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An Attitude of Gratitude

An Attitude of Gratitude

1 Thessalonians 5:18(NLT) - Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day in the US. Regardless of the questionable history of the occasion itself, it has become a day for family, fellowship, food and most importantly, gratitude. Why is it so important to be thankful? For Christians the answer is simple. It's the Will of God. That's right! It is God's Will for those of us who belong to Christ Jesus to be thankful in all circumstances. What does that mean? God expects us to do more than just respond naturally to circumstances. If that was the case, He would accept thankfulness and gratitude when things are good but complaining and murmuring when things are bad because that's natural. He wants us to go beyond our natural tendencies to respond to circumstances and proactively decide to be thankful in spite of our circumstances.

Colossians 4:2(AMP) - Be persistent and devoted to prayer, being alert and focused in your prayer life with an attitude of thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is an attitude which means it is a choice. It's not just any choice, it's a very important one. Everyday, you can choose to be thankful for what you have or choose to complain about what you don't. You can choose to be thankful for what is going right or choose to complain about what's going wrong. It's all about perspective. For example, if a glass has water up to its halfway point, some would say a pessimist sees the glass as half-empty and an optimist sees the glass as half-full. May I suggest one more.

A thankful person is grateful to have water in the glass in the first place especially if that person knows what it is like to have an empty glass and be thirsty. That's the attitude God wants us to have. Yet, that's not even what Colossians 4:2 is all about. In that scripture, Apostle Paul emphasizes the important role that an attitude of thankfulness has to our prayer life. He said that not only must we be persistent and devoted to prayer, alert and focused in our prayer life, we must do it with an attitude of thanksgiving.

Philippians 4:6-7(NKJV) - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This is a popular scripture that demonstrates the power of prayer. Instead of being anxious and uneasy about anything in life, we must take everything to God in prayer. However, that's not all. There's a small detail we can't overlook. We must do it with thanksgiving. Don't just pray, but pray with thanksgiving. Since we know now that thankfulness is God's Will, it should not be that hard to understand why He wants us to be thankful when we pray. If we're going to ask God to do something for us, the least we could do is be appreciative of who He is and thankful for what He has already done. Only then, can we access the supernatural peace which comes from God to guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus from doubt, fear and confusion.

Luke 17:11-19(NKJV) - Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Ten men cried out to Jesus for deliverance from leprosy and all ten men received their healing. Without question, they must all have been extremely happy about what they received from Jesus. Yet, only one thought about saying thank you. What's the difference? Nine of them only cared about what Jesus could do for them while one cared about Jesus. Though similar, those two perspectives are quite distinctive and Jesus took notice. First, he asked for the rest of the men who were healed. Jesus then made a prophetic pronouncement over the one who returned to give God glory.

Jesus knew that leprosy was not the only problem he had to deal with. Years of leprosy caused the men to be outcasts from society, potentially costing them their livelihood, family, assets and even their good name. So while nine men only received healing from leprosy, the one man who chose to be thankful received wholeness in every area of his life. If that wasn't worth a simple thank you, I don't know what is. Yet, it's still not simple enough for some people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5(AMP) - But understand this, that in the last days dangerous times [of great stress and trouble] will come [difficult days that will be hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self [narcissistic, self-focused], lovers of money [impelled by greed], boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, [and they will be] unloving [devoid of natural human affection, calloused and inhumane], irreconcilable, malicious gossips, devoid of self-control [intemperate, immoral], brutal, haters of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of [sensual] pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]. Avoid such people and keep far away from them.

These are the last days and many people are simply ungrateful. In some areas of Western society, there is so much prosperity and opportunity that there's a generation of people growing up who feel entitled. They feel like they deserve to get what they want. Life is just supposed to hand them the best just because they are human beings and for no other reason. Even worse, they want what they see others enjoying without considering the cost of earning it themselves. It's all part of our materialistic, greedy, self-centered culture. It's so hard to please people these days because regardless of what they have, they want more. Personal satisfaction and gratefulness to God is just too much to ask.

This passage of scripture put ungrateful people in the same category as people who are selfish, greedy, boastful, arrogant, unholy, profane, brutal, reckless, conceited and much more. How about that? I always thought that ungratefulness was bad but I didn't know it's that bad. Well, it is... It's so bad that the Apostle Paul says to avoid such people and keep far away from them. It sounds harsh but it's good advice. Ungrateful people are toxic and if you hang around them long enough they'll infect you with their ungratefulness and change your attitude to match their own. Hence, follow the advice of the scriptures and stay away from them.

Psalm 95:1-2(KJV) - O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

Psalm 100:4(NKJV) - Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

It's a good thing to be in God's presence. The scripture says in Psalm 16:11 that in God's presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand, unending pleasures. It also says in 2 Corinthians 3:17 that where the Spirit of The Lord is there is freedom. It then says in Matthew 18:20 that where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, there He will be among them. Yet, what it says about God's presence in Psalms 95 and 100 should be considered alongside these other wonderful scriptures. If you want to enjoy the benefits of God's presence, come before His presence with thanksgiving! Don't show up complaining. Don't show up murmuring. Show up with praise and thanksgiving. He's done enough to deserve it! Gratitude is a choice, so choose it today.

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Confession of A Young Atlanta Pastor #12: Many Choose Churches For What They Can Get, Not Give

Confession of A Young Atlanta Pastor #12: Many Choose Churches For What They Can Get, Not Give

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 twelfth and final point; " 12) Many people choose a church for what they can get from the church instead of what they can give."

For the previous point click the following link; "Young Pastor Confession #11) Be careful who you trust. You will be shocked at who might be smiling in your face and talking behind your back."

"I'm just not being fed at that church. They just don't have everything that my family needs. Their facilities are sorely lacking. I love it over here. Every week, our praise service is like a huge concert with smoke, lights and special effects. My pastor's a superstar, more people want his autograph than his blessing. My kids get all they could desire at the children's ministry. We get what we want so this must be where God wants us. Church is about what we can get, right? Isn't it? How else can we grow into what God has called us to become?"

Ephesians 4:14-16(NLT) - 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. 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. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Growth does not come from simply being a part of The Body of Christ and receiving from it. It comes when each part does its own special work. Every part of The Body of Christ has work to do including you and me. This is how Christ put His church together and this is how The Body of Christ grows into a strong, healthy, supernatural organism overflowing with God's Love. Yet week after week, there are Christians all over the US and the rest of the world who go to church services, enjoy the show and go home. The only thing they don't do is eat popcorn and drink slushies as they watch the amazing production that's put on before their eyes.

Due to their consistent attendance, they sometimes feel empowered to even criticize those who actually serve on a weekly basis. If they like what they see on Sunday morning, they give a round of applause and a good offering but if they don't like it, they grumble about what could be better once they reach the privacy of their cars. They went to church to receive from God so if they didn't receive what they came for, something's wrong with that church assembly and somebody needs to fix it. How do I know? I've been there.

For years I sat in a fabulous church and did nothing but watch what was going on around me. I didn't see a need to participate in any meaningful way. I also didn't see where my gifts and talents were even needed. I was there to receive what The Lord had for me so showing up was what mattered and believe me, I was not alone. I felt proud that I didn't miss a Sunday and I even showed up consistently for the midweek services when the crowds were small. That's right! I wasn't a Sunday morning Christian like the rest of them, I attended church during the rest of the week too and God must be so proud of me. Well, not really.

For some reason, many of us have overemphasized the importance of church attendance and under-emphasized the importance of church participation. I agree with Apostle Paul in Hebrews 10:25 that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as some do but that's just the beginning. If you're in a church assembly and you're not doing your special part to make it grow in spiritual health and love, are you really even there?

The point is that if you choose a church assembly for what you can get out of it, what you do to serve in the church when you get there is of no consequence. If you're there to get blessed and you're not getting blessed, you probably won't see any other reason to be there. That's why it's easy for some people to attend a church and take from the community of believers without every feeling compelled to give.

Romans 12:4-8(NLT) - In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

1 Peter 4:10-11(NLT) - God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

Everyone of us has at least one gift from God because everyone of us has a purpose. He won't call us to do anything He didn't give us the gift to do and He won't gift us to do anything He didn't call us to do. God's responsibility was to give the gifts. It is actually the responsibility of each individual Christian to serve God in a local church using the gifts God has given. What does that mean? If you're a church attendee like I used to be, stop warming the bench and get in the game.

Also, if you're on the bench because there's no room for you on the team, it's either not your time or you may be on the wrong team. If it's not your time, then be patient and the opportunity for you will come. However, if you're on the wrong team and it's clear that they don't need you it's time to make a move. There's a team with a vacancy that's tailor made for you and your gifts. Not just that, they're probably praying to God every week that He would send you to them. One of my favorite pastors would say that if two people are completely the same, doing the same things, in the same place, one of them is irrelevant. Let that not be said of you.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27(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. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

As we bring this blog series to a close, let us ponder these final thoughts. Do you believe that The Church is really The Body of Christ and each member including you and me are parts of it? If yes, then think about something with me. If any part of your body does not function the way God designed it to function how do you think it would impact the rest of your body? For instance, what if your heart didn't beat properly? What if your lungs didn't extract oxygen from air anymore?

What if your hand lost its ability to grip? Now take it a step further? What if a part of your body did absolutely nothing at all? For instance, what if your ears did not hear or your eyes did not see? Would that be a problem? Of course! Then why is it that people think it is okay to be a part of The Body of Christ and do nothing while receiving nutrients from the rest of The Body? The scripture above says that God puts each part exactly where He wants it.

What does that mean for you? It means that you are shaped, fashioned and created to fit into a specific place in The Body of Christ. Every member of The Body of Christ was designed by God to be placed in a specific part of the body to carry out a specific function. Eyes see, ears hear, kidneys clean and hearts pump blood not because they want to or it's popular. They do so because that's what God created them to do and if they don't do what they do, the entire body suffers. In fact, any part of the human body that appears not to have a vital function (e.g. appendix) is usually amputated if it ever gives problems.

On another note, every part of The Body of Christ doesn't get to choose where they connect with The Body. They have to be where God has placed them. It might be true that they can attach anywhere and receive from The Body. However, until they are attached where they are supposed to be they will never be able to give to The Body what they were created to give. If my hand is attached to my stomach, it's worthless to my body because that's not where I need a hand. So why is it that some Christians will spend twenty years in a church attached to The Body of Christ where they do not fit?

The Body of Christ has parts all over the place doing all kinds of stuff. We have hands trying to take steps like feet. We have ears trying to talk like mouths. We have toes trying to breathe like lungs. Why? Because we're not positioned according to where we can truly function and serve in God's Kingdom. We positioned ourselves where we want to be and the rest of The Body suffers as a result of it. We also position ourselves where we're most comfortable or receive the most benefit.

Now for my final point about being relevant. If my body has two arms attached to the same shoulder, one is irrelevant. What about thirty arms? Twenty nine are irrelevant. In your church, are you arm number thirty attached to one shoulder waiting for the other twenty nine to die or move so you can get your opportunity? Perhaps, there are twenty nine shoulder sockets in your area missing an arm while that one socket you're attached to has thirty.

Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35(NLT) - All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

What's my point? You're one of the many important parts of the The Body of Christ. Don't attach yourself where it's popular or where you can simply feed off The Body. Attach yourself where you fit and function as you were designed. Covenant membership in The Church is a two-way street. You receive from The Body and you give to it. You are fed by The Body and you feed others in it. That's how God designed His church and that's how it should function. The truth is that if you receive anything from your church it's because someone else is giving it. Again, if you're not in the game, get off the bench and help the team win or join a team that needs your talents.

Acts of the Apostles 20:35(NLT) - And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

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Confession of A Young Atlanta Pastor #11: Be Careful Who You Trust

Trust

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 eleventh point; " 11) Be careful who you trust. You will be shocked at who might be smiling in your face and talking behind your back."

For the previous point click the following link; "Young Pastor Confession #10 - The easiest part of being a pastor is preaching. If that's all you want to do, preach on the street. It's less stressful."

Proverbs 4:23(NLT) - Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

One of my mentors in the ministry is Apostle Daren Phillips of Christ United Church in Loganville, GA. He told me that pastors should always put their hearts in God's hands and not in the hearts of people. Otherwise, some people will break our hearts causing us to become callous toward everyone else which is never good for the ministry.

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.

What would Jesus do? That's the question we often have to ask ourselves as we face life's challenges with the intent of emulating our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How about we reshape the question to offer a different perspective? What would Jesus not do? He would not be naive as the leader of The Church. When He walked the earth He was a people person. He was personable, merciful, loving, forgiving and understanding but He was not gullible.

He knew why people followed Him and could tell that the majority were only there because of the signs and wonders He performed. Most of them could care less about Him as a person because what really mattered in their eyes was what He could do for them. Moreover, one of the twelve disciples proved that Jesus could not even wholeheartedly trust the people closest to Him.

John 12:1-8(NLT) - Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Judas was the treasurer but he was stealing money from Jesus all along. Not just that, Judas had the audacity to open his mouth to comment on what Mary chose to do with her money. Perhaps, he had his eyes on her own too. Think about it. Jesus handpicked His twelve disciples but one of them turned out to have questionable character traits. In fact The Bible says in John 6:70-71(NLT); "Then Jesus said, “I chose the twelve of you, but one is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, one of the Twelve, who would later betray him."

I guess calling Judas a man of questionable character is putting it lightly. Perhaps, Jesus allowed this level of self-deception to take place as a lesson for us. Please note that I used the word self-deception because Judas only deceived himself. Jesus never did trust him and he should have figured that out the first time Jesus called him a devil.

He may not have sold Jesus out to the authorities as yet but he was stealing money all along. One valuable lesson from this story is that if someone on your leadership team could minister alongside you yet steal money from you, put nothing else beyond them. Judas started off just stealing money from the treasury but he ending up setting a trap for Jesus to be arrested and crucified.

Psalms 118:8(NLT) - It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.

It's confession time. I was a naive young pastor and it came back to bite me. Let me break it down. I've been hurt in dating relationships as a single man. I've been hurt at work as a young engineer. I've been hurt in business as a young investor. However, nothing hurt like I was hurt as a young pastor. To watch someone we poured ourselves into for years turn around and disrespect me, my wife and the church hit me deep in my heart. It hurt so much that it took me weeks to recover. I think the biggest thing for me was getting over the shock of being so dishonored by someone we thought so highly of. Worst of all, we never received an apology so we had to forgive without even the slightest hint of repentance.

Through it all, God was with us and I learned a valuable lesson. Trust God and not people. You can trust the God in people but don't be gullible enough to trust people that God does not. If Jesus is our perfect example, we cannot be naive. For every twelve people in our church circle, one of them is not to be trusted with anything at all. Additionally, in much less dramatic fashion, other people have sorely disappointed us during that time because we opened our hearts to any and every person who showed up to church.

When you're just starting a church, especially without a core to start with from another church there's an extreme level of excitement you experience when anyone walks through the door. That's reflected in your willingness to believe whatever they say and plug them in quickly to fill needs in the church. That's not good and we know that now. We've grown over the years and now we're much more discerning. We love everyone but we don't trust them. We trust God and only if He trusts them, we trust them too. Be careful who you trust.

1 Timothy 5:22(NLT) - Never be in a hurry about appointing a church leader. Do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

This is one of the most important scriptures in The Bible for a young pastor. The area that requires the most trust in a church assembly is leadership. One of the first tasks of building a church assembly is appointing leaders. Perhaps, it should not be. If you don't give the process enough time you could make some big mistakes that you will regret for a long time. Apostle Daren Phillips told me recently that it's easier to ordain someone than it is to un-ordain them so ordain wisely. Church leadership is 80% character and 20% more character. Competency, skill, etc. go along for the ride. It's better to appoint church leaders with Godly character and let them lead a team of people with skill. In the end, we remain committed to the following guidelines provided in the scripture for the selection of church leadership.

1 Timothy 3:1-13(NLT) - This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap. In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do. A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

These are the characteristics God looks for in church leaders. We should too. When people in leadership demonstrate this type of character in a church assembly, the pastor can sleep well at night because the ministry is in good hands. The guidelines are quite exhaustive but they all point to one thing; good character. People of good character honor God, their own families, their church leaders and everyone else in the church God has called them to be involved with. If we choose people for leadership based on these Biblical criteria we can avoid much unnecessary disaster and heartache in our local churches.

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Decatur Community Workshops - Christian Dating

This is an introductory video to our next workshop "Christian Dating". This event is a production of Decatur Community Workshops and will be hosted at The Body Church, 3009 Rainbow Drive, Suite #142, Decatur, GA 30034 on Friday, April 22nd at 7:00 PM. 

 

Our faith-based group hosts monthly workshops in the Decatur area that are free, interactive and open to the surrounding community. Topics include leadership, personal finances, investing, professional networking, career advancement, real estate, grant writing and many more. We are open to suggestions and are always interested in welcoming new people. If you love to learn new things especially for free, this group is for you. For more info, visit Decatur Community Workshops.

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Confession of A Young Atlanta Pastor #10: Preaching is the Easy Part!

Young Atlanta Pastor Confession #10: Preaching is the Easy Part!

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 tenth point; " The easiest part of being a pastor is preaching. If that's all you want to do, preach on the street. It's less stressful."

For the previous point click the following link; "Young Pastor Confession #9 - If you're not sure that The Lord called you to be a pastor, quit now because you'll eventually do it anyway."

Jeremiah 20:9(NKJV) - Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.” But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not.

As a student I competed in track, football (not American) and swimming. I still remember the adrenaline rush before getting down in the starting blocks for track, taking the field for football or climbing up on the blocks for swimming. Still, there was something that excited me even more. Academics. Do you know how some people describe themselves as hopeless romantics? I was a hopeless academic. I loved school. What can compare to the fresh smell of brand new text books? Mmmhmmm... Or what's more exciting than a final exam in a class you know you're totally dominating? Oh yeah!

On my last day of high school at Hillview College in Trinidad I just hung out in my school uniform until late in the evening knowing that it was the last day I would ever wear it. On my last weekend of graduate school at Georgia Tech in Atlanta I spent the entire weekend in the computer lab. A friend and I worked on a project while eating cold pizza and drinking hot soda with no sleep. I went home on Monday morning, slept a few hours and rushed back to campus for an 8:00 AM final. Needless to say, I made it out of that program alive. What a rush!

Yet nothing gets my adrenaline pumping like walking up to a pulpit to preach the gospel. Sometimes, it feels like everything is happening in slow motion as the worship team trails off and the hum of the instruments slowly wanes. I imagine myself sitting in the preacher's locker room with some Beats headphones over my ears listening to some Christian rap. My feet are in an ice bucket, a towel is over my head and my Bible is by my side. I've zoned out the world preparing to preach the message of my life. Pastor Duncan, you're up! Oh yeah. What time is it? Word time! What time is it? Word time! OK! That's a bit corny but you get my drift.

My parents say I was a loud baby who cried so much that they just knew I would grow up to be an opera singer, preacher or at the very least, the town crier. 🙂 As a preteen, a lady once handed me a note after church with a prophetic word about my future as a prophetic mouthpiece for The Lord. I still keep that message with me as a reminder of what God called me to do. So, when The Lord told us to start a church it was an easy decision. Here I am Lord, send me! I no longer had to wait for a pastor to give me the opportunity to do what I was born to do. I could do it every week.

1 Peter 4:10-11(NLT) - God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

God put His Word in my heart and I couldn't hold it in. That's one of the reasons why I've written five books and hundreds of blogs. The Word was like a fire shut up in my bones so The Lord let me use my fingertips as the outlet. I had the gift of speaking so it was my responsibility to use it for God's glory. Therefore, if accepting the call to pastor meant more opportunities to preach, God didn't have to ask me twice. I was ready to go. Lord, where do I sign up? I'm ready to preach. Well, to my surprise, preaching was the easiest part.

What makes it easy is the fact that it's between you and God. He gives you a message, you package it for the people you are reaching out to and then you do what you are gifted to do; deliver it. Done! If a pastor preaches what God says and the people understand the message, he's done his job. It's each person's responsibility to do something with The Word that they receive. Isn't that the point behind The Parable of The Sower? All the sower can do is sow The Word. He can't control the soil. So preach The Word and go home. Right? Well, not exactly. There's more to the job. A whole lot more. Regardless, I had good reason to believe that preaching was my top priority once I became a pastor.

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

Feed the people of God with knowledge and understanding. That sounds like a great job description to me. Count me in. Where do I sign up? Teach The Word of God, answer questions and help people understand what God is saying. That's not too bad. It's kind of like being a TV preacher without being on TV, right? The 20 minute clips they share on their programs look easy enough so what's the big deal? If you want to be a pastor, you need to be ready to preach. That may be true but there's more to being a shepherd than providing spiritual food to God's sheep.

Ephesians 4:11-14(NLT) - 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.

Pastors also have to provide protection and guidance to the people of God because the enemy is all around trying to deceive them. We have to equip people to do God's work, build them up and help them mature in the things of The Lord. We have to be vigilant in the spirit to protect people from spiritual wolves, lions and bears which come in from outside to snatch them away. On top of that, we sometimes have to protect them from each other because everyone inside the fold isn't there for the right reasons. Last, but not least, we have to protect them from themselves.

Sometimes people make poor decisions and put themselves in situations where they need someone else to intervene and help them out of their mess. That's where the real work of a pastor takes place. Preaching is easy compared to the rest of the full job description. It's an awkward position to be in sometimes because we don't want to be in the middle of "grown folks business" but we don't have much of a choice. If we don't at least inquire about what's going on in people's lives, we're not doing our jobs. We have enough to deal with in our own lives but God put us on this earth to serve others.

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.

Whoa! That's heavy. One of the great advantages of a small church is that we can pray for every single member by name each morning. I don't know what we will do when the numbers are too much for that to be practical anymore. I guess we will have to make general declarations over the congregation unless The Lord puts specific people on our hearts. Nonetheless, we'll cross that bridge when we get there. We have to watch over the souls of those we lead and God will hold us accountable for how well we do so.

We teach, we pray, we check up on people, we show up when they need us, we intervene in drama, we do what we have to do but we ensure that the people God has assigned to us are edified, equipped and developed to maturity. Now, lest we get carried away, there's another side to this story. Some pastors can get so caught up in the daily grind of dealing with people's issues that they lose track of their primary purpose. When that happens, God has to send an Apostle, Prophet or other spiritual father along to have a conversation with the pastor that goes a little something like this.

Exodus 18:13-27(NLT) - The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?” Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.” “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.” Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves. Soon after this, Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, who returned to his own land.

Stand before The Lord on behalf of the people. Tech them God's decrees. Give them His instructions. Show they how to live. Those were Jethro's instructions to Moses. Once those are done, take care of only the major disputes among the people. Assign a group of leaders to handle everything else. There's the balance. Like Moses, pastors are not supposed to wear themselves out trying to solve everyone else's problems even though many are more than willing to do so. Our first order of business is prayer and teaching people The Word of God then we can take care of everything else.

Acts 6:1-4(NKJV) - Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Here it is again. The pastor's first role is prayer, then ministering The Word, then taking care of the rest of the church's business. Yet, when you first start a church you feel like you're spending more time on so much else. As the church grows, God sends capable leaders who can do the work of the ministry. We thank God for a team of people who really help us out now.

We started the church in a hotel meeting room so we had to bring the equipment from home each day in two cars like a garage band on a low-budget tour. After dragging everything into the room and setting them up I had to change because I would be drenched in sweat. Then we sang and played instruments during prophetic Prayer and Worship, then we led worship, then I needed a cough drop to soothe my throat before I preached. It wasn't easy but it was worth it.

After a year and a half, The Lord made room for us in Decatur, GA eliminating the need to set up and break down the church each week. That freed up an extra hour of sleep each Sunday that we are very thankful for. Everyone pitches in at the church now so we can focus our energies some more. We still lead all the church outreach efforts because it's our responsibility to get it done. We also still lead worship. Until God sends outreach and worship teams, we still have to do it ourselves which brings us full circle. When I signed up for this job, my desire was to preach. However, as we got deeper into it, we realized how much else we have to do as the pastors of the church since we don't have all the people we need yet.

So as we end this installment I'll repeat Confession of a Young Atlanta Pastor #10 - "The easiest part of being a pastor is preaching. If that's all you want to do, preach on the street. It's less stressful."
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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.

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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.

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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.

🙂
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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.

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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.

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