Friday, January 19, 2018

What An Empty Pew Can Teach Us

Slain New York City police officer Rafael Ramos had one of those dangerous jobs that made showing up every day a quiet act of heroism.
But as the testimonies that came spilling out after his December 2014 shooting death make clear, he was a hero for another reason, too: Ramos was a man of faith with the rare courage to live out his convictions for the world to see.

In an increasingly secular age, people are encouraged to worship in their own way, as long as they do it in private. Talk of faith in the public square raises suspicion and sometimes hostility, but this apprehension overlooks the many important contributions of faith to public life and culture. 

Where would the world be if the faithful kept their faith inside the sanctuary walls? Without a belief that God created all people equal, William Wilberforce would never have campaigned for decades to end the British slave trade.
Without a firm conviction that God is just and abhors violence, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would not have had the courage to lead the non-violent movement for African-American civil rights.
Without faith in the love and mercy of God, Mother Teresa of Calcutta would not have shown the world the preciousness of the poor and dying.

In other words, we would have done without some of the most prophetic moral voices of history.
These public manifestations of justice, courage, perseverance, and kindness – often controversial in their place and time – cannot and should not be separated from the private faith that spawned them.
Rather, they exemplify why more people, not fewer, need to live out their faith publicly in service to their culture and community.

The call for Christians to “get out of the pew” is hardly new. In the first decades after Christ, Paul wrote to Philemon, the leader of a church that met in his home, to encourage him to accept a former slave and ex-prisoner back into his household on grounds of spiritual equality and brotherhood.
If followed, Paul's advice would breach social conventions and raise eyebrows.

It was this trend toward radical egalitarianism, rather than hypocrisy or judgementalism, that made early Christianity so threatening – and so appealing – to the broader culture around it.

And it has continued through the centuries. Churches have long been built alongside public hospitals, orphanages and centers of learning created for the benefit of the entire community, but especially for the poor and marginalized.
Christian communities that venture outside their church doors all week long best exemplify the teaching of Jesus.

He didn’t instruct his followers to merely perform a weekly exercise in piety, but rather to continue doing what they saw him model:
Heal the sick, feed the hungry, set captives free, love the lost, and, in short, help restore each person and all of creation to its God-ordained state of flourishing.

Ramos was a wonderful example of the positive impacts of faith quietly and consistently lived out in the community. At the time of his murder, in fact, Ramos was “just hours away from becoming a lay chaplain and graduating from a community-crisis chaplaincy program.”

According to the Rev. Marcos Miranda, president of the New York State Chaplain Task Force, Ramos said “even with the NYPD, he felt he was doing God’s work. ... He felt he was protecting and serving the community and that was sort of a ministry for him.”

We need to be on the streets, in classrooms, in hospitals, prisons, and legislatures, working for the transformation and restoration of our communities, whatever our vocation. It’s what Ramos did with his dying breath, and it’s a calling we can all respond to. 

Friday, October 13, 2017


The other day, I saw these words written on a sign at a local church. It said, "Hope Is Real." I thought about it and agreed with the statement.

But as I pondered the simple little phrase, I realized that for many people hope is not real. I believe that this is one of the most important gifts we can give to another person, the gift of hope.

You see, someone who is hopeless and alone usually cannot help themselves out of their situations. They have a great sense of loss and helplessness. We must come alongside and bring them friendship, and the good news of Jesus Christ and all that He has to offer.

One definition for hope is: To look forward to with confidence or expectation.
We must bring the Word of God with all its hope to someone who does not know it is real. When we bring hope, we bring life. It is life changing to finally believe again.

It is more than just asking God for something we so badly need; we must expect our miracle.

I heard a story once where two farmers prayed for rain. Then one of the farmers got up off his knees and prepared his fields for the rain.
Which farmer do you think trusted and hoped more?

Somewhere in the midst of asking, believing, and expecting God to answer, we will find what we are looking for.

I have felt for a long time that the biggest problem we have in the world today is there are so many people who have lost hope.
There seems to be so many hurts, problems, sicknesses, troubles, financial woes, family problems, world issues, political concerns, etc. It seems the world has no hope.

Apart from God, it is an awful, hopeless place. But with God's help, we can make it. I want you to know that whatever situation you find yourself in at this moment, there is hope.

You may not be able to see or feel the hope, but it is there for you. How do we find the hope? There is only one place where hope can be found, and that is in Jesus Christ.

I did a word search in the Bible for the word 'hope' and found many wonderful passages. They were mostly in Psalms and Proverbs of course.
David found himself in situations many times and had to remind himself that hope is real. It comes from God. Here are a few of David's prayers to God:

Psalms 39:7 "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you."

Psalms 42:11 "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

Psalms 25:4-5 "Show me the path where I should walk, O LORD; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you."

Psalms 25:3 NIV "No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame,"

Trust God. He wants you to trust Him. You need to agree with God about your situation. What does God say about who you are and what His will is for your life?

Don't go by your feelings. Instead we should remind ourselves that God only has plans for us that are good.

Jeremiah helps us remember what God has to say about us. "For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

We do not need to be disappointed and feel alone. We can have hope! God's love in our hearts will ignite the flames of hope we have buried deep inside our hearts.
God's Word can encourage us as we read it with great anticipation and faith.
I don't want this to be just another Devotion. I want it to bring life to you.
Pray out loud the words of hope into your life and your situations.
*I have hope!
*My hope is in the Lord!
*I will be strong and wait on the Lord.
*I trust God with my life and the life of my family.

Speak these words every day.
*Hope Is Real.
*It comes from God!

He has placed it in your heart.
Speak it out and watch what God will do for you.

What is your need today?
Whatever it is, take it to Jesus today. Is there someone in your life today that needs encouraging?

Romans 15:13 reminds us...."May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Speak the Words of hope that bring life. Hope is real, just try it.


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Why Children's Church

Children’s church or big church? That is the question many parents are asking lately.

When I began in ministry, back in 2000, (oh my!) children’s churches weren’t wildly popular in my area but over the years, the trend has caught on. Now I am happy to report we have some amazing ministries that reach children of all races and social situations. I am blessed to have been involved with some of those.

A well run kid church can be a major assent in your church and a tool God uses to tell children about Jesus. Our young people are so blessed to belong to faith communities who love them enough to teach the Bible on a level they can understand and enjoy!

Should a parent send their child to children’s church or keep him or her in big church?

According to some recent blog posts I’ve read, many parents are abandoning their support for children’s ministry and keeping their kids in the adult church services. Not only that but they are encouraging others to do the same. That’s fine and that’s certainly their choice but I find some of these church purists’ attitudes a bit shocking. Especially the practice of shaming parents for their perceived lack of commitment to their children’s spiritual life. How dare someone label a parent as lazy or immature because they take their child to children’s church? And I have to ask myself, how in the world did we get here? Aren’t we all co-ministers of the gospel?

To you, dear children’s minister, I say keep up the good work. Share the gospel. Love the kids. Don’t let this vocal minority discourage you in any way. Kids need you. They need children’s church. You know the calling God has put in your life – keep telling them about Jesus. It matters so much. Here’s why:

1. Children need socialization / peer fellowship too. 

Many parents homeschool their children and the socialization aspect of children’s church is a major plus for these kids. These parents need you and your ministry.

2. Children need the community to stand with them.

While in public schools, children are bombarded with confusing messages about gender, sexuality and so much more. In children’s church, they learn that it is okay to stand up for what’s right and they see how they can do it by watching other children. Just like adults need fellowship, children do too.

3. Children don’t need to be “preached at” to be inspired.

There, I said it. Children learn differently. Let’s teach kids the way they need to be taught. If they were in school, they wouldn’t just sit at a desk all day and listen to the teacher drone on and on. They would be at learning centers, trying hands on experiments. They would be doing all those things. Not being preached at from a faraway pulpit. Or worse learning to fake listen like too many grown-ups in our congregations.

4. Jesus encouraged us to let the children come to him–and do not hinder them! 

Here’s the actual verse in Matthew 19:14,”Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  What was the action here? Whoever brought these children (parents? friends?) wanted Jesus to interact with them, lay hands on them, pray for them. They weren’t being led into the temple to sit on a pew. Something to think about!

5. Children need access to your special anointing. 

And it is special. You are anointed to minister to children. God is aware of our culture. He is aware of our current methods of ministry. You have been put here on purpose for an on-purpose reason. No matter who speaks against your ministry, you are called by God to stand in the place you serve. Don’t give up. Be encouraged. You are a blessing.

None of this trumps a parent’s personal conviction. Only the parent can know if their child is “getting it” in the big church experience.
The best models we’ve seen blend the kids into the adult service increasingly as they mature. So maybe preschoolers get some songs, younger elementary stay a little more, older elementary is there most of the time. Every church is working on a balance.

We’re all on the same team with one goal – that our kids can grow to love & trust Jesus with all their hearts. Let’s just make sure we don’t rush them past the tremendous blessing found in the children’s church.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Monday Morning Church

For most folks, Monday is a hard day to get up and get going. I remember having some jobs in life where it was hard to sleep on Sunday night for dread of having to get up and go to work on Monday morning. If that’s you, you have my sympathy. But let me also give you a word of encouragement –

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Php 4:19)

Paul tells us that “God shall supply all your need.” God is always mindful of every need of His children and He has promised to supply all of them.

‘All’ means – all. That includes things like food and clothing, but it also includes grace for living. God is willing to supply you with His strength for you to begin a new week of work. What’s more, God’s supplies aren’t limited.

They are in proportion to His riches in glory. God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all we can think or ask.

Hudson Taylor, who was a missionary to China during the 1800′s, often said, “When God’s work is done in God’s way for God’s glory, it will not lack for God’s supply.” 

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, our work for Him doesn’t end once Sunday is over. Every day we are to be on mission with Him; even at school or our places of employment.

Rather than trying to just make it through another Monday, let me encourage you to try approaching it with the mindset and anticipation that God has some special things He wants us to accomplish.

Perhaps we will have the opportunity today to say or do something that might greatly help and encourage another person. Perhaps we will have the opportunity to share the gospel. Perhaps God will use us this Monday to turn someone’s life around.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

God's Restoration Plan

God's  Restoration Plan

"And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ--everything in heaven and on earth." (Ephesians 1:10)

From the beginning of time, mankind has searched for peace. He has joined peace movements. He has marched for peace. He has awarded prizes for peace. He has even gone to war for peace. And when you hear of someone being arrested for disturbing the peace, you wonder where they found any to disturb.

There are people today who put bumper stickers on their car that say, "Visualize world peace." Then they cut you off on the freeway.

One day there will be peace. But it won't be brought about by the United Nations. It won't be brought about by any nation. It will be brought about by God Himself. It will happen when the Creator Himself returns, takes possession of what is rightfully His, and hangs a sign over this war-weary planet that says, "Under new management." Christ will return, and He will bring lasting peace.

God's perfect plan, according to Ephesians 1:10, is to "bring everything together under the authority of Christ."

Peter preached in Acts 3:21 that Christ "must remain in Heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets." God is going to make earth into Heaven and Heaven into earth. Just as the wall that separates man and God was torn down as a result of the Cross, so too will the wall that separates Heaven and earth be demolished.

Have you ever seen a completely restored classic car cruise down the street? It catches your eye. You think, That is awesome! That is beautiful! That is incredible! That is because you love to see something restored to its original condition.

God is into restoration. He is into restoring lives. He is into restoring bodies. And He is even into restoring our planet.

Happy Rod Run Day..

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Brother/My Sister/Our God

"Am I my brother's keeper",
Cain's insolent and arrogant response to God's question is a sign of his inward, unacknowledged guilt.

This is always the way of guilt—to disclaim responsibility. Cain replies, My brother? What have I to do with my brother? Am I my brother's keeper? Is it my responsibility to know where my brother is? 

The hypocrisy of that is most evident. Though Cain could disclaim responsibility for knowing where his brother was, he did not hesitate to assume the greater responsibility of taking his brother's life.

We have heard much of the same thing in modern times. When Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered in 1968, many were saying these same things. 

It's not our fault that Dr. King was killed. Why should we suffer for what some fanatic did? It's not our responsibility. Soon some were saying, He ought to have known this would happen.

After all, if you stir up trouble, sooner or later you will pay the price for it. No one can deny the logic and truth of a statement like that.

Yet it is very obviously incomplete. There is nothing in it of facing responsibility and no honest answering of the terrible question from Cain's lips, Am I my brother's keeper?

Two or three decades ago, Dr. Carl Henry wrote a book called 
The Uneasy Conscience of Fundamentalism, which bothered many people when it first came out.

Dr. Henry pointed out that the isolationism that many Christians adopt, which removes us from contact with non-Christians, has also successfully removed us from grappling with some of the pressing social questions of our hour.

We have often been quite content to sing about going to heaven but have shown very little concern for the sick and the poor, the lonely, the old, and the miserable of our world. Isaiah 58 is a ringing condemnation of such an attitude on the part of religious people.

God is infinitely concerned in this area of life, and those who bear His name dare not neglect these areas. Let us be perfectly frank and admit that this is a manifestation of Christian love that we evangelicals have tended greatly to neglect.

The church was never intended to minister to only one segment of society but is to include all people, all classes, all colors, without distinction. These distinctions are to be ignored in the church.

They must be; otherwise, we are not being faithful to the one who called us and who Himself was the friend of sinners of all kinds. We must be perfectly honest and admit that this has been the weak spot of evangelical life, this failure to move out in obedience to God's command to offer love, friendship, forgiveness, and grace to all people without regard to class, color, background, or heredity.

"Father, open my eyes that I might see the people around me as people whom You created and whom You have placed in my path for a purpose. Teach me that I am my brother's keeper."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My Social Network

I recently heard of something that happened on Facebook. A girl posted about New Years Day, saying“People always make New Year’s Resolutions, but let’s face it, none of us are going to keep ours.”

How would you respond to a statement like that?

Some people posted back in agreement, and the poster had a lot of likes. But one of the poster’s 375 “friends” had just made a New Year’s Resolution to go back to the gym. She really wanted to keep it, and was a kind of “up” and bubbly person, so that comment really got to her. This girl (we’ll call her Jane) simply posted back “Ew”.

In other words, Jane had read this negative comment, had felt it strike her wrongly, and she posted her feelings about it: “Ew.”

It turns out things had gotten a little tense between the girl and Jane lately. They were in the same math class … no words had been exchanged, just a few dirty looks that probably started with mutual jealousy. The first girl posted back to Jane, “I hear you’re switching high schools. Is it because you don’t have any friends at this school?”

What she didn't realise was Jane’s dad had serious surgery the year before, and they were moving so he could live in a house that didn’t have as many stairs. Switching schools was causing the whole family a tremendous stress.

The point is, this Facebook war mushroomed into something that involved three days of posts, over 160 people from 5 different communities and 3 different schools.

Some would argue it all started with just TWO LITTLE LETTERS: E-W. Ew.

With that story in mind, here's four principles to help us be godly Facebookers.

1. Your online behaviour reflects your offline attitudes

Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

You can’t say, and you can’t post, what you’re not thinking about.

So before your write something on Facebook, imagine how others might respond to what are you saying. How do think they will feel? Good? Or Bad? If you think there's a chance they will take it negatively, maybe you shouldn't post it.

Posting and texting is just like any other area of life. In Matthew 7:12 Jesus states clearly, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”This 'Golden Rule' sums up almost every other command in the Bible.

2. Avoid online negativity

This principle is like a subcategory of the first. If you say something negative about a person, it often gets back to the source. If you post something negative in public about another person, that’s worse. If you try to encrypt it so that only a few people know what you’re talking about, it will be sniffed out by the source — and probably 20 other people who are so deeply insecure that they think everyone is referring to them.

If you have something you need to say to someone, then go and talk to them face-to-face. And do it with grace and love.

3. Don't return evil for evil

What if someone says something negative about you? Not returning evil for evil is really hard, and yet it is where the rubber meets the road in relying on Christ. You’re going to need practice and patience.

Here are some examples I've seen of people responding to negative comments:

Negative person says: “Where’d you get those ugly jeans?”
Reply: (roll eyes) “I know they're not the best … but I really love all the stuff you wear.”

Negative person says: “I can’t stand so-and-so. He's really annoying.”
Reply: “Actually, he sits beside me in math. He’s really nice once you get to know him.”

Negative person says: “So and so wrote bad stuff about you on the bathroom wall.”
Reply: “You’re kidding! Wow. I always really liked her. I'll try and find a time to chat with her about it.”

It’s very hard to return a mean comment with a nice one because we feel like we are giving that mean person even more power. But the opposite is true.

4. Kill them with kindness

Psalm 25:21-22 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you."

“Heap burning coals” means that regardless of what people may show on the outside, you will make them burn with regret over what they just said. It’s such a well-known tactic that it has a name: It’s called “killing people with kindness”.

That doesn’t mean the guilt will show up in people right away. Generally, they will look confused or stunned.

But often they’ll go away and think about it. Conversely, if you say something mean back, you are throwing fire at fire. What happens to the fire when you add fire to it? It grows and grows. Will fire ever put out a fire?

In the end, as Christians, we want to follow the lead of Jesus, who said in Matthew 5:44, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Are you ready to do that on Facebook today