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May 16

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

There are a lot of ways to destroy a church, a business, or even a friendship. Since my job is the pastor of a church, let me focus on that.

First, it is really important to clarify a term. By church I am NOT referring to any physical structures. A physical structure can be destroyed any number of ways (like many around the world are today), but the church can go on…and does. A natural disaster.  A mob bent on destruction. A vengeful act. An act of hatred. Houses of worship can be leveled.

But a more insidious type of destruction is one from within. A wolf in sheep’s clothing can sneak in and spread false teaching. A leader can “ride herd” on a church and bring it to its knees (check out 3 John 9-10 and the story of Diotrephes). There is one type I think that brings more churches to its knees (not in a good way) than just about any other. This verse from Proverbs 16:28 says all that needs said: “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (NLT)

It’s easy to see. You want to destroy a church? You want to destroy a company? You want to destroy a friendship? Gossip. Be a troublemaker. Or let them go unchecked. Let it go unchecked and watch the dominoes fall. Little by little. Piece by piece. All that will be left is a pile of ashes or rubble. If the enemy can get the people inside bickering, talking smack, spreading poison or something as ugly, he will have found the way to bring the church down. It is the most effective way and he didn’t need a bulldozer to accomplish his feat.

Don’t be part of the problem; be part of the solution. Stop the gossip and the gossiper.

May 2

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

“You are getting too big for your britches.”

Back when I was young (and yes, that was a long time ago), one of the favorite expressions of people-and my parents were no exception- was the above statement. It usually preceded some type of discipline- a spanking when I was younger, an exclusion from an activity, a grounding, or something else. It’s not hard to know what it means.

I’ve been reading a book by Katelyn Beaty entitled Celebrities for Jesus. It is subtitled “How Personas, Platforms, and Profits are hurting the church.” I’m two years past when it was first published and first hit crashed on the scene.  I’m just under halfway through and it has exposed the ugly underbelly of the “celebrity culture” the church has found itself in, particularly in the megachurch world. Sadly, we have embraced (and enabled)-wittingly or unwittingly- the whole “the pastor is a celebrity and can do no wrong” thought process. Walking hand in hand with that idea is the inability to confront, challenge, or question said celebrity pastor. Ms. Beaty speaks highly of Billy Graham and his attempts to safeguard himself from any moral scandal by his complete transparency. (It was known as the “Billy Graham Rule” which simply said he would never be alone with a woman who was not his wife). His Modesto Manifesto called for complete honesty, accountability, and transparency. Ms. Beaty contrasts that with the shortfalls of some megachurch personalities. 

I was reminded of my reading of the book when I read the following from I Timothy 4:11-13 this morning: “Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.”  That highlighted section is important to remember.

No way would Paul embrace or be on board the “celebrity culture train.” Read his words-not just here, but elsewhere. Integrity, transparency and HUMILITY were big in his eyes.  But here is an important fact to remember- Megachurch Pastor, CEO, Owner, Manager, Worker- integrity, honesty and humility are essential to all and cannot/should not be dismissed.

No one has any business getting too big for their britches.

April 23

Wednesday, April 24th, 2024

A fragile (and temporary) peace.

I read recently that on December 30, 1862 the Civil War raged. Union and Confederate troops camped 700 yards apart on opposing sides of Tennessee’s Stones River. As they warmed themselves around campfires, Union soldiers picked up their fiddles and harmonicas and began playing “Yankee Doodle.” In reply, the Confederate soldiers offered “Dixie.” Remarkably, both sides joined for a finale, playing “Home Sweet Home” in unison. Sworn enemies shared music in the dark night, glimmers of an unimaginable peace (Sort of like me playing my rock music and someone else playing country and both of us tolerating the other’s choice). 🙂 The melodic truce was short lived, however. The next morning, they set down their fiddles and picked up their rifles and when it was all said and done 24,645 soldiers died.

Reminds me of the WWII story of the German and British soldiers celebrating Christmas by laying down their weapons, sharing what they had, playing soccer together, exchanging laughs, and acting (and maybe wishing?) like the war was over. You can hear the story in this video.

Peace is fragile, as well as temporary. Try as we may, man will never be able to bring about true or permanent peace. All our treaties. All our papers. All our promises are, in reality, fragile and temporary. Treaties are made to be cast aside. Papers are torn up or burned in rebellion.  Promises are broken. We see it in school/childhood friends. We see it in marriages. We see it in communities. We see it in countries. And yes, we see it in churches.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but true, lasting peace is never found in man’s or men’s promises. And while it may last for a short period, it will never last for long. And certainly not forever. The only personal lasting peace is found in Christ, and the only true peace will be found in God’s new kingdom when Jesus returns and establishes it.

Until then…all efforts of peace are fragile and temporary. But we can still try. It begins with us! As the song says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

April 3

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

I have said on a number of occasions that “you cannot take people where you yourself have not been.”

Part of the vision of the church I pastor is Pursuing Jesus Passionately. We cannot lead or teach people to pursue Jesus if we ourselves are not doing so.

We recently visited the Grand Canyon. It is an amazing display of God’s creative genius. As we stood safely behind walls of stone taking pictures, we could see paths where people could hike to see more. I know there was more to see than I was able to see. So much more. And the best way to see that was with a guide who knew his/her way around. One who knew the trails. One who knew what to look for. A newbie is not what I would have wanted.

When Ezra came in the second wave of people returning to Jerusalem after having been in exile in Babylon, he was dismayed to see that the people had not fostered a love for God and His Temple. They had neglected the Scriptures and their influence in their lives. Enter Ezra, the priest. He saw it as his mission to lead (guide) them to the Scriptures, to call them back to the source. He knew that it was the Word of God that changed lives. What will turn this country around will not be a political party or candidate, legislation to change this or that; outlawing certain practices’; or legislating morality. If hearts are not changed, then we will just find another way to disobey God.

No. Ezra knew: change the heart with the Word of God and you change society. That’s good advice for the country. But it is especially good advice for the church. Study the Word, put it into practice, teach it to others, then the church changes. You can’t demand or legislate change. Only God’s Word can have a permanent impact.

April 2

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

Someone has famously said, “The seven last words of the church are ‘We’ve never done it that way before.'” That, of course, was not a compliment. It was, in fact, another way of saying that a church will die or have zero influence if it does what it has always done; is what it has always been; and sticks to what once was.

Sadly, it is true. Many churches (and organizations) are tied to to their past. Their glory days are long gone but “Doggone it, we’ve always done it this way and we will continue doing it this way.” Let’s start playing TAPS or maybe, just maybe, it started long time ago?

When I first started in ministry it was at the end of my sophomore year in college. I preached on Sundays at a little country church in a little town in KY (No need to mention where). I honestly don’t know if that little church is still in existence. But they used to have 2 week revivals. 2 weeks! In June! Every night! Now, I’m not sure if they still do that…I would hope not. I confess I had no clue what a revival was all about or even what it was, let alone pastor a church that had one 2 weeks long.  I see it now as a meeting for the already saved to get together, listen to a sermon they have heard multiple times before, and walk away feeling good they were there. Yeah…that’s cynical. I’m sorry I’m a tad bit jaded.

There is a church in the town where I pastor that has a “Gospel Meeting” i.e. their brand name for “Revival.” For a whole week (I think twice a year), they have meetings each night. I don’t see too many cars in the parking lot. If I did, I wonder how many are unsaved folks? Could it be the time is past?

Whether a church, a company, a local business, or even a local service organization, death comes knocking if there is a failure to change. I’m not talking about the mission or core values. We have enough of that nonsense already. No…I’m talking about the approach.  It’s time we stop living in the past or try to relive our glory days by “doing what we have always done” and start making the necessary changes to influence the culture. If not, the culture will influence us. 

I heard it put this way one time: Methods change; the message doesn’t. That’s it in a nutshell.

March 28

Thursday, March 28th, 2024

“What in the world is Maundy Thursday?” That was my incredulous question to someone when he mentioned Maundy Thursday.

Backstory: I grew up and subsequently preached in a church tradition that was not a denomination (least they said they weren’t). We didn’t and still don’t celebrate special days (except Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other holidays) or saints or creeds. All I knew growing up was my Catholic friends ate fish, not meat, on Friday, but I had no clue why. I never knew about Lent, saints, creeds, and certainly not Maundy Thursday.

Until a few years ago. I was looking into the history of Lent and church practices when I heard about this thing called Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum or “command.” The command being commemorated was the one Jesus gave His followers the night before He died: “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (Jn.13:34 NLT)

I have also learned that the royal family began giving gifts to people in need as far back as the 13th century on Maundy Thursday. Do they still carry on that tradition? I don’t know. (Maybe you do?)

Maundy Thursday is today in the Christian world. The day before Good Friday. Think about this for a moment. Jesus gave the command to His followers to love as He loved.  A day later in an act of pure love and selflessness, He showed His love by dying on a cross for sins He never committed. “There is no great love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15:13 NLT). So He spoke; so He lived loved. 

I’m still not too sure about this thing called Maundy Thursday. I’m still not convinced about the need to make a special day of it. But it does beg the question: How are you going to show love this Easter season? One went to a cross. We are not/may not be asked to go to that extreme, but are you willing to give yourself away in service to another?

#JesusIsReal

Friday, March 1st, 2024

JESUS IS REAL

A little over two years ago, a local business had a statement on their sign that I must admit rankled me a bit. In fact, if I were to be honest, it ruffled my feathers (and I have none). The sign consisted of three words, words which startled me and I suspect others because fortunately it didn’t stay up very long. I would like to believe it was because of repentance at the blasphemy, but I’m guessing it was more because of blowback.  Those three words were “Jesus was woke.”

The long version definition of “woke” is “a word to describe someone who, whether consciously or unconsciously, has adopted grievances and activism rooted in Cultural Marxism and Critical Theory, especially related to the intersectional oppression matrix of race, gender, and sexuality.” WHEW! Did you get that? Let me put that in my language: a bunch of crock centered around race, gender, and sexuality that finds its roots in Cultural Marxism and Critical Theory. I could add more but that should suffice. To say Jesus followed Marxism and was concerned about Critical Race Theory is heresy. If you ask me what I think, I will tell you “it comes from the pit of hell and smells like smoke.”

There are some definitives about Jesus we simply cannot get around. They are found in I Corinthians 15:1-9.  They were the foundation, the crux, of what the early Christians believed and stood for.

Jesus died for our sins.

Jesus was buried and raised from the dead.

Jesus atoning death, burial and resurrection were inseparable from the Scriptures.

Their core belief in the Resurrection could be verified by evidence.

Progressive “Christianity” is trying to wipe all of that away. Saying Jesus was not divine; He was not born of a virgin; He didn’t die on a cross (if He did it was cosmic child abuse); there are no such things as miracles; there is no resurrection; and there is no second coming. Yeah…heresy of the highest magnitude.

During the month of March I will be covering several of these issues during my Sunday morning sermons. I’d like to invite you to join me either in person or via live stream. Our services are at 9:00 and 10:45. If you watch, let us know or email me!

#JesusHonored

Friday, January 19th, 2024

The Bible is a book about Jesus Christ. The Old Testament records the preparation for His first coming. The Gospels record Him coming as God in the flesh and His life on the earth. Acts is the message of Christ as it spreads all over the known world. The epistles give us the teachings we need to know about Jesus. Revelation tells us about His second coming-the coming to end all comings.

One of the most powerful words in the human language is a small, three-letter one. That word? BUT.  Track with me please. One, God is Holy, True, and Perfect. Two, men are sinners condemned to be lost forever. The BUT changes all of that with this statement: BUT JESUS.  My purpose in this week’s sermon is to investigate why Jesus changes all of that, why He is to be honored above all. I give some more details about the sermon on my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin. You can access that just by clicking here. In Colossians 1:15-20 the Apostle Paul makes one of the greatest presentations of who Jesus is in all of Scripture. Short. Concise. To the point. And straight on uncompromising. He is Lord of Creation; He is Head of the Church; and He is the Savior of the Cross. I love preaching about Jesus and His preeminence and His work of reconciliation (making us friends again with God) and His redemption (setting us free). This week’s sermon is going to be fun to preach but by no means is it “easy.” 

Join me/us please at 9:00 and 10:45 in person or via live stream. I would be humbled and honored if you would. Above all, please pray for us this Sunday. Along with the message, one of our elders/building team members will be giving an update on our future addition. Also, two of our young ladies will be reminding us of their planned trip to Kenya next month. Cassie and Hannah need your prayers and support.

Thanks.

The Gospel is Preached

Friday, January 12th, 2024

So…if you go to my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin, you will see a post about this week’s sermon also. I’m trying to resuscitate Cycleguy’s Spin with a variety of approaches-book reviews, guest posts, upcoming sermons, and even a commentary of sorts when the “feeling” arises.   If you have been there, thanks. I have a new series starting this Sunday called WELCOME HOME…where… I have been developing it and working on it since last October.  Why you might ask? Simple. I think church needs to be different these days. I don’t mean compromising different where the gospel is withheld or not preached for fear of offending someone. But the church should be a “Safe Place.” Let me explain by using my approach for the next two months:

WELCOME HOME…where…

The Gospel is Preached

Jesus is Honored

Grace is Offered

Lives are Changed

Obedience is Encouraged

Truthfully, the Gospel is often hindered or hidden by pastors and churches who are afraid of being seen as bigots or hardhearted or uncaring or narrow-minded. I realize those are and can be said about churches, and quite possibly, me. I don’t think they are accurate though of what the church is supposed to be. We can be firm, but friendly.  We can be convicted, but caring.  We can be solid, but sweet. We can be passionate, but pleasant.  But one thing we must never be is COMPROMISING.

We have a mandate in the Bible. Check out Col. 1:3-14. I Cor. 1:18-31. Romans 1: 16-17.  I found this to be quite revealing:

The goal of the Gospel is not just that we might pass some kind of test by accurately recounting the importance of Jesus. The goal of the Gospel is to produce a type of people consumed with passion for God and love for others.

As you can gather, this first sermon is on the Gospel being preached without compromise. I can honestly say that I am more excited about this series than one I have preached in recent memory. I am so looking forward to it! I hope you will join me in person if possible. If not, we live stream our service at 9:00 and 10:45 a.m.

November 27

Monday, November 27th, 2023

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get lost? I’m not talking about those who are what we affectionately call “directionally-challenged.”  🙂 They are those who couldn’t read a map or follow directions to save themselves.

I’m talking about those who are “small.”  Not height-wise. They feel small. Unsure of themselves. Insecure to a point. They are those who feel that what they do doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What they do often seems insignificant to the “bigger” people or things.

Years ago the late Francis Schaeffer wrote a book entitled No Little People, No Little Places. Not only is that a great book title, it is a great thought. The world is filled with people who feel “little.” Tragically, we have often been the ones who have made them feel that way.

Allow me two examples-one social and one Biblical.

* I recently read that when the funeral procession for the late Queen Elizabeth took place, thousands of soldiers were deployed to escort the casket. Insignificant? To the outsider. But not according to one soldier who said, “It was an opportunity to do our last duty for Her Majesty.”  One of thousands but what an outlook!

* In the Old Testament, the Levites were commissioned by God to set up and tear down the Tabernacle. Along with that to carry the furniture. What a seeming meaningless job. Set up. Tear down. Carry. Set up. Tear down. Carry. You get the point. Sounds like boredom to me. Sounds insignificant. We know the names of Moses, Joshua, Aaron, and others. Can you name one of the Levites?

Nothing we do-in service to God-is small. Nothing is insignificant. I may be the pastor of the church but in the eyes of God it is no more important than the teacher of children; the nursery worker who takes wonderful care of a child so the parents can worship; the one who does the Power Point; the one who runs the live stream; the one who controls the sound; the one who cleans up after the worship gathering is done; the janitor who cleans for Sunday; or myriads of others.

Why? Because there are no little people. In church. In life. That is one of the reasons I tell our waitress “Thanks for waiting on us today” (and leave a generous tip if they have done a good job). That is why I try to thank the hotel clean up crew, or the one who works in a gas station, or makes sure things are clean in a bathroom. Why? I repeat: because there are no little people.

Do you take the time to recognize and thank those who have seemingly insignificant jobs?