InnovateChurch Day 1

Wow! What a first day! I am in Lynchburg, VA, at Thomas Road Baptist Church for their InnovateChurch pastors/church planters conference. I told my wife last night that the Holy Spirit is really using this conference to stir things in me that I didn’t expect.


Briefly…

Eric Geiger-drifting towards complexity and drifting off mission, and the importance of discipleship as a process in our churches
Kerry Shook-What would you do if you knew you (or your church) only had one month to live? Are you allowing God to do everything He wants in your ministry?
Jonathan Falwell-vision dies through pride, jealousy, stagnation, and worrying what others think. Believe that God can do the impossible in you.

Powerful stuff. Charles Billingsley and the team serve up worship hot as always. Can’t wait to hear what God has laid on the hearts of the speakers today.

Virtual Prayer Tour of Wellman Manor

I often like to drift to sleep in prayer. I heard the evangelist in my church’s prayer revival last week say that falling asleep while praying was OK: how better to fall sleep than in the arms of Jesus? While no substitute for my usual prayer time, I like to go over the day in prayer in my last conscious moments.

I’m not sure why I did this. Last night, I started praying, and I mentally walked through my house, thanking God for everything I “saw.” It took a while! Not long into my “virtual tour,” I was overwhelmed by how blessed I really am! I felt like I just wanted God to know that, as best I am able, I don’t want to take anything for granted.

In Mark 6, Jesus told His disciples not to focus on taking things with them for their journey. He wanted them to rely on His providence. Though we all have more to our names than a one tunic, a staff, and sandals, we also should not focus on what God has NOT provided. He has provided much!

Above all, He provided Jesus Christ, the ultimate provision for whatever we face!

I forget who said it, but it’s true: you never see a U-Haul attached to a hearse. God gives us everything we need to serve Him and to give Him glory. May we always be thankful.

Try a “tour” of your own! It will open your eyes.

Hate-Sin Legislation

I have been closely watching the “hate-crimes” legislation debate in the House Judiciary Committee. This legislation is supposed to receive a vote tomorrow. According to OneNewsNow, this legislation “would add gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability to the list of protected categories under federal hate crimes law.” If this passes, it could make true Christianity very difficult.

That sounds overly dramatic. It isn’t. In II Timothy 4, Paul told Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

Telling the truth about homosexuality may soon be out of season.

Proclaiming the Bible’s stance (and, therefore, God’s stance) on homosexuality could be considered hate speech of a threatening nature. This is not limited to preachers, just as what Paul said to Timothy is not limited to preachers.

We as Christians are obligated to be salt and light into this dying world. Especially if it is inconvenient. There are countries in this world where martyrdom and persecution are common. Why could that NOT happen in America? America continues to make it clear that a large portion of it wants nothing to do with God.

Evangelical Christianity has been labeled in some segments of the media to be filled with hate towards homosexuals and homosexuality. This belief could not be further from the truth. A true Christian loves unbelievers, and wants to see all people accept Christ and receive the life change that only Jesus can give.

But there is hate involved concerning sin.

 God hates it.

But here’s the thing…

God hates gay and straight sin.

God hates black sin.

White sin.

Asian sin.

Latino sin.

Man sin.

Woman sin.

All sin.

But in His mercy he provided His Son. Jesus’ blood was spilt for all. The salvation that His blood provided is available to all. All we have to do is trust in Him as our Savior. That is what we proclaim.

The sins that I commit every day are just as heinous as any sin a gay man or woman could commit. All I know is that, on July 5th, 1981, I accepted Christ as my Savior. I accepted atonement for my sin. I allowed it to pay my sin debt. I welcome Christ’s return. And I boldly proclaim what His Word says.

Christians, we may one day face a time when a blog like this could lead to a prison sentence. Psalm 56:11 says, “in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” How many Christians have been martyred and persecuted for the cause of Christ? Nothing that can be done to us on this earth compares to Christ’s death on the cross: the separation from the Father and the agony of His physical death make anything this world could dish out child’s play.

This world is not my home.

If you are reading this and are not saved, you need to accept Christ today. Right now. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. You don’t have to understand everything in the Bible. You just have to believe that Jesus loves you. He died on a cross for your sins. He rose from the dead three days later. He is coming back soon. Accept the free gift of salvation He offers to you now, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Um…Uh…Well…

Have you ever drawn a blank? I am right now.

I have endeavored to be better about writing my blog, but I find myself searching for topics at times. I am not a preacher, so I can’t talk about the direction of my sermon study. I have a fruitful devotional life, but that shouldn’t always be accessible publicly. I am a meager music minister. As Ray Stevens used to say, “I just play my little piano, sing my little songs.” (By the way, anybody out there that gets that reference gets a cookie. Bonus points if you can name the song, or even just its topic. Triple word score if you can sing any part of it.)

It’s discouraging to think that I am so un-interesting that I have nothing with which to fill a couple of virtual lines in cyberspace. I read the blog of Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church the other day, and he said that he doesn’t Twitter because his life would amount to drink one Diet Coke after another. I refuse to believe that, but is that what has happened to me?

Even as I type this, I am thinking how truly blessed I am! After all, this blog could be filled with how miserable I am (believe me, I’ve seen those out there). It could be outlining my failing health, the disintegration of my family, the collapse of my ministry, my ongoing struggle with depression, or any number of other maladies that are (unfortunately) common today.

Life is awesome! My Savior is amazing! He died for me so that I might live eternally! He is coming soon! I love my family! I love my ministry! I get to tell others about Him!

If I have to have writer’s block every now and then to reaffirm who He is, I’ll take it.

Successes and the Continuing Work

I am hearing wonderful things from all over the place about lives that were changed during services Easter Sunday. One church planted three new churches and saw hundreds saved. Another saw several hundred saved in their services. Yet another saw over 700 saved. I have been amazed at the extent God has been at work in houses of worship lately.

How many more are unaware?

I saw an article about a website that, after the rapture, will send your loved ones an email with a final plea to turn to Christ before all is lost for eternity. Now, I don’t really have a problem with such an enterprise. Some of the comments about the website, however, were troubling.

One person said that if all the “Bible-thumpers” were to disappear, it would be great. “We could teach science and reason in our schools, give everyone equal rights, explore space, and clean up the environment. It would be a golden age for mankind.”

WHAT? Let me see if I understand. Millions of people vanish. Untold chaos erupts worldwide. And from all that… paradise ensues?

Another person said that unbelievers were the ones that would be “swept away,” because in Matthew 24 it says that it would be as it was in the days of Noah. Just goes to show that a little knowledge (very little) is a dangerous thing.

There were dozens more examples of misinformation, truth rejection, and absurdity. But they all point to why we need to remain vigilant and not rest on our successes. Millions need Christ, including those behind every negative comment towards our God and what He plans to do. I pray for every one of those anonymous souls that desperately need salvation before they are unpleasantly surprised by the reality of what’s to come.

Every Sunday is a new opportunity. Every minute of every day is a new opportunity. Let us all look for new ways to tell others about the hope we have in Christ.

Excited about Easter!

I am excited about Easter!

I saw a statistic the other day: 82% of people will go to church if asked by someone they know. You know those stats go up when you’re talking about CEO’s (Christmas and Easter Only folks).

Easter is the celebration of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and His triumphant victory over sin, death, and the grave. Let’s all make an effort! Invite just one person.

Pastor Jonathan Fallwell said it well earlier today on Twitter: “Praying for pastors to run up the score this weekend. We’ve ALREADY won… preach like it!!!” Not just for preachers!

Miracles and Sacrifice

I hesitate to even write this entry, because I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. I’m not making light of sacrifice.

As we approach Easter, I’ve been thinking about the cross and the grave. The other morning as I was getting ready for church, I believe God spoke into my life…

Anybody can die. 

The miraculous thing about our salvation and Christ’s death on the cross is not that He died. Two thieves died next to Him that day. Many others died before or since. Christ suffered like no man has ever suffered and died a death more horrific than anyone else has ever experienced. And He allowed it to happen. But was His death a miracle? Not really.

God the Son wrapping Himself in flesh and being born of a virgin? Yes, I would call that miraculous. Feeding thousands with practically nothing? Miraculous. Walking on water? Without a doubt. But dying? No. Christ’s earthly body started to die when He was born. Human flesh is finite and relatively easy to kill.

The miracle came three days later. Our Savior and Lord conquered sin, death, and the grave to pay our sin debt. The tomb where He was laid is empty today because our Messiah didn’t stay in there. The grave could not hold our King.

Pastor Johnny Hunt said it best when he said that churches might want to replace the cross on the wall with an empty tomb. I think I agree with that.

The story didn’t end at the cross. That’s the miracle. We should be forever grateful for the sacrifice our Savior made, and in awe of the fact that death couldn’t keep its grip on Him.

Some Insight

Someone asked me the other day what being a worship pastor meant to me. I’ve been thinking more and more about the question ever since.

As I was getting ready to sing a song Sunday morning, it dawned on me what I should have said. The song was “Praise You In the Storm” by Casting Crowns. I was thinking through the words. I thought of the storms that I have weathered in my life by the grace of God. I thought about the fact that God does not promise the Christian a life of ease, but promises to be faithful to complete the good work within us. I prayed that I would be able to convey even a portion of these truths to my church.

Then it hit me. That is the essence of my calling. To show the people I serve the message behind the song. To open my heart to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and then show my heart to my congregation. That is what being a worship pastor means to me.

What I Have

I was just thinking last night. I have a warm bed to sleep in. A beautiful wife and friend lying beside me. A handsome son and beautiful daughter in the next room. A roof over my head. Two vehicles. Food in the fridge. Heat coming from the vents. A tv in practically every room. A phone and laptop to connect to the entire world. A ministry and occupation that fit me like a glove. Money in the bank. Good health. Few worries.

All of that absolutely pales in comparison in every way to the sacrifice Christ made on the cross of Calvary. When I accepted Christ at 5 years old, that was THE best thing that ever happened to me and ever will on this earth. My home is in heaven, and it is now one day closer to being my home than it was yesterday, to God be the glory!

No matter how good things are, without Christ they are worthless. It’s not what you have while you’re here: it’s where you’re going. You can’t take it with you, and you can’t stay.

Woodstock part 2

I thought I would take a minute to reflect on this year’s Men’s Conference in Woodstock. Over 6,000 guys gathered for what was to be a meeting only God could have orchestrated. Lives were changed. Men were saved. Families were reborn.

There is no reason those things couldn’t happen all the time in churches everywhere. That is, if we allow them to happen. Too many churches have a time-honored tradition of complacency. Too many churches are steadfastly standing still. No one repents because their sin is no one else’s business. Altars stay empty. Church members count on their pastors to bring people into the church to be saved: no chance they could be saved on their doorstep or in the living room during a visit from a friend. Gossip and backbiting are excused or ignored.

Why does it take a grand spectacle for God to work? Is he more powerful in a church with 15,000 members? Can lives be radically transformed in a church with 1,000 or 100 members? I submit they can. If we let go and let God work. If we stand firm and expect the Holy Spirit to do what He promised He would do.