Cain Empties our Pews

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If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7

One of our famous family discussions has been over the question, “Has the church ‘healed’ more or ‘hurt’ more?    And yes, please join the discussion!!!   It seems the more discussions and even witnessing opportunities I have, it never fails that I encounter many that know of Christ (I specifically said “know of” and not “know”) who no longer have relationship/affiliations with the local church.  When pressed, most are very honest about their lack of attendance.  While some simply state, salvation is enough (summarizing), others confess to being lazy (summarization), close to half of the non-worshiping/attending portion are registered as wounded.   They are people who have been injured in the line of duty, and not by the culprit many of you expect.  While the media highlight the flawed action of a few pulpits and their affect on the pew, the vast amounts of injuries are obtained from “friendly fire!”

In our focus at Camp Exalted (#campexalted2016) today, we focused on the importance of the interaction on our small groups.  In our story, God, our Small Group Leader is faced with the challenge of group and church life.  He has Abel who is seeking God approval, going above and beyond to show thanks and reverence.  He also has Cain who is doing the bare minimal, not going above and beyond and putting self before superior.   In love, God correct Cains offering and accepts Abels offering.  He does so not to highlight one person as better than or greater than, but to instruct all on what is expected and the level of what should be.

imageThough not condemed or expelled, Cain grew angry with Abel because he had chosen to go further than he himself had chosen to go. God being attentive reached out to His group member to encourage and not to condemn him.  He says, “Is you do what is right, will you not be accepted?”  It’s not that Abel is His favorite, but Abel had in this case made a better choice than Cain.

Sadly, Cain as many others decided that it would be easier to get praise from God by attacking and removing the one willing to go the extra mile as opposed to doing what is is right. This happens all the time.  As opposed to looking at self and working to build a stronger relationship with God. Many choose to get closer be harming those who they perceive to be closer to the Lord than they.

I love how attentive to His people. He takes the time to instruct an to encourage.  His criticism is constructive and his outlook was positive.  He presented a hopeful perspective to a discouraged saint.  He gives Him all he needs to correct and build his relationship with the Lord.  We as group leaders must be attentive to our members.  We must understand where they are and must be able to discifer what’s in their heart. It’s this knowledge of them that will allow us to aide them in becoming who God desires them to be.

I was bothered by the actions of our group leader almost more so than I was by the immature group member.   God saw him downcast, spoke to the issues and thoughts He knew were in Cains heart, but didn’t speak to Abel regarding Cains potential or intentions. Why?  Maybe He understood the rage in Cain was so great that his plans or intent would not be thwarted?  Who knows?

Sadly, despite addressing Cain, he killed Abel.  I wondered to myself, how many Cains are in our churches?  How many people have a list of casualties attributed to their name?  Many be our churches should track the data, produce the stats and have a church ranking of Cains so we can protect the Abels of the world?  Maybe we need a special recovery team, designed to heal and restor Abels?  Maybe we need to have their blood cry out via testimony on a specific Sunday to warn other Abels and convict current or future Cains?  Maybe we should call out their names after the “sick and shut” in list and call them the “wounded while worshiping or serving?”

Sadly, Gods addressing of Cain reveals an important fact, anyone can be Cain!  Our choices and decisions make us Abels!  We must choose to please the Lord in every aspect of our lives,  and as opposed to measuring ourselves by others, but must solely respond to the instructions of Him, using His Word as a measuring stick to determine our place in Him.

Could it be that the empty seats on Sunday are not reflective of the heart or relationship that our communities have with God?  Maybe our empty seats are a result of an unaddressed or uncontrolled population?

 

#PastorJDO3

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Undercover Boss

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Our focus for today was drawn from Hebrews 2:16-18.  It highlights the purpose and method out Lord used in restoring a right relationship with Him his being the perfect sacrifice. Though this is the focus, important things are highlighted int the passage that are helpful to us as both believers and leaders.

Verse 16 informs us that He came to aid us, and etched into verse 17 is how and why!  

 

17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 

Jesus became like us, wrapping himself in flesh.  His aim, to be merciful and faithful!  The One filled with mercy, the One who honors His covenant and His Word.  The One who is the definition of mercy and faithfulness enters the world in flesh not only to die for our sins, but that He might continue and become even more merciful and faithful!  Yes; He went undercover!  Much like the television show, God left His throne and but on flesh to experience the world like His creation.  He walked among us to gain a better understanding of His product , it’s flaws and its lack of performance.  He allowed himself to be tempted not to show only how we can avoid and overcome, but that He might gain a better understanding as to why we fall short.  He understood that He needed to experience life from our vantage point and through our lenses to help Him get closer to us, and to better see how to serve us.  He walked among us that He would be even more understanding and sensitive when speaking on our behalf.  He didn’t want to be a standard court appointed attorney, but wanted to intimately know the case of mankind as He interceded on our behalf.  Verse 18 continues:


18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted

Yes, Jesus was tempted!  He suffered!  He denied himself!  He experienced life!  And was without sin!!  This qualifies Him not only to judge, but to give further direction and guidance to us.  

This it is amazing how many of us in effort to distance ourselves from sin become judgmental and solitary from the sinner (as though we are without sin).  If God who was perfect could humble himself and walk amoung flawed man, I’m confused as to how we are different are better than He.  It is amazing how we have not only been tempted but have yielded and experience the poison of sin, and the. Claim not to have been bitten once Christ has extracted the poison and saved our life!  
It was His walk among us and His victory over sin that makes Him not only the perfect sacrifice but the perfect High Priest!   And likewise, our lives (our failures and out victories) make us the perfect sacrifice.  The perfect testimony.  The perfect intercession.  The perfect accountability partner.  The perfect counselor.  The perfect teacher and the perfect preacher!  The our our life, we wrapped in this flesh can identify with all others who have the challenge and privilege of living in this flesh!  

If God worked to be more merciful and faithful, shouldn’t we.  Here He is honoring Hos covenant and just to judge us, and He is seeking a way to understand and serve us better.  He’s not only working to restore the covenant, but is working to help us carry out our covenant responsibilities.  He’s perfecting the covenant by dying for our sins, and making himself the perfect high priest to intercede for us.  He dies for our sins and then positions himself to defend us when we disqualify ourselves!  Who keeps their end of the covenant and then defends the one who breaks the covenant!  Only God!  Thank God he went undercover! 

Really Really!

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And when the centurion,
who stood there in front of Jesus,
saw how he died, he said,
“Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Mark 15:39

I was honored this morning to share with the Team Leaders of the 7th and 8th graders at Camp Exalted (#campexalted2016).  Our focus this morning came from Mark.  A closer look at our savior on the cross lead to ask the leaders of each group, “What will kids say about you when they leave camp?”

Rapper Kevin Gates has a song that features the answer we seek.  Though his agenda is quite different, the answer given is the same that should be spoken of us as people experience us up close and personal.  As a youth pastor, I know the question that many children have regarding their elders and youth.  They want to know if we are what we teach and what we preach!  They want to know if our lives are consistent with our lessons!  They want yo know if the rules and laws we present are the ones that guide our lives?  And to that, I say, “really really!”image

On the cross, a centurion soldier stood facing Jesus!  He was close enough to hear every word, every breath, see every drop of sweat, even to see every drop of blood that spewed from his side after piercing him in the side.  We witnessed every door of spit spewed from the crowd, heard every insult, saw every stroke of the whip, witnessed the drops from the thorns placed on His head, saw his knees buckle from the weight and physical torture.  He heard one thief ridducule him, and participated with those who cast lots for His clothes, only to hear His voice filled with compassion and forgiveness receive a guilty but sincere heart into the Kingdom of heaven.

Upon seeing this, the centurion said, “Surely this man is the Son of God!” In today’s vernacular, he said, “really really!”  I want to ask you, what would people say about you?

When people watch you suffer, what type of witness are you?  when people consider the type of sacrifice you make?  When people consider the offering you give? What would they say?  Are people confused by the message that is communicated from the boat and from the cross.  Do people see you compassionate while feeding the hungry and in rage while being persecuted?  Are you at peace when the money is flowing and in turmoil when the money is scarce? What type of witness are you?

One of the challenges of our faith walk is understanding that we are a witness at all times!  Here He is on the cross, and His life is still on display.  Even in death He must be like God, so that all He has spoken and stood for might be validated. Our lives are challenged in that people get to know and see us up close and personal.   The see us in our most vulnerable states, and while they might previously have turned a deaf ear to you, you consistent witness can at any moment turn their life around!

Let us continue offering our lives as a light for the city.  Being consistent in every aspect of our existence.  Let us press on, knowing that the life at stake isn’t the one on the cross, but the one watching.  

 

#PastorJDO3

 

Build up the Kingdom!

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So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And what you heard me say in the presence of many others
as witnesses entrust to faithful people who will by

competent to teach others as well.
2 Timothy 2:1-2

Paul writes this letter to Timothy as instructional and encouragement for a young minister.  This letter as with the others are very important as it models something captured in verse 2 of this second chapter.  Mentor-ship, or Discipleship as we call it in the faith has a very important role to the life of the church.  It could be argued that the demise or death of the ancient church or has been a lack of not only evangelism, but discipleship which has left our church without A. Leadership B. Mature Saints  C.  Members.

Paul says to Timothy this important tidbit, which will also be key not only to the growth of the ministry, but will aide him in being an effective shepherd and leader.  Paul advises him to “entrust to” “competent” (some say faithful) people.

For the Men’s Conference at our home church, this passage was used to direct a message to the men of the Kingdom of God.  The message, God’s Kingdom needs men who the Gospel can be entrusted to, and men that will be competent to teach others.  This is a call to discipleship and evangelism.   soldiearmor

Though the passage is not gender specific, I felt the need to challenge the men to study to show themselves approved.  To press forward the Kingdom agenda by challenging men to grow in the faith that they might be deemed by their Pastor one that can be entrusted with the Word of God and Kingdoms Agenda.  The growth of God’s Kingdom will hinge on the amount of disciples that are willing to commit to Kingdom purpose.  We are calling for and crying out for the heads of houses to take a step forward to lead their families and to press to return to being leaders in our churches, rebuilding and fortifying our families and modeling the structure intended to combat the agenda of the world to unravel our family structures.  We don’t need undependable men, we need men that can be counted upon!  And not just financially.  We have run into a generation of people who feel money solves problems!  Money doesn’t spread the Gospel, its the Faith of those that commit to sharing God’s truth that draws people near via their testimony and fever for the truth communicated through the Gospel.  Transferring money into an account will not save people in other countries.  Someone has to open up their mouth and declare truth that the Gospel might be heard and faith might be achieved by conviction of the Holy Spirit.  We need committed men!

Furthermore, we need “competent” men.  I love how this is written.  Paul says to people who “will be competent”.  This is true in two ways.  1.  We need people who are Competent Now!  2.  We need people who will be Competent in the future!

First, we need men who have already been diligent as a soldier.  Our churches are hungry, desperate even, for men who have sought righteousness and sought to fortify themselves with the learning and applying of scripture to their lives.  We need men who have decided to dedicate themselves to walking daily with God, not chasing the things of the world and identifying themselves with worldly possessions.  Paul says find some people who “will be competent.”  We must find men that are dedicated to applying the Word of God to their lives like Balm!  We must be saturated in the Word such so that it flows like the anointing and favor we pray for!  That it becomes such a part of us that we teach by living, not by speaking!  Our lives should be so aligned with God’s Word, that our life is just the Cliff Notes, and our Mouths serve as study guide.  We need competent men!

Second, we need men we are willing to become diligent warriors.  Our church needs an infusion of men who are willing to get serious about their faith!  We need a generation that will cast down their nets, dock their boats, sale their possessions and follow Him!  We need men who will but down the magazines and log off the website, crack the spine of the Bible or Double Tap the App and immerse themselves in pressing towards the mark that has been set for us!   We need men furthermore that will submit to leadership.  This is key in both circumstances, but even more so in this one.  These men must be willing to be prepared by their Shepherd to become the vessel they are capable of becoming for the benefit of the Kingdom.

In both scenarios,  we find Paul telling Timothy that He must search for these people and model the example that Christ set for the Apostles, and the one that Paul imitated with he and others.  Yes, we also need men that are willing to be Mentors!  We need men who will engross themselves in not only reaching the mark, but will prepare others as well.  Our Lord took the time on earth to select some men that he found could be entrusted with the Gospel and would be Competent in teaching others the truths He gave to them.  The spread of the Gospel hinges on this.  Developing others that can be carriers of the Word, and not being the sole authority or carrier of truth ensures that the Kingdom will continue to grow and live beyond the days you have been given.  There are people that the preacher/pastor will never meet, that are beyond their reach and life experience, but that are accessible to those that sit under the weekly/daily teachings.

BodyLogoIn conclusion, I think it interesting that many of our fraternal organizations have practiced a principle that our churches might need to take a hold to.  Its Numbers verses Men!  The value of our churches is not in the numbers, but in men, in real discipleship!  Lord forbid that our Greek and social organizations uphold a standard and the church find its knees weak, compromising intake and  wavering on membership requirements, declaring all active despite their walk and actions.  We too must build and uphold the standard God set, not excluding those from entering, but holding all accountable who enter to the standard of the Most High!  To answer the question, “Yes we need to build up the Kingdom!”  But building up the Kingdom is not about numbers and buildings, it’s about the members in the Kingdom being stronger.  If we will continue this model, the future of the church will not only be great in numbers, but stronger in mirroring the image of Christ.  Having strong believers is a premium, more than having a large numbers of weaklings.

#PastorJDO3

 

It’s Within Reach

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Now Joram had been in Ramoth Gilead with
the whole Israelite army, guarding against
an invasion by King Hazael of Syria. 2 Kings 9:14

The powerful accounts of verses 14 and 15 leave us with much to consider.  The passage shows the first focal point of Jehu’s journey to king.  Joram; fresh from the battle front in Ramoth Gilead is now retreating to Jezreel.  The fight with Syria has left him injured and needing a place to heal from the battle front.

God Placed Joram in Position

Though Joram may believe that his journey to Jezreel is to heal from his wounds, God has placed Jezreel in reach so that it is an option for him to retreat to.  While he sat with his team trying to figure out how to gain access, and how to carry our his assignment, God was responding to his obedience and the support of his team by aligning things in his favor.pointgun

Jezreel is important not just because of the prophecy, but because it pulls the king away from the army.  Furthermore, it removed Joram from the city, thus while the trumpet was sounded and the shouts of Jehu as king were declared, they would not be heard by Joram.  Jehu was left with the entire army, and thus was able to amass support from the soldiers present.  This because the entire army was in position defending the land against Syria, thus the King retreated to heal in a safe place with a small number of soldiers and officials.  An assignment for Jehu that possible seemed out of reach or impossible, with the wave of Gods hand, now become likely and achievable.

God Place Jehu in Position

I love this in that Jehu was an officer.  While others might be unaware that Joram has moved from the camp to a private local to recover, Jehu’s position gives him access!  God will place you in position to pursue your destiny!  He had insider information that allowed him to plan effectively and to position his team to accomplish the assignment.

We must understand that we are all playing our role in God’s plan.  Syria is used to injure Joram, and now serves as a distraction to hold the soldiers in position to make Joram visible for Jehu!  Can you see Joram?  God uses those called by His Name to bring about His will, all while directing and allowing others to participate in bringing about His purpose.  They need his permission, and the granting of his permission means that it is a component of His mission.

Changing the Odd

Sometime the calculating of the odds can cause us to delay what God has spoken!  If He spoke it, it is done, but must be accomplished.  It would seem that we can wait for it to come to past, but it coming to past requires us to move towards what is to come.  We must be obedient to the Lord despite the odds, knowing that God is working on our behalf.

Moving Closer to Jezreel is closer to Joram

As you move closer to Jezreel, Joram will move closer to you!  By putting together a plan, and by executing the plan, Jehu was able to walk right into his destiny.  Much of why our dreams remain out of reach is that we are either not willing or not confident enough to execute the plan for our future.  Knowing God is with us should give us the confidence to not only start our journey but to complete our assignment.

We must believe that it is within reach.  You can do greater things that you imagine.

#PastorJDO3