Where Does God Want His Church to Go?

The task that Christ gave all of us to do was to make disciples. Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

I believe that Jesus wanted His disciples to bridge the gap between the church and the community. Jesus did not expect His disciples to stay inside the four walls of the church building. He wanted them to build relationships, go into the marketplace, and make friends with unbelievers.

The biggest way to do that today is YOU! You is what will help us bridge the gap. On your job, in your neighborhood, at the grocery store, at a restaurant and so on. Don’t wait for people to come to you and ask about the Gospel. You go to them and be the church. Show people the love that Christ shown.

So, how do we do that? It’s actually quite simple. You could pay for a person’s meal behind you in line at the drive through. We hear about people doing this all the time. You could buy someone’s groceries that is in line ahead of you at the grocery store. Get a group together and give out bottles of water at a park. Here is something that might be new to some of you, be friendly.

When driving down the road, don’t cut people off. Some day when you have extra money in the budget, take out $20 in quarter and go to a laundry mat and hand out quarters to the people there washing their clothes. Just Be the church and bridge the gap.

That is what Christ meant by Going into the world. Build a bridge from the church to the community so that people can cross that bridge. It starts with YOU!

I Can Make a Difference Part 1: What a Difference a Day Can Make

Sunday, I began a new series called I Can Make a Difference. Right now, where you are at in front of God and everybody I want you to say at the top of your lungs, “I can make a difference.” Come on I’ll say it with you. Let’s say “I Can Make a Difference.” Here we go.

“I Can Make a Difference!”

Don’t that feel good to get it off your chest.

Do you really believe that? Do you really believe that you can make a difference? If we really believe that we can make a difference then what are you doing with your life to make a difference?

I want to look at the thought “What a Difference a Day can Make.”

Every day you get the chance to make a difference in someone else’s life. Every day you get the chance to make a difference in your own life. You have to make the choice; you have to choose to make a difference.

In Colossians 4:2-6 Paul gives us some sound advice in making a difference. Let’s turn in our Bibles to Colossians 4:2-6.

  1. Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;
  2. meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,
  3. that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
  4. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.
  5. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

I like how the Message paraphrases this passage. Let’s look at it together.

2-4) Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.

5-6) Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

Paul is in prison and he is asking the people to pray that he gets an opportunity to share Christ. Notice he’s not asking them to praying that he gets out, he’s not asking them to pray that he would be found innocent, but he is asking them to pray that he gets an opportunity to share Christ.

Paul also gives the outsiders, as he calls them, good advice. He says, “make the most of every opportunity.” He also says, “the goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.”

Are we, as Christians, making the most of every day for the one that saved us? Every day belongs to God. What are we going to do in a day that will change the world?

I jotted down what a few people in the Bible and what they did in a day.

Look at what Jesus did in a day. He fed the five thousand. He turned water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana. He healed the sick, made blind eyes see, and raised the dead; remember the story of Lazarus. He also walked on water.

Moses parted the Red Sea. He met with God and received the Ten Commandments. How about Joshua? He saw the walls of Jericho fall. Sure he marched around them for six days before that but he was being obedient to what God was telling him to do. David killed the giant in one day. He went from shepherd boy to king in one day.

If they accomplished all these things in a day, what can you do to make a difference in a day? Here are three things that I believe anybody can do to make a difference in a day. I believe that if you will do these things then you can bring change to this world.

  1. Reach Someone for Christ.

I believe that you can use every day to reach someone for Christ.

What are you doing to share your faith? You don’t always have to talk in order to share your faith. Sometimes you just have to love someone.

Jesus saved you from your sins. He pulled you out of the destruction that you were in and planted your feet on a firm foundation. Because of what He did for us we can share it everyone.

I love how Paul puts his Christian life in perspective. Philippians 1:21-24 says, “21) For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22) But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23) For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24) Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”

Here Paul is battling between staying on earth and going to Heaven. He knows that going to Heaven is far better than staying but he so wants to stay on earth and tell more people about Jesus.

Do you struggle with this? Do you get to the point in your Christian walk that you love God so much that you don’t want to meet Him because you want to tell others about Him? We are to share our faith not out of obligation to Christ, but because we want others to experience the same fulfillment in Christ that we have felt.

Maybe you’re a skeptic here today. Maybe you think how is telling someone else about Jesus going to help me make a difference? It’s actually quite simple. When you tell someone about Jesus and the relationship that you have with Jesus you are bringing hope.

People in this world are looking for hope and we can help because we have the answer to hope and if you share that answer you are making a difference.

  1. A Chance to Serve

You can make a difference by using every day as a chance to serve.

1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

Galatians 5:13 says, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

We know that Jesus was a good servant. Here the Son of God came from heaven and humbled himself and walked amongst us as someone that was here to serve the people.

He tells us something about Himself in John 13:13-15. “13) You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14) If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15) For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.”

Jesus lived an example of a servant here on earth. He shows us how to serve. We live in a selfish world. People are consumed with themselves and their needs. We can look at people and see how their lives end up and we can know what happened. When people end up in bad situations it is the result of them or someone close to them that wanted their own selfish desires and it was because of that selfish desire that led to said person’s downfall.

A drug addict’s life or their family’s life is affected by their drug problem. An alcoholic’s life or their family’s life is affected by their alcohol problem. A porn addict’s life or their family’s life is affect by their pornography problem. A gambling addict’s life or their family’s life is affected by their gambling problem. When you allow those selfish desires to consume your life it is not only affecting your life, but it is affecting the life of those around you.

Jesus talked about serving others and Luke shared a statement that Paul said in Acts 20:35 when Jesus is quoted as saying, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

This statement brings me to my next point…

  1. A Chance to Give

You can use every day as a chance to give.

Robert Morris wrote a fantastic book on giving called The Blessed Life. You should read this book. He makes it very clear on how and why you should give according to God’s word.

I believe that none of us would argue the fact that we should all give money but you should also give of your time and you should give of your talents. It is important that we take on the mindset of giving. God’s desire is for us to become a group of giving people.

The first step to giving is submitting to God. James 4:7 says, “Therefore submit to God…” But it doesn’t end there the rest of that verse is “… Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

When we learn to submit to God we are in turn giving our self to God and telling God that we no longer want our wants and dreams but we want His wants and dreams for our life.

Proverbs 3:5, 6 says, “5) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6) In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

When we learn to give of ourselves and submit to God and put all our trust in Him, think about the difference we can make. We are no longer thinking the way our flesh thinks but we are now thinking the way God wants us to think.

Luke gives us great insight into giving. Let’s look at Luke 6:37-38. It says, “37) “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38) Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

All these things: not judging, not condemning, forgiving, and giving; if we do these then they will be given back to us.

The more we give of ourselves then the more God will give us. The more we give of money, the more God will give back to us. The more we give of our time, the more God will give back to us. The more we give of our talents, the more God will give back to us.

Can God trust us with what He has given us?

My thought for you today was What a difference a day can make. How will you spend today making a difference for the kingdom of God?

Think about this for a moment…

U.S. News and World Report did a survey of 6000 people in 1988 on time and this is the results of the survey. I am sure that some of this has changed but think about this.

In a lifetime the average American will spend: six months sitting at stoplights, eight months opening junk mail, one year looking for misplaced objects, two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls, four years doing housework, five years waiting in line, and six years eating.

What could we be doing during those times to make a difference? What difference can we make in a day? It is time that we stop wasting our days and start using them for God.

Carl Sandburg said, “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

As I close let me encourage you with this thought, Every day, Everywhere. The idea is to utilize a powerful concept that inspires you to see every day as an important ingredient in reaching people for Christ. Each day look for opportunities to serve others in their jobs, schools, home and work.

Every day Jesus made a difference in someone’s life and it is time that we slow and think of how we can make a difference in someone’s life in one day.

Psalms 23 Part 6

Read Psalm 23:1-6

  1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
  2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
  3. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
  4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
  5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
  6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

David finishes this chapter with, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Notice how David sums up this chapter. After all that he has done to describe the Lord as the Shepherd he says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In other words, if I truly believe that the Lord is my Shepherd and all the ways that I described Him as a Shepherd, then goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The truth is we have to make a decision. Is the Lord your Shepherd? If you make a decision to follow the Lord and accept Him as your Shepherd, then you choose to follow Him wherever He leads.

Choosing Christ takes Faith. Faith means that even though you may not see God you believe that He exists. We can look around and see the effects of God. We can look all around us and find things that we may not see, but because of their functions we believe they exist.

Faith is what has brought many individuals through difficult times.

  • Noah had faith when he built an ark to save his family from a flood that would come from rain that he had not yet heard of.
  • Abraham had faith believing that God would provide the sacrifice to replace his son that God had told him to take and sacrifice.
  • Moses had faith to believe that God would part the waters when he stretched his staff over the Red Sea.
  • Joshua had faith to believe that the walls of Jericho would fall down when they marched around the wall.
  • Gideon had faith that he could conquer the Midian army with just the 300 men that God left him with.
  • Samson had faith that God would give him one more chance to strike down the Philistines when he stood between the pillars that held the building up.
  • Esther had faith when she stood before the king that God would save her people.
  • Nehemiah had faith when he went to rebuild the wall that God would bring the people together to help him do it.
  • Mary had faith when she accepted the calling of being the mother of God.
  • Joseph had faith when he took Mary as his wife.
  • We can see the faith of the believers. Even when they could not see how their circumstances would turn, they had faith that God would see them through their situation.

God will take care of us. He will get us through everything that we are faced with. We just have to have faith and believe that he will do it.

How often do we truly have faith? Do we truly lay our life in his hands? How hard do we try to hang on to it on our own? We can look at different people and see that when they tried to take their life in their own hands, that is when they got themselves in trouble.

  • Remember Adam, when he decided to listen to the woman and not to God, that is when he was kicked out of the garden.
  • Remember Abraham, when he decided to take Sarah’s maidservant Hagar as his wife and not wait on the promise from God is when he got in trouble and Hagar and Ishmael were banished.
  • Remember David, when he decided to stay home from battle is when he slept with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah killed.
  • Remember Jonah, when he decided to not go to Ninevah is when God had a fish swallow him up to get his attention.

The truth is God has a great plan for us, but when we decide to do things our way is when we get out of God’s will and our life falls a part. We need to choose faith and believe that God has our best interest in mind. I don’t know about you, but I choose faith. I choose the Lord to be my shepherd. I know that what David wrote is true.

The Lord is MY shepherd, I shall not want. He makes to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake. Thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. His rod and His staff they comfort me. He prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, He anoints my head with oil, my cup runs over. And since I have accepted the Lord as my Shepherd, then goodness and mercy will follow me the rest of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23 Part 3

Psalm 23:1-6

  1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
  2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
  3. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
  4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
  5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
  6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

We know that the Lord is our shepherd. With Him in our life there’s not anything that we want for. We also know that He makes us to lie down in green pastures and He leads us beside the still waters. Verse 3 says, “He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

When you think about what David has written here we can get an interesting picture. Yes, the Lord who is our shepherd makes us to lie down in green pastures, but do you think he wants us to stay there. Do you think that once we have laid down that the Lord won’t ever want us to go anywhere else? The answer to that question is no, absolutely not! We have to go somewhere in order for us to fulfill the Great Commission that God has called us to.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,”. If all we ever do is sit around and soak in what God wants to give us then we never complete what God has for us.

God has greatness for us that we have to embrace. If we let the things that can get us down, keep us down, then we will never do what God wants for us. It is important for us to lie down in green pastures, let Him lead us beside the still waters and restore us to where we need to be, in order for us to accomplish all that God has for us.

Have you received any bad news for your life lately? Have you gotten a bad report from the doctor? Have you been called into the boss’s office to find out you no longer have a job? Have you had an argument with someone that you love? Whatever the problem is, Jesus can restore you. There will be times that we need to be made to lie down in green pastures, so that the shepherd can restore us.

Though the green pastures nourish, the Lord does not want us to lie around the rest of our lives. When we have gained strength, he leads us out from the pasture onto the trail of life, the “paths of righteousness”. It is during this time that we can testify of how God brought us out of our low time. We are walking the “paths of righteousness.”

My walk is for “His name’s sake.” He causes me to stay on a straight path, a narrow, grooved trail of right rather than wrong, obedience rather than rebellion, service rather than self-absorption, discipline rather than impulse, and cross-bearing rather than indulgence. We know the distinction of this because John 10:4 tells us, “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

We are His sheep, therefore when we walk through life, we represent the father. He leads us in the paths of righteousness. As He leads and we follow His leading, everything that we do should lead others to the good shepherd.

Are you walking in the paths of righteousness? Then testify. Don’t stay in the green pastures. Fulfill the purpose that God has called you to. David wrote, “He restores my soul, He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

Psalm 23 Part 2

Psalm 23:1-6

  1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
  2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
  3. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
  4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
  5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
  6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

Let’s take a closer look at verse 2. It says, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

When we look at verse 2, we have to remember that the Lord is My shepherd. The things that He does will benefit me the rest of my life. The reason why He does these things is for my good.

Have you ever watched something on TV, where you see the person out in the desert walking and they look ahead of themselves and they find something out in the distance and when they get there it is just a mirage? They saw that small pool of water and some trees, maybe some life form, only to find out that it was just their imagination playing tricks on them.

Life’s cravings does this to us. They appear to be pools of refreshment, but instead are dry holes of disappointment and despair. The truth is the Lord sees us exhausted and spent. His first reaction is to make us lie down in green pastures. And even though we are helpless and powerless, we do not want to lie down. We want to solve our own problems. We want our way.

Life is going to throw curve balls at you that you are not ready for. If you have ever watched baseball, you know that the pitchers job is to get the batter out whatever way possible. Many times the pitcher will set the batter up. The pitcher will throw a couple of fast balls to get the batter thinking that there will be another fastball and just as that batter is thinking that, the pitcher throws a curve ball to throw the batter off course.

Life throws us curve balls that make us feel helpless and powerless. And the Lord comes along because He sees us that way and He makes us to lie down, but we don’t want to. We want to solve it our way. The shepherd is telling us, let me take this problem for you.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “28) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29) Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30) For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The Message translates it like this. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Do you ever find yourself tired and worn out from everything that life has thrown at you? Do you ever find yourself wanting to just give up? Do you ever find yourself crying and weeping uncontrollable because of all the stress in your life?

That is why God is making us lie down in green pastures. He isn’t doing this to punish us. He is wanting us to rest. It is in those green pastures He disconnects us from everything except His grace and care. By lying down we choose an active inner trustfulness in the One who takes us off our feet of independence. That is the beginning, middle and end of the Christian life: total reliance upon Him.

It is when we fully rely on Him that we find rest. It is when we fully rely on Him that we can lie down in green pastures. It is when we fully rely on Him that we can find peace and joy and love that we are craving on a daily basis.

God is the one that rescues us from the wilderness of self-destructive behavior and brings us into the green pastures where life is restored. God is our rescuer, God is our deliverer, He is our fortress, He is our shelter, He is our rock. When our storms are raging He is the peace in the boat. When we can’t take the bad news, He is the calm in that storm.

The rest of that verse says, “He leads me beside the still waters.” It is those quiet streams of His presence that quench our thirst as we drink from His word, we pray, we worship, and we do His will every day.

Have you ever been so thirsty that you could not talk or your mouth was so dry that it hurt to swallow? What do you do? You go and get a drink of water to satisfy that thirst and sometimes you don’t stop with one drink. You get more. God is the one that quenches your thirst.

How do you quench that thirst?

Try meditating on the word, try praying, how about worship, how about following His will. We shouldn’t do these things only in a crisis situation. We should be doing these things on a daily basis. He makes lie down in green pastures because He knows that I need it. He leads me beside the still waters to quench my thirst. Let Him do those things. Let go of the control that you want on your life and let Him have the control.

Church Shutdown

Yesterday marked the 16th day of the government shutdown and they finally came to an agreement. Think of all the grief and trouble this shutdown has caused people. People weren’t getting paid, resources were depleted and National Parks were closed. People noticed the government shutdown.

Several years ago, the church was the center of a town or community. All the activities of the town were centered around the activities of the church. Sports practices weren’t held on Wednesday nights because of church services. The church was the focal point of the town. The church was a place that civic meetings were held. It was the polling place for the city. I could go on and on about the role the church played in a community. Today that has changed.

My question today to you is, if your church were to shut down, would the town miss it and the role it plays for your community? How important is your church to your community?

We as the church have to make ourselves relevant again. A church is more than a building that is used for worship services. The church is its people. The church is the relationships that it brings. The church is the place that you find opportunities to seek God and to further the abilities that God has given you. The church is the place that you can grow in life and in your spiritual walk with God.

The community needs the church. Are you giving your town a reason to need you? If you didn’t exist would the town or community you are in miss you? If you can’t answer yes, then you need to fix something. Find out what that something is and fix it.

Acts 2:42-47 gives us a picture of what the church should look like today. It says, “42) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43) Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44) Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45) and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46) So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Where to Start

First of all, let me begin by telling you why I decided to write this. I believe that I have learned many things already during the 5 years of pastoring the small church that I pastor in Arkansas. I want to share my struggles and successes and hopefully I can help other pastors of small churches. I don’t claim to know everything about pastoring a small church but I have experienced many things.
Since this is my first entry, I want to give you a brief background of where I am coming from. I began pastoring the church I am at almost five years ago. This was my first pastorate. My previous ministry experience was mostly as a youth pastor. Before taking this pastorate I had been out of full time ministry for 7 1/2 years. Needless to say my church took a chance on hiring a guy with no senior pastor experience. My wife and I say that our congregation is good to us because they let us practice on them.
During the past five years that we have been here we have experienced both highs and lows, but I know that God is in it because He has brought us through many obstacles.
One of the biggest hurdles that we had to overcome was financial. When I took the church it was in debt to the tune of $200,000. Now this may not seem like a lot to some of you, but the congregation was only running 35 on a good day. The church was in its 35th year and still paying the original church mortgage. Each time that the church would refinance they would take out more money and never paid off the debt. Today, I am proud to say that in 5 or less years we should be debt free.
When I came to this church, I was the fourth pastor in five years. As you can image, even though the congregation was excited to have a new pastor, they were anticipating that I wouldn’t stay long. Who could blame them with the track record of the past.
So now, here I am almost five years later at this wonderful church and we have come a long way. Our finances are up. The congregation is adding new faces every week. Our Missions giving is up. And the church is healthier than it has been in a long time.
In this blog I am hoping to share with you some of my victories and disappointments in hopes that it will help other small church pastors out there who are just starting or looking for a fresh start.
Thanks for reading and I hope that you will find this to be helpful.