New church on the way…

Something I posted on the Facebook page for the new church I am starting. I got “the call” a few years ago, and the process has been a slow, strange one. Ups and down with some hard work, but all of it lead by God. I do not know what the end result will be, and thank God that isn’t up to me, that is in God’s hand.
God’s call to me, and to everyone really, is simply obedience. If I am obedient, and I truly trust God and believe He is in control and uses everything, the good and the bad, to ultimately bring Him glory, then everything will be OK.
So, a new journey, and a new church begins on March 17, 2013 in Broken Arrow, OK. Here is what I posted about the new church. If you are a praying person, prayers for us would be appreciated.
Coming Soon…Apostles Church.
We aren’t better than any other churches. We won’t do things greater or smarter or more intelligently or cleverer than other churches. We won’t be closer to Jesus or worship him better or love him more than other churches. We won’t have a special key or secret ingredient that other churches are missing.
We will be another part of the body of Christ that strives to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. We will strive to listen to God and be obedient with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We will offer a safe place for people to come and have their relationship with God RESTORED by grace through faith in Jesus. We will offer a place where in a safe community of believers GROWTH and DISCIPLESHIP can occur. We will encourage and support each other so all can discover God’s plan for their lives and they can be SENT to serve others and bring the good news of Jesus to the world.
We do this so God can get the glory. It is all about Him. He is the sovereign God and we trust Him and Him alone. We do this not in competition with other Gospel-centered churches, but as another tool for God to use to bring people to Him.

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What Are You Waiting For?

There is a great scene in Rocky 2…ok sorry every single scene in every Rocky movie is a great scene…there is a great scene in Rocky 2 where Rocky and his trainer Mickey are in the hospital sitting with Rocky’s wife Adrian. She was pregnant, had an early delivery brought on by stress and had complications brought on by childbirth and had slipped into a coma.
Rocky was in training for a rematch with Apollo Creed. He wasn’t training very hard because his wife wasn’t wanting him to fight and Rocky argued that it was all he knew how to do. Adrian’s pleas with Rocky not to fight were causing him to not put his heart and soul into the training.
Rocky is sitting at Adrian’s bedside reading her a poem. Adrian awakes to everyone’s astonishment. Rocky looks at Adrian and says, “If you don’t want me mixing it up with Creed I won’t.”

Adrian smiles and looks at Rocky and says, “There is one thing I want you to do.”
“What’s that?” Rocky says as he leans down to listen.
The music swells…a gong echoes…”Win.” Adrian whispers.
Another gong…Rocky looks up at Adrian…”Win.” She repeats louder.

Mickey’s eyes get wide as he shouts, “What are we waiting for?”

And the rest is cinematic history. Rocky trains like crazy and actually defeats Apollo Creed to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World. (can you just hear the Rocky music now? I would say I could but it pretty much plays in an endless loop in my head…)

The scene is so gut-wrenching and emotional on so many levels…Rocky wanting to prove he is a somebody, the intense love he has for his wife. The devotion of the old trainer to his pupil….ok ok I am getting off subject here, which is easy, I mean it’s Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion, after all.
The question Mickey asks is the question for us…but I’ll personalize it…

What are you waiting for?

What is it going to take for you (and when I say you, I mean you…well and me and every other arm-chair Christian who thinks that simply filling a seat on Sunday and pontificating on how great Jesus is makes them a complete Christian) to get off your seat and actually start living the life God wants you to live?
How many conferences do you need to attend? How many sermons do you need to hear? How many Bible studies to you need to go to? How many praise songs do you need to raise your hands to and sing before it all sinks in and you actually start imitating the Jesus you are learning or singing about?
Christianity has a hollow ring to people because people who claim to be Christians aren’t living out what they preach. The Bible says to love your neighbor…do you even know the names of your neighbors, let alone love them? And remember saying you love someone is vastly different than actually living it out and showing it to the world.

Of course the excuse machine is on full power for us. I don’t have the time to love my neighbors, let alone find out what God wants me to do. I am not good enough yet, God is still working on me and when He is done then I’ll get to work. (This is a good one because the Bible says we are works that will not be completed until Jesus comes back…so by that logic we won’t have to do anything until Jesus returns with the trumpet blast, and call me crazy but I think God has things for us to do before that.)

So it is time. It is time for Christians to act.

You don’t need a degree. You don’t need another sermon or another prayer – although they are always nice. Christians have a tendency to put things off until everything is ‘just right’. But that is the problem, things in this life are never ‘just right’. So we wait, and nothing really gets done. Neighbors don’t get loved. Widows aren’t taken care of. Prisoners aren’t visited in prison. Jesus isn’t preached. All because we are waiting for everything to be perfect.

The Bible has a verse just for this…Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NLT) says, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

The time is right. It is right now. Start acting and living like the Jesus you have learned about for so long.

Another verse to spur us to action, “You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:7 (The Message)

So what are you waiting for? Hopefully for all of us, we aren’t waiting any longer. We will be living for and sharing Jesus starting today.
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Church Marketing

We have all seen or heard them, the clever marketing tools of today’s church.

The smooth announcer on the radio telling a story with a moral and then declaring that their church is the place to be.

The television commercial showing hip, young people being cool and praising the Lord to hip music and of course the message is that this church is “the” place to be.

The billboard on the highway advertising the upcoming cool, even “controversial” new sermon series by the young pastor. The best of course are the ones that mention sex and of course the message is that this church is different and is the place to be.

These are just a few, and with apologies to anyone who might be involved in church marketing, they make me sick. (OK sick might be a little harsh but I do not like them). Does the church really need the guy with the silky smooth voice on the radio telling them about the Sunday service? Does the church really need the cool angles and quick cuts of a TV commercial to make them seem hip and relevant to today’s culture? Does the church really need to titillate and cause a stir with a billboard that announces to the world that Christians have sex? (of course as Christians it should be within the confines of marriage, but that’s a discussion for another time).

If a church has to market what they are doing, then the church is doing a poor job.

The best marketing a church has is when its people are living their lives as God intended. If that happens money won’t need to be wasted on TV time or radio spots and instead can be spent on ministries that reach out and touch people in need.
Thinking about it deeper, sure a TV ad might add more people to the rolls next Sunday, but the people who show up will not stick around if the church is not living outloud for God. If a church wants to draw and keep people in their church the church’s focus should not be on drawing and keeping people. The church will grow when the church devotes itself wholeheartedly to the things of God.

The Bible says that when God is lifted up that He will draw men to Him. Sure it’s a paraphrase but it is God who does the drawing. In Acts chapter 2 the disciples devoted themselves to God. They prayed, studied the Word, hung out together and ate together and the Bible says that because they did that their numbers increased….they were blessed, not because of some clever marketing scheme or semi-controversial-look-at-me-I-am-hip sermon series, but because they were concerned about the things of God.

If you notice nowhere does it say anything about cool commercials, billboards, radio ads, etc as being the reasons that people came to church? Men are drawn to God, are drawn to church when God is the number one concern of the church. God tells us to love Him…and to love others as we love ourselves. He doesn’t mention commercials. When we love God, truly love Him and try our best to do what He says, if we love the widows and orphans, if we visit the prisoners, if we take care of each, if we think of others before we think about ourselves, if we lift up God’s name, then people will (super)naturally be drawn to us.

Be Jesus For Me

I’ve heard the countless stories. I’ve seen person after person walk onto stage at church and give testimony after testimony. Sometimes the story comes from someone close to me, sometimes from an acquaintance, and sometimes from someone I do not know, but each time the stories astound. God is up to something.

A couple strides on stage, their gaze is down, the mood is somber, but for some reason their shoulders are held back, confident, almost defiant. Although this couple just lost their oldest son to a tragic accident, they talk, yes in hushed tones, but they talk of the love of Jesus, of the strength he affords them as they face this incredibly difficult time. Jesus is with them, because of Jesus they can face tomorrow…
And I wonder…will Jesus be Jesus for me?

A group of men and women, of all ages and backgrounds climb upon the stage and in succession take turns telling the church what addictions they are facing and struggling against. Drugs, alcohol, depression, anger…I am blown away. The honesty with which each person is able to not only face these problems but to share with others is truly inspiring. They can face tomorrow because of Jesus. Jesus gives them the ability to face their struggles head on, knowing that they may lose some battles, but ultimately the war is already won because of Jesus.
And I wonder…will Jesus be Jesus for me?

A teenage girl, walks onstage with her parents. She does not speak, she is too nervous to, but she stands, side by side with her parents as the pastor describes the situation. The teenage girl is pregnant and now as she stands on stage a smile comes across her face as the pastor and the church agree that her sin will not be counted against her. The church agrees to pray and surround not only the girl, but the boy and the parents as well. Jesus will see them through this. Jesus will guide and direct and will also forgive.
And I wonder…will Jesus be Jesus for me?

A woman with breast cancer healed. A man with something wrong on an x-ray of his chest and it turns out to be nothing. A baby who can’t hear, a baby supposed to be born without a brain, a child who might lose their eye because of an accident…all of them, young and old alike…healed…by Jesus the Healer.
And I wonder…will Jesus be Jesus for me?

It is easy for me to let Jesus be Jesus for others. Need strength, Jesus, need peace, Jesus, need comfort, Jesus, need healing, Jesus…if YOU need anything Jesus is the answer and I’ll be glad to tell you about Him…and yet for me I still seem to struggle with the question.
Jesus can be Jesus for everyone else, of this I am sure, but I long for Jesus to be my Jesus. I long for healing, I long for forgiveness, I long for peace, strength and everything else Jesus promises.

Now I know that I have received this and much more but I still continue to desire more. And not the more that most people think of when they think of “more”. I don’t desire more money…ok that’s not true, of course I want more money, who doesn’t but that’s not what I desire. I don’t want more material goods…again, sure a new car or Taylor guitar would be sweet, but it is not what keeps me up at night. I know Jesus is with me, I know he loves me and yet every night I go to bed asking Jesus for a deeper understanding, a greater desire to be like him, a better relationship with the one I claim to love.

I want Jesus to be my Jesus. I want Jesus to heal me. I want Jesus to speak to me and I want to actually hear and listen. I know it sounds strange and seems strange to me as I sit here and admit this…I mean God has worked in my life in amazing ways during my walk with Him and yet every night I plead and cry out to Him for more.

More blessing, more grace, more mercy.

Jesus, be my Jesus.

Jesus…please.

Be mine. Again. And forever.

 

Why Study the Bible?

2 Timothy 2:15 – Because God tells us we need to know the Word
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – Because it encourages us, teaches us, and helps us grow
Matthew 4:4 – Because it is what we should live on
1 Peter 2:2 – Because it helps us mature as believers
Job 23:12 – Because it will become more important to us than food
Ephesians 3:17-19 – Because it helps us become filled with God
Acts 17:11; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1 – Because it helps us discern truth
1 Timothy 4:13-16 – Because it saves you and saves others
Titus 2:1 – Because we are to have sound doctrine

John 8:31-32 – Because it will set us free

Politics – Who REALLY is in control

Things to remember:
God will not be surprised on who is elected. In fact, He puts them in their place. He is in control –
Romans 13:1 – “For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
Daniel 2:21 – “And he changes times and seasons; he removes kings, and sets up kings.”
Not only that, but once the person is in power, He is in control then too.
Proverbs 21:1 – “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”
God puts people in place. God directs them once in place. God removes them when needed. God puts new people in place. God directs them once in place…and so on and so on and so on.
Basically – God is in control. It is in Him we should place our trust.

Judge Not – Judge Yes

“Judge not, lest you be judged.”

This oft quoted verse, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1), is a great verse, but taken in context Jesus is directing this to the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders of the day. They were lording over people who did not live like they did, condemning them for not following their “righteous” example.

But

Paul says, “Do you not know that we are to judge the angels? How much more, then, the matter pertaining to this life? (1 Corinthians 6:4). Paul lets us know that we are to judge when it comes to disputes among our members, “When one has a grievance against another” (1 Corinthians 6:1).

We are to judge when someone in the church is sinning and is unrepentant. This is not fun sounding and is probably why it is avoided. Paul even says to “deliver this man to Satan” (1 Corinthians 5:5). Paul was talking about a man who was sexually immoral and his advice (command) was to kick the dude out of the church and “turn him over to Satan”!!! Wow. Lest anyone think this is not the example for today’s church but was only for this one instance in the church Paul was addressing. Matthew basically says the same thing in Matthew 15:15-18. He says to confront the sinner, confront the sinner with some witnesses, confront him again in front of the whole church – and if he is unrepentant – kick them out! Again, wow.

The Bible also says we are to judge pastors and deacons/elders. We are to judge the teaching of pastors to see if it is lining up with Scripture (Matthew 7:15-20; 1 Corinthians 4:29; Titus 1:10-16) and we are to judge the qualifications of those selected to be deacons/elders (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9).

We also are to judge ourselves. It is not part of the judging others theme here, but is a good practice to judge ourselves and see where we are in our walk with Christ (1 Corinthians 1:11:31; 2 Corinthians 13:5-7).

Judge not – well sometimes judge yes…

 

 

Stick to It – Sticktoitiveness

STICKTOIT IVENESS

How many of you have ever prayed for something and not gotten what you prayed for? I’ll answer…everyone. Now there may be some out there who claim that they have gotten everything they have ever asked God for and there is a name for people like that, for lack of a better word let’s call them liars.

If we are honest we can all admit that at times it seems like God is not answering our prayers. I am not talking about the self serving, God give me a million dollars, type prayers. I am talking about the God give me protection, God give me peace, God please speak to me type prayers. The Bible says God does not leave us or forsake us, but at times we feel all alone, almost abandoned by God…don’t worry you are in good company…the “man after God’s own heart” felt that way too. Just read Psalms and see how at times David felt God wasn’t anywhere to be found.

We pray for God to grant us peace…the Bible talks of a peace that surpasses all understanding, and yet at times we feel like all Hell is breaking loose in our lives. Parents pray for their kids to follow God and love God and then watch as they make destructive choice after destructive choice and wonder where is God? We pray for security in our lives, for peace in our marriages and relationships, for comfort…and find nothing but chaos and strife.

This is a problem that has plagued Christians, probably starting minutes after Jesus ascended into Heaven and continuing right up to this present day…and unfortunately will continue until Jesus comes back (psst, if you didn’t know, He is coming back). Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?

One reason that our prayers aren’t answered is because we give up too easy.

Yes, we give up way too easily.

And although we do share the majority of the blame for this lack of intestinal fortitude, we can also lay part of our lack of sticktoitiveness to society and other Christians. Yes I know an explanation is in order…so let me explain.

First, what the heck is sticktoitiveness?

Now let me get this out of the way in the beginning…yes, I am an English major and yes, I know that sticktoitiveness is not a word. I don’t know the origins of this word but I know I first heard it in 9th grade science class. My science teacher used this and many other made up word when teaching us. Sticktoitiveness was his word to describe the act of not giving up.

Man you kept working and working and working until you finished, you showed great sticktoitiveness.

See?

He always used this word. It always got on my nerves back then, something I reminded him on various occasions, letting him know that sticktoitiveness is not a real word…and yet here I am using his word again…his word has much stickitudity. (my stupid, made up on the spot word that means it has lasting power).

Anyway, we Christians lack sticktoitiveness. Society is part of the blame. We live in an instant gratification society. We want what we want, when we want, how we want…and fast. Don’t think you have fallen prey to society. Go to Taco Bueno and order a couple of tacos…if it takes more than 2

minutes to get your order don’t you move from aggravation to anger really fast? I mean what the heck is taking them so long? Now think, in less time than it takes you to preheat your oven to simply warm up your taco shells at home… to say nothing of the slicing of the tomatoes, the preparing the lettuce, cooking the meat, etc… you are able to get a full meal, along with snacks and drinks…and if it takes more than a few minutes we start to get annoyed.

We want what we want now and if the results are delayed what do we do? Move on. How many of us have sat at a drive through waiting for an answer from the person behind the microphone and if it “takes too long” we move onto the next place, because they have better service – they are faster? I know I have.

Other Christians also do us a disservice when it comes to our lack of sticktoitiveness. I don’t believe these Christians to be devious and intentional in their actions, but even-so the results can be devastating.

Many Christians today preach the so-called “name it and claim it” gospel. You want something, name it, and claim it…ask God for it, believe you have it and it is yours. If you have prayed for it, that’s it, you are done…if you don’t get what you want it’s a lack of faith on your part. If you keep praying for something you are showing a lack of faith…

And on and on…

The name it and claim it gospel is popular because who doesn’t want things when they want them…ask once and it is yours? It fits right into the society model of instant gratification. But is it right?

I say no. One only needs to look at the Bible for examples of Christians needing to show more sticktoitiveness when it comes to their prayers.

You might not be getting answers to your prayers because you are not praying for the right things…if you are praying for a million dollars because you wanna buy cool things…uh probably not gonna happen.

You might not be getting answers to your prayers because God knows better. He knows that if you get the job you want you are not gonna be happy and the company is gonna go belly-up in 1 year and He is watching out for you.

Maybe it’s not God’s will. Just look at Jesus’ prayer in the garden. He named what He wanted, but didn’t get it because it wasn’t God’s will.

But maybe, just maybe, you are not sticking with it long enough…again because of society and confusion about how to pray. Christians pray for something and when the answer doesn’t come in the timing they want or in the way they want, they do what we do when we don’t get the right kind of taco (I wanted it without tomatoes) in the time frame we want…we give up and move on.

Luke 11:5-9 (The Message)

5-6 Then he said, “Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don’t have a thing on hand.’

7 “The friend answers from his bed, ‘Don’t bother me. The door’s locked; my children are all down for the night; I can’t get up to give you anything.’

8 “But let me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need.

9 “Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get;

Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open.

We have often heard this story that Jesus told his disciples. There are other translations of this story that say that the man got the bread from his friend because of his insistence, because he didn’t give up…because of his sticktoitiveness. Jesus ends this story with the oft-quoted…

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

The only problem is that something, somewhere, probably a long time ago has been lost in the translation apparently. I am not a Greek speaker, although I do have Greek bloodlines, but the Greek translation of Luke 11:9 literally is translated as KEEP asking…KEEP seeking…KEEP knocking…and when taken in context of the dude asking his buddy for bread and getting it because of his tenacity it fits in context.

In order to get something, there needs to be a burning desire for it. Remember as a kid when you wanted something? You asked for it and gave up, right?

Wrong! You asked and asked and asked…and asked again…and again. You didn’t give up until you got what you wanted. The same kind of sticktoitiveness that is represented here.

And here in James…

James 5:16-18 (NIV)

16 …The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

This is often quoted too by Christians when talking about the incredible power in our prayers. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. AMEN to that brother (and sister, lest someone accuse me of chauvinism)

Let’s break this down first. “The prayer” is us talking with God usually asking him for something. “Of a righteous man” means you and me, as Christians. We are made righteous by the blood of Jesus, so if we are Christians we are righteous. “Is powerful and effective” means it is effective and powerful, not much explanation is needed.

So our prayers work. And to further illustrate the point James brings up Elijah. He says he was a man just like us…well except for the whole being taken into Heaven on a chariot thing, but who knows it might happen for you…and his prayer was able to stop rain for over 3 years and another prayer was able to bring the rain. He can do it…so can we. Our prayers after all our powerful and effective, just like Elijah’s

But Elijah’s prayer, in part, was successful because he had sticktoitiveness. Elijah had to pray SEVEN times for the rain to come. He didn’t just pray and BAM the rain came. He prayed, had someone check, prayed, had someone check, prayed, had someone check, prayed, had someone check, prayed, had

someone check, prayed, had someone check, and prayed and had someone check…and then, finally bam, it was raining.

1 Kings 18:42-44

42-43 …Meanwhile, Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bowed deeply in prayer, his face between his knees. Then he said to his young servant, “On your feet now! Look toward the sea.”

He went, looked, and reported back, “I don’t see a thing.”

“Keep looking,” said Elijah, “seven times if necessary.”

44 And sure enough, the seventh time he said, “Oh yes, a cloud! But very small, no bigger than someone’s hand, rising out of the sea.”

“Quickly then, on your way. Tell Ahab, ‘Saddle up and get down from the mountain before the rain stops you.'”

Elijah, a man, just like us knew the deal. He wanted something from God. He knew it was part of God’s plan…and he prayed with sticktoitiveness and it worked.

Are you praying for something? Are you trying to overcome something? Does it seem like there is no hope and there is no relief in sight?

I’ll answer for us again….YES. I would say all of us need something, in some area of our life. The message is to keep with it. Keep praying, keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking…God is faithful and He will do what He said He would do.

Do you have the sticktoitiveness to keep with it?

(something else to think about… the number 7 was used by Jesus when talking about how many times to forgive someone…remember? 7 times 70…that’s 490…surely I don’t have to pray 490 times to get an answer…and if I did…would I give up? Just move onto something else? Or show, yes you guessed it…sticktoitiveness)

Oh that we would have more sticktoitiveness.

 

Complete joy does not come from Facebook

Updated CNIV (Chris Not International Version) of 2 John 2:12
“I got lots to say. But Facebook and Twitter posts don’t cut it. I gotta see you face-to-face and then our relationship will deepen and I’ll be happy (and you will too).”

Facebook, Twitter, text messages, Instagram, even phone calls – they are all wonderful inventions. But God says they are insufficient. OK, he didnt mention them by name, but do you doubt God knew they would be invented? John writes (and others do too) that face-to-face meetings = joy. They are the meetings that bring true, real, meaningful relationships. Other means (letters, Facebook, etc) are simply supplements. Something to remember as you post about your life, your nap time, your food, your pictures, etc. They are simply posts and are not the basis of true joy. Face-to-face is where complete joy happens.