out loud to God does not carry any more weight with Him than one said silently, but it will help you unburden yourself to God.  If you do this from your heart, you will feel better. Think about your attitude change when you tell a good friend something you have been hiding from them.  Now think about how much greater that change will be when you tell your Creator what is troubling your heart and what you are thankful for.

Pray is not a one and done activity. It is an ongoing communication with God throughout your day. You should set aside time each day to seclude yourself to be alone with God, but this is not the only time you should speak to Him. I find myself all throughout my day asking God for guidance, thanking Him for His blessings and asking  forgiveness. Do not fall into the “this is my time to pray” trap so many do. Pray whenever you want to take something to God, not just when it is time to run down your prayer list or prayer chain.

Once you become in Christ, it is time to seriously invest in a proper bible. Many will say “but I have the bible app on my phone / tablet and will just use it”. That’s great, I have that too, and use it every day. But that app will not substitute sitting down with God’s Word in front of you, alone from all distractions, and studying. You know what else your phone or tablet has on it? It has your email, your Facebook, your Twitter and all other distractions the world can throw at you. Turn the phone off, put it away, and pick up a notebook and your own bible and start to read the Word of God distraction free. I would also recommend a solid bible dictionary (I use a Smith’s).  As you start studying the bible, you are going to find yourself wondering “what is that?” or “who is this person”.  Write it down and go back and look it up when you finish reading. This is what is means to study the bible as opposed to simply reading it. The stronger you become in God’s Word, and the more you start to understand it, the more powerful and focused your prayer life will become.

So you are now praying and studying the bible with vigor, but still feel like you are not getting that full connection with God? That is because you are only halfway there. Like most everything here on earth, you need a support system in place to help you. And for Christians, that support system comes from fellow believers. Find a bible teaching church and become active and involved. Showing up on Sunday mornings for an hour and maybe Wednesday evenings is not being active and involved.  (You can see many other posts and videos from me on this subject). You need to dig in and ask questions. When you come across something in your daily reading you don’t understand or need clarification on, go to your pastor or a deacon and ask. That is what they are there for. If you find you are not getting a solid bible foundation in your pastor’s messages, then it is time to start looking for a different place to fellowship. Even Jesus quoted scripture when we spoke to the masses. Fellowship with other believers is vital to helping you grow in your relationship with Christ.

Finally, it is time to go out and tell others about this wonder gift of salvation God has given to all who believe in His Son.  This is the call to every single one of us in Christ. This is also where almost every one of use falls staggeringly short. If you are new in Christ, you may be scared or feel like you do not have the knowledge to be able to speak with someone about God. Let me share this little passage of scripture with you to show you that you are not alone:

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” … Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 3:11, 4:10-11 NKJV)

Two times Moses, the writer of the first five books of God’s Word and the leader of the Israelites, tells God “send someone else, I am not capable of doing what you want.” But look at God’s response “I will be your mouth and teach you what to say.” That same guidance and power is with every single person in Christ today, all we have to do it ask God to guide us. Pray to God to make known to you the chances you have to give His salvation message, and pray for the heart and the head to carry out His will.

Pray, study, fellowship and evangelize. If you are new in Christ, those are the four foundational pillars to grow from.  Rejoice in the grace of God, and immerse yourself in His Glory.

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.

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. 

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. 

Concentrate On The Good

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)

Those who have heard my testimony know this is the verse that changed the course of my life. While most will tell a new Christian or someone who wants to begin to study God’s Word to start in the book of John, my mom urged me to read the 4 middle epistles of Paul (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians). I took her advice, and when I stumbled on the above passage of scripture, it was like a great big CLICK. I came to realize that in order for me to begin to grow closer to God, I had to begin to purify my mind from all the garbage I was spent years putting into it.

This occurred three years ago today. I, like many others, can tell you exactly when I turned my life over to Christ. It was as I sat in a jail cell, completely guilty of what I had been charged with, and not knowing when I would be getting out. As I went through those four letters Paul had sent out to the churches thousands of years earlier, I began to realize how long and how far I had run from God. It was not just the turning away from church as soon as I could get out of my parent’s home. It was the complete lack of any conscience of what I should be doing with my life versus what I was doing with it. I had made a mess of everything I came into contact with, and as I sat in that cell, not knowing if anyone who I had I abandoned and burned would ever speak to me again, I realized that it didn’t matter. Because the only thing that did matter to me in that moment 3 years ago today was how can I make it up to God.

I know now this is not the proper way to come to God, but when you don’t have the biblical knowledge of what is the proper way, you will seek out the human nature way. And we all want to “make it up to” people we hurt. So every day for the 4 months I served, I would dissect parts of the bible, looking for how to make up all the lost time I had not given God. Slowly, I realized that it was not the past that mattered, but what I did in the moments I had left on this earth. And almost every day (and still to this day), I would go back to Philippians 4:8.

What do you spend your time on? What do you use your thoughts for? That is what this passage is speaking to. It is not speaking of money or possessions, which in the scheme of God’s plan for our lives comes second. Paul is telling us with these words that the biggest way we can glorify God is to use our minds and our time for Him. We are stewards of everything we have on this earth. This does not just mean the material things, but also what we spend our thoughts and time on.

I bring this up because I see so many of my social media friends putting their time and thoughts into nothing but negativity. A large chunk of it has to do with politics, but that is not everything. Whenever I speak to young adults (which is where a majority of my ministry focus lies) I always encourage them to go through their social media sites and ask themselves “is there anything on here that I would be ashamed of if Jesus saw it?”  This is a tough question to answer when you have your love for the newest Drake song plastered all over your Twitter page.

Go back and read Philippians 4:8 again. Does everything you do, both in your online AND offline life fit into this passage? If not, how will you start to make the changes in your life to bring it in line with this verse?

When speaking of this passage, I sometimes will use the metaphor of food. I love to eat, and what I eat would not fall on the healthy side. Buffets, burgers, steaks, pasta are my go to foods. I know it is bad for me, I know it causes me to gain weight and I know I shouldn’t do it, and it is one of the things I pray about often. When I eat healthier, I feel better, have more energy and actually normally can get more done in a day. And for about a week, I will be strong. Then the call of the Big Mac happens, and I am right back to my old ways.

The same is true with our thought diet. The more sinful TV, movies, music and online content we put into our minds, the less room for what is holy and righteous we have.  Every time I sit and watch a movie I know that is against God, I feel just yucky and I ask myself “why did I do that instead of picking up the bible and read?” Everytime I see a new disc from a band I used to love, I think “man, I would love to buy it” but then I remember Philippians 4:8 and know that it will not be good for my mind diet.

I urge you all to start concentrating on the good and holy. Look for feed your mind with thoughts and words that will help you shine for God to those around you. Break out from the crowd and start saying no to the things you know you God would not want you to be watching or listening too, because remember, you are not hiding anything from Him.

Keep The Good For Ourselves

But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. (1 Samuel 15:9)

We covered this passage of Scripture in Sunday School this morning, and it got me thinking. We all act like Saul did here. He was commanded by God to spare no person or animal. Saul and the Israelite army was to destroy everything. Yet, they only destroyed that which was useless. The people and possessions of value, they kept.

Most of the time, we too treasure our worldly possessions over our relationship with God. I am not just talking about material things (although this is a big part of it) but more importantly the most prized possession of all that we have: time. God wants us to use the time we have on this earth to serve and glorify Him, yet we choose to simply fit Christ into the cracks of time in our lives. We hold off doing our prayer time and bible study until we are finished with all the tasks of the world, then we find we are too tired to be effective in worshiping God. In the devotional I am reading, it talks about a gentleman in the Middle East who is called out for not sticking to the Muslim prayer times of his village, and his response was incredible to me.

“Prayer is an intimate conversation with God, and is should be done all the time, in (your) heart, rather than at specific times using the same phrases and postures.”

The society we live in does not think of prayer in these terms. We think it is a wish list, give me what I need and let me be conversation, when it is truly an intimate discussion with God. If we could change our mindset to that of this man, think of how much closer and deeper we could draw into God. All the time, speaking with our Creator in our deepest heart, trying to live every second for His glory.

Saul only wanted the earthly rewards of battle. He did not want to give anything to God other than the leftovers. He felt that was all God needed or deserved. I urge you to examine your life today and see the areas where you are doing the same thing. It does not have to be financial or material. Anytime you give God less than He deserves, you are being like Saul.

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On a completely other note, if you are a fan of Christian Music, I would like to ask you to check out my newest podcast project. It will be a weekly show dealing with the topics Christians face in this hostile society we live in, mixed in with music from my collection. Check it out if you would like

www.allforhim2014.podomatic.com