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Wednesday, October 1st PDF Print E-mail
3) Have You Made It Your Own?

Truth be told many of us started going to church because of a parent.  Perhaps you're like me ... you grew up just simply ... going to church.  It was the way things were.  It was who we were.  There was no discussion about it.  There was no "Should we this week?" ... "You want to go church?" ... "How do you feel about going to church?" Nope.  In fact, it was deeper than that.  It wasn't even like, "We're going 'cause that's what we do."  It just wasn't even an issue or a discussion or even a thought, really.  In fact, it wasn't about church as much as it was about loving God, living for God, and having God present in our home.  Anyway, I'm sure there's some of you that can identify with me on that.  For others, mom made you.  Dad said you had to.  Or maybe you started coming because of a spouse.  You came because they liked it when you came.  You came because it appeased them.  Maybe you came because of your child ... or a friend/aquaintance ... or because you felt welcomed and knew you needed to "get back to going to church".

For those of us who grew up in the church, or who attend church in order to apease a significant other or relative, it can be really easy to become a fan.  Truth be told, for some others, it can be easy to slip into "fan mode" and continue to come because you know pastor or some other church member will be disappointed if you didn't come (or you know pastor will call you and put you on the spot with a "Where were you?" text or phone call;).  It's like riding in the car with someone who listens to a type of music you're impartial to.  They drive you to school or work everyday, and every morning it's Aerosmith (ok ok ... I know that's carnal but it's just for illustrative purpose!).  As music taste goes, I don't really care that much about Aerosmith.  I don't hate them but I don't really like them.  Eventually though, a few songs grow on you a little bit and all of a sudden you can't help but hum along to, "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing". So you might say you became a casual "fan" of Aerosmith.

That can happen to us in church.  We keep coming to appease someone else, and pretty soon we get into the flow of things.  We know most of the songs, we recognize the stories or the teachings, we appreciate the atmosephere of worship, and we're fans of Jesus.  But that can be the most dangerous situation to be in.  If your faith isn't your own, if you aren't pursuing a relationship with Jesus, and you keep coming week after week to create a "faith" that was someone else's in the first place, you're just numbing yourself to the real thing. You'll become numb to real faith, and comfortable with a few songs and a few favorite verses, none of which requires any sacrifice or personal change.


You have to make your faith your own. Jesus isn't looking for a relationship between you, your mom, and Him.  He's not looking for a relationship between you, your spouse, and Him.  He's not looking for a relationship between you, your church family, and Him.
He's looking for a relationship with you. That may be one of the reasons Jesus said these words in Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple." This is not about your mom or dad.  This is about you and Jesus. Jesus isn't suggesting you have to literally despise you're family in order to have a relationship with Him.  He is, however, underscoring that 1) It has to be about you and Him ... you have to get it for yourself ... you cannot rely on someone else's relationship with Jesus counting on your behalf and 2) There can be no close seconds when it comes to him being a priority in your life. He's either number one or he's none at all.

So again, I challenge you over these final couple weeks to go deeper ... to be more than a fan ... to ask, "Are you a follower of Jesus, or are you just a fan?"

Blessings...
~ Pastor
 
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Tuesday, September 30th PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, September 30th

Forgive me for not having been up to date on my posts for our Deeper - Not a Fan Campaign. With all the travelling I've had to do of late it has been a difficult schedule for posting devotionals ... that said ... I will do my best to do better over the remaining two weeks of the Campaign!  

Picking up right where I left off in my last two posts regarding the questions I'm asking you to challenge yourself with during our Deeper - Not a Fan Campaign...

Luke 9:23 If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Are You All In?


One thing must be clearly understood ... being a follower of Jesus requires complete commitment. Plain and simple.  A follower of Jesus will do whatever it takes to follow Him.  They're absolutely loyal, completely committed.  (During the remainder of this post ... Think: "The Man That God Could Not Stop" kind of commitment that Bishop preached about Sunday.)

On the whole, as humans and unfortunately too often as Christians, we don't do too well with absolute commitment, do we? I think I would be safe in saying that we prefer selective commitment.  Simply put, we customize Christianity.  Oftentimes, we look at our relationship with Jesus and say, "I'm going to follow Jesus, but I'm going to kind of pick and choose the areas in which I will follow Him."  Ever heard another "Christian" say (or caught yourself saying) something to the effect of, "Well, I'll follow Jesus, but don't ask me to forgive the person that hurt me.  I'm not going to let go of that resentment.  I'm not going to let go of that bitterness.  I deserve that."  Or, "I'll follow Jesus, but don't talk to me about my money.  I work hard for that money."  "I'll follow Jesus but don't tell me to abstain from these sexual desires.  I can't help the fact that I have these desires.  Don't ask me to abstain.  I'm a follower of Jesus, but that won't stop me from getting what I want."  It's customized Christianity that says, "Well, I follow Jesus, but only in the areas that are comfortable (pretty much the total opposite of the Apostle Paul and the situation Bishop preached about Sunday, huh?), only in the areas that I agree with.  I'm a Christian but I'm not all in."

Well, then you're not a Christian.  You're just a fan.  There is not an option of selective commitment. It's not a possibility. There is no bargaining, no bartering, no finagling.  When you decide to bcecome a follower of Christ, you've got to go all in. And fans, they don't like the idea of going all in.  They're not wild about having to make sacrifices, or about having to deny themselves of something they desire or crave.

But if you've answered why you're here from my previous post, then it will be pretty easy to figure out if you're all in.  If you weren't here for the right reasons, chances are you won't be willing to go all in.  

So, in defining our relationship to Jesus, we've asked:
1) Why Are You Here?
2) Are You All In?

Tomorrow we will ask...

3) "Have You Made It Your Own?"

Until then...
~Pastor
 
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Thursday, September 18th PDF Print E-mail
Why are you here?

As we discussed yesterday, one of the purposes of our "Not a Fan" campaign is to challenge every believer to really evaluate their relationship with Jesus and to decide no matter where the relationship is ... to go deeper.

If you read through the Gospels, Jesus, at different points in His ministry, would draw a preverbial line in the sand to separate the fans from the followers.  One such instance is in John chapter 6.  Jesus is in the height of His ministry and we read that large crowds were following Jesus.  He was very popular.  He was working miracles. He was providing food from just five loaves of bread and a few fish.  As a result, there were many in the crowds surrounding Jesus.   But Jesus, in verse 2, realizes why they were coming.  In verse 2, it just says they were coming "because of the miralces." In other words, the crowds were showing up because of the spectacle.  They didn't care as much about the teaching ... or about the life changing lesson.  They were there for the show.

Evaluation time: Why are you here?  What is your because?  Is it because you like the free food before Sunday classes?  Is it because you think the seats are comfortable ... and man are they ever more comfortable than Old Donation!? :)  Is it because you really like the upbeat music and exuberant worship?  Is it because you like the chit chat and that your kids can make friends easier here than at school?  Is it because you think the pastor is awesome? :)  Is it because you like the friendliness of the people?  Is that why you're here?  Don't get me wrong ... all of those are good reasons ... in fact their great ... for a while. But at some point ... you have to go deeper.  It has to become about relationship with Jesus. There has to be an honest evaluation ... the relationship between you and Jesus must be defined.  Why are you here?  Eventually the answer must be simply ... "because of Jesus".  Because I love him. Because I want to be close to Him.  Because I want to please Him.  Because I want to serve Him.  Because I want my life to be lived for Him.  It's time ... the invitation has been extended ... go deeper.  Practice more often that "Alone Time with God" Bishop Lashley taught about in our Prayer Conference.  

In that passage Jesus challenges the fans to a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him, and sadly in verse 66, here is what we read:
"From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him."

Many returned home because Jesus says, "Let's define what we've got here," and what He offered wasn't what they wanted.   He wants there to be a point where you define the relationship.  

Take sometime this morning and throughout your day today to truly examine where you and Jesus really are ... has it been more for the miracles, more for the show, more for what Jesus can do for you, more because you know it's what your supposed to do, more obligation, more it's the only thing I know ... or has it been more about relationship?  Why are you here?  Because why?  And make no mistake ... for Jesus, his because is that he wants to have a deep relationship with you!

Blessings!
~ Pastor
 
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Wednesday, September 17th PDF Print E-mail

I've adapted and personalized the below post from excerpts of Kyle Idleman's book "Not a Fan" and want to share it with you:

Allow me to ask this question: Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus?
The word fan is defined as "an enthusiastic admirer."  Many of you know that I'm a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. A diehard fan!  Diehard as in ... I'm a fanatic and I really don't like it when they lose.  Like for instance, last night, they blew a lead in the 9th inning and went on to lose a game they should've won.  Up until that point, I was a happy fan.  They were winning.  After they blew the lead ... and even more so after they lost ... I was ... let's just say ...  NOT a happy fan.  I felt more like "Stupid Cardinals!" rather than "Go Cardinals!" :)

Many of us are sports fans.  We watch the games.  We cheer on the team.  Some of us own the jerseys of our favorite players.  We all, on some level, understand the concept of being a fan of sports.  

You might be wondering ... ok how does this apply to our "Deeper - Not a Fan Campaing"?  Glad you asked ... My concern is that our church has the potential to very easily become a stadium full of fans of Jesus.  However, Jesus never cared about having fans.  If you define a fan as an enthusiastic admirer, then fans were not important to Him.

Here's my thought: I think we have a tendency to come together once a week and be fans of Jesus.  We sit down in OUR seats (and God forbid if someone else sits in OUR seat).  We applaud at certain times and we leave soemhow thinking that, as the fans, it was all done for us.  We get in the car and we evaluate the sermon, and we kind of give the service and song selection a thumbs up or thumbs down (come on ... you know you've done it).  Then, we come back and do it again the next week.  

I get the fact that some of you are really big fans.  I mean, you're really ... really into all of this.  You know all the songs and you don't need special tabs in your Bible to find the reference.  You know where to turn.  In fact, you're pretty fast at finding the reference.  You even look around to see how much faster you are than everyone else. You're a regular Sword Drill Champion!  You're big fans of Jesus.  And being fans feels pretty good.  We can feel pretty good about ourselves because we're these great admirers of Christ ... but ... we need a reality check ... and that reality is ... He never cared about having fans.

Over the course of the next few day's devotional blogs ... I want you to be reflective ... and take an honest look at yourself.  I want us as a church to search our hearts and really define our relationship with Jesus.  There are three questions I want you to answer and over the next few days I'll expound on these questions:

1) Why are you here? (Here being "in the church")
2) Are you all in?
3) Have you made it your own?

~ Pastor


 
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Tuesday, September 16th PDF Print E-mail

Admittedly, I'm not much of a fisherman.  I enjoy it every once in a while.  I've been at times when the fish are biting and I've been too many times when the fish were obviously much smarter than I in that they completely avoided the bait.  One thing I know about fishing though ... if you are going to catch a fish you need something to catch it with; whether a rod and reel or a net ... or by some miracle even your hands ... it takes a tool of some sort to catch a fish.  It doesn't have to be an expensive rod and reel.  It doesn't take the best brand ... but it does take a tool.

In Luke 5:10 , I referred to it Sunday during preaching, Jesus tells Peter,
"henceforth thou shalt catch men." Just as in the natural realm of catching fish, it takes something to catch men.  So, what is the tool ... what do we use to do this?  Jesus reveals it in Mark 1:17 , "Come follow Me, and I'll make you to become fishers of men."  The simple truth is ... if we really ... really become followers.  Completely ... Committed followers.  We have this knowledge, he turns his followers into fishermen.  

Let me encourage you over the next 30 days.  Evaluate your walk with God.  Are you completely committed in following him?  If you are ... start fishing!  If you are not ... dive in completely ... and join the fishermen's club.

Blessings...
Pastor

 
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