Perseverance

There is no lying, I went to bed last night completely discouraged. You see, for about a year now, I have been trying to start some type of live Christian music series in my small little home town. My church has been behind my mission, and the board and members have done everything they can when I have asked for help. The groups I am bringing in come in with smiles on their faces, thankful they have a place to play. Every single artist that has performed on stage has done so with a performance worthy of Madison Square Garden. The problem: no one sees it. No matter what I try, what marketing I do, and how much I beg and plead for people to come to the shows, show night after show night, I am sitting in an empty church with a few close friends enjoying a private performance of these incredibly talented artists.

So as I crawled into bed last night, I could not help but think: why am I doing this to myself? Why do I get my hopes up that “this time it will be different”? Why do I play the “well, this church will send their teens out for this one for sure” game? I was basically wallowing around in a dirty pin of self-pity. Because the questions should not be “why do I”. The focus should not be placed on my success or failure at each event, I should not be sitting back waiting for the “wow, Patrick did a great job” pat on the back.

The only thing that should matter to me is “did the Word of God get delivered at the show? Did someone who is struggling with something in their life find any help through the Gospel by hearing what came from that stage?” The devil wants us to fall into the self-pity pit. Satan loves it when we start questioning why we are doing something for God, because when we do start asking the “why” question, normally that means we are about to give up doing God’s work. We say things like “it’s too hard” or “my time is better spent doing something else” or “my money can be used on something that actually will succeed.” Whenever we think or even say things like this, we are placing the worldly view of success ahead of God’s path for our lives. We are seeking self-satisfaction from others as opposed to thinking about how much God has blessed us by giving us the chance to share His word with even one person.

Feeling a little beat up and tired this morning, I rolled out of bed, not discouraged, but determined. Determined not to let the devil get a foothold in my thinking. Determined to continue to pour my time, effort and (what little I actually have lol) funds into these shows. Because I live in an area which is simply ravaged by heroin, prostitution and alcohol abuse. And if only one person stumbles into church on a night of a show and hears the message of salvation, then the time, effort and money is the best investment I could have every made.

If you are feeling like your ministry is not going anywhere, do not give up. Continue to push through those feelings of self doubt and pity, and just wait to see what is on the other side as God shows just what faith in Him can do.

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Influential Christians?

Disturbing is the only word I can use. I came across an article today in which Time magazine listed the 10 most influential “Christians” of 2016. Now, I put that word in quotes, because while it is hard to truly tell the heart of anyone (I use the most extreme example I can when talking about how you never know if someone is saved or not by telling people Hitler could be in heaven and Billy Graham could be headed for hell), I think someone who is labeled a Christian should at least show some signs of leading a life which helps spread God’s Word. I am not going to go through the entire list, but I think it a couple of names will make you see where Time is coming from here.

Included on the list are Nicki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar. It would appear tweeting out John 3:16 in 2011 is all it takes for the magazine to consider Minaj a Christian. And there is a quote from Kendrick Lamar that is pretty solid:

“Lord God, I come to you a sinner, and I humbly repent for my sins. I believe that Jesus is Lord. I believe that you raised Him from the dead. I will ask that Jesus will come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. I receive Jesus to take control of my life that I may live for Him from this day forth. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for saving me with your precious blood. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

But when you actually look at the lyrics of Lamar’s songs, you will see where the mixed messages come from (they are so filth ridden, I will not even attempt to put them in this blog, but I am sure a quick google search will show you what I am talking about). This is not a case of me not liking the style of music these performers record. It is a case of watered down Christianity which is so prevalent with actors and musicians. Where is the witnessing? Where is the declaration of their love for God from the stage in front of the thousands of people they see every night? If Time wanted to include a pop star on this list, why not Justin Bieber, who time and time again in interviews has declared his love of Christ, and videos have surfaced of him doing this from the stage as well.

Also on the list are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now, first let us put politics aside, because I do not care if your name has an R or a D after it, when you proclaim this statement “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power” you cannot be placed on a list of influential Christians. Before I tell you who said that, let me add this one “To find faith themselves that I think there are many different ways of exercising your faith.” The first one is from President Obama, the second one from Clinton. Both indicate that there are multiple paths to eternal life, which is completely and totally against the bedrock foundation of Christianity. And also notice that Mr. Obama never says God, but a “higher power”. Proclaiming the Holy Father whenever it is possible is our core mission as Christians. But these two (as well as Trump, Rubio and Cruz) play fast and loose with their Christianity to suit the polls. That is not a model of Christianity anyone should be following.

And this brings me to the last name of concern on this list, Bruce Jenner (I refuse to use the made up name the media has given him). Here is his statement in regards to his faith: “”‘I would sit in church and always wonder, “In God’s eyes, how does he see me?’ Maybe this is my cause in life.”

Let that statement sink in for a second. He is actually calling into question how God created him. He is saying he thinks God made a mistake. Let me tell you right now, God does not make mistakes. The Lord places us from birth as a male or a female, and it is not our job to change that. It is a flat out insult for any bible following Christian to include anyone who challenges the Creator.

Now, why did Time included people like those above on their list? Quite obviously it is to sell magazines, which is fine because they are a business, and have every right to do this. But it is also our right, and our duty as followers of Jesus, to let Time know how disappointed we are they chose not to include those in the faith community who are making a true impact on society. People like Franklin Graham and Charles Stanley, whose whole lives are devoted to showing those around them the true path to God.

This list proves only one thing: the watered down Christianity that is alive and thriving in this country will not be going away anytime soon. It is time we turn to the bible for our answers and not to the so called influential Christians.

Where are you looking?

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2

Twelve words. That is all it takes to sum up exactly what each and every one of us should be doing. This passage of scripture should be placed in our minds and as we go about our day, we should reflect on if the decisions we are making are for the things of the earth, or for the things above.

It is easy to say, but so hard to do. Our nature calls out to us, wanting us to become worldly. We are driven by our natural human instincts to want to fit into the world, to consume the things of this earth so we can know what it is going on around us.

This is exactly what Lot did in Genesis. He chose the worldly things, and chose not to fix his eyes on above. How often do you find yourself simply accepting the things of the world because it is easier than standing up for what we know to be true and right in the bible? When the two angels approach the city of Sodom, they find Lot sitting on the city wall. This would mean he was one of the elders of the city. To gain this position, he would have to have earned the respect and woven himself and his family into the fabric of Sodom. This would have meant he (and his family) would have simply turned a blind eye to the depravity that festered behind the city walls.

Instead of calling Sodom out for their sinful behavior, Lot condoned it. Clearly, not setting his mind on things above.

But don’t we do the same thing? Don’t we hide the sins of our nation behind colorful terms to take the sting out of them. Abortion is not murder, it is a “women’s right to choose”. Homosexuality is not a sin, but a lifestyle choice. Adultery is not a sin, it’s a “mistake”. The list goes on and on and on. Right before our Christian eyes, America has become Sodom. And what have we, as Christians, done? We have aided the erosion of morals and values by not teaching people about the true Jesus.

Yes, Jesus called for us to love all. But we are also called to preach the Gospel message…..the WHOLE Gospel message. This means we are to show people how they are living in sin, and then show people how salvation can be received through God’s grace by repentance. Many have heard me talk about repentance many times. It is not simply saying “I’m sorry” to God, but is actively and conscientiously move away from your sinful act and giving yourself to Jesus. It is, quite simply, setting your mind on the things of above and not on the things  on the earth.

When we focus our attention on Godly things, we feel better (both mentally and spiritually). We begin to be able to focus on the ministry we are called to do on this earth. Our mind sharpens it’s focus on studying the word of God and understanding how critical it is for us to advance the message of Christ. The more of those things from above we focus on, the more the light of God will shine through us and we become truly what we are called to be: His soldiers in the battle we are facing here on earth.

Lot lost this battle when we gave into Sodom’s sinful ways. And we see the effect it had on those around him. Once he abandoned the city, his daughters, the very same ones he offered up to the men to “do with as they wished”, felt the only way to continue their lineage was to sleep with their father. Think about that one time. These daughters (whose ages we do not know, but it is generally assumed they were in their teens) had been raised in a society so corrupt and wicked, that all they could think about was sex, and the way to sex was through alcohol.

Does this line of thinking sound familiar in today’s society? It is not difficult to find videos on social media showing just how Sodom-like our high schools and colleges have become.

There is only one corrective course for America (and the world). And that is to stop putting our faith, trust and eyes on the things of this world, and start putting them on the things above. It will only be when Christians unite and stop watering down the Gospel that the tide will begin to shift in the direction of good and righteous. Once we leave behind the “your sin is okay” doctrine and replace it with the “you are okay, but your sin is not” doctrine, then we can truly be a great nation again.

Being of the world

One of the things I am constantly being accused of on the social networks I belong too is being “too Christian”. Lighten up, I am told time and time again. “You are taking the Bible too seriously” is another accusation thrown my way.

Most of the time, these comments are made by friends I have known for many years. Friends who have known the struggles I have gone through, and continue to battle every day. And perhaps even more important, these are friends who I know are heavily involved in their home churches.

This has me thinking: at what point in the bible are we simply to “lighten up” when it comes to our walk with Christ? When are we supposed to say “ok, I know this may not seem like a big deal to some, and I know by the teachings I have learned in the bible it is wrong, but that is ok, because I need to be accepted.” I don’t recall that being anywhere in the Good Book. In fact, I do believe it says just the opposite.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

That verse seems pretty clear to me that we are not to bend and become a little less Christ-like so we can fit into the world around us. We are to be striving for the will of God, not striving to be like those around us. Too often, we put aside our beliefs and our faith to simply be like everyone else. At no time, no matter what your occupation or calling in life, should be made to compromise what you know to be wrong according to the bible.

I was questioned about this a while back when I was called out for being a DJ and playing secular music at weddings. The person who called me out asked if it felt I was crossing a line by doing this. The answer is quite simply no, because the company I am involved with  is a company founded and based in Christian principles. We do not play anything that contains foul language and we do not play anything which blasphemies God. Every single email inquiry we send out has “may God bless your marriage” as the last line.

I have written a piece on Facebook before about “Business Is Business and Church Is Church”, which is a comment someone made to me in regards to how we run our business. This is simply not the case. WE as Christians ARE the church. Every single action we take, every post we make, and every word from our mouths MUST reflect Christ’s teachings. Anything short of this is failing God.

There is no better time than today to take a look at your online and offline life and ask yourself “Am I really serving God in what I say and do?”

 

How Do You Define Success?

As I was going back through my notes on my daily bible reading today, I stumbled across this question which was highlighted. Most likely, I was going to go back and do some research on something I had read the day the notation was made, and just never got around to doing it. But it struck me today that this question is extremely relevant in the culture we live in. 

By society’s standards, I was a very successful man four years ago. I had a nice apartment, ran a company that was in demand and highly respected within its industry and had the money to buy anything I wanted anytime I wanted. I wore the best clothes and had all the latest gadgets. Anyone who would have seen me at this time would have looked and said “there is a successful person.” But it was all a show. An act I put on for society to make them think I was successful. 

In actuality, I was having to scrape up money each month to pay for the “cool” apartment. Even though I had all the best things money could buy at the time, I had nothing  in the bank to protect me is suddenly it all stopped. I had lived that way all my life and saw no reason to stop it. Then things started to go wrong. Fights with those closest to me who were trying to get me to see how out of control I was. Bad business decisions made in the heat of the moment instead of stepping back and examining the situation. In a 6 month period, I went from success to failure in society’s eyes. All those “friends” I thought I had disappeared when the going got tough (only 2 of them really stuck around after my fall from grace was completed.) 

I was broken and broke. I went from success to unsuccessful (or so I thought). The reason I believed I had become a failure is because I was only judging success or failure through cultural, worldly standards. And when we do this, we will always see ourselves as unsuccessful. There will always be someone with a bigger bank account, bigger house or better wardrobe. When the possessions of the world is your measuring stick, you will always come up short. 

It took me losing everything to see there is only one true way to measure and define success, and that is how does Jesus see you?  When my outlook and motivation changed from “what can I do to make more money and have more things” to “what can I do to serve Jesus today”, my life changed. Instead of living in a fog of depression and doubt every time I stepped out of the house, I now live in a radiant world of hope and forgiveness.  Everyday I am around those whom society has deemed unsuccessful and failures. But I see a chance to tell them about God and how you can have ultimate satisfaction through knowing Him and following Him. 

“Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” ‭Matthew‬ ‭19:21-22‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

You see here, Jesus does not want our earthly possessions. He wants us. All of us, complete mind, body and soul so that He can guide us and show us His ways. It took me 40 years to figure this out . It took me 40 years of anger, resentment, and feeling so lost I couldn’t take it anymore.  It wasn’t until I was completely broken, both financially and spiritually, that I was finally able to define success.  And that definition is this: I am able to wake up every day and tell those around me about the love of Christ. The love He has for me and the love He has for anyone who is willing to give their all to Him. 

So I ask you this: Are you ready to be successful?  

The Comfort Zone

How many times a day
do you hear someone mention that they have found their “comfort
zone”? I myself used this expression a few times in the past month when
telling people about a recent decision I had to make. It is a term we use to
express where we would like our lives to be and how we would like to have
situations around us.

 

But so often, in
order to fulfill God’s purpose for our life, we must be pushed out of our
comfort zone. When we stay within our comfort zone, we become complacent with
the gifts God has given us to spread His word.

 

Think of Ananias.
This man was respected member of the clergy in Damanscus. He was looked up to
in the area, and he knew the dangers of being a Christian at this time in
history. He knew Saul was on the loose and heading his way. Yet when God spoke
to him, he answered the call. He went down Straight Street and welcomed Saul
into the brotherhood of believers with compassion and kindness. He knew he was
walking into a room with someone who just a day before had every intention of
rounding every Christian he could up and throwing them in jail.  But because he stepped out of his comfort
zone, and trusted in The Lord and His purpose for his life, Ananias helped
usher Saul into the greatness he would later experience.

 

But be careful,
stepping out of your comfort zone does not mean giving up the values and
beliefs you have in Christ.  Far too
often we think think God is leading us somewhere only to discover that where we
ended up is not in a place we should be. Stepping outside of your comfort zone
must always be in conjunction with properly and accurately spreading God’s
Word.  Compromise is not an option when
it comes to biblical teaching.

 

So take the time
this week to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to serving Christ. Do
something for God that you would never normally do. You never know whose life
you might be touching when you do so.