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The New Year

We are now only one day away from New Years Eve, and now is the time to get alone somewhere and be honest with yourself and God about this past years failures and successes. When talking about failures and successes, I am primarily referring to relational failures and successes. Not necessarily romantic relationships, but simply how you relate to, and love your fellow man.

As Christians, we know that we’ll never be perfect in this life, but that does not mean that we shouldn’t try to become better people. Ask yourself this question: “Am I more like Jesus today than I was last year?” If your honest answer is “yes” then congratulations! You have grown this past year into a better person. But if your answer is “no” or even “I’m not sure,” then let it be a warning sign to you that you might be headed for a stagnant, lukewarm lifestyle.

However, no matter what your answer is, we all need to continue our personal growth. Here are some tips to help you evaluate where you are and where you’d like to be next year:

  1. Look at your relational failures this past year and figure out what you might have done differently. Did you help others grow? Did you feed the hungry? Did you prioritize people over things?
  2. Make a note about how you want to act and what you want to do this coming new year.
  3. Look at your relational successes from this past year. Let these encourage you but also ask yourself “was it enough?” “what can be maintained or improved?”

You see, we live in a dark culture that is consumed with materialism. But the light of Christ shines through the compassion, generosity and kindness of those who practice loving people instead of loving “things.” That is why it is so important for us to grow and become more like Jesus, so that this dark world will see His light and have hope.

You are the light of Jesus, and you will burn brighter the closer you get to Him.

Happy New Year!

“You are the light of the world…” Matthew 5:14

 

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You are not to be called Rabbi – Church Politics 102

If you have felt frustrated, held back, or like your gifts and talents are unappreciated in church, then you need to read this! If you are a pastor who has felt stuck in helping people grow, then you need to read this. But fair warning: There is truth in this post that is going to be very hard for many people to take. So if you are going to read this, please read it all the way through or don’t read it at all.

Whereas the politics of church organizations have hurt so many, I thought it wise to bring some clarity to what church is really about.

I’m an ordained minister, and as such, I know that it is not a full-time job, it’s a life long calling. However, that in no way means that it is the job at which I make money and support a family. On the contrary, I have a job in the secular world and do not get paid for the ministry I do (Freely you have received, freely give). In fact, there are way more pastors making a living being pastors than there should be. They should get out in the real world and do some good where it really counts. From one ordained minister to another, I warned you that this would hurt. Pastoring was never meant to be a career, but a calling.

Now, people keep telling me that I should start a church, but why should I? Jesus is the one who “started the church.” The church isn’t a building, or even an organized group of people with a leader who is called a pastor or reverend etc. It is not an organized institution or structure. It developed into an organized institution in the Middle Ages, but that is not what it is. The church is everyone who places their faith in Christ. People today who “start churches” are really just creating another hierarchic STRUCTURE from the church (local group of believers), with themselves on top. I know that most of them do not intend it that way, but that’s what ends up happening because eventually, in the subconscious of the congregations, the pastor is more holy, or somehow more in touch with God. That’s a load of crap. people don’t grow the way they need to in our modern church structure because of this mindset. Hence the reason we don’t need more “church structures/institutions”

Does that mean that church institutions and pastors are bad? Of course not. But a good pastor will help you grow to their detriment. What I mean by that is that, they will help you grow so much, that at some point you don’t need them anymore, and can fly in your faith on your own through life in whatever you do and wherever you go. You will be able to help others grow to soar on their own, too. You will be able to do this because that pastor helped you do one very important thing. Get closer to Jesus.

It’s the same principle as “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Most pastors don’t want people to leave their church structure because they like a lot of bodies in the pews and a lot of money in the offering, so they keep feeding you the fish, but neglect to show you HOW to fish. As long as you feel that you somehow need them for spiritual guidance (fish), you’ll be sitting in their pews, and you’ll be paying their salaries. But here’s what Jesus says about pastors and teachers: “but you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher (Jesus), and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.” (Matt 23:8-10)

Most of the “fish feeding” pastors feel threatened by those who grow too much. Maybe it’s because they feel that the rest of the congregation will want that person to be the pastor instead. This is yet another reason why pastors, wittingly or not, hold people back in their spiritual growth. They want you to grow, just not more than they do.

Here is what most of the “fish feeding” pastors won’t tell you: Your job is to get to know Jesus the Christ. He is your guide, your pastor, your teacher. If you don’t know how to get to know Him, it’s simple but not easy. You have to take time to read the bible and talk to God while also trying to listen to what He’s saying to you. God speaks in many different ways so it probably won’t be audible words you hear (but He might choose to speak that way too).

That’s it! You see that it’s simple to explain but not easy to do. Therefore many people don’t do it. Instead they choose to take the route of going to church once a week to feel like they are doing their spiritual duty. Other than that, most people do little more to get to know Jesus.

But Jesus jealously longs for you! He wants a personal relationship with YOU! Not through a pastor, but a direct relationship where you talk to each other. If only His church really knew this!

When Jesus describes what will happen at the end of the age He also gives us insight into what is eternally important. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from me you workers of lawlessness.'”
Matt 7:21-23

You can do all sorts of good works, but if you don’t have a real relationship with Jesus you’re in big trouble! I find it fascinating that Jesus didn’t say “YOU never knew ME” but “I never knew YOU”! (emphasis mine). It’s important that you are totally open and honest with God about who you are, so that He knows you. That necessitates opening your heart all the way for Him to see even into the little dark corners and cracks that you are afraid to think about.

So if you want to get closer to Jesus, one of the best ways to start is by opening your heart and letting Him see the good and the bad, and say “Jesus, I want to know you more, but maybe more importantly, Jesus, know ME!”

In conclusion, it’s about you and Him. Church is good, but it is only meant to help guide you closer to Jesus.

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Christmas Fasting

In this most amazing season of Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of the Savior and King, it is a good idea for us to fast. However, when you read that, your mind no doubt specifically thought about food, and while that type of fasting is the most common, and has it’s benefits both physically and spiritually, it is not the kind of fast to which I’m referring.

I’m referring to the type of fast of which the Lord says:

Is this not the fast which I choose, to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”   Isaiah 58:6-7 NASB

So what is the fast that the Lord chooses? It is has two aspects: The first part of the passage can be interpreted in it’s simplest form as the importance of forgiveness (see Complete Forgiveness). This is extremely applicable in it’s own right, however, it’s the second part that is the focus of this article, and that is generosity. We must be generous, not just financially, but with whatever resources the Lord has given us, and if necessary, yes, to go without a meal or two so that someone who doesn’t have the means or ability to feed themselves can eat. This is the spirit of Christmas…the spirit of giving and forgiving.

How and what are you willing to give, to the point of going without it, this Christmas Season so that you may provide it for someone else?

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Thanksgiving

The Psalmist says “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.” Some scholars have deemed this “The protocol of heaven,” that is to say, that if one were visiting royalty in another country (England for example) there is a protocol for what you do and say when meeting with them. It is similar when meeting with God Almighty. Similar, but not the same. Why, because God generally meets you where YOU are. He is wonderfully personal and too many people don’t understand that. He wants to meet with YOU, He wants to talk to YOU! You don’t need to go to a pastor or priest in order to hear the voice of God. There is one simple thing that you must do – be real with God.

God knows your heart anyway so why try to hide anything? He knows your thoughts, fears, worries, concerns, hopes, pride, and yes, even your sins. You see, “thanksgiving and praise” are not the protocol of heaven, but are evidence of the condition of your heart. No matter where on earth you are, you can connect with the God of eternity if you are simply real and honest with Him, because “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” “Real” people are humble people because their self-perception and world view are grounded in reality and the way things actually are. People who are proud or haughty are generally putting on a facade in order to present themselves as better than others. But as we know “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So as a humble person, you will recognize that we all (including yourself) need a Savior.

Humility unlocks the gate and then thanksgiving can begin. Otherwise we become like the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14 who thanks God that he is more righteous than other men, obviously his prayer of thanksgiving was wrought with pride (which God opposes) and the gate of thanksgiving that he was trying to enter remained locked. But there was another man there who was humble when he prayed to God, and we’re told that he went away justified by God.

So humility unlocks the gate and you enter the gate by thanking God. This Thanksgiving, lets remember to be humble and real with God and others so that our thanksgiving is not in vain, and perhaps we can draw even closer to Jesus.

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Thanksgiving Prelude

It is so, incredibly appropriate that Thanksgiving begins the Christmas season. Unfortunately too many people are caught up in the materialism of “doorbuster savings” and getting the newest electronic gismo that will be outdated by the time they get it home, that they fail to take time to be truly thankful. The truth is, if you have a roof over your head, food and clean water, you are better off than most of the people in the world.

This Thanksgiving, be sure to start off the Christmas season right by really setting everything aside, and being thankful for everything God has done for you.

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Withdrawaler or Socializer? Church Politics 101

Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert, and which is better when it comes to church and church leadership?

This is a topic that, at first glance, may appear trivial, but there are some interesting points to help you better know yourself and the congregation with whom you interact. I actually prefer the words “Withdrawaler” and “Socializer,” and will be utilizing these words for the duration of this article.

Socializers go to church for the community and fellowship, Withdrawalers go to church to loose themselves in order to better connect with Jesus. Socializers tend to like smaller churches better because it is generally viewed as a more conducive venue for connecting with people. Withdrawalers tend to prefer bigger churches because they can loose themselves in the crowd and nobody will talk about, or wonder why they’re not sitting or standing with everyone else. No one will probe as to why they are crying during a worship song, and no one will ask that dredded question, “how are you doing?” because generally speaking, withdrawalers aren’t doing well unless they’re with Jesus. Socializers get recharged by being around others who can build their faith, Withdrawalers get recharged by being alone and awaiting Gods voice.

Having made a distinction between these two personality types, most people aren’t completely one or the other, we are complex and unique. But I would like to caution the pastors who are looking for people to fill ministry and leadership roles: the Socializer is the typical choice for the position because of how they connect with people, but the Withdrawaler should be given equal, if not more consideration because of how they connect with God. One is not better than another, we simply have different functions.

Speaking as someone who is ordained, and is admittedly more of a Withdrawaler, I have felt very misunderstood by Socializer pastors, or pastors who thought I should be a Socializer since I’m called to ministry. We need to understand who we are because we can best serve Jesus in the giftings He’s given us.

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It’s not a “women’s issue”

Warning: This post has mature content. Parental discretion is advised.

As if murdering the unborn wasn’t bad enough, the so-called “pro-choice” sect exploits those who have been sexually assaulted and abused. They play on said victims emotions and blame anyone who is not a part of the pro-choice cult. It is not a women’s issue, it’s a humanity issue, because approximately half of all of the people murdered by abortion are female.

#voteprolife