Do I Really Love God?

I worked for a pastor several years ago who loved to assign me to visit people he didn’t necessarily want to visit. I always knew I was in for a treat when either he or the secretary contacted me to visit a particular person. I went to the local hospital to visit this lady, so I told her who I was. She was quick to say, “I’m a member at your church. I haven’t been in 20 years, but I love me some Jesus.” I couldn’t make a judgment call on her love for Jesus, but I asked myself if I love Jesus like I should and what Scripture I can use as a measurement. I have preached this message on a few different occasions, and I pray it will help you ask by asking yourself these eight questions.

  1. Do I serve God (Deuteronomy 11:13)? Love is an action, so I display my love through serving God. We must be careful that we always serve out of love rather than obligation. This eventually leads to burnout, and then we have to repent and repair.
  2. Do I rejoice in God (Psalm 5:11)? I didn’t ask if you and I rejoice in our circumstances. They waver, but God is constant. If we love God, we rejoice in Him and brag on Him.
  3. Do I love His presence (Psalm 26:8)? If we love God, we love to spend time with Him. 
  4. Do I hate evil (Psalm 97:10)? Hating evil does not involve hating the person who commits it. Our responsibility there is to love the evil person to Jesus while hating what the evil is doing to him or her.
  5. Do I love God’s Word (Psalm 119:97)? I’m not just talking about reading it to say you fulfilled your duty. This verse talks about meditating on it. It will not impact us unless we get all we can from it.
  6. Do I love others (John 13:35)? Jesus said our love for others proves that we follow Him. He didn’t say that impressive buildings, rocking worship services, and big giving to religious causes was the litmus test. The real proof is loving ALL people, even the most difficult ones.
  7. Do I keep God’s commandments(John 14:15)? Jesus made it clear by saying, “If you love Me, keep my commandments”. We won’t keep them perfectly, but a true child of God will want to honor and obey God.
  8. Do I invest in others (John 21:15)? Jesus asked Simon Peter three times if he loved Him. This was after Peter denied Christ leading up to the crucifixion. Jesus’ response to Peter’s affirmative answer was, “Feed My lambs.” In other words, invest in other people. God did not put you here for you. Your story can help someone else if you let it. The bigger picture of our life is us pouring into others who can do the same. That is when we find our greatest fulfillment. 

Love is not measured by the warm and fuzzy feelings we get when we think about God. Love is measured by how we strive to know and obey Him. So, how do you score in these areas? I think we can all improve as we strive to draw closer to Jesus.

The Power of One

Something got me thinking today. As I have been getting involved in a new ministry opportunity, I have had some good things happen. They have been slow, but they are good. But ONE negative thing caught my attention today, and I allowed it to bother me for a few hours. I really had to stop and pray for the individual, refuse to allow this to change my appreciation for the individual despite the action, and move forward. It’s crazy how ONE negative person among more positive people can kill the mood if we allow it.

Then I was reminded of another ONE in Scripture. This was ONE individual of ten who returned to thank Jesus after being healed from leprosy. Think about it! Leprosy was a disease for which people were treated as inhumane. Jesus healed 10 people, and only ONE came back to thank Him.

I’m also reminded of another ONE. This time it is the return on ministry. When Isaiah saw the Lord in Isaiah 6, God told Isaiah that he would only have a ONE-tenth return on his ministry. How discouraging! Ten percent! Yet Isaiah was willing to do whatever God said.

While these things can be discouraging, there is only ONE who really matters. At the end of the day, I have to be sure my Audience is ONE – the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says I will stand before Him and give an account one day. He is not going to measure my deeds by the opinions of others. Jesus Christ is the Standard. He is the only ONE who matters. So I must consciously choose daily to focus on Him.

So, don’t let ONE person bother you. BUT, let ONE Savior satisfy you. His name is Jesus!

A Handwritten Note

This morning, we had a memorial service for a lady who had once attended our church until the last few years when she moved out of state. Her daughter and son-in-law faithfully attend our church. Because I participated in one of the musical selections, her daughter had a handwritten note of appreciation for my participation in the service. It led me to think about how such notes are rare today.

When I was in high school and college, I used to write such things. I would write letters to people back home. One of my favorite things was corresponding with my grandma. There was such excitement in receiving one of those letters!

Think about what a blessing you might be to someone if you took time to write a simple note of appreciation or encouragement. In my first full-time ministry, I was very discouraged. The pastor I worked for said one positive thing in six years, so you better believe I saved the few notes of encouragement I received. They stayed in my middle desk drawer. I would pull them out when I felt like quitting (and that was a lot).

I challenge you to write a note to someone – your spouse, child, pastor, friend, parent, or someone you appreciate. This practice doesn’t have to be obsolete. Let’s revive written encouragement. That’s what the Bible is, right? It’s written encouragement from Heaven with love.

The Proper Way to Disagree

Let me just cut to the chase. If you disagree with someone, make it as public as possible, call them an idiot, and make them feel stupid for not seeing things your way.

SERIOUSLY…

How many of us are guilty of that? We immediately get on social media, let everyone know how angry we are with someone, and get as much attention as possible. Facebook is a great place for sympathy, right? 

Public places are not appropriate for private disputes. If my wife and I have an argument, I don’t tell anyone. My wife and I work it out. It’s no one else’s business but mine and my wife’s. 

Such disputes can do major damage to the cause of Christ. Several years ago, I came across a guy on the internet who called himself the “watchdog”. He was not a watchdog but was one of the things in Proverbs 6 that the Lord hates – “he who sows discord among the brethren”. His website was dedicated to bashing a preacher. I commented one day (a huge waste of energy that I can’t take back) and remarked about how unbelievers were probably reading this and wanting nothing to do with Christianity because of his hateful approach. I predicted that he would say that the real people doing damage to the cause of Christ were the pastor he bashed daily and those like him.

When approaching someone with whom you disagree, ask yourself how you would want to be confronted (the Golden Rule). The purpose is not about you being right. You and I can love those with whom we disagree (we’re kinda commanded to). I disagree with a lot of people, but I do my best to treat them with dignity and respect. I’ve always heard that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. This approach may preserve your relationship and allow you to lead someone to faith in Christ one day. Think about that the next time you have a disagreement.

I Won’t Go Back!

I could go a million different directions with this title. Most of the time when I hear this, people are upset about something. They won’t go back to a church because the preacher didn’t drive 500 miles to some hospital to be with their fifth cousin during an x-Ray. They won’t go back to a doctor because they had to wait. They won’t go back to a restaurant because they received bad service. However, what I’m thinking about has nothing to do with location. I’m talking about the past.

So many people today want their future to be great while still living in the past. I must confess that I have been guilty of this. I wanted the “good old days”, but they really weren’t that great. God is all about doing something new. He has no desire to leave you the same.

So why do we go back? What is so great about dysfunctional relationships? Porn addictions? Religious ritual without the power of God? It isn’t great, but the devil will keep you in the past to paralyze you from reaching your potential in Christ. God has a greater life for you ahead if you will live in obedience to Him. Am I proposing that it is easy? No! But I am saying that you will live an unfulfilled life as long as you keep going back, trying to make things the way they used to be.

If Jesus Christ is your Savior, the words of this song by William McDowell say what you are and the life you should desire to live.

I’ve been changed, Healed, Freed, Delivered I’ve found joy, Peace, Grace, And favor. All my shame, Guilt, Sins, forgiven No more chains, Fear, My past is over

And right now is the moment
Today is the day
I’ve been changed
I’ve been changed
I have waited for this moment to come
And I won’t let it pass me by…

I won’t go back, can’t go back, to the way it used to be before Your presence came and changed me.

Embracing the Thorn

In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes what he calls a “thorn in the flesh”. I would say most of us have this “thorn”. Some scholars believe it was Paul’s eyesight. I seem to think it was difficult people in ministry. I believe Paul did not say what it was so any of us could relate to the principles behind this thorn.

My thorn is anxiety and depression. They have recently been more of a challenge. Over the weekend, I reached out to a pastors group on Facebook. These pastors gave me some wonderful insight that has helped me so much. They reminded me to embrace the thorn.

Embrace the thorn…sounds comfortable, right? I’m imaging a counselor saying to me in a soft-spoken tone, “Embrace the thorn. Be one with the thorn.” The point is that I can use it as a tool to help others rather than a curse. So, this weekend, I did just that. I preached for the first time in almost a year and a half. In that message, I shared a little bit of my struggle. It felt good to admit it.

I’m going to close this post with a teaching message I gave on the subject in July 2012. You will see I am sitting down in this message. I was just diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder within two weeks of preaching this message. I was still struggling, but I was going to do my best to deliver God’s message. I did not mention my diagnosis in the message, but I believe the principles can be of help. Whatever thorn is in your flesh, I pray you can come to the point of embracing it.

Christian Celebrities

Let me clarify from the beginning that I am not implying or outright saying that Christians should not be well-known. Some of our greatest voices for Jesus Christ today are celebrities who happen to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and are unashamed. What I am discussing today are those who are little known out of their denominational circles but have this celebrity mentality. Let me explain further.

These people are evangelists, pastors of some notoriety, denominational leaders, heads of Christian publications, etc. They will associate with you, only if there is something for them to gain. If you do not have the same or greater level of notoriety, you are nothing to them. They are especially interested in you if you have a large church and can give them a significant fee for allowing them to “grace your church with their presence”. I am glad I have not been named among the elite.

Another characteristic of these “celebrities” is that they have a reputation to upkeep and will fake it if necessary. They will pretend they have it all together while their lives are less than desirable. Their immorality will come to light eventually, and the worlds of their followers will fall apart. 

These “celebrities” typically don’t have time for those outside their circle. If they do express that they have time for you, it is only in word not reality. They will say things like, “Please let me know if I can do anything to help.” See if they really do when you call or message them. They’ll give you a Christianized answer (if they answer) like, “I’ll be praying for you.” Will you really?

The message of Jesus is to deny yourself. He must increase and we must decrease. The early disciples were hated and running from their lives. What makes us better? 

I post this because many people I know become enamored with these personalities, only to be disappointed. Don’t focus on a preacher, friend, or other human being! They will let you down. Jesus is the only One who is constant. Fix your attention on Him!

Telling Yourself the Truth

This will be the first of several posts, many will reflect my own testimony while making application to the general audience. We are in a day where truth is hard to find. The foundation for this series of posts is found in two concepts: Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6), and He said that we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free (John 8:32).

This introductory post to this series will not start out as a feel-good post, but we have to know the worst of ourselves before we can get to the best. Our best is not so great. Romans 3:10 says that not a single one of us is good. Isaiah 53:6 says that we all are like sheep who have gone astray. Isaiah 64:6 compares our righteous deeds to filthy rags. That’s a real self-esteem booster, right?

What do we do with this horrible truth? Accept it, then find out the alternative. The alternative is that Romans 10:9-10 gives the remedy: confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you shall be saved. This turn from your sin to His righteousness changes your identity. You who were dead in your trespasses and sins are now alive (Ephesians 2:1). You are now God’s child, a joint-heir with Christ, justified, sanctified, redeemed, and a long list of other things. When you accept the initial truth and seek God, God changes the narrative.

This song powerfully explains the truth about us when we are in Christ. Let the truth speak louder than the truth. May the truth of this song sink deeply into your spirit.

Tips on Church Change

If you’re reading this from a church member’s standpoint, you might be thinking, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” My observation in some churches is that the people don’t want to move the corpse because it’s broken; they just want to keep trying to resuscitate what has been dead for years. Although change is not something some of us handle well, it can be done well and for the right reasons. With that said, let’s look at some things I have learned about change in almost 24 years of church work.

Don’t change something for change sake! Have a purpose! Many pastors and staff members get a little too happy about wanting to do new things. If the reason for change is simply because you want to, tell yourself no, pull your big boy pants up, and wait on God.

Let circumstances drive the change and the pace of the change. For example, if you are having to pull out chairs every week to accommodate people, it might be time for another service option. Don’t add an additional weekend service just to build a resume. When I was in my first full-time worship ministry, the church had 3 keyboardists all playing the same thing. I was in a church where the pastor would throw you under the bus rather than stand up for his staff, so I awaited the right time to do something about it. December 2008 brought great choir growth, so much that two keyboards had to be removed. I called the lady who donated them, and she wanted them back. I contacted the two ladies who played them, and they would rather see the choir grow than play the keyboard unnecessarily. The circumstance drove the change.

Have the trust of the people! It is true that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If they don’t trust you, they won’t follow you two feet from where they are standing. In his leadership books, John Maxwell has written frequently about building relationships with the influencers. I’m not talking about sucking up to people but building genuine relationships. I can attest to the fact that people have followed me many places because I first cared about them as human beings.

Teach the church through the change! Pastor John Houston of Point Harbor Church in Chesapeake, Virginia is a prime example of one who taught the church through the change. Nearly half the church left initially, but the growth far exceeded those who could not embrace the change. I heard him preach once about how he wept with some who left because of long relationships they had from when he had previously served on staff. Through every season, he gave biblical basis for the change. The church that once had 200 in attendance has nearly 1,000.

These things do not come without a little resistance, but be sure people will be more resistant to your selfish agenda than biblical change. Change is a part of the Christian life if growth is going to take place. In fact, the Christian life begins with the change Christ makes and continues as we are sanctified. It will not stop until we enter our Heavenly Home. May your end goal be to help people enter a relationship with Christ who grow to the point of helping others enter that relationship. Let the Bible be your foundation and Christ your focus. He will take care of the rest!

Bombarded

Most every day, I spend time listening to issues people are facing and first provide a caring and empathetic presence. People often want someone to listen and care before they want advice. The resounding theme I find with people is that they are not just experiencing one difficulty. They are often being bombarded by multiple problems. Many feel there is no end in sight.

We have all been there. I am facing some circumstances right now where I am praying for miracles. I know that there is no way there will be a breakthrough apart from the power of God doing the impossible. However, I am clinging to His promises and power. 

For those who feel like you are being bombarded, here are some verses from the Bible to help you know that God will bring you to the other side better than you were before.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:8-9, 17‬ ‭ESV‬‬).

Notice there is a difference between the way we feel and reality. We must cling to the reality of who God is and what He is doing. Our feelings will doom us. We need to choose God’s perspective and await a miracle. He will bombard hell on our behalf. Glory to God!!!!!