Thursday, April 25, 2019


         Should Christians be coerced or otherwise guilted into serving God in a specific manner?  Should giving to the work of the Lord be compulsory?  Is it ever right to assign service based on availability vs. suitability?  

       Interestingly, God answers these questions in a portion of scripture many overlook or merely read over quickly.  In Exodus 35, we find Moses, having been given the instructions for the building of the Tabernacle, offering the people of God the opportunity to serve God according to their calling and gifting.  

Exodus 35:4-5  Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded.   Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD's contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; 

Notice what Moses did not say: "Dig deep and show God how much you love Him!"  "The more you give, the bigger the blessing from God you will release!"  "Nobody else is doing the work I am doing, so you need to give to this ministry!"

 Notice what Moses does say: Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD's contribution

Exodus 35:10  “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded: 

Everything is not for everybody              

     Everyone has a crucial part to play, a role to fulfill, a specific function in the body of Christ.  As the Apostle Paul said:
 1 Corinthians 12:12-15  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 

         So we all participate in the Great Commission but we do not all participate in the same manner.  As in the Exodus passage above, there are those who are called to give and will do so out of joy.  There are those who are skilled in various ways, these are called to serve according to their ability.  

         If everyone is serving and contributing according to their God given design, each will feel fulfilled in service and the work will not be a burden.

         Few things will destroy your spiritual life quicker than attempting to serve outside your calling.  

Pitfalls to avoid:

1. Availability does not equal ability 

     Do not allow someone to bully, coerce, or manipulate you into a        task or service to which you have not been called nor equipped.        By allowing someone to fill your free time with a service you 
      are not called to, you will not have time to pursue things to
      which you are called. You will experience burnout, frustration
       and dissatisfaction and soon begin questioning God's goodness.
       If you do not feel called, just say no!

2. Avoid compulsory giving

       The Bible teaches two very important concepts when            it         comes to giving: 
       1.God loves a cheerful giver.  
       2. The principle of the tithe
        These principles are God led.  Just like any other service to 
        which we are called, God will provide the resources.  Tithing 
        is a contract between you and God where you trust God with 
        10% of your income and God promises to provide your needs.
        Tithing has nothing to do with being obligated to give to a 
         local church or ministry.  It may mean buying groceries for a 
         needy family supporting a missionary.

          If you give because you have been pressured or otherwise  
          coerced you are giving for the wrong reason and possibly to             the wrong place.  

3. Do not allow others to decide your calling, gifts or purpose

     Your relationship with God is personal.  Your gifts, calling and          talents are unique.  When you are operating in your God given 
      gifting, there is no greater joy or contentment.  Unless you hear
      clearly from God, it is ok, even wise, to hold back and wait.  
      God will reveal your gifts to you in due time. When a person 
      tells you what they think your calling is, it should confirm what
      you already believe or suspect. 

None of this excuses you from getting out of your comfort zone.  Nothing grows in the comfort zone. In fact, we are commanded by scripture to encourage people out of the comfort zone and into serving: 1 Thessalonians 5:14  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 

     We are to encourage people to serve, though, not necessarily how to serve.  That is the difference.  Yes, we are commanded, in scripture, to give, serve and fellowship.  What we are not commanded to do is give, serve or fellowship outside of God's directing.  

     As a born again believer, you are indwelt by the Spirit of God and, therefore, have direct communication with the Father.  The early church was devoted to the apostles' teaching, prayer and fellowship and so should we be.  If you are putting the time in to study God's Word and pray, I promise you, you will hear from God.

   Do not allow a minister or spiritual leader to replace the Holy Spirit.  If you find a spiritual leader who seems to contradict what you are hearing from God, run, don't walk to the nearest exit.

  Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Not because following Jesus is a cake walk but because He will empower and equip you to follow as He directs.  If you are struggling in service, you may not be serving according to God's plan for your life. 

    Few things could be more tragic than a life spent pursuing something God never intended for you. God desires your life to be filled with joy, peace and contentment.  If you are serving according to your design, joy, peace and contentment will be the natural fruit of your labors.  Proverbs 3:5 Trust in Yehovah with all your hear and lean not on your own understandings, in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!

Friday, April 19, 2019


     Is Jesus our example for being in the world but not of the world?  Are we following the lead of our Master or the misguided ideas of men?

     Jesus connected with, ate with, associated with and ultimately ministered effectively to unbelievers. Jesus did not wall Himself off from society and sit around with like minded people complaining about the sin of others.  Jesus went out and made meaningful relationships.  

              What opportunities might we not even be aware of as we live in our little church bubbles, believing attending services once or twice per week is somehow serving God?    

      As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I begin to rethink some convictions I formerly held.  As a pastor, I have had the honor of performing wedding ceremonies. I have not performed many weddings and have chosen to not perform some along the way.  

       I generally shied away from performing weddings for those who do not consider themselves believers in Christ, thinking, you do not want God part of your daily life, but you want Him to bless your marriage?  

       I think I may have missed a great opportunity and also may have misunderstood the reason so many unbelievers seek out a minister for major life events like weddings and funerals or why so many who do not regularly attend church or synagogue do so on high holy days such as Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.  

       Is it possible America has been conditioned, inadvertently by pop culture, to seek out clergy for specific events or major religious holidays?

       To test this hypothesis, one only need to look at Hollywood's formative years.  Originally, in the earliest years of the 20th century, movie makers began producing films for American audiences.  Soon, Eastern European immigration began to change the Hollywood landscape.  Many immigrants who came to Hollywood in order to make films were non religious but of Jewish heritage.  Over time, the movie industry began to make not so family friendly films. 

         By the early 1920's, Catholic leaders set ups advisory boards to oversee content in the film industry, but much of the advisory board's regulations were ignored.  By the early 1930's, film industry profits were in sharp decline as families stopped attending movie houses.  By the mid 1930's, the Catholic led advisory boards were able to influence the content of new films, resulting in more family friendly fare, which rescued the film industry by, once again, boosting ticket sales.

        Hollywood was influenced mainly by Jewish and Catholic filmmakers and executives.  Interestingly, Judaism and Catholicism are both representative theocracies. God established Israel as a representative theocracy at Mt Sinai.  God set up a system where the common man experienced God through proxy.  The prophet took the Word of God and brought it to the people while the priest  took the prayers and sacrifices of the people and presented those to God.

           When Jesus died on the cross, His sacrifice granted access to God the Father, meaning we no longer needed a human representative between us and God: Ephesians 2:18  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Both Jew and Gentile now have access to God through the shed blood of Christ.

             Somewhere along the line, the Vatican missed this concept and created a Christian version of a representative theocracy.  The Roman Catholic clergy fulfilled the role of both prophet and priest as the sole representative, both man to God and God to man.  Much of this was changed during the Vatican II Council in the mid 1960's, but prior to Vatican II, Catholic doctrine taught only a priest could interpret scripture and the priest provided absolution through confession. 

             Because Hollywood was run by those who held to a representative theocratic view, the concept of coming to God through a human mediator or hearing from God through a human interpreter has been deeply embedded in our entertainment.  This is not some great conspiracy, merely a byproduct of the religious views of the early Hollywood establishment.  American culture has mistakenly elevated clergy to the position of the average man's connection to God.  

            I discovered this truth when I began to give a different response to people who asked me to pray for them.  I am not really sure why, but instead of just saying. "sure, no problem" as I was accustomed, I began saying, "I will pray for you if you promise to also pray about this situation."  The response I got was so unexpected.  Most people who do not go to church or have a sense of a relationship with God seemed surprised I would make such a request.  I was surprised by their surprise!

              It would appear most people want to connect with God on some level but the idea of a personal relationship seems to elude many.  In fact, many mistakenly perceive a barrier between them and God, not realizing there is free access through the shed blood of Christ.

              This is why those outside the church or synagogue seek out clergy for weddings and funerals.  People want God's blessing on marriages and want to ensure loved ones are sent on to the next world by a qualified representative of God.  

              This is why Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are the most attended services of the year.  These are the times people are conscious of God's favor. 

               This is why I am changing my perspective, and practice, concerning weddings and funerals.  These are opportunities for evangelism to people who may never, otherwise, seek out clergy.  

                The task of the church should be to encourage people to connect with God on a personal level, to disciple believers into spiritual independence, and ultimately move them into serving according to their gifting and calling.  

              You do not need the pastor, priest or rabbi to go to God on your behalf, you have access to the Father through the Son.  God wants to hear from you.  God wants you  to know Him on a personal level, not for you to merely know about Him based on what someone tells you.  

                  Let's help others connect with God on a personal level and support the work of the Holy Spirit in one other's lives. Be available to help someone connect with God, don't allow anyone to make you the connection.

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!


Wednesday, April 10, 2019


Have you ever been made to feel as if you were insignificant, didn't matter or just not worth the effort?  Maybe you have been written off by someone you cared about.  

         When a person is made to feel insignificant or worthless, they will often withdraw and build a protective shell to ward off emotional harm from others. This is where dangerous and self destructive behavior can take place.  

     Where is God for the cast off, the misfit and the oddball?  Where is God for those on the fringe of society?  Does God just write people off as well?

            In Matthew 9:9-13 we see Jesus standing against the status quo and associating  with those who had been written off by society. Matthew 9:9-13  As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.  And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”   But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

               In Jesus' society, tax collectors were considered among the worst of the worst.  Granted, many tax collectors were dishonest and viewed as traitors for collecting taxes for occupying Rome, but nonetheless, they were cast offs. 

               Jesus called Matthew to be part of His inner circle, not because Matthew had anything special, but because Jesus knew Matthew's heart was willing. Jesus went to Matthew's home to eat and apparently other tax collectors and sinners of various stripes showed up as well.  Jesus did not excuse Himself or begin to rebuke anyone, He, instead, built relationships.  

                The Pharisees, who complained about Jesus associating with those they considered riff raff, were the establishment and arbiters of what was acceptable.  The Pharisees looked down on and criticized Jesus for associating with those who were deemed unworthy.   

              Jesus' response reveals God's heart toward those who are viewed as misfits.  Jesus values those society devalues.  Jesus seems very comfortable with with those who may make others squirm.

          As familiar and welcoming as Jesus was with the outcasts, He also did not downplay the fact they were sinners.  This is very important.  Jesus loved the fringey but He did not endorse, celebrate or overlook their sin.  

           Jesus makes two very important distinctions here:

1. He did not come for the self righteous or those who had no 
     sense of sin in their lives 

2. Those with sin were loved by God but needed the Great                     Physician to cure them of the spiritual disease of sin

Jesus recognized those with need and welcomed them, one and all, to have their needs met.  

Apparently, Jesus is not rebuking the dinner guests directly, not calling out their individual sins, rather, He is sharing truth.  Likewise, we are not the Holy Spirit, and it is not necessarily our role to point out everyone's specific sins, especially those of unbelievers.  Instead, we are to point those outside of faith to the Savior and allow God to convict their hearts.

         Notice whose sin Jesus pointed out?  The religious leaders.  There are times when it is biblical to directly address the sins of brothers and sisters in Christ.  There may even be times when it is appropriate to address dangerous behavior of unbelievers, but we should not be in the practice of calling out the individual sins of those outside the church.  

              People outside faith in Christ are not going to hell because they sin, they sin because they are going to hell
When we understand this truth, our approach to evangelism will change and look more like the way Jesus interacted with unbelievers.

             Jesus did not fail to address sin, but He did so only after a relationship or connection was established.  The woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the man healed at the pool of Bethesda - each one Jesus addressed sin, but each one had a meaningful encounter first.

              It is easy for believers to sit around criticizing, condemning and complaining about the sin of the world around us. It is not so easy for us to love and care about those whose lifestyles or behaviors disgust us.  This is where we need to be like Jesus, loving people where they are but not being willing participants in their own destruction. 

     Love means speaking truth

     Jesus never sugarcoated the truth and neither should we.  At the same time, we have to remember our use of the truth is not a club but a shepherds staff meant to guide others to the Good Shepherd.  

     Jesus said, "if you love me you will obey my commands" and we know Jesus commanded us to love God and love others.  Sounds pretty simple, right?  So let's get out there and do it!

       Jesus was not afraid to walk along the fringe of society in order to reach the lost.  Likewise, we cannot shun those who need to know about Jesus.  

Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!