Username:

Password:

Fargot Password? / Help

Author:

2

Ask Donnell: Can a Christian Lose The Anointing?

Ask Donnell: Can a Christian Lose The Anointing?

We received the following question from Sharon;

"When Christ came and departed the earth realm, he said he would send the Holy Spirit who would guide us into all truth. Since the Holy Spirit resides within new testament believers, can they lose the anointing. I say yes but my class is in dispute. Can you respond to this please?"

Sharon, thanks for your question. Sorry it took so long for me to finally address it. I knew what I wanted to say initially but I had to wait for The Lord to reveal His heart on the issue. It sounds like a very simple question but it's not that simple. Over the years I've noticed that some issues I used to assume were black and white in the scriptures now appear to be surprisingly gray. It's not that The Bible doesn't provide clear answers on these issues but it's the fact that it does provide clear ANSWERS and not just one answer.

What do I mean? I mean there are multiple answers and they are all right. Each answer gives us a different perspective on the same issue allowing us to see it from different sides at the same time. This is the comprehensive way that God sees things and it stretches beyond our basic human understanding. The truth never changes but how we see the truth changes as we learn more and more of it. The topic of The Anointing is a perfect example.

It's our responsibility to find these answers and present them in a balanced way so that we get a proper understanding of God's heart on the issue. Hence, for certain issues that appear gray in the scriptures, we can no longer just pick one side and completely ignore the others. We have to resist the urge to use our denominational and experiential bias and be open to a more global Biblical perspective.

All scriptural truth is truth so if we find something in the scripture that disagrees with what we first believed we must wrestle with it in our hearts until The Lord gives us peace. Let's try to do that with this issue of The Anointing. Since I know you already finished reading our earlier blog, "The Heart of The Anointing" I won't repeat some of the basics on The Anointing. If necessary, you can review what was said there before you keep reading this response.

John 14:16-18(NLT) - And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

The Holy Spirit will never leave you! That's it! For some people, this is the end of the discussion. It doesn't matter what you do or don't do, as long as you receive The Holy Spirit at salvation once, He is in you forever. End of discussion. Since that's what the scripture says, in no uncertain terms, that's the truth. However, this is where we will start our discussion.

1 Samuel 16:14(NLT) - Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.

Judges 16:20(NKJV) - And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.

The Holy Spirit left Saul and Samson. The scriptures were clear about that. Fortunately, He did return to Samson at the end of his life but never to Saul. Nonetheless, this is The Old Testament and since we're talking about New Testament believers, we'll just use these examples as background information and not the foundation of our approach.

Psalms 139:7-8(NKJV) - Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

Obviously, since God is omnipresent, we are in no way asserting that God is not geographically present anywhere at any time. Of course, He's always there because He's everywhere. However, when God left Saul and Samson, even though He was still present geographically due to His omnipresence He was no longer active in their lives.

He took His hands off of their lives and no longer empowered them to do what He had called them to do. That's what we mean by God's presence being with someone or leaving someone. Yes, He's always present geographically but if He's not actively empowering people to do His Will they are not benefiting from His presence. His Spirit is there but He's not manifesting Himself to them.

1 John 2:27(NKJV) - But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

So what is the anointing?

The Greek word used here is chrisma (khris'-mah) which means an unguent or smearing, i.e. (figuratively) the special endowment ("chrism") of the Holy Spirit:

The anointing is the residue of The Holy Spirit when He rests upon someone. In 1 Samuel 16:12-13, immediately after Samuel anointed David something specific happened. The Holy Spirit rested upon him. The oil itself meant nothing. It wasn't about the oil. It was about The Spirit of The Lord resting on the man whom God told the prophet to smear with the oil. Hence, the oil was just a sign that represented God's choice for His Spirit.

Additionally, in 1 John 2:27, The Apostle John said to the church that The Anointing abides in us. Why is this important? The easiest distinction between being saved and anointed is usually The Holy Spirit being in us versus being upon us. According to Romans 8:10-11, The Holy Spirit lives in every Christian so that's established. Then, in Luke 4:18, Jesus stated; "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To....." However, because of 1 John 2:27 we can't use the distinction of Holy Ghost within versus upon us to distinguish those who are anointed from those who are not. Jesus said The Anointing was on Him, but John said The Anointing is in us. Both are true!

1 John 2:20(NKJV) - But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

Apostle John did not isolate a particular group of anointed Christians out of the Christians he referred to in 1 John 2. Therefore, we may assert that Apostle John referred to every Christian who received his letter as being anointed. In other words, knowing this, I would find it difficult to state unequivocally that some Christians are anointed while others are not. That's a big deal because now we have to put salvation and anointing together.

Therefore, if we say that someone can lose The Anointing we might also be saying in the same breath that someone can lose their salvation. That is a much more crucial situation. Nonetheless, the scriptures do show that even though The Anointing comes with The Holy Spirit there is something special about The Anointing. It goes beyond simply receiving The Holy Spirit into your heart at salvation. Let's approach this using Jesus as the example.

Luke 4:17-21(NKJV) - And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus helped us to understand The Anointing by expounding on what He was anointed by God to do. In other words, The Anointing is for a purpose. When someone is anointed by God what that means is that The Holy Spirit has empowered the person to do something. Whether that means The Holy Spirit is in you or upon you doesn't matter. It just means that He's enabled you. God is a Spirit so the distinction of Him being in you or upon you is not literal especially for a Christian. There is no physical location for the spirit realm so we can't project our physical limitations on The Spirit of God. Some say that prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus, The Holy Spirit was only upon people and after the advent of The Church He was in people.

That makes sense except when describing John The Baptist, who was born before Jesus, the scripture says in Luke 1:15; "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." How do we explain that away? Was he filled with The Holy Ghost prior to the birth of Jesus or was he not? Again, all Biblical truth is truth so that's the truth. We just have to deal with it and just use it as another perspective on the truth which helps us to understand the truth even more. Anyway, let's drive home the purpose of The Anointing.

Can a Christian Lose The Anointing?

1 Corinthians 12:4-11(AMP) - Now there are [distinctive] varieties of spiritual gifts [special abilities given by the grace and extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit operating in believers], but it is the same Spirit [who grants them and empowers believers]. And there are [distinctive] varieties of ministries and service, but it is the same Lord [who is served]. And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit [the spiritual illumination and the enabling of the Holy Spirit] for the common good. To one is given through the [Holy] Spirit [the power to speak] the message of wisdom, and to another [the power to express] the word of knowledge and understanding according to the same Spirit; to another [wonder-working] faith [is given] by the same [Holy] Spirit, and to another the [extraordinary] gifts of healings by the one Spirit; and to another the working of miracles, and to another prophecy [foretelling the future, speaking a new message from God to the people], and to another discernment of spirits [the ability to distinguish sound, godly doctrine from the deceptive doctrine of man-made religions and cults], to another various kinds of [unknown] tongues, and to another interpretation of tongues. All these things [the gifts, the achievements, the abilities, the empowering] are brought about by one and the same [Holy] Spirit, distributing to each one individually just as He chooses.

Here's the bottom line based on what we just finished reading. Everyone who is a Christian has the same Holy Spirit but everyone is not empowered by The Holy Spirit to do the same thing. That being said, if merely having The Holy Spirit in your life is The Anointing, every Christian is anointed. However, our definition of The Anointing has to be more robust than that. We cannot define The Anointing without considering the function of The Anointing. Like Jesus, The Spirit of The Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to do something.

I am not anointed just for being anointed. I am anointed to do something. Therefore, until I submit my will to The Holy Spirit and allow Him to not just be alive in me as a Christian but be active through me as one who's anointed I am not walking in The Anointing on my life. There's no merit to the distinction of being anointed unless we are functioning in that anointing. I might have had The Anointing to preach the gospel all of my life but until I actually started preaching the gospel I was not putting The Anointing to use. Hence, simply saying that I was anointed meant nothing. I needed to preach the gospel because of The Anointing and that's what mattered.

Now let's move on to the main point of this entire blog. Once anointed, always anointed? We know that The Holy Spirit will never leave us but that's not the real question here. The real question is can we ever leave Him? Let's find out!

Hebrews 10:37-39(NLT) - “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.

James 5:19-20(NKJV) - Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Hebrews 6:4-6(NLT) - For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.

2 Thessalonians 2:3(AMP) - Let no one in any way deceive or entrap you, for that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first [that is, the great rebellion, the abandonment of the faith by professed Christians], and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction [the Antichrist, the one who is destined to be destroyed],

Can a Christian make the conscious choice to turn away from The Lord and no longer practice Christianity? In the context of the scriptures cited above, the answer is yes. You may not be able to leave Him geographically because of His omnipresence but you can reject Him and turn your back on Him. Yes, it's true that The Holy Spirit will never leave you but you sure can leave Him. In fact, one of the most distinctive events of Bible prophecy (2 Thessalonians 2:3) is a massive falling away that will take place before the return of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:37 (quoted above) states that a Christian can turn away from The Lord unto destruction. James 5:19-20 (quoted above) says that someone who is a Christian can stray from the truth and return to being a sinner whose soul is destined for death. Thankfully, we can reach out to that person and save the person's soul from death. However, there are those who cannot be saved and that's the category we're most interested in today.

Hebrews 6:4-6 (quoted above) says that there are those who can experience the good things of heaven, share in The Holy Spirit, taste the goodness of The Word of God and His supernatural power and then completely turn away from God. Obviously, these people are Christians who are anointed in every way we can approach the concept of The Anointing. They fall into a special category because of their unique experience with The Lord. If after all of that, they still turn their back on Him, there's nothing we can do to help. Anyone who can walk away from a personal experience with God's power like that has made up his/ her mind.

Saul and Samson lost The Anointing in The Old Testament and it's no different in The New Testament. They chose to walk away from God. Samson sincerely repented and received The Holy Ghost again but Saul never did. Sometimes, people try to explain away the truth in The Old Testament by claiming that everything is different in The New Testament. Well, Old Testament truth is as much truth as New Testament truth. The God of The Old Testament is the God of The New Testament. The difference is Jesus. He gave us a new perspective on the truth of The Old Testament. We don't reject what we see in The Old Testament we just see it through a new pair of eyes; the eyes of Jesus. The truth did not change, our perspective on the truth has changed.

Can a Christian lose The Anointing? That's not the question we should be asking. Can a Christian reject The One who gives The Anointing? Yes. You don't lose The Anointing. You know exactly where it is at all times. It's with The Holy Ghost. What you can do is reject The Anointing by rejecting The Holy Ghost. That's a choice some people have already made and many will make in the future. God will never leave us. He is forever faithful. The choice to leave is ours.

0

It's Time To Spread The Good News

Spread The Good News

Written By: Dr. Angel

Welcome to Part 23, the final installment of our current blog series; "Evangelism". Click here for Part 22, "Stay Focused: Avoid Theological Debates".

WHEN do we evangelize?

1. Anytime, all the time, anywhere, and everywhere.

2. Start today!

For the past few months, we have answered the questions of why do we evangelize, why don’t we evangelize?, and how do we evangelize? I pray that this blog series has shed some light on the Dos , Don'ts, and How’s of evangelism in light of the scriptures. If you need a review of this complete blog series, you can access all 22 of the previous installments of this Evangelism series.

We will now address the final question of when do we evangelize? The answer is Anytime, All the time, Anywhere, and Everywhere! The scripture is clear that now is the day of salvation and there are people who need Christ all over the earth. No matter how we feel or where we are, we must be sensitive to what the Lord wants to do. He is full of compassion and desires that every lost soul comes to a saving knowledge of Him.

Proverbs 19:21(NIV) -“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Evangelize anytime & all the time!

Hebrews 3:15(NLT) – “Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your heart as Israel did when they rebelled.”

Matthew 9:35-38(NLT) - "Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And He healed every kind of disease and illness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to His disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields.”

In obedience to the request of Jesus, we are to pray to God to send out more laborers into the field to bring in the harvest. At the same time, YOU and I are the answer to this prayer. Do not ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit to share the Good News and labor in the field.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT) - “For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.”

Isaiah 55:6 (NLT) – “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while He is near.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) - “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

The world is full of distractions that keep us preoccupied with empty pursuits. The human race is so busy fulfilling his lust of the eyes, flesh, and pride of life (1 John 2:16) No one knows what tomorrow holds. People are dying every day without coming to a saving knowledge of the love of Christ. We must make every effort to spread The Gospel and fulfill The Great Commission. Another day on earth isn’t guaranteed to anyone. All we have is this moment... the here and now.

Case Study 1 - Parable of the Rich Fool

Luke 12:16-19(NLT) – “Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry! “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

Proverbs 27:1 (NASB) – “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

James 4:13-15(NLT) – “Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”

Evangelize anywhere & everywhere!

Case Study 2 – Paul’s Ministry Journey

Acts 16:25-31(NKJV) – “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Acts 27:20-25 (NKJV) – “Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up. But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.”

2 Corinthians 11:23-30 (NKJV) – “Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.”

Paul’s life provides an array of examples of ministering the gospel anywhere and everywhere. Throughout his life, He chose to evangelize in every place he went, often under horrendous circumstances. He never allowed his environment to deter him from spreading The Gospel. He chose to always boast in Christ! Paul and Silas praised God even while in prison and as a result, the jailer and his family accepted Christ.

The Lord has called us ALL to fulfill The Great Commission! Jesus is coming soon for His bride and we all need to be ready. Let’s be faithful laborers and evangelize all the time and everywhere.

1

Stay Focused: Avoid Theological Debates

Stay Focused: Avoid Theological Debates

Written By: Dr. Angel

Welcome to Part 22 of our current blog series; "Evangelism". Click here for Part 21, "How Do We Evangelize? - Share YOUR Testimony!".

The seventh and final practical key to evangelism is “Stay focused: Avoid theological debates.”

Titus 3:8-11 (NASB) – “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

Be careful that you remain focused on the goal of sharing The Gospel. Along the way, you will encounter individuals who ascribe to a different belief system, doctrine, or spiritual perspective. The reason you are evangelizing is to tell others about the love of Christ. It is the truth that make us free (John 8:32). Therefore, it is vitally important to communicate the word of God accurately so that the truth is presented. You must know the word of God and be able to give an answer for the reason that you believe at any time.

2 Timothy 2:15(NASB) – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 4:2(NKJV) – “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”

However, the goal is not to win arguments, boast of your knowledge, or demonstrate your intelligence. The goal is to present the truth in love unto the winning of souls to Christ! At the end of the conversation, if you have simply won an argument but lost the heart of the person, you have lost overall. Does this bring glory to the name of Christ?

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) – “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Mark 8:36 (KJV) – “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NASB) – “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) – “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”

If you do not know what to say or how to say it, pray and ask the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things, and tell you exactly what you need to say at the right moment (Luke 12:12). When you are evangelizing, remain focused on presenting the truth of the Word of God. Do not engage in fruitless debates or arguments that only result in strife and division. Present the truth in love with a heart solely motivated to win lost souls to Christ.

1

Share YOUR Testimony!

Share YOUR Testimony!

Written By: Dr. Angel

Welcome to Part 21 of our current blog series; "Evangelism". Click here for Part 20, "How Do We Evangelize? - Be Relevant: Connect With People Where They Are".

The sixth practical key to evangelism is; "Be personal: Share YOUR testimony."

Revelation 12:11(KJV): “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

Your personal testimony of what the Lord has done is more powerful than engaging in a theological debate. No one can argue with you about the lifestyle change and heart transformation you experienced when Jesus encountered you. Who can argue about what your eyes saw, your ears heard, or your heart felt when you met Jesus? No one can argue with the word of your testimony concerning His blood and what His blood has done in your life! Sharing YOUR testimony is one of the most powerful tools you have when evangelizing to the lost.

Let’s look at six biblical accounts when individuals shared personal testimonies about Jesus Christ.

1)Paul’s Testimony: Paul shared his personal testimony of life before and after encountering Christ.

1 Timothy 1:12-17 (AMP) – “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has granted me [the needed] strength and made me able for this, because He considered me faithful and trustworthy, putting me into service [for this ministry], even though I was formerly a blasphemer [of our Lord] and a persecutor [of His church] and a shameful and outrageous and violent aggressor [toward believers]. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief. The grace of our Lord [His amazing, unmerited favor and blessing] flowed out in superabundance [for me, together] with the faith and love which are [realized] in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful and trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance and approval, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example or pattern for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King of the ages [eternal], immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

2)The Samaritan Woman’s Testimony: Jesus’ knowledge of her life story caused her to evangelize. Her encounter with Jesus compelled her to run into town, testify of Christ and lead many to Him.

John 4:28-30(NIV) – “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.”

John 4:38 (NIV) – “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

3)The Blind Man’s Testimony: His testimony was undeniably supported by his healing. No one could argue with his testimony of receiving sight after his personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

John 9:6-7 (NLT) – “…Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!” His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!” But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

John 9:10-11 (NLT) – “They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?” He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!” “Where is he now?” they asked. “I don’t know,” he replied .Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

John 9:24 -25 (NLT) – “So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.” “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

4)John The Baptist’s Testimony: John was a "forerunner voice" preparing the way for the coming Messiah. He witnessed the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and resting on Jesus. His testimony about the Lamb of God caused many to follow Jesus including two of his very own disciples. Concerning John, Jesus declared "I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist..." (Matt. 11:11) What a powerful endorsement from the Lord! 🙂

John 1:23 (NLT) - "John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: "I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, Clear the way for the LORD's coming!"
John 1:29-37 (NLT) - “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel .”Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God. ”The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.”

5)Andrew’s Testimony: Andrew went and testified to his brother Simon about the Messiah. His testimony resulted in Simon meeting Jesus and being named Apostle Peter.

John 1:40-42 (NLT) – “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”. Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter).”

6)Men Walking To Emmaus Testimony: The men testified about their hearts burning within them as Jesus spoke to them and explained the scriptures to them after His resurrection.

Luke 24:28-34 (NLT) - “By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if He were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So He went home with them. As they sat down to eat, He took the bread and blessed it. Then He broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And at that moment He disappeared!” They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”

Remember, no one can argue with you about what the Lord has personally done in your life. Only you know the whole story of what Jesus has done in your life! So, be personal and share YOUR testimony. The enemy would like to keep you silent because he knows that your testimony could effectively lead others to Christ. Don’t keep silent! Start testifying about how the Blood of Jesus has changed YOUR life!

3

Young Atlanta Pastor Confession #9 - Be Sure God Called You To Pastor Or You'll Quit!

Photo credit: fuzzcat via Foter.com / CC BY

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the ninth point; "9) If you're not sure that The Lord called you to be a pastor, quit now because you'll eventually do it anyway.

For the previous point click the following link; "Young Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, Just For Someone Else!"

James 3:1(NLT) - Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Big houses, big checks, big stages, private jets, fancy cars, VIP treatment, bodyguards, cameras, etc. Just another day in the lives of "The Real Pastors of Somewhere". Well, that's the dream of some after watching too much television. Some young ministers dream of being the next Pastor Joel Osteen, Pastor Andy Stanley, Bishop TD Jakes or Pastor Creflo Dollar so they "step out in faith" and pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, the dream only lasts for a very short while before reality throws cold water on their faces and wakes them up. These powerful, internationally known men of God with successful ministries represent the top 1%. There's a 99% chance that none of us will be one of them.

For the 99%, starting a church is so not glamorous. It's quite the opposite. It's about sacrifice and it will cost you more at the beginning than you'll get out of it. There will be tough days, weeks, months or even years when you will feel like quitting. During those times, if you're not sure that The Lord has called you to do it, that's exactly what you will do. That's probably a good thing because God can use those situations to remove people who enter the ministry for the wrong reasons. It's similar to the test God gave to Abraham in Genesis 22 when He asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac. There's nothing more harrowing than putting your dream on the altar and killing it.

John 12:24-25(NLT) - I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.

I have had to answer the following question in my heart several times; "If nothing big comes of The Body Church would you still be happy being the pastor?" To be honest, my answer is yes. In fact, I find so much joy in knowing that God is pleased with our faithfulness that I forget to count how many people are actually in the room. I've put the future of the church on the altar before God and settled the issue. We can't make this thing work by ourselves. We can only obey God. He makes it work. If that means pushing through this early season of the church with a few faithful people wearing multiple hats, taking on multiple responsibilities and filling multiple roles, then let's do it to the best of our ability.

The fantasy has died. We let it die the day we realized that God's definition of success is predicated upon obedience to His Will. I'm so proud of the group we have. Every week they put a smile on their faces and take care of their responsibilities with the joy of The Lord. At one point in each service, we point to the North, South, East and West calling the people God has already called to be with us. We encourage each other to keep our eyes on Jesus because He is the reason why we are together in this journey. We have given it all over to The Lord. When He makes things happen they will happen. Until then, we will keep showing up and doing our part. Building The Church of Jesus Christ is not our dream, it is His. We're just privileged to be a part of it.

Luke 9:62(NLT) - But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

There's no turning back. I once heard a preacher say that there's no such thing as a former pastor. When you sign up for this job, you do it for life. It's like becoming a supreme court judge. You don't leave this vocation and reinvent yourself as something else. You leave everything else you're doing and reinvent yourself as a pastor. Outside of health issues or transitioning the ministry to the next generation we don't get the luxury of answering the call of God to lead His church then changing our minds when things get rough. It's like a marriage. You made the decision to say yes, now you have to do your best to stay faithful to your commitment and make it work.

Nevertheless, I do acknowledge how difficult it gets sometimes for those who have chosen this path. It's difficult to watch the vision move forward much slower than we could have imagined. It's discouraging when people don't show the same level of faithfulness to you that you've shown to them. It's discouraging when it seems like The Word of God is not bringing the level of results you would expect. It's discouraging when people question your integrity out of complete ignorance regardless of what you've done to prove otherwise. On top of all that, I acknowledge that eventually some pastors just get tired. When it costs more to keep the ministry going than the return on investment it starts to become an unsustainable effort. Yet, we cannot quit. That's the easy way out.

Galatians 6:9(NKJV) - And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

My goodness, this scripture is a life-saver. Believe me, I've had my moments when I wondered if this "church thing" would ever work out right. After all the effort, all the money spent, all the ideas, all the studying of The Bible, all the worship team practice, all the attention to detail, all the relationship building, all the outreach, it seemed like something would still go wrong. One time, there was a leak in the roof and a portion of the ceiling collapsed during worship service. We had to just keep going.

Another time, the AC would not work on an extremely hot day. We opened the doors and shook our heads in disbelief. Still, another time the heat would not work on an extremely cold day. I had to leave in the middle of the service to go find a space heater. Problem solved, right? Wrong! We finally got the heater into the sanctuary, turned it on and it tripped an electrical breaker so we lost power on one side of the room. I looked at my wife, she looked at me and we just smiled.

That's just another day in our journey. Regardless, facility issues are much easier to deal with than the disappointment we face when people we think will be with us all the way turn their backs and walk away. Nothing prepared us for that. That's why we say that if you believe God has called you to do this, just be sure. 🙂 Hopefully, you have a good sense of humor because if you don't know how to laugh under pressure you will cry.

Never assume that anyone will support you faithfully for a long time. That will save you a lot of heartache. Then, if people do remain faithful it will be a pleasant surprise that will only add value to your ministry. The only person who knows the true level of someone's commitment is God. The most valuable resource we have in the church is each other so during challenging times, if we have the right people around us we know we will make it.

So why do we keep showing up every week? The group of us who show up every week believe that this is what God called us to do. Many people don't believe the same but we know God does and that's what matters. If we don't grow weary in doing well, one of these days we will reap a bountiful harvest. God will exalt us publicly when we complete this process. In the near future, we will see our breakthrough and nobody will be able to deny it. We can't lose heart even when things go wrong. We just have to keep rolling. God will have it no other way. We won't quit because there's no quit in us.

4

Special Bulletin: Making Sense of This Crazy Global Economy

Making Sense of This Crazy Global Economy

Proverbs 23:4-5(NLT) - Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.

1.5 Billion dollars! That's the latest lottery jackpot for The Powerball. If someone has the winning ticket that person's life would change forever. All of that person's money problems would be over. The person might pick up some new problems but that's a different issue. We found out that three people from Chino Hills, California; Munford, Tennessee; and Melbourne Beach, Florida had the winning numbers. It would not surprise me if there were a few Christians in the long lines outside of convenience stores and gas stations waiting to buy tickets. Some were believing God to guide them to the right numbers. Come on Jesus! All we do is win! Won't He do it? He did it once, He'll do it again! Maybe that was God's plan to reward some lucky tithe payers somewhere. Maybe not.

30 dollars! That's how low the oil price has fallen. That's a 70% drop in 18 months! As the oil price sunk lower and lower so did the hearts of people in countries with oil dependent economies. Some economists think it will only go lower. Perhaps as low as $10? It's tough times all around. One silver lining would be the low gas prices which we love. SUVs and big cars are selling again because with record low oil prices come record low gas prices.

Sell everything! 2016 will be a cataclysmic year so cash out while you can. That was the advice given to investors by Andrew Roberts, head of European economics, rates and Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and African research at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). China's economic growth is slowing. The stock market is down. The oil price is down. All the signs point to a catastrophic collapse. One of my investment holdings reported horrendous earnings a few nights ago and the value plunged overnight. I guess it's time to jump off a building right? Of course not!

All of this craziness is happening with the world's economy all at once. What exactly are we supposed to do?

Luke 16:8(NLT) - “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.

Well, I can tell you what's not the answer. Doing nothing. When the world's falling apart around you pretending not to notice it and thinking it won't affect you at some point is not an option. Everywhere we look, people are responding to the global financial upheaval. The Trinidad Government is cutting back. Nigeria, Venezuela and seven other OPEC members are pushing with all of their might against their OPEC counterparts Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Quatar and the UAE to lower oil production. OPEC has the power to lower production and raise the oil price but won't do it. Unfortunately, the latter four (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Quatar and the UAE) hold all the cards and will not back down on production until they push the US shale oil producers as well as other non-OPEC producers like Russia out of business.

The world is doing something. There's no guarantee that their plans will work but at least they have a plan. As Jesus stated in Luke 16:8, the children of this world are crafty and cunning when it comes to handling worldly affairs. Sadly, the same can't always be said of the children of God. That's understandable because we are not of this world so we find no pleasure in being experts at the things of this world. Nonetheless, what's happening around us is affecting us so we might want to pay attention where we can and do something to hedge against the disaster that's already here.

Important Biblical Principles To Keep You Sane In The Middle of Financial Insanity

1) Fast Money Is Not God's Answer To Lasting Financial Stability

Proverbs 13:11(NET) - Wealth gained quickly will dwindle away, but the one who gathers it little by little will become rich.

Sorry you didn't win the $1.5 billion jackpot. Maybe next time God will tell you the correct numbers in a dream. Constantly, we hear horror stories of people who get money quickly and lose it just as quickly. Why is that so common? It's a Biblical principle. That's why God will not give you the numbers for the lotto jackpot. He will give you a business idea, an assignment, a gift, favor and an opportunity. Steward them well and you can turn into a money making machine. However, if you think talking in tongues while lining up at the gas station for a lotto ticket is God's answer to your financial problems, think again. Am I saying it's impossible for a Christian to ever win the lotto? Nope. I'm saying that it's not a Biblical financial principle for wealth building and never will be. It can't work for everyone so it can't be a principle.

2) Your Money Will Match Your Mindset

Proverbs 14:24(NLT) - Wealth is a crown for the wise; the effort of fools yields only foolishness.

It's easier to make money than to manage money but the latter determines your long term financial status. Your long-term financial state has more to do with your mindset and money management skills than your talents or luck. Talent and luck may open the door for you to get money but your mindset and money management skills are how you will keep it. This explains why many professional athletes and entertainers who don't understand how money works turn into poor former professional athletes and entertainers. Once the checks stop flowing they have to do something they never mastered and that's manage money. In the same way, many lottery winners blow through their fortunes because they have no idea of what to do with money of that magnitude. Your money will either rise or fall to meet your mindset. If you know what you are doing you can start small and steadily increase your net worth. If you don't know what you are doing you can start big and steadily decrease your net worth. In the end, the wise will rise above the foolish.

3) God Puts Money In The Hands Of People Who Know What To Do With It

Matthew 25:14-29(NLT) - “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.

In this Parable of The Kingdom, Jesus explained that God gives people money in proportion to their abilities. That's His way of holding people accountable. If you want God to put more money in your hands then you have to do two things; increase your financial management ability and demonstrate it by successfully managing what you already have. That's how God works. He doesn't spread wealth evenly. Those who do well with what they've been given are rewarded and those who don't do well lose what they have. God's plan for your long term financial success is not giving you wealth you have not demonstrated the ability to handle. Stop waiting for your lucky break or a million dollars to fall out of the sky. That's not established Biblical wisdom so you can't plan your financial future around it.

4) Don't Spend All You Earn

Proverbs 21:20(NLT) - The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.

This might be the simplest financial principle ever but unfortunately, it still needs to be said. The world's economy is not in good shape so don't spend your entire paycheck. The Bible describes that as foolish. Live below your means and save as much as you can because you have no idea what could happen next. Even if you don't have a reliable income stream for any period of time your savings buy you time to figure things out. Essentially, your financial state is a measurement of what you have left after your financial commitments. You can improve your state by either increasing your income or decreasing your expenditure. When the latter is below the former you can build your savings.

If you want to spend more and still save then you have to figure out ways to generate more income. One way to do that is give yourself a raise by finding a higher paying job. Another is to pick up a second job. Even if it doesn't pay that much it provides additional income. You can also figure out innovative ways to get money. I have a couple that I won't share in this forum but believe me, they exist. Another is to develop your gifts and talents. What do you do extremely well that people would be willing to pay you for? I've been working hard on mine all my life. I hope you have been too. In times like these you may need to pull on them. Regardless, it doesn't matter how much you earn, don't spend all of it. That's not wise.

5) Be Excellent In Your Work Because It Will Affect Your Money

Proverbs 22:29(NKJV) - Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.

Luke 12:42-44(NLT) - And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.

Everyone loves excellence. We may not all be willing to pay the price to operate in excellence in our own lives but we usually prefer those who deal with us to do so with excellence. God's established wisdom is that people who excel and demonstrate faithfulness are rewarded. If we accept that wisdom we position ourselves for promotion in the midst of mass layoffs or faithful clients when everyone else has to scale back. The time of reckoning comes for everyone so it's wise to prepare for it now. Be excellent in all that you do. If you own your business, God will reward you with clients of a higher echelon. If you work for someone, God will reward you with promotion. Excellence never goes unnoticed. Even when you think nobody else sees, God does and He rewards what He sees.

6) Don't Stop Sowing Financially Into God's Kingdom

Matthew 6:33(NLT) - Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Proverbs 11:24-25(NLT) - Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

In tough economic times the one advantage we do have as Christians is access to God's economic system. So it would behoove us to continue to participate in it. Keep tithing. Keep sowing. Keep investing in the work of The Lord. You can't get out of God's system what you do not put into it. This is not the time to skip out on your tithes. If you generate income, be sure to give The Lord His 10%. That's established Biblical wisdom. Don't give into the temptation to remove yourself from God's covering on your finances in an effort to save a very small portion of your total income. It's better to have money coming in and pay your tithes than to get your flow of money cut off as a result of circumventing Biblical wisdom.

7) Don't Panic, Pray and Experience God's Peace

Philippians 4:6-7(NLT) - Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I prayed in tongues this morning. When's the last time you've done that? Hopefully, you just did because when things start looking crazy, prayer is your only answer. The world's economy is shaking all around us but we can have peace. It's a peace that exceeds understanding. That's what we need. Worrying will get us nowhere. Common sense says that we're supposed to panic. As we watch the stock market plunge and our investments suddenly lose value what are we supposed to do? Cry? Nope! We pray and enjoy the peace of God. Let the world panic and go crazy. Yes, the global economy is going crazy right now but that doesn't mean we have to.

In sum, let's get real about a few things. The rich are still getting richer and the poor are still getting poorer while the middle class are being stretching thin. That's not changing soon. The oil price is going to have to go back up eventually. It's a rigged system and it's rigged to make money for the people who are rigging it. If dropping the price helps them to make money they will drop it. When it causes them to start losing money they will raise it. They are losing money by the billions so before they run out of savings they will have no choice but to manipulate production and raise the price again.

Nothing is for certain in this world so put all of your trust in The Lord. Many people are in a state of complete fear concerning their financial future and that's understandable. We can't participate in that. The Lord is on our side and He won't abandon us at a time like this. He is speaking and it's our job to listen to what He has to say. There's so much more to be said but I've said enough for now. Think about what you already know and do something with that. Nonetheless, if you want to dig even deeper, watch this video. It will help.

5

Young Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, Just For Someone Else!

Pastor Confession #8 - Some People Will "Love" Your Ministry, But For Someone Else!

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the eighth point; "8) Some people will think your ministry is awesome, but for someone else.

For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 7 - The Buck Stops With The Pastor"

Proverbs 28:23(NLT) - In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.

It's really hard to just tell someone the truth when we know it might hurt the person's feelings. As a result, we've found innovative ways to work our way around it. Out of the goodness of our hearts we try to let people down as easy as possible. Instead of a boss telling a poor performing employee the real reason why he's being fired, the boss might say, "We value all of our employees but our company has had to make some difficult decisions due to the slowdown in the economy. You have been a great asset but we now have no choice but to let you go." Instead of a girlfriend who is totally bored of her boyfriend telling him the real reason why he's being dumped she might say, "Sweetheart, it's not you, it's me. You're a great man and I just don't deserve you. You need someone better than me. I'm just not ready for this level of commitment."

Keeping it real is an especially difficult thing to do for the average Christian and that's understandable. We want to be nice and always have something good to say to others. So to help us communicate our true feelings without actually saying them, we've developed unique codes that get the message across with some success. For instance, when people tell us how great our church is for someone else without ever mentioning their own attendance that's really code for saying it's not good enough for them. After hearing them enough times and seeing the results, we're gradually learning how to proficiently decode those messages.

"My cousin could really do with a church like this... My aunt would love this place... My friend from college needs to be here... This church is exactly what my brother-in-law is looking for..." Each of those statements sound like compliments but the truth is that neither their cousin, aunt, college friend or brother-in-law is even aware of our existence and they have no intention of letting them know. They just don't want to hurt our feelings by telling us that they are not interested and we won't be seeing them again. It's very easy to project positive feedback on someone who is not there because at no point do they need to verify what they're saying and they also know that we won't hold them accountable either.

Proverbs 24:26(MSG) - An honest answer is like a warm hug.

Warm hugs are priceless; so are honest answers. On the other hand, answers that are less than honest only delay offense. They never eliminate it. Someone might be able to spare your feelings today by flattering you with nice words but one of these days you will discover the truth. At that point your feelings won't be spared. After considering that reality, don't you see the value of honesty? It might be a hard pill to swallow upfront sometimes but it eliminates the time-release offensive nature of flattery.

Ultimately, pastors value commitments more than compliments so if someone's intention is not to commit to the ministry, the compliments carry much less weight. Of course, that's unless the person is physically incapable of joining the church due to distance or is already fully committed and plugged into another ministry. In that case, we appreciate the compliments for what they are since they are more likely to be genuine. Otherwise, telling us of potential interest in the ministry from other people while showing no personal interest does little for us. We know what that means. We've heard it enough times to decode it. For what it's worth, thanks for being nice. 🙂

1 Corinthians 12:12,18(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ... But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

All in all, we understand that God puts people where He wants them. So if The Lord speaks to a person about joining our church the door is wide open. However, if He does not, we have no problem with that. We are just amused by the myriad statements we hear from people who don't know how to say that The Lord didn't call them to be with us. Telling us how much they love the ministry for someone else is just one of them. We know that God didn't call them to be with us so it's our prayer that they find the place where God did call them.

We just rather people be honest instead of telling us things they don't mean. If the church really is that good for the person they know, then they should just invite the person instead of telling us about it. If that's not the case then we appreciate the visit and may God richly bless them. The simple takeaway from this point is the following: We always prefer the truth. Yet, we have nothing against well-meaning people who say what they don't mean because they just want to encourage us to keep going. Thanks for the encouragement and if truly believe that your co-worker's uncle's friend's neighor's son should really check us out at The Body Church feel free to forward an invitation.

🙂
6

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 7 - The Buck Stops With The Pastor

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 7 - The Buck Stops With The Pastor

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the seventh point; "7) If you don't take personal responsibility for the success of your ministry, do not expect anyone else to do so.

For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 6 - People's Giving Reveals Their Hearts"

Luke 12:42-48(NLT) - And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful. “And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

Leadership is more about responsibility than it is about authority. On the most basic level, when people assign a leader to a task they make that person ultimately responsible for getting it done. When things go well, good leaders are rewarded but are still expected to share the glory with everyone else involved who helped them make it happen. On the other hand, when things go wrong, leaders are expected to take the blame for themselves. Good leaders know that they don't get to pass blame on to their team without implicating themselves. Even when it's not really their fault they can't throw other people under the bus to save themselves. This is even more pronounced when it comes to spiritual things.

The leader of The Church is Jesus Christ which makes Him ultimately responsible for His people. However, pastors are low to mid-level managers given the responsibility by Jesus to lead other servants in the local church. When things go right at a church assembly, first and foremost God gets all the glory. Once God gets the glory, everyone else who serves in the ministry deserves appreciation for the part they've played including the pastor. We should all understand that.

Running a church successfully takes a team of dedicated, selfless individuals whose hearts are submitted to The Will of The Lord. However, when things go wrong in the church, blame is not shared equally. Those who are in positions of leadership, especially the pastors are judged more strictly. People don't look around at each other when things are falling apart, they look up to the leader to do something. Not just that, if that leader is a mid-level manager like pastors are in The Body of Christ, upper management, namely Jesus Christ is looking down to that leader to take responsibility for his/ her assignment.

James 3:1(NLT) - Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

I remember our first year as youth pastors. We planned our first youth conference at the church within a couple months and laid out the schedule for the entire team in advance. Everyone was excited. The first session took place on a Friday night. We arrived early, rehearsed all the roles and responsibilities with the team then anticipated smooth sailing through the weekend's proceedings. At 7:00 PM sharp the Friday night proceedings began. We promptly took our seats in the front and looked forward to enjoying the service with everyone else. At least, that's what we thought.

It didn't take long for things to start going wrong. I can hardly remember exactly what happened but I do remember how it felt. We just wanted to sink into our seats and pretend we were not involved. Then from across the room we could feel the eyes of our pastors. People were looking at them and they were looking at us. I remember that look because I saw it before. It's the same look my parents gave me when I had done something wrong. If a picture says a thousand words, that look said one million.

I looked at Angel, she looked at me and we both knew what we had to do. Get up and get to work. That day we learned a valuable lesson. We can't be in charge of a church department then expect to sit down and enjoy an event our department is putting on. We have to take up residence in the back of the church and quarterback the event to success. As the leaders we must take personal responsibility for our department's success. If that means running wild behind the scenes to ensure everything looks smooth to the public so be it. That's our job!

Hebrews 13:17(NLT) - Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

This scripture is one of the main reasons why I was initially hesitant to become the pastor of a local church. Our job is to watch over the souls of the people God has assigned to us. Hence, God holds us accountable. That's why it hurts when members of our churches lose their way and walk outside of The Will of God. It's not just their problem. It's our problem. That's one reason why we pray for our members early in the morning each weekday. It's also why we don't just sing random songs for worship, preach random messages or carry out random initiatives at the church.

Everything we do at the church has a purpose. That's to ensure that the people assigned to us are successful in every area of their lives with special emphasis on the prosperity of their souls. So when people fail we feel like we fail. I remember dealing with a situation recently at my father's church where a lady at the church had lost her husband to senseless violence. As a fellow believer, I was so frustrated at seeing the pain on her face and feeling essentially powerless.

What happened to the angels who are supposed to lift us up lest we dash our foot against a stone? (Psalm 91) Why wasn't his life redeemed from destruction? (Psalm 103) Why didn't it work? The truth is that we don't know and I guess that's where the frustration came from. Pastors are supposed to have the answers. Yet, situations arise that we cannot explain. Hence, when we don't have the answers what are we supposed to say? Nothing! If people look to us and we have no idea what to do, we join them and look to God because He alone as the ultimate leader of The Church always knows what to do. In those instances we must remind ourselves and The Church that our ultimate leader will always be Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:28(NLT) - Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.

We thank God for Apostle Paul's honesty. As a man, it's hard enough to be responsible for your family. As a pastor, it's hard enough to be responsible for your local church. Yet, he was an Apostle over more churches than any of us and successfully navigated the challenges. Every Epistle was a letter to a particular church or group of churches in a region. In each letter, he addressed the issues in that church including answering the difficult questions that were posed to him. He had to hear from God to create updated spiritual guidelines which were not already clearly outlined in the scriptures.

There was no television. There was no Internet. There was no radio. There were no telephones. There was no mobile communication. There was no air-travel. He had to write letters to the churches until he could physically get there by land or sea. Now consider how he felt when he received a letter from a church about some mess going on there. What was he supposed to do? Not a whole lot. He could pray and he could write. That's about it! Well, not really. This is Apostle Paul we're talking about here. He didn't need technology. He was a spiritual giant. Our cell phones, Internet, private jets, Facebook and "Face time" have nothing on the spirit realm. Check this out!

1 Corinthians 5:1-15(NLT) -I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship. Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.

WOW! While Paul was in Ephesus, he received a letter about some trouble in Corinth but the distance was no problem for him. He told the leaders of the church to call a meeting and both he and Jesus will show up to the meeting in the spirit. He said what? He didn't just say he would show up to the meeting he said that he was already there. Now that's some kind of Apostolic anointing. He dealt with the issues with boldness and spiritual authority. Put the man out! Paul said to hand the guy who was giving trouble over to Satan to destroy his body so his soul could be saved. That's bold!

Yes, he walked around with the daily burden of the churches on his shoulders but if he ever needed to take care of business he could handle it from wherever he was. Why? There is no time or distance in the spirit. From wherever he was in Ephesus, he passed judgment on the person in Corinth prior to the meeting and the meeting was just a formality. It was his personal responsibility to ensure that the churches he founded were successful. Therefore, he wasn't afraid to use the authority and power that Jesus gave him in the spirit to take care of his business.

Jeremiah 3:15(KJV) - And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Pastors don't volunteer for the job. They are called out from among the people by God. They are then given to The Church as gifts to feed His people with knowledge and understanding. That is a big responsibility and can feel like a burden sometimes but God has given us His power to do it. Jesus said in Matthew 11:30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. It sure is when we carry it with His power. When we don't cast our cares on The Lord (1 Peter 5:7) and decide to carry it all in our own strength we get completely worn out and feel like giving up.

Ephesians 4:8-14(NLT) - That is why the Scriptures say, "When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself. Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

Don't take your apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for granted. We are responsible for equipping God's people to do His work and build up The Church. We have to do this until the entire church is unified in the faith and all Christians have a proper understanding of Jesus. Most importantly, our assignment ensures that all Christians mature in The Lord and become more and more like Christ. When we carry out our calling, the immaturity that allows Christians to be vulnerable to false doctrines will be broken throughout The Body of Christ. It's a high calling but God has equipped us to carry it out.

7

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 6 - People's Giving Reveals Their Hearts

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 6 - People's Giving Reveals Their Hearts

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the sixth point; "6) There's a strong correlation between the consistency of people's giving and their commitment to your ministry." For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 5 - Enthusiasm Is Not Commitment."

Matthew 6:19-21(NKJV) - “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Find your treasure, find your heart. One of the best ways to find out who's really for you out of everyone who is with you at your church is to check the giving records. Anybody can say they are with you but you can separate the real from the fake when you find out who is giving and who is not. Not just that, giving records allow you to see the changes in a member's attitude to your ministry. When someone with a reputation of consistent giving starts scaling back without some legitimate financial reason it's an early sign of pending trouble.

This is one lesson we did not learn until after getting it wrong. We totally missed the signs until it all blew up in our faces. At that point, we had the benefit of hindsight which is always 20-20. Even when we don't know what's going on in people's lives, their giving reveals what's in their hearts. If you value your money, you will invest your money where you see value and that's a fact. The best way to evaluate your life's priorities is to find out where you invest your time and your money. Thus, the more you invest in the ministry, the more of a priority it is to you.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5(NLT) - Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

Let's take this discussion into another dimension as we analyse what Apostle Paul is saying in the aforementioned scripture. The churches in Macedonia were full of poor people who were also going through tough times in other areas of their lives. However, they were full of joy and extremely generous. Their giving was completely voluntary and not in response to any pressure or gimmicks. In fact, they insisted on giving more and more even when it appeared that Apostle Paul wanted them to take it easy.

They outdid themselves and didn't use their financial state as an excuse. Why? Before they gave the little money they had, they gave themselves both to The Lord and to Paul's ministry team. Think about it. That's the proper order. Once they had given themselves to God and the ministry first, their money came along for the ride. It didn't matter that they were poor. It didn't matter that they were in the middle of difficult times. Nothing could stop them from giving their money because they had already given their hearts. There was no struggle to give what was essentially already given.

As a result, we can safely conclude that giving money is not just about the actual money. It's about giving your heart. Your money is a tool used for expressing what's in your heart. We know you've given your heart to The Lord and to us, when we see you giving your money. Why? Whoever or whatever has your heart, has your money. How much you give, how often you give and how you give reveals what's on the inside of your heart. Like the Macedonians, when you've given yourself first to The Lord and to the ministry, you will give lavishly, frequently and with joy.

1 Corinthians 9:7-18(NLT) - What soldier has to pay his own expenses? What farmer plants a vineyard and doesn’t have the right to eat some of its fruit? What shepherd cares for a flock of sheep and isn’t allowed to drink some of the milk? Am I expressing merely a human opinion, or does the law say the same thing? For the law of Moses says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest. Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ. Don’t you realize that those who work in the temple get their meals from the offerings brought to the temple? And those who serve at the altar get a share of the sacrificial offerings. In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge. Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News! If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.

All preachers want is your money! Right? You should only give if you know how they plan to use it. Right? You should only give if all the money went to the poor? Right? WRONG! Have you ever heard any of that before or have you even thought or said it? Apostle Paul really set the church straight and we're so happy he did. He was willing to preach for free and work on the side just so that nobody would confuse his desire to preach the gospel with greediness for money.

I completely understand where he's coming from and applaud many pastors I know who work hard on the side developing multiple streams of income. These are great men and women of God who don't have to do that but choose to do so due to the sometimes toxic atmosphere that exists around the topic of money in church. People who don't have a heart for the ministry always struggle to give because their heart is elsewhere. It also pains them to know that the pastor might benefit in some way from their money.

I've confronted people over the years concerning their giving in church long before I became a pastor. I did it with a clear conscience because I understand the principle. We don't make the rules, we just remind people of their existence. Everyone has to give including us for the spiritual flow to be smooth in the church. We give our time. We give our money. We give spiritual food. We give everything we have. I know pastors who took furniture from their homes and brought it to the church so that the church would have furniture.

I know of pastors' wives who work at the church for little to nothing while the pastor works another job to support the family. Come on! May God bless them 100 fold in this time and with eternal life in the time to come. The giving in the church can't pay their salary so what are they supposed to do? They gave themselves to The Lord first and then to their church so even if they had to sacrifice to make things work, they would do it with joy.

Your giving to The Lord through the local church or the ministers you support around the world is about you and God. It is not about the preachers and if you make it about the preachers you are completely misled. When you understand the concept of spiritual exchange, you will understand that God put the principle of giving in place. It exists so that you will have a way to respond when you receive spiritual food. It exists so that you will benefit from The Anointing that's on the person you give to. Therefore, once again, it's true that if you value The Anointing on the pastor and the ministry, you will give with joy.

2 Corinthians 9:1-15(NLT) - I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem. For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving. But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them! So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly. Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

There's no better way to end this point than with 2 Corinthians 9. Do you know that one of the hallmarks of the early church was their giving? I don't hear many people talk about that. We talk about the miracles. We talk about their sense of community. We talk about their passion for The Lord. We talk about their prayer. However, we also need to talk about their giving because they worked hard to out-give each other. The Macedonians were big givers but the Grecian church would not be left in the dust. Apostle Paul challenged the churches to give to support the ministry as he traveled around and they responded.

It pays to give and it pays to give with joy. As leaders in The Body of Christ our job is to challenge people with The Word of God and then let God's people respond. His Word says that He will reward and multiply everything you give. He will also provide all of your needs. He considers your financial offerings as seed and intends to multiply them and return to you a harvest. Also, when you give it causes those who receive to praise The Lord. It's a win, win, win. Nobody loses.

Join us next time for the next point;

7) If you don't take personal responsibility for the success of your ministry, do not expect anyone else to do so.

5

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 5 - Enthusiasm Is Not Commitment

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 5 - Enthusiasm Is Not Commitment

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to answer the call of God to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned".

Today, we highlight the fifth point; "5) When people act "over the top" eager about your church when they first show up, don't assume they'll stay long or even show up again." For the previous point click the following link; "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Lesson 4 - You know more about being a pastor when you're not an actual pastor."

Enthusiastic Visitor: Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! I absolutely love your church! I've been looking for a place like this for so long. This is what I've been praying for. You guys are so awesome. I can feel the love in the air. Hallelujah! (Sobbing) I.... I... am... finally... home. I... have... found my church. My search is over. I just love this place. Pastor, whatever you need I will do it. I have the heart of a servant and don't believe in just sitting in a church. I am ready to work. You have a soldier on your side. When I say I'm with someone I mean it. Let's do this!

Pastor: Well, Praise The Lord! (Overjoyed) He has answered our prayer. We have the person we've been praying for. Hallelujah! What a mighty God we serve. We can start putting things in place. After we do some planning this week let's talk some more about it when we see you at church next week.

One week later.... Enthusiastic visitor does not show up at church.

Two weeks later.... No sign of enthusiastic visitor.

Three.. four... five.. weeks... months... years. No sign of enthusiastic visitor. 🙁

Matthew 5:37(NKJV) - But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Jesus could not be more direct. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Just say what you mean and mean what you say. Don't lie to people even if you think it will make them feel better. Don't swear to God. Don't promise. Don't do anything extra. Don't pretend. Just express your true intentions or say nothing at all. That's the example God set for us. If He says something He means it. Actually, that's the foundation of our faith because faith comes by hearing and hearing by The Word of God. (Romans 10:17) If we can't trust that God will follow up on His Word, we're done.

Isaiah 55:10-11(NKJV) - “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

As you can clearly see, God's Word is guaranteed. Sadly, it took us much too long to realize that very few people even try to live up to this standard. People have come to our church, looked us in our eyes and say they are with us but then completely disappear off the face of the earth. We have heard it all and initially we believed every one of them. We were gullible because we trusted the sincerity in their eyes. If everyone who said they would be back actually showed up we would need to have multiple services. We would have absolutely no room to hold them all.

It's unfortunate but true that many people, including those in The Church, don't give high value to their words. They can say something and not follow through without feeling an overwhelming sense of conviction. I don't know how they do it. If I tell you I'll do something I feel horrible if I don't. My words have been given power by God so I don't make declarations that I don't believe or promises I can't fulfill. I rather just tell you the truth even if it offends you, say nothing or delay my decision until I am sure. Those are my three options. Lying is not one of them. I won't say I'm with you if I know I'm not. Fortunately, Jesus shared in our experiences.

Luke 9:57-62(NLT) - As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

"Jesus, we love you so much. We'll follow you anywhere you go. If you can use any thing Lord you can use me." Does that sound familiar? That's what people told Jesus when He walked the earth and that's what many of us tell Him now. However, even though that's what we say, what we mean might be slightly different. That explains why Jesus never got carried away with people's enthusiasm about following Him. He made it clear that the path He walked was not the convenient path and there was a high price for anyone who chose to walk it with Him.

John 2:23-25(NLT) - Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.

Jesus had the distinct advantage of knowing people's hearts. As a result, nobody flattered Him. He knew why people wanted to follow Him and why the numbers swelled after He performed great miracles. That's why He didn't trust them. He knew human nature. Many of those people wanted to be entertained by the show He was putting on while others just wanted to see what He would do for them. So if Jesus had a problem finding committed people who wanted to be with Him just for who He was and not for what He could do, why would it be any different for us?

We're in a new generation with new ideals, mindsets and standards. However, they're not really new. They existed in the time of Jesus. It's just that we see it so much more now. Many people are free spirits. They consider themselves to be free agents that can be part of The Church as a global body without committing to a local church family. They can show up anywhere on any given Sunday, support any ministry and do anything, anytime in any way. It feels like bondage to be tied down. They don't want to commit. They don't want to settle. Even if they commit, they don't want to give their all to grow their local church community.

Honestly, there's a bigger problem than merely a lack of true commitment to church membership. Many people struggle with commitment as a whole. It's hard to commit to marriage, family, career, working out, eating right or anything else that's good. It doesn't matter what it is. Commitment is a challenge and being enthusiastic for a short time doesn't compensate for a lack of commitment. Think about the upcoming new year. How many of us are going to make promises to ourselves that we won't keep? This year I'm going to.... Yeah, right. Did you keep your promise last year?

With all that being said, what makes someone truly committed to a local church community? We're not talking about what makes someone like a church or enjoy being at a church. That's not commitment because as soon as you don't like it anymore or you don't enjoy it, you're no longer committed. We're also not talking about what The Church needs to do to get someone to be committed. Commitment is a personal decision. I can't make you be committed and you can't make me be committed. If what we do causes you to commit, your commitment is temporary because if we ever stop doing it, you'll be gone. For The Bible's position on why you should be committed to a local church, read the following blog, "Ask Donnell: If we're the church must we still go to church?"

What does it take for a Christian to be committed to The Body of Christ through the local church? Thankfully, we can find a very comprehensive answer to that question in the scriptures.

What Empowers A Christian To Be Truly Committed To A Local Church Community?

1) Personally Commit To The Lord First Then To The Ministry

2 Corinthians 8:1-5(NKJV) - Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

The Macedonian Church had such an unusual commitment to the ministry of Apostle Paul that he highlighted it in 2 Corinthians 8. They were poor but in spite of their poverty they gave more than every other church in the area. So what was their secret? They first gave themselves to The Lord, then to the ministry by The Will of God. Pay close attention to that statement because it's loaded. They carried out God's Will by giving their all to God first. It was that initial commitment which enabled them to then be committed to supporting the ministry led by Apostle Paul.

When you give yourself over to The Lord, you will do His Will and it is His Will that you commit to a local church. It doesn't have to be our local church but you have to commit somewhere. As a result, "church hopping" for an extended period of time without any intention or desire to commit is direct evidence that an individual has not given themselves wholly over to The Lord. You can't say I'm committed to Christ but you are not committed to The Body of Christ. You also can't say you're committed to The Body of Christ and you are not positioned where God has placed you in His Body. This leads us to the next point.

2) Understand and Accept How God Builds and Structures The Church

1 Corinthians 12:12-18(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

Just like the human body, God puts each part where He wants it. He has a very specific plan for The Body of Christ and very meticulously places people where they need to be to carry out His Will. If you are not where God has placed you, you are not in God's Will. The people who have shown the highest level of commitment are those who were directed by God to be with us. It's alright if God sends you somewhere else because that's where you're supposed to be. However, it's easy to jump from ministry to ministry when you're not sure where God has put you. Just like it's strange for a part of your body to be attached to the wrong place, it's strange for a Christian to be out of place in The Body of Christ.

When you understand this very simple principle of Church structure you will understand why every person must commit to a local church community. In fact, that's one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. It's one you don't want to get wrong because not only does it affect you but it affects the entire body. If your heart was growing out of your foot, your entire body will have a problem. Hopefully, you get the point with that one which leads us to the next point.

3) Count The Cost Before You Commit

Luke 14:25-33(NKJV) - Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Jesus made sure that everyone knew the price they had to pay to follow Him even if that meant He would lose followers as a result. When we commit to Jesus we commit for eternity so it's not a decision we take lightly. He doesn't want temporary followers. He wants those who will be with Him all the way to the end. Therefore, He doesn't expect us to make a snap decision concerning Him. He wants us to think it through, prepare our hearts to pay the price then broadcast our decision.

We have a beautiful family of five at our church who have been with us since the beginning. The father is a deacon, the mother is an elder and the oldest son is an usher. In addition to their leadership roles in the church, each parent is a successful business owner. They are blessed in every way and God continues to increase them mightily. They are an example of commitment and dedication to both The Lord and the ministry.

What's important to note is that they took their time before making the decision to join The Body Church. They were not over the top at the beginning. They were sober, patient and thoughtful. They understood their family's needs and the available resources at what was their current church home at the time. They also understood that as a new ministry, at that point, we could not offer the programs and ancillary ministries other established churches could offer. They took their time and sought The Lord. They counted the cost of their decision then one day, they made the decision to commit to our local church community. The rest is now history in the making.

What's the difference between that family and the scores of others who showed up to church with eagerness and excitement? They counted the cost before they made the commitment. People who show up and in one day act like they could dedicate the rest of their lives to you have not counted the cost of their decision. The same way you don't get married at first sight, you don't commit to a church in an instant. You think about your decision, you weigh the options, you hear from God then you commit. That way, you won't change your mind after a few days, weeks, months or even years.

Luke 22:31-34(NKJV) - And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Don't be so quick to say you're ready to go to the ends of the earth with someone. Peter did it and Jesus didn't trust Him with good reason. As we saw earlier in John 2:23-25 Jesus didn't trust anybody on the earth because He understood human nature. When people are emotionally charged they say more than they need to say. Peter was excited about Jesus but at that point he didn't understand the cost of following Him. His heart was in the right place but he just wasn't ready yet.

Biblical Examples of True Commitment

1) Elisha and Elijah

2 Kings 2:1-15(NKJV) - And it came to pass, when the Lord was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they went down to Bethel. Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent!” Then Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they came to Jericho. Now the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” So he answered, “Yes, I know; keep silent!” Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So the two of them went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood facing them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.

If you want to see commitment modeled in The Bible look no further than this example. Elisha would not leave Elijah even though Elijah tried to get rid of him. Elisha understood that God had assigned him to Elijah and if he left Elijah, he would leave The Will of God for his life. That's how important it is for people to know not just where they have been called to but also who they have been called to. It's because of Elisha's commitment to Elijah that he was able to receive a double portion of The Anointing.

Consider this. What if The Anointing God has for you is connected to the ministry or person God has called you to? Many people do understand that so they flock to ministries where they see the greatest display of The Anointing. That's great but attending a church does not automatically turn into a transfer of The Anointing. As a result, even if you choose to go somewhere that has the power of God on display that doesn't mean you'll walk in that power. Elisha was committed to Elijah. He served Elijah. He cared for Elijah. He didn't just watch Elijah do the work of The Lord, he helped Elijah do it. Then, when the time was right, he received twice Elijah's anointing.

2) Ruth and Naomi

Ruth 1:6-18(NLT) - Then Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had blessed his people in Judah by giving them good crops again. So Naomi and her daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab to return to her homeland. With her two daughters-in-law she set out from the place where she had been living, and they took the road that would lead them back to Judah. But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept. “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.” But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.” And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said nothing more.

Do you want to know why there is no Book of Orpah in The Bible? She left Naomi. When Naomi had nothing left to offer and sent Ruth and Orpah away, only Orpah left. Now, Ruth is a part of church history forever as one who is in the lineage of Jesus while Orpah is only mentioned as part of Ruth's story. That is how God operates. It's totally contrary to what we see around us. People make emotional decisions to join and leave churches every week while God expects us to think about our decision, then stick with it.

Even when Naomi had nothing to offer, Ruth stuck with her. It was Ruth's commitment to her broke, depressed, frustrated mother-in-law that led to her meeting Boaz and her name becoming synonymous with God's restorative power. How many of us can commit to a ministry even in the tough times? What if you don't like everything that's going on? What if all of your needs aren't being met the way you want them to be met for a season at your church? Are you willing to ride through the challenging times at your church until God manifests His blessing to you the way He did for Ruth?

Acts 15:36-41(NLT) - After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.

When John Mark abandoned Apostle Paul in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13) it hurt him deeply because they had built a history of ministry together. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas started their ministry together and they took John Mark along with them as an assistant on their first trip. From that point on, John Mark continued travelling from town to town with them. Hence, when John Mark suddenly left in the middle of their journeys Paul was effectively done with him.

The next time Barnabas brought up John Mark's name as a potential ministry partner Paul was having none of it. In fact, Paul would not back down and was willing to move on without Barnabas because he insisted on including John Mark. Barnabas left Paul that day to team up with John Mark and that was the last we heard of both Barnabas and John Mark. Paul, on the other hand simply changed partners and continued to make history with Silas.

Apostle Paul would not partner with John Mark because of his lack of commitment to the ministry and that's an example for all of us. Initial excitement doesn't matter. Short term enthusiasm doesn't matter. Emotional declarations of love don't matter. Just show up and keep showing up. Let's start there. Once you're consistently showing up make the decision to stay for the long haul. Once you make the decision, commit to it. The Church of Jesus Christ can't be built with people who are here today and gone tomorrow. It is built with committed people.

We hope this blog series is enlightening and informative. Next time we'll discuss Point 6) There's a strong correlation between the consistency of people's giving and their commitment to your ministry.

Slider by webdesign