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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Ebb and Flow

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV) 1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.  

If there is one thing that I have learned about life it is that it has an ebb and flow. Ebb and flow defined means: “A decline and increase, constant fluctuations. For example, He was fascinated by the ebb and flow of the Church’s influence over the centuries. This expression alludes to the inward and outward movement of ocean tides.”

There are constant fluctuations with declines and increases.  We can see this in our relationships, our ministries, our jobs, our church experiences, our health you name it and it seems to have an ebb and flow.  Ecclesiastes says it best there seems to be a time and purpose for everything under heaven.  Learning to accept that and go with the ebb and flow of life can prevent undo stress and anxiety.  Understanding the sovereignty of God can help us to use the ebb and flow of life to our advantage.

Learning to grow even during a decline and flourish during an increase comes when we live in God’s grace understanding that no matter where we find ourselves within the ebb and flow of life God is there, God is working, and God is sovereign.  If we are not careful we can focus so much on the negative within the ebb and flow we miss all that is positive.  We are in danger of focusing on the dying, plucking, breaking down, weeping, mourning, casting away, refraining from embracing, losing, tearing, silence, hating and warring which only leads us deeper and deeper into decline fearing we will never increase.

We must learn to embrace the ebb and flow yet stay focused on the birthing, planting, healing, building up, laughing, dancing, gathering, embracing, seeking, keeping, sewing, speaking, loving and peace making.  It is there that we feel and experience the true depth of the increase afforded to us preparing us for the natural ebb and flow of life.  In turn it helps us to deal with the declines by focusing on the future increases and the lessons learned within the declines about ourselves, our lives, our church and our callings.

Here is an example.  In the business of church planting, church growth movement and pastoring the measure of success for so many is nickles, numbers and noses.  There is an ebb and flow in every one of those categories.  Success cannot be defined by nickles, numbers and noses it must be defined by knowing and doing the will of God for our lives.  The ebb and flow of nickles, numbers and noses can destroy a church planter, pastor and church.  When nickles, numbers and noses are in decline the pastor, church planter can fall into a deep dark depression feeling like a failure.  Then when the ebb and flow changes and the increase in nickles, numbers and noses comes the pastor, church planter feels like the cream of the crop.  This is not a healthy ebb and flow.  The healthy measurement for ministry and church planting is knowing and doing the will of God which also has an ebb and flow.  Hopefully it is more increase than decline.

The question isn’t nickles, numbers and noses the question is are we and have we discovered the will of God for our lives and the church and are we closer than we were a year ago, a month ago, a week ago or today.  When the ebb and flow of nickles, numbers and noses outweighs the ebb and flow of knowing and doing the will of God for our lives and the churches we lead we are in danger of falling into a deep decline and seeing the increases become few and far between.  The tide stays out longer and the whole eco-system of the church and the city God has called us to is affected.  Ebb and flow is natural accept it, learn to thrive within it and to be thankful for what God has provided during both the ebb and the flow.

This is true in all of life no matter what God has called you to.  When the ebb and flow of our life’s work outweighs the ebb and flow of knowing and doing the will of God for our lives successes become few and far between and declines seem to stay longer and take more than we were willing to give.  There is a natural ebb and flow to all of life learning to measure that ebb and flow according to knowing and doing the will of God for our lives makes dealing with the natural ebb and flow of life much more bearable and doable.

As I sit in my office today we have had two weekends in a row where the attendance has been unusually low at COAH. (One due to a tropical storm)  Numbers that I haven’t seen in two years since we first opened the church.  For two solid years we grew and grew and grew monthly increasing our daily average attendance.  Honestly, at first it bothered me.  Not because of numbers and noses but because so many are not getting the discipleship through the Gospel that they desperately need to sustain them during the ebb and flow of life.  It bothered me because I thought maybe I had done something wrong to keep them away.  It bothered me because people said it would happen and I chose to ignore their reports.

But then I stepped back and looked at it from the proper perspective of knowing and doing the will of God for our lives.  I am not bothered anymore.  Why?  I know that I know that we know and are doing God’s will in our city.  We are seeing the lost found, wanderers come home, disciples being made, disciples making disciples, missionaries are being sent.  We are seeing the fruit of a church deep and rich in faith.  I am glad we measure success by knowing and doing the will of God and not nickles, numbers and noses.  Besides the nickles, numbers and noses conflict for while the noses and haven’t been there the nickles have been above average to the glory of God.  What does that tell me?  Ebb and flow is happening within the church.  People are knowing and doing the will of God for their lives and are growing in their faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ which is expressed in their lifestyle.  What else does that tell me? Never measure success by the ebb and flow of nickles, numbers and noses!  Measure success by knowing and doing the will of God for your life.

So I sit here today fully embracing the ebb and flow of knowing and doing the will of God for COAH and my life.  I sit here today fully embracing the ebb and flow of church attendance in the summer time.  I sit here today fully embracing the ebb and flow of my life and the struggles I find myself in daily.  I sit here today ebbing in some areas and flowing in others all to the glory of God.  I sit here today measuring my life’s ebb and flow according to knowing and doing the will of God for my life focused on the future and ready to embrace both the times of decline and the times of increase all the while trusting in God’s ever sufficient grace to sustain me.  I pray the same for you today.  Whether you are ebbing or flowing know that God loves you!  Seek to know God’s perfect and pleasing will for your life and whether you ebb or flow you’ll be doing alright in both by God’s grace:)  Both ebb and flow are necessary to grow just be sure you know which ebb and flow to focus your attention on.  Be encouraged!

 

Take a Seat: Helping People Find Rest

Mark 6:31 (ESV) And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

We are in year three of our church plant and we have hit the ground running and never stopped, never looked back and never came up for air.  We are been hard grinding, winning souls, bringing wanderers home, making disciple making disciples, sending missionaries, impacting our city and advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Every week we set up and tear down our whole church.  We have been setting up and tearing down now for 109 weeks.  It definitely takes it’s toll on our team.  Luckily for many we have put together schedules so that every person isn’t working every week.  Some want to work weekly and that is okay however, as a leader there is a time when we have to ask them to take a seat.  This is where we really find out what is more important people or program.  This is where we find out if we are a part of an organism, a living, breathing, growing, vibrant life form or an organization with mechanical structure.  Asking key people to take a seat isn’t easy and will never be easy however, it is absolutely necessary.  It is necessary for numerous reasons.  I’ll name two key reasons.  First it let’s the people know you love them for who they are not what they do and secondly it allows them to see the ministry will go forward without them.  It teaches them to trust in God not only in themselves as if we can’t make it without them.  Will the quality drop a bit?  Most likely, not always but there is a good chance.  What is more important program or people?  Jesus told his disciples come away with me, take a seat, and rest for a while because there were people pulling on them and they didn’t even have time to eat.  Church planting, ministry and life in general can have that same effect.  We must force ourselves to take a seat and we must force those who won’t take a seat to take a seat even if it hurts them.  In the long run you are helping them and you are helping your body of believers.  You are also setting an example of what is more important.  It is a difficult thing to do and sometimes it can be viewed as a negative.  This view must be changed.  It is a positive because it creates healthy practices and in the end will allow people to live out their full potential and have longevity in ministry.  Watching the NBA is a strong reminder of asking people to take a seat.  Sometimes it is because they get into foul trouble.  Sometimes in ministry if people don’t take a seat they get into foul trouble.  Meaning their attitude becomes foul and they have a negative impact on others around them.  Then our whole church is in jeopardy of getting into foul trouble.  Another reason the NBA coaches ask key players to taker a seat is to be sure they can be ready to play the whole season, series and or season.  If players don’t get the right amount of bench time they get worn out and not just one game is in jeopardy their whole season and sometimes their career can be placed in jeopardy.  They can just get slam worn out before their time.  As leaders we must not be willing to sacrifice anyone.  Asking them to take a seat is what is best for them and ultimately for the whole.  Be watchful over the people God has placed in your life.  If you see they are weary ask them to take a seat.  If you see them getting weary ask them to take a seat.  If you notice they are burning the candle at both ends have them take a seat.  Even if you don’t notice them burning the candle still ask them to be sure they are taking a seat.  Let them lovingly know if they don’t take a seat you will help them take a seat because you love them that much.  By God’s grace I truly believe that the success we have enjoyed and the retention rate we have for two years and are currently experiencing is a result of good leadership throughout the church.  Leaders who care more about people than programs.  Be encouraged!
 

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Learn to Discern

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

In the past few months I have been put in some very unique circumstances.  Circumstances that have the potential to cause trouble inside and outside the church universal.  The root of this conundrum is the prophetic vs. the authentic. I am spirit filled (Non-denominational) and my only true point of reference in all this along with my spiritual heritage is spirit filled (Assemblies of God).  I totally 100%, no 1000%, believe in the prophetic.  I have seen the prophetic gifts at work building up the church in incredible fashion.  I have experienced the power of the prophetic gifts in my life personally.  That being said I also see the prophetic being misused regularly to garner support and to build ego.  Talk about a touchy subject!  I know, I get it!  But after reading Galatians 1 and studying it diligently I feel charged even greater to weigh everything that is being spoken (prophecy) against that which already has been spoken (The Word of God).  If there is any conflict between the existing revelation (God’s Word) and the prophecy being touted as from God, the speaker is in danger of being accursed according to Galatians for preaching another Gospel.

Galatians 1:8  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

The prophet’s message must line up with the Word of God completely in order for it to be received even if it sounds totally awesome and really godly.  They may even change the tone of their voice for dramatic effect but if the message doesn’t line up and compliment the existing revelation (God’s Word) it must be discarded.  We must learn how to discern the message and discern the intent of the messenger.  Some really like the idea of the office of prophet but with that office of prophet comes heavy responsibility to weigh every word spoken in God’s name.  Prophecy outside the Biblical text isn’t equal to the Biblical text rather it is subject to the Biblical text to determine it’s authenticity.  We must be ever so careful not to elevate prophecy or the prophet above God and the Gospel.  Humans love our heroes and we love hero worship.  This just in: Heroes love to be worshiped.  We must discern the thought and intentions of the heart, but how?  The Word of God!  Let the Word of God discern it for you by weighing what is being said against scripture.

The Hebrew writer reminds us that it is the Word of God that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  I say this just so that we are careful and mindful.  Acts 20:28 teaches us that God has made us shepherds and overseers of His flock and we must be mindful not fearful of wolves keeping careful watch over ourselves and God’s flock.  Paul spends letter after letter dealing with the religious and the irreligious trying to add something to or take something away from the Gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ.

Do I believe in prophecy?  Absolutely!  Do I believe that prophecy within the biblical text must be weighed and interpreted against the biblical text?  Absolutely!  Do I believe that prophecy outside of the biblical text must be weighed according to the biblical text?  Absolutely!  Any “prophet” fearful of what has been said in this blog must weigh their thoughts and intentions carefully.  I also send a strong caution to read, digest and discern Galatians 1:1-10.

Why did I write this blog today?  It is a simple answer: I love the Church of Jesus Christ.  Not just City on a Hill Church but the beautiful vibrant Church of Jesus Christ in this city and in the world.  We must be ever so careful to constantly discern the message and motives we preach and hear being preached.  Is the Church perfect?  No not by a long shot.  Is the Church of Jesus Christ the hope of the world?  Absolutely!  Jesus is coming back for His Church.  We are the Church.  Discernment within the Church universal is critical to seeing us fulfill our mission in this city and on the earth.  Whacked out, theologically unsound prophecies against the church only cause division and strife. Now don’t get me wrong we must bring correction within the church both local and universal.  However it is not with prophecy outside the biblical text but with prophecy within the biblical text.

To be honest with you I get frightened every once in a while.  I hear and see prophecy going out without being weighed according to the Word of God.  I see people receiving the messenger in good faith without weighing what is being said carefully and according to scripture.  It causes an alarm to go off in my heart.  I see a lot of lip service with fingers that wag but feet that don’t move.  That also helps us to discern what’s going on.  Do a fruit inspection!

My brothers and sisters I strongly urge you to weigh the message and the messenger according to the existing revelation found in the Word of God then we all will be able to discern what is from God and what is from man.  God’s Word is living and active.  God’s Word discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Thank God for His Word!

The Good News is that even in all this beautiful mess, Jesus is building His Church and the gates of Hades will not prevail, that is a promise!  Be watchful!  Be mindful! Be encouraged!
 

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