Thursday, July 28, 2011

Express Yourself!

I've had some conversations recently with some friends about the differences between churches like ours and churches that are more charasmatic/pentecostal in their worship approach.  The discourse usually boils down to something like this: "Man, I really love the worship at this one church (pentecostal-ish). There's an energy and a passion and a reliance on the Holy Spirit that inspires my worship and is awesome to behold......but then they seem to go overboard and things just get weird!!!" OR "Wow, I really love this church over here.  The people are so friendly and down-to-earth.....but their worship service seems to be lacking some energy."

Why is it that most churches these days seem to fall into one of these two extremes?  Where's the "normal" kind of God-worship that we read about in scripture?  It involved shouting, singing, clapping, playing-of-instruments, raising of hands, powerful prayer, and downright excitement. But it was also organized, excellent, and was considerate of unbelievers that might come to see what it's all about.  From what I hear, our Church of God movement used to be that way long ago.  Our worship was characterized as "quite lively!"  You wouldn't have been surprised to see a ton of hands lifted high or to hear people shout out in worship.  Prayer was potent and when a leader voiced a prayer, people felt free to voice their support. They believed strongly in the role of the Holy Spirit in our corporate worship and in His power to heal and to move and to spark revival.

But these days, the worship found in our Church of God, Anderson IN congregations and similar churches usually paints quite a different picture.  What happened?  Some have suggested that the change occurred in reaction to the Charasmatic Movement that took place in America during the 60's and 70's where many churches wanted to distance themselves from what they saw as biblically-misguided worship.  Whatever the cause, I think it's a shame.  I'm not necessarily calling for a return to the "good ol' days"...but I do think a return to a more biblical picture of worship might be called for.  It just makes sense--common sense--that if we love God, we ought to openly express it...especially when we find ourselves gathered together with like-minded believers for the whole purpose of WORSHIPING our God!

Next time you gather for worship, think about what you must look like as you're worshiping...are you actually expressing your worship in a visible way?  Someone's going to be thinking: "But it doesn't matter what I look like on the outside because God sees the heart."  He certainly does but He's also having to look at your boring, expressionless exterior!  Plus, He didn't ask you to just love Him with your heart but with your soul, mind, and strength too (Mark 12:30)!

EXPRESS YOURSELF,
Pastor Neil

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm going to impact the world...but how?

As I am preparing for small group tonight, I sit here and think..."I'm only one man, what impact can I possibly have on the world?" A friend reminded me of that this week when we were talking and he told me a story about a little girl who grew to be a missionary (as well as her husband) and literally impacted hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. And it all started with one man. One man extended grace to the little girl just as God's grace has been extended to us.

So, how am I going to impact the world? I am going to do what Jesus told us to do...'go out and make disciples of all nations.' This is not a request, this is a command, also known as the 'Great Commission.' Commission means to 'commit' to something, which is not just merely following orders. We Christians sometimes have the mindset to 'come and convert' not 'go and make disciples.' We hide out in our 'stained glass fortress' and hide from the enemy, instead of meeting the enemy head-on. The Apostle Paul suggested that we head directly into the storm 'with the sails up.'

Do we Christians do this today? Do we approach the lost with a sense of urgency? With all of the talk about 'end times,' do we really believe it to be true? I mean, if we really believed that Christ could return at any moment, would we be so concerned about 401K plans and other long-term plans, or would we invest EVERY SINGLE MINUTE trying to save EVERYONE WE CAN?

Lecture over. Let's go impact the world. One disciple at a time...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What is happening to America, America?

Hey America! What is going on? The headline on July 15, 2011, reads:

"Government approves 'sexual brainwashing' bill."

Does this headline upset, confuse, or otherwise instill anger in anyone but me?

It goes on to read:

"California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law legislation that REQUIRES the state's public schools to teach on the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

Yesterday Gov. Brown signed S.B. 48, making California the first state in the country to pass such legislation. The law, authored by homosexual Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, REQUIRES that textbooks be re-written to include information about LGBT Americans and present them in a positive light."

Commentators warn that the measure, which requires NO PARENTAL NOTIFICATION, and DOES NOT ALLOW PARENTS TO OPT THEIR CHILDREN OUT, will affect students as young as SIX YEARS OLD.

I know what you're thinking, "That's terrible, but it doesn't affect me, because I don't live in California." That's the same thing that first came to my mind as well. But, guess what? California is one of the states that purchases the most textbooks. Do you really believe that they will print a "California Version" and an "Everybody Else Version?"

Do you believe that "normalizing" homosexuality will come without consequences? Please don't confuse me for a "gay-basher." I am a "sin-basher." I can honestly tell you that I would be equally appalled at someone promoting drugs and alcohol at our schools to our children. Telling someone that drugs and alcohol is ok, when it's not ok is WRONG. Therefore, telling someone that homosexuality or ANY OTHER SIN is ok when it is not ok is ALSO WRONG. It's time to get off the sidelines and into the game, Christian America!

Even if you think that this type of legislation is not spiritually un-healthy, consider the even more shocking remark at the end of the article:

"The bill further prohibits teachers and textbooks from telling children that homosexuality has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS and other STDs, higher cancer rates, and earlier deaths."

So, even if you believe (and I know you don't) that your child would be spiritually un-affected by this type of indoctrination, can you honestly say that the physical health of the next generation will not be affected?

Maybe I'm ranting paranoia here. Maybe I'm the only one that believes this type of God-less-ness is bad for America. Please pray that America will get on her knees and humbly ask for God's beautiful mercy before it's too late. God please have mercy on us. Amen.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Seasons

It is Friday night, 11:53pm to be exact.  It is the last night at Sr. High Camp 2011.  It has been a great week.  God has done some tremendous things.  Jerry Webb (JerryWebb2.com) who is the Pastor of Student Ministries at St. James First Church of God directed this week and he has done a fantastic job.  Being here this week has reminded me that youth ministry is awesome.  I mean even if God one day calls me to speak in an "Adult Service" on a weekly basis, I believe youth ministry will still be at the core of that.  

So, why the title of seasons?  Well, it is camping season here at Camp Sharon for one and two, this year will mark the end of (for now) my responsibilities as a Camp Directer.  This will be my 6th year to direct the middle school camp.  Over those years, through this camp we have seen around 60 students come to Christ and around 300 re-dedications.  I have directed for one reason and one reason only...To bring Glory to the One and Only Lord and Savior, Jesus.  I have felt for a while that God has released me of this calling...at least for a season...The state is thriving right now with great young youth pastors who will be able to carry the torch.  After speaking on having Margin in our calendars at LifeQuest on June 26th (check it out at YourLifeQuest.org), I decided it was a great time to begin creating Margin in mine.  This is something that has been missing for several years now.  I believe that I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off...even though it looks cool by all the spectators...it is very unfortunate for the chicken...you see he doesn't even know he has lost his head...Even though the ministry of Camp and Youth Convention has looked cool to spectators and participants it has been very hard on me and the family in finding an adequate balance between ministry and family.  So in just 4 months I will just be an associate pastor again...no pluses...just LifeQuest...and I am really excited about it.  I am excited about carving out time to spend with family.  I am excited about not being so stressed around Abi, Clay, and Amanda.  I am excited about the new season.  I know in ministry this particular season is a rarity...Most new seasons in ministry involve more time commitment to ministry and less to family.  I am creating Margin.  I pray that you will take the time in your life to evaluate the headless chicken syndrome and choose to know where your head/mind/heart is.

3 days til Jr. High 2011 begins...I am excited once again about watching God work among middle school students.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

God Bless Us? No, God have MERCY on US!

Have you ever seen a bumper sticker with the words, 'God Bless America' on it and thought, "Yeah, God. Please bless us?" If you live in these United States, I will tell you...God HAS blessed us. We often are chasing the lie called 'The American Dream.' We are told that we must work very hard and we will get 'more.' Yet, we spend and spend and work and work, and yet, we never seem to arrive at the 'Dream.'

America, it is time for us to stop the self-indulgence that has been tagged 'The American Dream' and start living for God, not ourselves. Now, many will say, "Dave, you are just bitter, because you don't have 'The American Dream.' People, I am LIVING the American Dream! God wants us to enjoy the things that He has given each and every one of us that reside in these United States. He gave us these things for our enjoyment (and to share with others, too) because, without Him, we would not be able to work a trade, run a business, or otherwise 'provide for ourselves.' In fact, He is the GREAT PROVIDER.

The fact is that we have perverted almost everything that God gave us for self and instant gratification. How much do we give back to God? I mean, really, what do any of us NEED that we don't already own/rent/borrow?

It's time that we stop saying "God Bless America" and start saying "God have mercy on America." Have you ever wondered why God blesses the USA and tends not to bless the rest of the world? Is it coincidence that the newest country on the planet seems to be the last (and sometimes only) place that God really blesses? Is it maybe because we haven't perverted ourselves quite to the threshold of God's patience yet? Are we on our way to becoming a modern-day Sodom?

I pray that we re-discover this great country's heritage of 'God and Country' before it's too late, and get on our knees and beg for God's beautiful mercy.

This is my prayer for me, my family, and my country. God please bless America, Amen.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Life is a Performance, but Who are We Performing For?

Today I was reminded that sometimes, when we serve, we serve alone. Even in a group of servants, we still seem to serve alone. I wondered, "How do we motivate others to serve God?" When we humbly tell people what we're doing, so as not to draw attention to ourselves, we pray that someone will pick up on the subtleness of our comment and come serve with us. Yet, very few came. Very few ever come. "What am I doing wrong, God?" I asked. "Are we not doing what you called us to do? I know that it is a Saturday morning, God. How come others don't have the same passion as our small (and getting smaller) group seem to have?" These are questions that I have been pondering for quite some time now. Where does the passion start? Why does the passion end? How do we stoke the fires of passion when we are out of fuel? Are we becoming the luke-warm Church? What happens when God spits us out? These are all questions that worry me constantly. I feel at times, that we have a "consumer" mentality and not a "producer" attitude. We come to the Church to GET served, not TO serve. Church should be like a school, where you gain knowledge of HIM, but then you are to GO OUT and SHARE that knowledge of the LOVE, POWER, and SALVATION, not just keep it locked in the STAINED GLASS FORTRESS. If you are reading this, please pray with me for the passion to come back to the Church. God, please help us become the passionate, loving people you wanted us to be. Please give us the courage to do what is right and the encouragement to press on, even when we don't feel like anyone cares. Please help us to not perform for others, but YOU, an audience of ONE. In Jesus' precious name we pray these things. Amen.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America!

As I wake up in the greatest country in the whole world, I realize that God must really love me. I mean, when you think about it, God must REALLY love America. Our fore fathers did what God said we were supposed to do and battled oppression for freedom to worship HIM. The framers of our constitution tried to protect future generations by outlining FREEDOM OF RELIGION. But today, as I watch television, or read the paper, or go to the movies all I see is FREEDOM FROM RELIGION. Do you think this is what God had in mind? What does he think about Christians not standing up for HIM in the most blessed country in the WORLD? Remember: rights that have been gained can be lost, so be thankful for what you have and fight to protect them! Remember to thank a soldier today (or any day) to thank him or her for defending our FREEDOMS (including free exercise of religion), but more importantly, thank GOD for giving us the FREEDOM to worship him in a FREE country. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA, AND MAY GOD CONTINUE TO BLESS US!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

What are we praying for?

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I know that I am certainly no expert in prayer...I sometimes struggle with what to pray for, how to pray for it, and sometimes, forget to do it at all (please forgive me, I'm on a journey to the Kingdom, but haven't arrived). Anyway, do we pray for safety from harm, when maybe the prayer should be the wisdom, courage and strength to overcome obstacles? Are we living in "safety mode" or in "prayer mode?"

You see, people that live in "safety mode" will probably live long, un-eventful lives in Christ, hidden in their "stained glass fortresses." They will glorify God at church and a few other places, but just have this belief that "witnessing by actions" is always good enough. Jesus wanted us to experience life in a God-honoring way, and, quite honestly, we can't really do that if the extent of our Christian experience is a few hours a week on Sundays and an occasional Wednesday. You see, when the first century Church met, it was to gain knowledge of the Scripture, and to encourage and support one another, nothing more. It was like going to school to learn. The Christian would then USE the knowledge and take the ENCOURAGEMENT to the streets...do we do that today? I don't do a very good job of that at times, but I know now that this is my purpose (as all Christians).

I think we all believe that only certain people are "called" to be evangelists. You see, in actuality, we have ALL been "called" to be evangelists (if you don't believe me, then give me your opinion of Matthew 28:19, also known as the "GREAT COMMISSION"). I want to be living in "prayer mode" from now on...intentional daily worship and glorification of the Father...I want to step out of the boat and walk out to Jesus on the water, just as Peter did. I want the Knowledge and the Courage and the Wisdom that Jesus said we have in the Holy Spirit. I want to go and make disciples...not just converts. Keep the faith, but also SHARE it. God Bless!

Are you with me?