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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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The Hum

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Last weekend kicked off year three in this church planting journey.  Glory to God forever!  Experts say your not an official church until after the third year but why would I start listening to them now.  We are and have been “the church” since we gathered together for our launch team meetings in April 2010.

The past two years of my life and ministry have been incredible and have left me awestruck at the work of God’s hands and His amazing grace.  It hasn’t been without it’s share of troubles, trials and turmoil.  The hours have been long and the work has been intense.  I thank God daily for the amazing team He has placed around me.  I also thank God for the Trustees of COAH.  These men and women know the importance of spiritual retreat and times of refreshing.  Every time I start to run on empty and every time I start to feel drained God provides a local pastors and leaders conference or retreat opportunity for me to be refreshed.  I can tell when one is needed when “The Hum” starts to drown out everything around me.

“The Hum” that is what I call it and how I describe the feeling I get my tank is running on fumes and I am at my physical, spiritual and mental tipping point.  “The Hum” is always there and it is not always bad.  It drives me, it motivates me, it is that place inside me that challenges me to answer God’s call, to face giants and take the next step on the adventure.  However, when “the Hum” gets so loud that I can’t hear myself think or I can’t turn off my mind I know it is time to shut it down for a while and re-center myself.  “The Hum’ is always there it is a calming buzz as I plug away fulfilling my call Loving God, Loving People and Preaching Jesus.  “The Hum” gets louder and more unmanageable as time goes on and event after event occurs.  In the past two years every time “The Hum” seeks to overtake me I shut down the engines and find a place to retreat, refresh and renew my heart, mind, soul emotions, and vision.

The Gospel writer Luke reminds us to pay careful attention to ourselves and to all of the flock.  The fatal flaw of so many pastors, leaders, parents for that matter people is that we forget to pay careful attention to ourselves.  It reminds me of the airplane safety orientation.  It says if cabin pressure changes the oxygen masks will fall place one on yourself then help others.  It seems selfish at first but it is practical and could save lives.  If the pressure gets to us while trying to help others no one gets help in the end and everyone perishes.  However, if we place the oxygen mask on ourselves the pressure doesn’t get to us and we are far more effective and capable of helping others.  We must be careful not to allow the daily pressures of life, work, ministry, whatever prevent us from helping others because we choose to ignore ‘The Hum’ or the pressure mounting in and around us.

If we are going to fulfill our divine calling it is going to require us to keep careful watch and pay careful attention to ourselves.  Our spiritual, physical, emotional and mental health is critical to our lasting success in life and ministry.  Ignoring “The Hum” won’t make it go away.  Eventually it will be the only thing we hear.  It is challenging to listen to yourself.  Sometimes we think we can just push through one more this or one more that until it is too late.  Every three to six months I find a way to get away for one or two days to refocus and re-center.  Church planting and pastoring isn’t easy neither is life!  A retreat may be as easy as a few hours.  Some may not be able to take a day or two but an afternoon or evening is possible.  Talk to the people in your life.  Communicate that you hear “The Hum” and it is getting out of control.  Don’t answer for people let them say yes or no.  Don’t allow your pride to prevent you from getting help.  Parents, pastors, planters, people need to pay careful attention to yourselves.

For me church planting has been amazingly awesome and amazingly challenging.  The weight I feel for the people God has entrusted to my care is felt daily.  I gladly carry the weight by God’s grace.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  At the same time I cannot and will not ignore “The Hum” or the weight can and will easily become unbearable and render me ineffective.  My first resting place is with God.  I am closer to Jesus than I have ever been in my life.  Church planting and pastoring will do that for you and to you:)  My second resting place is with my wife.  She knows and can see when the cabin pressure is changing and “The Hum’ is drowning me.  My third resting place is the leadership of COAH. I can be and am totally transparent and honest with them.  They are my biggest cheer leaders and closest allies.  I also have my accountability partners both in state and out of state who help me tame and shoulder “The Hum”.

“The Hum” is real.  We all may not define it the same way but it is there.  We all feel it in some way, shape or form.  In the past two years I have heard of three pastors who have taken their own lives because of the cares of this world and the trappings of success.  I have watched countless others fall from grace and destroy their lives and the lives of those who love them.  I have seen marriages fall apart and families ripped apart because of the pressure of “The Hum”.  I implore you pay careful attention to yourselves and to those whom God has placed in your life.  Don’t let “The Hum” take you or them away.  Run to Jesus!  Retreat to Christ!  Call out for help to God and to your family, friends, co-workers or church family.

God has a plan for your life and my life.  “The Hum” is there and always will be there.  Let’s use it so the glory of God.  We will never live pressure free.  Notice it says if the cabin pressure changes, meaning there is pressure around us.  Be careful to pay attention to yourself and those you love.  If you see “The Hum” is getting to someone you love give them a gentle help.  If you are a husband or wife give them a few hours off or a night with the guys or girls.  If you are a parent take your kids away give them a day off school.  If you are a co-worker offer to cover a shift.  If you are a friend invite them to enjoy some mindless entertainment.  If you hear “The Hum” run to Jesus He is waiting, He is always waiting.  Be encouraged!

 

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Seek Comm-UNITY


Romans 12:9-10 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection.Outdo one another in showing honor.

One of the things God really placed on my heart even before we opened the doors of City on Hill Church is that kingdom building isn’t an individual sport it is a team sport. The kingdom of God is far bigger than one church. I didn’t want to plant “a” church I wanted to plant “the” church. That can sometimes be difficult because there are some who seek to build an empire rather than build the kingdom or in the name of the kingdom. Before our church was formally formed I went out into the community to visit with local pastors and share my vision and dream for City on a Hill Church. While I was keenly aware that church planting and kingdom building isn’t an individual sport yet I had no “mother church” and no denominational backing. I sought a covering. That is a key. I sought it out. Thanks be to God for a brother in Sebring, Bruce Linehart, who mentored me for six months walking with me step by step. I reached out to three different fellowships and was received by all with love. My friend and brother in Christ in Carolina, Ed Arroyo, along with his fellowship walked with me in the first few months as well. All of this happened because I sought out covering, I sought out community. God lives in perfect community and He desires His church to live in that same community. Right away City on a Hill Church partnered with four ministries in the city building the kingdom and community. I joined Somebody Cares Tampabay a monthly gathering of pastors and leaders from around Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. I sent out encouragements to other pastors in the city to celebrate what God is doing in their churches. Currently I am a part of three different pastors and leaders networks within the city and I am in fellowship with a fourth. There must be community within the body of Christ. We cannot allow denominational tags, geographical locations, theological stances or doctrine or separate and divide us. We must learn to celebrate the growth and success of our brothers and sisters in Christ because it is really our growth as well. When the kingdom grows we all grow. Kingdom building vs. empire building exposes motives and issues of the heart. It doesn’t matter how big or small your church is we all need fellowship and community. We cannot just create community within our churches and staff. I need community outside of my own fellowship because the church is bigger than one location or denomination. Currently I am a part of the Association of Related Churches (ARC) and I love it! These people really know how to build community and love their pastors. I sought them out and was received with open arms. They are all about the kingdom building. I know there are church planters coming to St. Petersburg and Clearwater and I will do whatever I can to help them and bless them. I have no territory. I have no ownership. It all belongs to God. God owns the fields so whomever He chooses to send into them I will come alongside as best I can. Romans encourages us to let our love be genuine. That is what I seek to do. It was very lonely when I got started. I didn’t stay lonely long. I didn’t wait for community to come to me, I sought it out on every level. I have personal accountability partners, recreational fellowships, spiritual authority through trustees and elders, ministry teams, pastor’s groups, city leader’s groups, church planting networks, and more to live in community and kingdom build with. I encourage you today live in community. Live in community with people in the same field or focus. As pastors, church leaders and church members we are not in competition we are in community. God desires that we live in community. A community filled with perfect unity, harmony, submission, fellowship, love and grace. Seek out community. Find your place in your community (church, neighborhood, city, family, workplace, school). There is a community that is lacking without you. You are the missing piece to bring wholeness and health to a community. Give yourself to community today. Be encouraged!

 

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Tough Talk

Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV) 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Boy talk about a tough topic!  Tough talk is a tough topic however, if we are ever going to accomplish all that God has for us we are going to have to have some hard conversations.  Hard conversations with ourselves and hard conversations with others.  Many of these conversations are going to be filled with tough talk.  Meaning we are going to speak the truth in love in order to preserve the unity that we have or in order to bring us into the unity that we need (John 17) in order to fulfill our life’s mission and the mission of the Church God has called us to.  Tough talk happens in every healthy relationship and should be modeled daily.  Tough talk is not, “Hey your dress is ugly and your Momma dresses you funny!”  Ephesians has one main idea in mind and that is the unity of the body growing into full maturity and being it’s most effective in advancing the kingdom.  It has little or nothing to do with being mean, spiteful or hurtful just for the sake of perceived truth.  This generation has an idea of that when they say, “Hey I’m just trying to be real.”, directly following an opinion, insult, or rude comment displaying no compassion or love just perceived truth.  Here is what I know and have learned, if we do not have hard conversations and if tough talk isn’t a part of our lives we suffer in many ways.  Our relationships suffer because where there is lack of honesty there is also a lack of trust and transparency.  Our ministry/ workplace suffers because bottled up emotions and feelings eventually come to surface in behaviors if not properly dealt with.  Ultimately disunity takes place in every area by avoiding tough talk and hard conversations.  I also know that tough talk creates huge amounts of stress and tension.  Actually I believe it reveals stress and tension that is already there just un-addressed.  The Apostle Paul tells the church to speak the truth in love so that we will grow into Christ.  We stay connected to Jesus by being honest and truthful while being equally compassionate and loving.  I have experienced tough talk multiple times in the past few months, weeks and days.  Each of these conversations has come to a peaceful resolution with love winning every time.  Now I’m not saying that is always going to be the case because some people like to fight and some people must get their way at all costs.  We are flawed human beings.  What I am saying is that tough talk and hard conversations act as a litmus test to the level of relationship we have or think we have with individuals.  Not speaking the truth in love doesn’t preserve anything, it actually prolongs negative feelings and promotes disunity and dysfunction.  Leaders who are afraid of hard conversations and avoid tough talk should seriously evaluate their leadership.  We cannot lead without having hard conversations and tough talk.  It is absolutely impossible!  Vision demands clarity and unity which only comes in hard conversations and tough talk.  A leader’s vision must not be for sale, rent, lease or loan which means we will have to defend and advance the vision which will definitely lead to hard conversations and tough talk.  Look at the results of speaking the truth in love.  Each part ends up working properly and the body builds itself up in love.  I don’t know maybe today you need to have a hard conversation and some tough talk with someone.  My encouragement to you is don’t put it off.  I don’t know maybe today someone has to have a hard conversation and some tough talk with you.  My encouragement to you is don’t put them off.  The longer we put off tough talk and hard conversations the longer we remain in disunity and the further we get away from the ultimate and perfect unity described in John 17.  Trust your relationships.  Test your relationships.  Live the life God has intended for you with those He intended you to live with.  Love hard and love well.  Be truth tellers filled with compassion.  Love people enough to tell them the truth and pray that God gives them the courage to love you the same way.  Be honest with God and honest with them.  I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at the outcome and the unity that you build and share in love through tough talk and hard conversations.  Be encouraged!
 
 

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