We aren’t very patient people. Life has encouraged us to insist on getting what we want somewhere close to the minute that we ask for it. We get our food fast, retrieve our mail in seconds, and have little patience for the moments those processes slow down. We want what we want…NOW!
So when we begin to pursue change in our church, we’d like to find some quick answers. Somehow another Sunday in what has always been seems unbearable. So we scour the internet shelves for someone’s key to effectiveness and hope we can quickly just add water for best results.
But change…real change…doesn’t come.
If a church has been plateaued or declining on its life cycle curve, the change needed probably goes deeper than we might expect. While a few program adjustments or maybe a creative addition or two would be helpful, the deeper issues that can truly change…
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“In small towns, it is imperative that we do not import an unadjusted ministry methodology from an urban context into a small town context. I call this failure to contextualize “copy + paste.” It is a seductive trap that too many church planters and pastors fall into. It goes like this: something works somewhere and so it must work here.”
~Donnie Griggs (Small Town Jesus http://amzn.to/2BF0DKx)
When I began pastoring my first church, I remember visiting with people around town, inquiring about the church that they were a part of. While there were many who gave various responses to my questions, Baptist, Methodist, PCG, etc. one answer always confused me. “I go to Brother Rider’s church.” Funny, I pastored the church that Brother Rider led so faithfully for 51 years!
While that answer eventually transitioned to Pastor Chad’s church, in reality, I had accepted no ownership of the church in any way. Understanding that it is a response that people often give, attaching a pastor to the vision, ministry, and direction of the church, I never took it personally. I always thought it funny when my girls were asked by their friends “Does your dad own the church?”
Paul reminds Timothy and the church:
…I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14–15 (ESV)
God, in His infinite wisdom established the church to accomplish His mission on earth. This Christ-led institution is the foundation of and primary communicator of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We must never confuse the most important purpose we have of sharing the message of forgiveness, renewed relationship with God, and eternal life in Christ Jesus!
We as a church must preserve and practice the truth of God’s Word which was revealed through Jesus to those who have been commissioned to deliver the most important message in human history. How?
May the church of Jesus Christ fulfill it’s most important role in this day and age. Live and proclaim that Jesus is Lord of His Church!
What I am reading right now:
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God offers his compassion to those who realize their deepest need of Him. He cares for us with a heart of concern and mercy.
“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:6 (ESV)
During this holiday season, I am constantly reminded of God’s loving graciousness toward me. The fact that He sent His son for us in spite of the fact that we were not worthy, is a display of love of which is simply mind boggling. I am so thankful that God loves us enough to be gracious toward us and provides abundantly for our present and future needs. He has our best in mind and sometimes it is good for us to be reminded of it.
We are in the final stages of planning and preparing for our upcoming Main Event Men’s Conference, September 29-30, 2017. I am so excited about this years retreat and what I believe, God is going to do in the lives of men across the state of Oklahoma! I am praying that God will supernaturally touch the hearts of men and empower them to not only see transformation in their own lives, but also in the lives of their families, churches, and communities.
At last years conference, God began to speak to me about this year’s theme, Men of Honor and over the past year I have been asking questions and searching the Word of God for the answers. I know that God is calling men to raise the bar when it comes to their walk with the Lord, guarding the purity of their hearts and minds.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to explore the idea of honor and how it plays out in our lives. May God give His favor and direction as we journey together!
As a pastor, I have not only attended my fair share of funerals, but have presided over many of them. Typically each service places great emphasis on honoring those who passed, by telling of the positive characteristics of their lives. While there were many services in which it was easy to honor the character of the deceased, there were those services where it was not only hard to come up with something, but I have watched a family stretch things a bit.
I understand that we want to honor someone who is passed and we sure wouldn’t tell all the bad things the person was involved with, (especially in front of the preacher!) but I wonder, how would the service look if they had lived with honor. You see the opposite of living a life of honor, is living for yourself. Not caring about others, or worse, not caring about what God has desired or designed for our lives.
When searching through scripture, a foundational verse stood out as a key element to living a life of honor.
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Proverbs 3:13–16 (ESV)
The writer of Proverbs tells us that we are blessed when we find wisdom and get understanding. These key elements in a man’s life comes with a promised result…honor. It isn’t an honor that is demanded, but one that is earned through a life well lived. It is proven in the battlefield of everyday life, making choices, building relationships, and living out our purpose. Wisdom and understanding provides us with the ability to live above reproach and gives us with the ability to discern what is right in light of the Word of God and His kingdom.
So how do we gain wisdom? Consider God’s Word as an instructional guide for acquiring wisdom and understanding!
Wisdom and understanding doesn’t come as the result of simply living life, it is a conscience effort to live each day, seeking the Father’s guidance and applying the principles of scriptures to our lives. As a result, we not only receive God’s blessing on our lives, but those around us are blessed as well.
My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Proverbs 3:21–22 (ESV)
Thank you God that you have provided everything necessary for living an abundant life and have given to us, the key to living a life of honor before you and man. May you grant us the wisdom necessary to search after your will and direction for our lives. May you pour out your blessing on our lives and on the lives of those we come in contact with. We will be careful to give you the glory, honor, and credit for what you are doing and going to do in our lives. Amen
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Pursuit of happiness seems to be a primary concern of our culture today. Everywhere you look, advertisers are trying to sell us something that they claim will enhance our emotional well-being and promote a sense of accomplishment which in turn will make us happy…right? After all, everything we purchase or acquire in our lives are suppose to be the very things that will improve the odds that we will have a happy life!
Yet too many times, after I have made one of those purchases or I pursued something that I thought I had to have, I found myself wondering why I even pursued it in the first place? What did I think would happen with the pursuit? Was it something that I needed for the moment, or was it a want to fill a selfish desire in my heart?
May we make every effort to pursue righteousness and kindness in this life. As we do, the promise is that we will truly find life, righteousness and honor. Then, our pursuit of happiness will come as a natural result of our daily actions, rather than temporary acquisitions we think will make us happy.
Isaiah 6:8 (ESV) — 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
I have often contemplated what Isaiah must have experienced and felt as he had this supernatural experience with God. The holiness of God had to have been palatable as he stood in His presence, because Isaiah recognized that his unworthiness was a glaring blemish in his ability to stand before Him.
Throughout my life, I have had experiences with God which greatly impacted the direction of my life. It was in those moments that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was doing a special work in my life and that I needed to make every effort to pay attention to His leading and follow His will for my life.
Isaiah was quick to volunteer for service when God asked in a general sense, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” It was in that moment that Isaiah realized that he had an opportunity to serve God in a way that would take the supernatural experience he was having and put it to use in practical service to the people. He knew God was placing the commission on his life to be a spokesperson to the nation.
I love his willingness to serve. He humbly knew that his life was not his own and in light of the mercy of God, he had an opportunity to serve God with his soul, body, mind, and will. His response evidenced a humble readiness and a complete trust in God’s plans for his life. In spite of his shortcomings, he made himself available to God for His use.
Each one of us have experienced and received the mercies of God which have been abundant in our lives. Salvation is the chief of those mercies in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. When we asked God for forgiveness of our sins and committed our lives to His Lordship, we were offering everything that we are and will ever be, to His service and His leadership in our lives.
Isaiah becomes for us the example of who we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices unto God. His desire to be used by God brought no questions as to the impact it would have to his schedule, relationships, and life plan. He readily volunteer without reservation, without setting terms, and without a deeper discussion to the expectations.
May we follow Paul’s command to us: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)
Throughout my life and ministry, I have often read and quoted James 1:5 which says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” With it comes the reminder that God desires to be intricately involved in the growth of our wisdom as we face difficult situations in life and ministry. There is no doubt in my mind that each one of us has asked for wisdom as we faced a decision in which we did not know how to handle or we have encouraged others to ask God for wisdom for their own unique situation.
While asking God for wisdom for our lives is an important step in the process, as I look back on the book of Proverbs, the writer reminds us that gaining wisdom is a process which usually involves the day to day decisions that we make as well as, the tough decisions, situations and circumstances we find ourselves in. I would be great if we could simply ask God for wisdom and He instantly zaps us with all the wisdom we will ever need. But Proverbs 2 reminds us that it is through a series of “if/then” statements, that wisdom is acquired.
How do we gain wisdom in our lives and apply it daily?
Wisdom is a valuable and necessary quality to nurture in your life. It is important that each one of us make the commitment to seek wisdom and keep seeking the rest of our lives. Wisdom doesn’t come for just a momentary circumstance but is developed throughout our entire lives. Cherish the process, remember what you have learned in the past, and God will continue to grant wisdom in the days ahead.
If there is one inevitable characteristic of life, it is that transitions and changes continually happen. Whether they are gradual or sudden, planned or unplanned, our response to change is the only thing that we can control through transition. Our response is in direct correlation to our perspective. John F. Kennedy said “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
While Nyree and I are humbled and honored to serve in the role of Church Ministries Director, we have had to face the challenge of transition in our life and ministry affecting our family, church family, and community relationships. While we are working through each transition, we have had to keep our perspective of the future in view. I have had to remind myself of several important elements of transitions that I need to keep in mind.
Recognize that transitions are difficult because they can shake your sense of identity. When I made the announcement that we were accepting a new position, my identity as Pastor of a local church transitioned to something completely different than any other position I have held. When I recognize that my identity as a minister is not founded in my title, but rather, my God-given calling, I can rest assured that no matter what position I find myself in, God has already established my identity.
Realize that transitions are opportunities for personal growth and development. Transitions in life can be God’s gift to us in order for us to have a new start personally. While there are priorities that I will carry with me into this new role, I also recognize that there are areas that I will need to grow in order to fulfill the new responsibilities and expectations placed on me. Transitions are opportunities to practice new habits and new ways of interacting with others.
Remember why the transition is necessary. Transitions are often necessary because God in His sovereignty has orchestrated the change to fulfill His plans for our lives. While we may not always understand the why, we have to trust that He knows what he is doing and place our hope in Him. Only then can we have peace in the midst of transitions.
Rely on your support system, which will provide security during the transition. Throughout this transition many have supported us, by providing encouragement, expressing their love, and offering their assistance. It has been reassuring to know that we have great friends who are our support system in this time of transition.
While transitions are hard in the present, keeping our eyes on the future provides the hope and strength necessary to press on in this journey called life. God has a great plan!!
I love this quote from Richard Exley, because it is a great reminder of the opportunity we have in our relationship with God. God is an ever present help in times of trouble…
“In my darkest hours the apostle Paul has been an inspiration to me. No one faced more trouble than he did, yet he declared “…I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us for the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). And then he shouts into the teeth of the storm, “…in all these we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
It doesn’t matter what you’re facing—financial adversity, problems with your children, marital difficulties, or health issues. Jesus knows what you’re up against and He cares about you. What touches you touches Him, and He is able to deliver you. So take heart!
Book: What To Do When Your World Is Falling Apart~ By Richard Exley http://amzn.to/1ZAxOBM