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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sacred Moments

Today’s blog is a little different it is focused on pastors, church planters, and leaders within the church. However, I believe that every single person who calls themselves a Christ follower has opportunity to share in scared moments. I just also believe that as a pastor I must make myself available to those whom God has entrusted to me. One of my greatest joys in church planting has been the opportunity afforded to me to live out my calling. I been been incredibly blessed to share Sacred Moments with God’s precious people not because I have to but because I want to. I do not wish to be a pastor by title my only desire is to shepherd the people God has entrusted to me. My desire is not to live my life as a career pastor my desire is to live out my calling as a pastor. I have been given the privilege of sharing in some of the most Sacred Moments in the lives of many throughout this city whether they be in my church or other churches. I highly value baptism and I have been privileged to share in corporate baptisms and home baptisms. I can not wait until Easter Sunday when we will share in Easter Sunrise Baptism Service for City on a Hill Church! It is going to be awesome. What a powerful Sacred Moment as people profess their allegiance to Christ and follow the Lord Jesus Christ in baptism. Baptism should never be seen as “common” or “getting dunked” it is one of the ordinances of the church that Christ left for us and it is sacred. I have been privileged to share in the joy of Parent Commitment/ Child Dedications impromptu and organized yet sacred and significant. As a pastor part of my job is to equip people for acts of service in God’s kingdom the other part is to live out my divine calling by sharing in these sacred moments being accessible and reachable to the people God has called me to. Visiting the hospital and spending the last few moments with a faithful servant of the Lord and their family members as He calls them home is an honor. Spending a few moments visiting someone in the nursing home and sharing memories of a life lived to the glory of God is truly humbling and an awesome experience. I am so glad that I can lead by example and raise up a generation of pastors and leaders who will take up this gift given to us by God and be among the people whom God has called them to serve, equip, prepare, and love. I never want to be so busy doing church or leading the church that I forget the church is the people. Ministry is all about people. I know full well that I can not do all the pastoral care but I believe there is a reason they call it pastoral care. I am not in any way discounting lay ministry I place a high value on developing, equipping, and preparing people to be the church by loving God and loving people. Lay ministry in my eyes is every member of God’s family is a minister and missionary. We should visit the hospital, participate in baptisms, and baby dedications, and all the other sacred moments afforded to us by God. But it does not mean that I as a pastor should disconnect. My hope is to communicate that to a new generation. We must be among our people loving them, serving them, sharing joy with them, crying with them, celebrating them, and the like. I remember how blessed I was when Papi Dave and Sonia Melendez came and blessed our new home. That meant the world to Lorena and I! We shared a sacred moment with them that marked our lives forever. I have been privileged to do home blessings because what was given to me I want to give away. I know some young pastors will read this blog and become afraid that the demand will be too high or they will argue that we shouldn’t teach the people to look to their pastor in times of need. I say that is silliness. Do not allow excuses to keep you far from your people and responsibility. Always be training and equipping so as the church grows their will be more pastors ready to serve and equip God’s people while living out their divine call. Live out Ephesians 4 but in the process of living out the equipping do not forget that you have also been called to pastor. As a pastor I always tell people put their hope and trust in Jesus and not man because I will disappoint you at some point but Jesus never will. Just because there is a possibility that I might disappoint is no reason to miss out on all of the sacred moments God prepares for us in advance. My heart is not to lead an organization my heart’s desire is to lead people to Jesus. It is to Love God, Love People, and Preach Jesus. This is not my career it is my calling. If I am not among my people am I really their pastor? If I do not share sacred moments with the precious people whom God has called out of darkness into His marvelous light how can I profess to Love God and Love People? In the past 10 months I have shared in some of the most joyous sacred moments known to man and I have shared in some of the most tragic and heart breaking sorrows known to man. All are sacred in God’s eyes and in my eyes. I pray I never become so busy growing or building a church that I forget to pastor the people. God help me to remember these words in the days, months, and years to come so that I do not move from a calling into a career. I can tell you this I wouldn’t trade any one of those sacred moments for another meeting, or more message prep time, or more busy work. My hope is that other church planters, pastors, and leaders will read this blog and engage or re-engage with the people God has called them to love and serve. There is a warning for those shepherds who choose to ignore their responsibility in Ezekiel 34. [Please Read the Full Chapter it is life changing] Part of the three part calling of City on a Hill Church comes from this chapter concerning the wanderers who have been broken, abused, fleeced, and scattered. Our hope is to bring that back into safe pasture. My desire is to raise up pastors/shepherds to pastor and shepherd God’s people. My desire is that every member share in sacred moments inside and outside of the church. My desire is to be equally involved in the journey and to do my part. Ephesians 4 is not a loophole or an escape clause to dis-engage from our congregations as pastors it is mandate from God to fulfill our calling. It is not the total and complete list of our responsibilities as pastors and leaders in the Church. It is a command from God to prepare God’s people for acts of service so that the body of Christ be built up and lack nothing. Choosing to abstain from sharing in scared moments leaves us lacking and our people lacking. Sorry for taking so long to explain it is just in the past few months I have planted a church by God’s grace and my life has been filled with sacred moments. In that time I have still remained three full weeks ahead in message prep [not outside source reworked messages but prepared from my heart], reserved uninterrupted time for my wife and family, kept my Sabbath day holy, and shared in countless sacred moments. Do you know how that has been accomplished? By faith in Christ and by God’s amazing grace. Glory to God! What sacred moments are awaiting you today?

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? Ezekiel 34:1-2
 
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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in COAH

 

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Leadership Lesson: True Transparency

This past week had been a roller coaster ride of emotions. As I prepared to begin our new series RUN at City on a Hill Church I began to experience some really weird emotions and feelings. Saturday January 22, 2011 marked a full year since January 22, 2010 when I had purchased the domain name http://www.cityonahillchurch.tv as a point of faith after an intense defining moment in my life. It was a point where I was at my lowest and looking to run from my call not like Jonah, he ran because he didn’t want the Ninevites to be saved, rather my temptation to run came because I didn’t think I could win. I live by a core value that I will never lock eyes in this life with someone who doesn’t matter to God. Ministry had been transformed from a calling into a career and I didn’t feel effective or fulfilled any more. I wanted to run. My feet had almost slipped and I almost lost hope in the church and her mission. I needed a defining moment. I needed to come clean. I needed to be transparent. My wife came home one day last January and she knew something was wrong. She asked and at first I was tempted to stay frosted and tinted but my pain was too great. I broke down and told her what was happening. I told her how I felt. I told her I was defeated. I told her I couldn’t do it anymore I knew there had to be more to ministry than what I was doing and if there wasn’t I was done. I told her while teaching a men’s lesson I heard a speech that said, “Run and you will live for a little while. But one day while lying on your death bed you would be willing to trade every day from that to this for one chance to stand up and say you may take my life but you will never take my freedom.” This was my chance to stand up. It struck a cord within my soul. I opened up to her and shared my struggle. My transparency built a trust in her and she looked me in my face and said, “I will not stand by and watch you die slowly over the next 20, 30, or 40 years. You were made for this. You were made to be a pastor. I don’t care whatever it costs us I believe in you and the call God has placed in you.” We cried together because we knew the cost would be high. I learned a very valuable leadership lesson that day. True transparency will bring about trust and loyalty in those whom God has called you to lead. A few days later I purchased the domain name and began a season of prayer and fasting calling that which wasn’t, City on a Hill Church, as though it was. After all that is what faith is, isn’t it? Since that time I have continued to lead this church with the highest level of transparency. Not false transparency to get people to do what I want or to manipulate the hearts and minds of others but true transparency designed to bring about spiritual, mental, and emotional help and healing. You can’t fake authenticity you either have it or you don’t. Over the past nine months there have been times when I have had to call out things that many wouldn’t in order to maintain a high level of trust and transparency. If I see or sense a bit of heaviness or uncertainty I call it out and deal with it rather than denying it and letting it fester under the surface. It takes courage to exhibit true transparency but the benefits far exceed the cost. As a leader and a pastor I am not superman. Jesus is the super hero. Meekness is not weakness it is power under control knowing you have the ability to act and choosing how you will respond. This past weekend as I prepared to take the stage in our servant’s service I felt like I wanted to run. I felt like I had been running. I had a tough week last week dealing with all kinds of attacks from the enemy of our soul. It was so strange I didn’t feel like I could look people in the eyes and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ without first coming clean. I have learned that once you have lived a life a true transparency nothing else will do. Every week since we started this journey I have looked men and women in the eyes and preached from my heart. This past weekend I was busted up inside and I felt it would have been inauthentic and plastic to preach without first trusting my leaders to carry this burden with me. So I stepped up and remained totally transparent before the people God has called me to lead and spilled the beans. I shared my struggles of the past week and month and put my heart out there. Many leaders say, ‘The people can’t handle that kind of truth.” I say that is a lie. Some say, “The people won’t understand you shouldn’t be so honest they might lose faith in you.” I say put your faith in God and trust Him. I am but a man. True transparency gives us the freedom to live the life God has called us to live and ability to be sure God gets all the glory due His name. Do you know what my reward has been for being so transparent? Since yesterday I have received numerous phone calls, emails, facebooks messages, and texts expressing a deep trust and love for me and the call God has placed on my life. Men and women have assured me that they are fully and firmly committed to seeing the vision of City on a Hill Church accomplished in this city. Let me assure you of one thing I know to be true, people can spot a phony a mile away. If we want to build God’s kingdom above our own empires we are going to have to walk the humbling yet powerful road of true transparency. If we want to be leaders that last we are going to have to create a culture of trust and transparency in our families, churches, businesses, where ever God has called us to lead. If you haven’t been living a life of true transparency maybe it is time to get out the windex and begin. The first step is always the hardest to the rewards far exceed the risk. I hope this helps someone this week. Blessings.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2011 in COAH

 

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Where Never is Heard a Discouraging Word……

We kicked off the New Year in incredible fashion. God’s hand of favor and provision has rested upon City on a Hill Church and my life since the beginning. It is not bragging it is giving glory to God and recognizing His mighty power at work in my life and the life of our Church. I can not say it has not come without a heavy cost. It reminds me of the song, ‘Oh Give me home where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.” That has definitely NOT been my church planting experience. One of the Enemy of our soul’s greatest weapons if not his greatest weapon is discouragement. To discourage means

1. to deprive of courage, hope, or confidence; dishearten; dispirit. 2. to dissuade. 3. to obstruct by opposition or difficulty; hinder: 4. toexpress or make clear disapproval of; frown upon

If we can be discouraged then we can lose hope and if we lose hope we quit. We give up and give in. Many times it isn’t in the big things. It starts in the small things. The things that don’t seem all that important than a culture of discouragement begins to develop in our lives. We quit in one area so it makes it easier to quit in another. We quit in the small things and it makes it easier to quit in the big things. It happens in our natural relationships and it happens in our supernatural relationship with God. We get discouraged and it shuts down our line of communication. We give up thinking that things can change or that our circumstance can change and we settle. We must be careful not to let a culture of discouragement develop in our lives.
Just last Thursday I got some news that was not so favorable. It wasn’t earth shattering but it would effect my quality of my life and add additional stress. At first I just threw my hands up and started to say, “Here it comes.” Whenever something is too good to be true it really is too good to be true. But then I remembered the last 9 months of my life! Whenever I tell the story of City on a Hill Church people sit starry eyed and amazed at an all powerful God. Do you know why? Because I refuse to give up or quit in the small things! I will surrender no ground to the enemy of my soul. My vision is to gain ground against the powers of darkness by the power of the Holy Spirit living in me. The same power that conquered the grace lives in me. So I broke out my journal and began to write out my prayer. I actually wrote, “I really don’t feel like praying right now. But I am going to anyway because I trust in You Jesus.” I refused to allow the Enemy of my soul to discourage me to the point of surrendering even in a small thing. Guess what the results were? Within four hours God had already stepped in and provided. Within four hours God was already at work in my life. This has been where I have been living this past 9 months! I have been resting safely under the shadow of the wings of God almighty. I can not say “where seldom is heard a discouraging word” because that has not been my truth. I have fought a battle with discouragement at least twice a week. I am talking about a full on all out attack because of the work God is doing in and through City on a Hill Church.
I refuse to surrender even a small thing to discouragement and I want to encourage you to do the same. I have heard it said, “If it is big enough for you to carry. It is big enough for you to give to God.” I am reminded of a song, Take it to the Lord in Prayer. Oh What peace we often forfeit and Oh what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God to in prayer. Let me ENCOURAGE you today is you are fighting a battle with discouragement take it to the Lord in prayer. Don’t give up or give in even in the small things. The Enemy of our soul is trying to create a culture of discouragement in your life. He is trying to disqualify us from the life, mission, passion, vision, and dream God has for us. He also understands how to eat an elephant, one bite at a time! Don’t surrender one bite or one inch of ground to him due to discouragement. Cry out to God. Pray, fast, surrender your cares to God. I can tell you this for sure our lives on this side of heaven will not be like a home where the buffalo roam where seldom is heard a discouraging word. We will face discouragement because it is one of the most effective weapons against us but listen to what God says about weapons formed against us.
Isaiah 54:17 (NIV) 17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,”declares the LORD.
No weapon formed against us will prosper it won’t work! God is not a man that He should lie. [Num. 23:19] Got to go I think there is someone knocking at my door. Well honestly he has been knocking since last Thursday. What he doesn’t know is that I know no weapon [DISCOURAGMENT] formed against me shall prosper. One day we will have a home where NEVER is heard a discouraging a word and the skies are not cloudy all day. Until that time BE ENCOURAGED in Jesus’s name.
 
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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in COAH

 

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Spiritual Markers

 

When God birthed in my heart a dream called City on a Hill Church I never could have imagined all that He had planned for us. It makes this scripture verse come to life.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV) 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

January of 2010 began a journey. God began to transform my dream for City on a HillChurch into a vision. In an intense season of prayer and fasting God spoke clearly to me and since that time I can humbly say I have never heard God more clearly and concisely than I do. His hand of anointing, favor, provision, and protection have rested heavily upon my life and COAH. During that time I knew some major changes were going to have to take place you can’t plant a church and work at a church so my journey began by walking away from my career and into my God -ordained calling. It was during this time that God really began shaping the vision straight out of scripture giving me the mission of reaching the Lost [Luke 15/ 19:10] , bringing home the Wanderers [Ezk. 34], and reaching, teaching, training, and sending Missionaries back into the cultures from which they came. [Matt. 28:18-20]. My passion in life is to Love God, Love People and Preach Jesus. Our church exists today because we believe in God’s Law of Attraction: Jesus said if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me. We believe that God is good and He expects us to be good. We believe that we are blessed to be a blessing. We don’t do good for the sake of good we do good to the glory of God.We believe people are not resources they are people. We care more about who you are then what you have or what you can do for us. Most importantly we believe it is all about Jesus, it has always been about Jesus, and it will always be about Jesus. With all of these core values the dream was transforming into a vision where we would seek to build, become, and be a city within a city reaching our city with the life changing message of Jesus Christ one life at a time. God also placed another part of the vision on us that is truly God –sized. We believe that we will see five sovereign churches planted in the next ten years from City on a Hill Church. What I love about my dream is that it can’t happen without God! What I love about this vision is that it can’t happen without God! There is no way anyone can take credit for City on a Hill Church all of the glory belongs to God. 2010 has been a year of spiritual markers for me and just when I thought I was cresting God steps in and let’s me see this is just the beginning.

I have experienced one of the most powerful events in my life as a Christ follower and minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. April 2010 we began holding launch team meetings by May 2010 we had a launch team of 80 plus recognizing the divine call of God on my life and recognizing me as their pastor. We opened out doors May 23, 2010the day of Pentecost and the original birthday of the church and we have done nothing but grow exponentially since that time. September 2010 we had of first baptism class with 22 baptized. God has blessed us with an 11,000 square foot campus, powerful Worship, Media, Set Up-Tear Down, Children’s, Youth, Men’s, Women’s, Missions, Outreach, Hospitality, Parking, Ushers-Greeter, and other ministries. We partnered with five local and global missions ministries offering tangible and monetary support. Last year we gave away over $13,000 dollars in Missions [local and global] and Benevolence because we believe we are blessed to be a blessing. January 9, 2011 we had a record breaking gathering. God called together 342 people from the North, South, East, and West and it was amazing. We had folks from Sarasota to Clearwater to the four corners of St. Petersburg. Unmistakably, undeniably God! Does this sound like a church plant?No! You know what it sounds like? A sovereign move of God! 2010 was a spiritual marker for COAH all to the glory of God! I am awestruck by the goodness and the greatness of our God. It gets better!

January 6, 2011 will mark my life forever because the divine call of God on my life was acknowledged by the ordaining body of City on a Hill Church, the Board of Trustees.These choice servants of God laid their hands on me, prayed over me, and ordained me as the pastor. Understand I was previously ordained by another Church governing body in 2000. But this was even more special. I am humbled and honored by this incredible group of men and women who recognize the divine call of God on my life and ministry. It will forever be a spiritual marker for me that ranks right up there with my salvation and baptism. What is even more exciting is I believe this was the beginning of us fulfilling the God-given vision birthed in me for City on a Hill Church to see those five churches planted in the next ten years. We can now begin our journey and as God sends us young men and women whom He has called to be church planters we can train them, equip them, prepare them, ordain them, lay hands on them and send them out into change their world for the cause of Christ.

I want to explain ordination. Ordination defined is to invest officially as by the laying on of hands with ministerial or priestly authority. In most Protestant churches, ordination to the pastoral office is the rite by which their various churches:

  • recognize and confirm that an individual has been called by God to ministry,
  • acknowledges that the individual has gone through a period of discernment and training related to this call,
  • authorizes that individual to take on the office of ministry.

For the sake of authorization and church order, and not for reason of ‘powers’ or ‘ability’, individuals in most mainline Protestant churches must be ordained in order to preside at the sacraments Baptism and Holy Communion, and to be installed as a called pastor of a congregation or parish. I believe that credentials equal credibility so what this does for COAH and for those future church planters and ministers of the Gospel is it gives us a covering, an accountability that goes far beyond jumping online and becoming ordained. It is easy to do and many can be ordained by the end of the day for a price. Some even become ordained just to mock the process not understanding or respecting that being ordained isn’t a piece of paper it is a body of believers recognizing a divine calling your life. A high value should be placed on ordination that goes far beyond dollar signs it is a lifelong calling. Ordination through City on a Hill Church gives these precious men and women of God the opportunity to have someone recognize the divine call on their lives and confirm and affirm that calling by the laying on of hands. It gives their calling and ministry credibility and it also keeps them accountable to live a life worthy of their calling. Ordination will be a spiritual marker in their lives as it has been in mine to the glory of God.

Just when I thought my church planting experience couldn’t get any more awesome God goes and makes it awesomer [yes I said awesomer!] by giving me eyes to see His plan and delivery system for our future impact on our city, region, and world. Glory to God!

2 Peter 1:3-10 (NIV) 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2011 in COAH

 

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Conviction vs. Condemnation

What an amazing way to kick off the New Year! I am truly awestruck at the healing power of Christ, the grace of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit through this new series DIG. Today I want to address two unique motivators in life, conscience and guilt. Put the two together and many times we are crippled by a guilty conscience. Guilt steals our joy and keeps us from the living the life God intended for us. The dictionary defines the word “guilt” as a “feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.” Guilt is that part of the human conscience that brings us up short and condemns us for actions and thoughts. It can be counter productive and affect the way we think and act toward ourselves and others. Many times guilt cripples us or pushes us over the edge and we do things we would never dream of doing. Guilt can bring about hopelessness. Thank God for the Holy Spirit who is not a condemner rather He is a convicter who points us to the work Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross to put us in right standing with God and remove our guilt and shame.

Conscience is one of the three ways God reveals Himself to the world through general revelation. Our conscience is an inherent human trait that should be seen as a gift, however, most of us do not see it as such and rather than deal with guilt, we naturally attempt to squelch it. However, our conscience is that nagging inner voice with in us all that is like water upon a stone and is meant to bring us to a realization that there is a standard and we have fallen short, but whose standard is it? The answer God’s. God is Just and Justifier. He has the right to hold us to a standard because He is the standard. He recognizes that we all fall short [Rom. 3:23] so He sent His Son [John 3:16] to forgive us of our sins [1 John 1:9] and remove our guilt [Heb. 10:22]. Conviction is a healthy and needed part of our lives because it calls us to action. It calls us to move closer to God. Guilt calls us to run from God or hide from God it exiles us to a life of isolation and insulation far from God. However, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit guilt can be an important tool in helping us recognize that we are not self-autonomous and have desperate need for God’s grace and forgiveness.

Seeing guilt in its proper light allows us to understand that it is a safety valve for the human condition. Guilt means there is a right and wrong way for us to operate and there are standards of what is good and what is worthy of guilt. Our human conscience is a part of the General revelation that there is a God. We are born with a conscience it is by divine design. Guilt doesn’t have to be bad because it can bring us to a point where we recognize that we need forgiveness. Guilt becomes crippling when after we have been forgiven by God we do not forgive ourselves and continue to allow guilt to keep us from moving forward. My hope is that we can all live our lives with a clean conscience free from guilt and condemnation and alive to feel the natural conviction of the Holy Spirit as we are lead by God through this life.

Hebrews 10:19-25 [NIV] 19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2011 in COAH

 

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