Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 262: If My People Who are Called by My Name....use it out of context

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (II Chronicles 7:14)

It is my opinion that this verse has become a motto among a great number of Christians today. Christians see the world around us and cannot help but wonder what God is going to do with it all. In being confronted with all of this there is a natural desire to see the course of our nation turned around. What is being taught to Christians today is that we can turn the course of our nation around. All that what we need to do is stand on God's promise of II Chronicles 7:14 in order to remedy our national nightmare. So you get a lot of people asking God to fulfill this promise. Why has it not happened yet? How long must this go on? The challenge of II Chronicles 7:14 is NOT a challenge to us today. I believe the promise here is not a promise for us today. See, IN CONTEXT God was dealing with Israel in this portion of scripture. The promise of II Chronicles 7:14 was to them as His nation in covenant relationship with Him. And the challenge was one God gave them, which if they responded to, would cause the curses they were experiencing to cease; which curses they were experiencing for their failures under the law. Hence, by failing to "rightly divide the word of truth," there are a lot of Christians today that are asking God to make good on a promise that He has not made to us. Some Christians are being made to think that God is treating us today the same way in which He treated Israel. And some are being made to take Israel's promises and claim them as applicable to us today. Re-examine this scripture…IT IS A DEEEEEEEEP STUDY.

I quote from an unknown source, “Today we live in "the dispensation of the grace of God for us Gentiles." God's program with Israel is temporarily set aside during this present dispensation. The "new creation," the church the body of Christ, is what God is forming now, and it is NOT a nation with a land on this earth. Instead, the body of Christ has a citizenship in heaven and is awaiting the Lord's return to gather us together unto Himself and to take us into the heavenly places. Neither are we today, in this dispensation of grace, being treated by God like He treated Israel. He has not put us under the law today, but we are under grace. We are not nationally, nor individually, blessed or cursed today depending upon our performance under the law. But such was not the case with Israel in time past. Israel is God's nation. They were under the law. It was the covenant they entered into with God. They were given a land that would be cursed under the curses of the law, if they did not comply with it, but blessed if they did comply. However, comply they did not, and so their land was cursed. It is to that situation that the challenge and promise of II Chronicles 7:14 applies. “

A brief study of the context of II Chronicles 7:14, along with an appreciation for their history up until that time, will show that the challenge and promise is to Israel in their covenant relationship to the Lord. It has nothing whatsoever to do with us today.

Just some thoughts while sitting up with a teething baby.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 261: Love Technology

This is the first blog I have written from my iPhone...it is to prove a point. Technology in ministry/churches is vital. I spoke to a pastor today on the phone who thought it was time for their church to get a website. This really goes without say. I recall a conversation I had with a college kid a few months ago, he said "if you don't have a website, you don't exist." I thought that was a fantastic point! Whether it is a website, blog, Facebook or Twitter...it is important to stay plugged in.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 260: Yelling Preachers

Today confirmed for me that if I ever end up attending a church and the pastor is a screamer or talking really loud and harshly, I am gone. I served in a church where the pastor would scream at times....today I listened to a podcast from a guy who was constantly talking super loud. Where in scripture do these people find someone who did that? The funny thing about messages like this is that I have found they are super shallow messages and often times contrary to what they have taught on before. I have yet to hear a highly intellectual pastor/speaker yell their message. It is as if the yelling compensates for their scriptural ignorance. It is like a protest rally, the one who has the loudest voice must know what they are talking about because they are using “AUTHORITY” when in fact they don’t know what it is going on.

It amazes me when, I listen to messages now and again how many pastors base their message on how other churches are not “getting it” in their humble opinion. If I attended a church where they constantly are complaining about other churches and ministries (What did Joel Osteen ever do? So you may not agree with him….are you really going to discount the work that God is doing despite the situations?) I would leave. There is a simple principle here. When I was youth pastoring and now as a lead pastor I can very easily tell you who the insecure people are…they are the ones pointing out the flaws (according to them) in other people. They constantly talk about how they look, dress, do their hair blah blah blah. Those pastors who constantly talk about others from the pulpit (churchy word) are some of the most insecure people you will ever meet.

In church you got to stick to the Bible and life application. This isn’t a message but rather a blog so I am just stating my observances…it would do me no good to tear other churches or pastors apart in my messages. If you are a loud one….why? To discipline your “flock”? ugh….glad those days are over.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 259: What I Learned About Myself this Weekend

One of the things I struggle with being a pastor is counseling. Now I am not talking the type like pre-marital or someone is having a bad day, week or month…I am talking about when a wife calls me and wants me to meet with her husband because he “messed up” and is now sleeping on the couch (or vice versa). The other type is in marriage counseling where one is coming down on the other. I have discovered something about myself this weekend that I knew was there all along but could not put my finger on why I am (in my opinion) horrible at counseling people who have messed up….I just show a lot of grace.

If I meet with a husband who dropped the ball on a poor decision (not moral failure) but just a screwed up, I find it difficult to come down on this person because I have screwed up as well in areas. If the person is truly sorry and asks for forgiveness…I am not sure there is much more to talk about. I am the type of person to tell him/her “since you have recognized it…brush yourself off and move on now.”I then proceed to talk to the person on how life is going.

For a person to come and spill the beans on what secret areas of their life they have been struggling with…the last thing I feel I need to do is tell them why they are wrong. The Apostle Paul say’s “I boast of my weaknesses.” I will tell you that if a Christian comes to me and is willing to admit they struggle with porn, drugs, poor parenting, being a less than flattering spouse, etc. I consider this person to be a VERY mature Christian. In our weaknesses we are made strong. Sadly in our culture of Christianity we have made it where someone admits to a porn problem….we cut them off. WHY? I never did get this…chances are the pastor or counselor listening to this person has his/her own things to deal with as well.

“There but for the grace of God go, I.” We say this phrase often but do we mean it? I recognize the knuckle-head I am and praise God every day for his favor and grace. This is why I am a horrible counselor…people come to me expecting to hear one thing or come down hard on their spouse…their image in my eyes doesn’t change. I consider them mature for admitting a problem and now….move on and make the changes necessary to not do it again.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 258: I Can't Quit You....FACEBOOK

One of the things that I have never understood about people dating (okay a little bit) are the Christians that date and move WAY TO FAST. This usually results in them not having any time for themselves because they are with the one they are dating ALL OF THE TIME. The next step is to say, "we just needed to stop for awhile so we can focus on Jesus again." This is also a great line if you are wanting to break up with someone. I am finding this to be true however in a new area of life called, "social networking." The large issue at hand here is self-control.

Let me just throw it out there that this message is geared towards those in ministry. I would go toe to toe with any pastor who talks about using Facebook too much. I think as a pastor or staff pastor it only makes sense that you utilize Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Blogging, etc. to it's fullest potential. Some think I live in on Facebook because of my rapid responses but outside of sermon prep, if I am by my 17" desktop computer monitor than I do a split screen. One half is my Facebook page and the other half is what I am working on. This is the new way to stay in touch with people and whether we want to admit it or not, people from our churches are on this thing A LOT! I know personally I am always wired in with Facebook and twitter on my iPhone. For those who don't have a church office due to size of building, no building or a different ministry model...you can use Facebook as a virtual office. I use Facebook and Skype as my virtual office though I prefer face to face the best.

Here in lies the danger of social networking sites....THEY ARE ADDICTING!!! I know between my iPhone, Laptop, Desktop, and soon iPad 2 I am very wired in however you have to know when to stop. Just like the dating thing I mentioned above, if you do not exercise some self-control then it will consume your life and you end up needing a break. It really comes down to self-control and knowing what is still important in life. If you can monitor yourself and make what's important...important than Facebook and other social networking sites can be a blast and help your ministry grow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 257: Heaven Yes, Hell No

"Well, there are all manner of lesser imps and demons, Pete, but the great Satan hisself is red and scaly with a bifurcated tail, and he carries a hay fork."~Ulysses Everett McGill.

So...the title of this blog, do you remember the corny bumper sticker from the 90's? I always thought this was a horribly corny saying. Today however Hell has gotten to be quite a topic of discussion given books and the resurgence of the term "UNIVERSALISM."

I have been quite vocal as well regarding my excitement to read, Rob Bell's book because I am a fan of his other writings. Some have even questioned what I believe to be true regarding hell so here it is kids....ready? I do believe there is a hell. Okay...there I said it.

The reason people get the impression that I side with universalism and other theologies is that I am always open for good discussion. I think it is horrible how many Christians assume things before they read a blog, book, etc. They just wait to hear from the loudest person and go with it. Nothing offends me when it comes to discussion. I know where I stand on issues and am not easily swayed (surprisingly to some). I just choose not to be an opinionated jerk Christian and would rather hear people out. I would rather let people state their case/opinion and since it is there opinion I just say "interesting" and move on having learned a few things.

So there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 256: Don't Buy a House Youth (Staff) Pastor

Today on my online group I posted the comment “Average stay of a youth pastor at a church....18 months. Note to youth pastors...DON'T BUY A HOME! Even with your best intentions to stay until you are old...you do not control your fate at a church. Sad but true” Let me explain myself as this has stirred up some interesting conversation. I will do this in four points.
1. I just recently spoke to a student at a well-known Christian university that after four years you can become a pastor (of all types…worship, youth, children, lead, etc.). He told me that it is around $20,000 per year to attend this place. Now I will not second guess the teaching but let’s process this for a moment. So a four year degree to become the butt of all financially poor paying jobs will cost you roughly $80,000.00? Now ministry can be a lot like the business world when looking for a position…it’s not what you know it’s who you know. If you don’t know someone or perhaps or did exceedingly well, you will probably end up with a less than flattering paid first position. My first position paid ZILCH. It eventually went full time but with a debt like that, I would have been strapped for many years. To buy a house and be in your first pastorate as a staff pastor and not be the senior pastor is a grave error. I am not sure what a staff pastor is expecting to get paid in their first position but if someone has told you it will be great and you can wipe your debt out quickly…wrong answer but thanks for playing. I personally think the wiser choice is correspondence courses.
2. In many cases from small local churches to a conversation I had with Ted Haggard while out to dinner…the church board and senior pastor don’t always view the rest of the staff as “church family.” I found this out to be true. My experience as a youth pastor was that you could certainly do your “ministry” but you were not allowed to attend any board meetings. The one I did get to attend was for them to lay into me like I was their own kid. Sure you will be invited to things and participate in many fun activities but you will never be in the “inner circle” of friends/church family. If you have found this to be false in your situation than count your blessings. You are a rare case. It is my goal as a senior pastor to include my staff in on everything leaving it in their hands if they want to be a part of it or not. We truly are family. If you are not in this inner circle, you are replaceable under the title of “God is leading us in a different direction” unless you really do stink at what you do and are not teachable or a team player. A pastor/board can make even the ugliest firings look like it was God’s will for the church instead of coming right out and saying, “we let the person go.” Churches take note….if you fire someone than do yourself and your church a favor. Don’t tell them “so and so resigned” just come right out and say “they were let go.”
3. Law #1 in “The 48 Laws of Power” is to “Never Outshine Your Master”. I hear of this many times where a staff pastor is so loved by those in the church that the senior pastor or board does not like it. Let's call it ministry jealousy. A worship leader may have a stellar ministry and the music might be great. This is a spotlight ministry and so it will draw attention to a person and it may not all go to the pastor…THAT IS OKAY. Apparently though some senior pastors are very uncomfortable with this. My youth group in Milwaukee grew to 85 and the college group to 20…I was brought into a board meeting because they felt like I was starting my own church. DONE…both ministries deflated to nothing because they had to be run under their terms. It was a classic pastor move so that he would not be upstaged. I should have taken this as a sign to talk to the powers that be and then at that point start a new church in Milwaukee. If you violate the #1 law of power you will have wished you never bought a home because you will be without a job. Just a few weeks before that fateful board meeting my wife and I put a bid in on a house…praise the Lord it did not go through.
4. You won’t be a youth pastor forever. Unless you are the rare breed like, Jeanne Mayo who is a 55+ year old female youth pastor who runs a LARGE youth group. Eventually youth pastors move onto different ministries usually resulting in becoming a senior pastor. Why go through the headache of owning a home if you plan on moving and climbing. Save yourself the headache of owning a home until you settle in as a senior pastor.
My humble thoughts.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 255: How Legalism Sneaks Into a Church

So today my first question came in that someone would like me to answer at Cornerstone this summer. The questions is “How do you perceive legalism to grow in a church because it is really effecting the church I am on staff at?”

This is a great question and sadly something that can make a church quite sickening to attend or be on staff at. Imagine this scenario…you begin a new church. In order to be hip and trendy and attract everyone you say “come as you are and dress how you like.” People begin to come and eventually some snappy business dressed people begin to come in. These people begin to give in large amounts and now they are elected to the board. In a board meeting, those snappy dressers talk about the slack look of the church and that “God requires us to wear our best into his holy temple.” Soon you begin to see the pastor wear suits and not blue jeans and begins to reflect that to the church. All of a sudden you have a group of people that love the pastor beginning to dress sharp and now those who continue to dress how they want (blue jeans, t-shirts, etc.) are made out to be the less holier ones.

This happens in worship and prayer as well. Don’t believe me? What do we tell our children? I just heard a pastors message today where it was time to pray and he said, “let’s bow our heads and close our eyes as we pray.” NO WHERE IN THE BIBLE. I tell my two and three year old to do this so they are not a distraction to each other. So what happens? We get a guest speaker or someone in the church praying and they have their eyes open as they pray. We begin to question how sincere they are. Don’t raise your hands during worship in some churches…than you didn’t worship. Do you want to sit while others are standing during worship? Less holy. When the worship leader begins to sing “How Great Thou Art” and the congregation is sitting, it is inevitable that people will stand during this song perhaps even in a stance of arrogance leaving those who are still sitting feeling like the sinner. None of these can be backed by scripture.

My all-time favorite was while I was on a church staff and the pastor made the entire worship team wear black…ALL BLACK! The only reason he had was to tell us “it makes us look sharp.” What it did was make us look like we were going to a funeral. That pastor resigned and I told the worship team to dress how you want. I still have the letter in my desk that says, “We feel it is detrimental to church growth that the worship team continues to wear black.” LEGALISM!!! Really? If all I have to do to grow a church is wear black then I am in.

A legalistic church or person will turn back to relying on following rules, regulations, or standards to maintain a right standing with God or to prove their holiness (Gal 4:9). In the book of Galatians, Paul addresses the issue of legalism creeping in to the church. False teachers had snuck into the Galatia church, and began to teach that believing in Jesus was a means of salvation, but to keep your right standing before God, you needed to keep a set of rules. Paul referred to this teaching as “another gospel”. Paul also said that those who preach this other gospel should be accursed, with literally means to be banned or excommunicated (Gal 1:9).

Anyone who teaches you that by the following of rules or standards, you will be kept in a right standing with God or that you maintain your salvation by works, is in fact a pharisee or as the bible says, “A false teacher” and the Bible strongly teaches that you should not receive teaching from them. You were saved by faith in the beginning, and you will be saved by faith in the end (Gal 3:2-3). You will never achieve righteousness by your own works, you are not able to. The bible tells us that our own works are like filthy rags. We must always remember that our righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ, and Him alone. The works we do are a natural out pouring of the work that God has done in our hearts.

So on that, wear your baseball hats to church…it’s fine. If a leader of the church tells you to take it off..leave. Put your jeans on and wear them proudly with your Project 86 t-shirt.


ps

If you are going to be attending Cornerstone and would like to submit a question simply follow this link http://www.cornerstonefestival.com/content.php?p=165 and click on my name. You will find a link there.