GOD’S ANONYMOUS AGENTS

Heaven will be filled with surprises!  Mankind generally wants to be recognized for our role in anything which becomes successful.  What if God chooses to use us in a dramatic manner and our part in one of His successful ventures remains anonymous to others and perhaps even to ourself?

Just under two years ago, I began to see a neurologist at the referral of my family care physician.  One of the symptoms associated with my situation is neuropathic pain in both of my feet.  The pain, though not debilitating, was nevertheless a chronic nuisance.  I have been faithfully following the subscribed medication to curb my symptoms.  However, I have been praying personally and have submitted directly and intentionally to the laying on of hands of believers in prayer for my healing.

Last summer, I took a group of leaders from my church to the Voice of the Apostles (VOA) Conference in Nashville, TN.  The year before I flew to Orlando for the annual conference of the VOA in order to experience the ministry there and determine whether I should pursue a closer relationship with them for myself and our congregation.  Both meetings were powerful and I felt confirmation of the Holy Spirit to “swim” in this stream of ministry.

On the last day of the conference in Nashville, Dr. Randy Clark felt directed of the Spirit to have members of the conference team to form a line across the front and up the sides of that great assembly hall in order to be available for the laying on of hands and prayers of faith for those with physical needs.

I am not one to jump at every suggestion or activity presented at any conference or spiritual meeting.  That having been said, I did feel the guidance of the Spirit to willingly avail myself to prayer as the Lord would guide me.  After Dr. Clark released the congregation to go to one of the team members and receive ministry, I prepared myself to respond.  However, I waited until prompted by the Holy Spirit regarding who to have pray for me.  I stayed steadily seeking and waiting for “God’s  who” for almost thirty minutes. Members of our group who knew of my need were watching me intermittently, wondering if I was going to step forward to receive.

Finally, I saw a brother (name unknown) to whom I was being drawn.  I briefly shared my need.  He asked for more understanding of my condition and then he prayed a simple and genuinely sincere blessing over my life and a petition to Father God that I may be tangibly healed.  Nothing melodramatic happened at that moment.  However, over the last few months, I have prayed, believed, thanked God and experienced slow, gradual but only partial improvement.

At the first of this year, my wife and I were in Tulsa helping to move her parents from their home into a new and smaller place.  I inadvertently left my prescription for pain management at home.  For two weeks we worked tirelessly, moving furniture, boxes, etc.  I also continued my daily four- mile walks outdoors at a local park and my intense workouts at a local YMCA.

I can testify that my feet were fine (no pain) through all of the above.  I’m now home and they are still fine and I am medication free!  God used somebody I do not know, whose name I do not remember and who has no national reputation as a “healing” specialist – to lay hands on me, pray the prayer of faith and impart the healing grace of God to me. Let me further declare, many others have prayed for me over this condition.  Though the healing wasn’t manifest soon after they prayed, their prayers were among the seeds sown which produced God’s handiwork in my life.  We have but ONE hero.  HIS name is JESUS!

Advertisements

Leadership in the Crosshairs

To be placed in leadership is an awesome honor. As a bit of an understatement, may I also say, leadership is also a sober responsibility. With an appointment to lead, at any level in any organization, comes accountability. With healthy respect for the integrity of the organization or group you have been appointed to lead comes the expectation of trustworthiness, stewardship, and respect for the authority who has empowered and trusted you.

I am currently out of town for two weeks. My wife’s parents are downsizing, requiring a move from the spacious two-story home they have occupied for more than two decades, into a much smaller domicile within a senior living community. As the “chief” servant of my household and our marriage, it would be a shame for me to be less than attentive to the process going on with my wife’s parents. She and they need my help during this time. Being a faithful husband is one thing that just might trump the importance of being a faithful pastor.

As a leader of a local New Testament Church, it is imperative that while I am away, I have trustworthy leaders around me who will faithfully tend to the needs of the church body that I lead. They are to be capable, willing and accountable to do what I do—care for the “sheep” (see John 10).

To put it simply, my two staff partners are responsible to diligently and faithfully feed, guide, guard and serve the sheep who are under my care and oversight. I have no doubt that they will do so because we share that joyful burden day in and day out. Though I am the “senior” leader, we all work together complimenting one another in ministering to the saints at Open Bible Fellowship.

If I were to discover that my team shirked their responsibility and used my absence to be idle, to redefine the job they have been equipped and trained to do, or revolt in an effort to usurp my authority—that would mean they were wolves among the sheep rather than co-laboring shepherds. The discipline of the Lord would come swiftly and definitively—as it should. All that is written above simply points to the nature of what true leadership requires. Here is a short list of what is expected of my team both when I am on duty and on call as well as when I am away. My team and I are to always be:

o Responsible
o Faithful
o Dutiful
o Loving
o Honorable
o Trustworthy
o Accessible
o Accountable

When called upon to lead, lead by example. When offered a chance to stand in for a leader temporarily, stand with faithfulness. When selecting someone to stand in for you—wait, watch, test and empower them appropriately!

Pastor Chris Byrd

“No Longer a Christian Nation”

Perhaps you’ve heard one or more of these statements:

“America is a Christian Nation”
“America is a God-Fearing Nation”

Actually, neither statement is totally true. If so, God would prefer one nationality or people group over another. I for one am glad that my country cannot inherently impose a “religious” control over my identity. If it could, I believe such reality would cheapen the value of faith in God altogether! What is true is that our founding Fathers did; on the whole, have reverence for God!

Certainly, freedom of religion in America was never codified in such fashion that all citizens had to be Christian. For that matter, there is no law that any American has to be deeply religious! However, it is fair to say that, for most of her history this nation has been described as having a dominant level of its religious influence from a Christian cultural ethic. The Bible has long been regarded as the religious work of prime influence in this nation’s framework and cultural infrastructure.

That having been said, there are no laws or legal precedents which would codify a particular sect of religion as a control factor in our national ethic going forward into the future. As a devoted follower of Jesus Christ; in some ways, my heart grieves over that reality. In other ways my thoughts are being challenged as to the opportunities this reality might present.

I grew up in what was known culturally as the “Bible belt.” Frankly, the immense impact of Christianity upon my southern culture was outwardly delightful. However; as I’ve contemplated what being a genuinely born again, follower of Jesus Christ actually entails, I wonder if the religious façade of my upbringing may be somewhat counter active to what Jesus actually came to do! Within the NT, there is no sign of Jesus trying to make the government of His generation – religious. Please don’t get me wrong! The protection of religious freedom in government law is wonderful. However, the purpose of the work of Jesus was not to put a sheen or veneer upon the outer appearances of an individual, community, society or culture. He came to give people life and life more abundantly. Frankly, it was easy to be a “Christian” in my world.  It still is. However, Jesus did not come to create a “civil” religion. In fact, I do not believe that He is impressed with its existence.

If He came to “give” life, there must be some barriers to us regarding what true life is and what power for change is invested from heaven into our humanness. A human government can give us political freedom and empowerment; however, said government cannot set the sinful heart and soul of man free.

ONLY A VIABLE AND PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH
JESUS CHRIST AS SAVIOR AND LORD CAN DO THAT!

Judge Not

“I’m not judgmental”!  “I’m not prejudiced”!  “I love everybody”!  Such protestations are not uncommon for most of us.  Perhaps we can make those declarations with some level of confidence!  However, we must evaluate just how honest our self-appraisal actually is.  If others observe us closely in various public or social settings, would they validate our claims?  Perhaps they may in ideal situations or circumstances!  However, let the environment or situation seem uncertain, intimidating to our comfort level or saturated with unfamiliar behaviors or customs; our prejudicial thoughts may quickly break the surface.

For the most part, I do believe that I have substantially won the battle with racial prejudice!  However, it would be very unwise for me to claim total freedom and purity of heart in that realm.  All it takes is a current event news story with a negative portrayal of people groups or organizations I have no affinity with or no meaningful involvement with on a regular basis, and hidden bias bubbles up toward the surface.

I believe the greatest contributor to the malaise of social prejudice is ignorance.  Of course, ignorance is propagated through behavior.  When one group of people feel judged or mistreated by another group, there is an inherent backlash of mistrust and dislike.  Such feelings or behaviors tolerated or nurtured for an extended period eventually become engrafted into the social fiber of society.

So how do we improve the social ethic of culture and society regarding racial misunderstanding and tension?  The only real solution is that we begin to do life together.  I mean, really do life together.  We must work side by side.  We must socialize cross culturally.  We must meet and engage with each other’s family and friends.  We must connect with one another in significant life transitions.  We have to go through hardships and pain together.

Actually, we have a great case study available to us, should we wish to engage it and thoroughly research its intricacies.  It is found in the Bible and it is known specifically as the New Testament portion of Holy Scripture.  Even more specifically it can be tracked closely, starting with the book of Acts and moving to the end of the Book of Revelation.

God chose a Jewish purist – a radicalized Pharisee named Saul.  He transformed his life and his values completely through a personal encounter, followed by a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  As a precursor to what the life and ministry of Saul who became better known by his Roman name – Paul, the Lord God started the prejudice fight and make over with a radicalized zealot named Simon Peter.  These men’s stories demonstrate the life changing, culture challenging, world transforming life available to all of us through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!

A faith based relationship with Jesus Christ truly does make all things new!

Pastor Chris

Dealing with Personal Rejection

How do you respond when rejection comes your way? Everyone experiences rejection from time to time. Friendships cool off and sometimes come to an end.  For most people popularity is a fleeting thing. One season your presence is welcomed and another it is not. An actor or an athlete can experience a period of unparalleled success and suddenly, they are yesterday’s news.

In the world of ministry, a church or a leader can have a season of awesome bliss and meteoric success. Everyone wants to be associated with them. Time passes and seasons change; suddenly there is a new personality, church or ministry on the horizon and in the spotlight! The light fades and the crowds become less enthusiastic or lower in number. It is natural to look for potential reasons. To be certain – detractors, fair-weather friends and troublemakers will begin to prophesy your demise. So what should you do?

Well, that depends upon whether or not we are real men and women of God or merely, “actors on a stage”. If we are real and sincerely devoted to who we are and what we do, we press on and continue to be the best us we can be.  We pursue a life of pleasing God as contrasted with longing for the applause of man! It also depends upon whether or not we have a Biblical view of gifts, callings and anointing.

Certainly, we must adapt (without moral compromise) to cultural shifts, technological developments and social trends. Relevance may demand some of that. However, we don’t change our character, our values or our motives in order to regain popularity or momentum.

Let’s observe how John the Baptist handled Himself in such a season of life! At one point, throngs of people from all walks of life came to hear him preach and be baptized by him. Even Jesus came to him for baptism (Matthew 3:5-17).  However, though he remained popular with the common people, two things happened:

  1. He ran afoul of the modern power brokers – namely, King Herod and his wife (Matthew 14).
  2. Jesus arose to prominence in ministry, thereby producing transference of the interest and following of the Jewish masses away from John’s ministry. Jesus would even speak boldly about a different and more complete expression of baptism everywhere he went. Talk about perceived competition!  What did John do?  Did he panic and pursue a manmade “makeover”?  Did he attack the credibility of Jesus?  Did he hire a public relations firm to revitalize his popularity?  Did he stop doing what he was called to and doing it with all of his heart?  Let me declare an emphatic “NO” to the preceding questions!

John watched, waited and remained faithful to his calling. He sought out witnesses and inquired as to the message and ministry of Jesus. When he found it valid – remember, John himself had prophesied that One mightier than himself would soon surface (Mt. 3:11) – he made the appropriate adjustments. Upon verification that Jesus was the One, he relinquished all prideful inclinations and submitted to the plan, will and purpose of Abba.  Here is his public response which was validated by his public actions:

“HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE.
HE WHO COMES FROM ABOVE IS ABOVE ALL . . . “ (John 3:22-30).

How could someone in his position be so humble? It’s simple! He knew who he was and who he wasn’t! He even made the prophetic declaration in Matthew 3:11 – “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

John was comfortable in his own skin. He had no need to pretend to be someone or something he wasn’t. As a forerunner to the coming Messiah, he had no interest in perpetuating his own popularity or exalting his own “ministry” (something which is so common – even to the point of vain and idolatrous levels today).

John simply continued to stay true to his calling and his unique anointing. He ran well and finished strong. Undoubtedly, his name has “highlights” around it in the Lamb’s book of Life (see Revelation 13:8). Ultimately, the rejection of John by governing officials led to his execution. There was no swift resurrection as was the case with Jesus. However, there was most certainly, eternal life for this great man of faith and courage. He has surely found his reward, indeed, the greatest reward in heaven!

There are other parallel ministries in the Bible which demonstrate this very noble aspect of ministering respectfully in concert and coming alongside parallel ministries, without prideful competition and exaggerated claims of self-promotion or personal gift projection. Think Barnabas and Paul, Peter and John, Timothy and Silas, and the list could go on endlessly throughout the ages of time.  Comparative analysis using such words as good, better or best are divisive.  Judgments such as “anointed”, “more anointed” or “most anointed” do nothing to enhance the effective reproduction of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament refers to a collective coalition called, “The Body of Christ” as the labor force for genuine Christian ministry. There should be no hint of celebrity among us. There is no room for “hero worship” in our ranks. Promotion comes from Him for His glory and His glory alone!

Pursuing God’s Best for Your Life

Do you want to keep living beneath the inheritance God has provided for you?  Here are three major keys to finding and pursuing God’s best for your present and future.  There certainly may be more; however, these three standout foremost in my mind.

  1. Learn from your past mistakes rather than mourn them.
  2. Grow with each new challenge.
  3. Commit to investigating new opportunities.

At the risk of parroting a tag line from a gospel tract, I truly do believe that God has a wonderful plan for your life. The mission of Jesus was one of redemption and reclamation. He gave His life voluntarily with the objective that mankind need not suffer futility of life ending it with a destiny of eternal damnation. Abundant life and eternal life are a package deal. The issue of futility of life seems to be as significant to the Lord as the ultimate reward of eternity:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Experiencing God’s best is never an automatic guarantee. We must engage life with eagerness, boldness and courageous risk taking if we are going to experience the fullness of life.

Learn from your mistakes! Hebrews 6:1 talks about “dead works”.  I refer to these things as actions or decisions which produced death rather than life. All of us have made bad decisions or choices in life. We may not be able to undo them; however, we never have to replicate them. Many years ago – actually a few decades back, a group of high school friends had spent an afternoon and evening at the beach. It was a great day and lasted late into the night. On the way home I was driving one car and my sister a second car as we traveled in tandem the hour it took to get back to town.  Each of us had classmates in the vehicle with us. We got into a road race on the two-lane highways we had to travel.  We achieved speeds as high as 80 to 90 miles an hour. Fortunately, nothing bad happened. Some time thereafter, I had two classmates and teammates killed in a tragic accident doing the same kind of thing. I was overwhelmed with grief and shuddered at the realization, it well could have happened to me.  Lesson learned – never again was I so foolhardy!

Grow with each challenge! Often a challenge involves some form of problem which can or does cause pain, regret, defeat or setback. Years ago a set of circumstances brought me to a pivotal decision. I felt the Lord leading me to resign my position and take an extended period of time to regroup, repent of bad decisions and rediscover my given purpose and specific assignment from the Lord. It was a dreadful choice to make. After I made it, I actually had a group of leaders come to me and strongly encourage me to reconsider, even offering significant incentives to me if I would. However, I felt that I was being directed by the Lord. This led to a ten-month period of ministry unemployment and all of the uncertainties which go with such a season. God proved more than faithful. He met our every need. More importantly, I learned some truths which could’ve been read in a book of someone else’s journey. However, my personal experience has transformed me and the way I approach life forever – let me say it again — FOREVER!

Commit to investigating new opportunities. Life has its seasons. Very few factors in life require the kind of faith involved in stepping out of  your norm and trying something new. However, the Bible tells us that “God’s mercy endures forever” (Ps. 118).  If we go through life paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake, taking a wrong turn or experiencing failure, we will be paralyzed and ultimately fail to become all that God wants us to be. It’s easy to find a rhythm in music and stay within its borders. It is easy to find a way which works and refuse to explore new and better ways. If we live in fear of failure or hesitancy to look outward and move upward we will stagnate and our dreams will fade into haunting fantasies.

It is ordinary for people to always take a familiar route to wherever you are trying to go. However, what’s the fun in that. BORING! You will never experience the fullness of life by always doing the same old thing the same old way.  When my wife and I travel about in everyday life – we certainly pick out the best routes to the preferred destinations. However, I have a theory – no, make that a conviction.  If all we do is take the familiar “best” route, we will never find new places and new things along different roadways, neighborhoods – much less new villages or cities.

I love to explore. As long as I have plenty of time, I don’t even mind getting lost. Many years ago, a short time after we had moved to northwest Illinois, we went for a Sunday afternoon drive. We had no specific destination in mind. We just wandered north along the Mississippi River.  We instinctively turned off of the highway and meandered up a county road around curves, up and down hills and valleys, etc.  The views were stunning.  Suddenly we saw a sign for a village inn and ski resort. We took the turn and found a great Midwestern treasure.  I love to downhill ski but felt it would be a rare experience requiring expensive jaunts far west, north or northeast.  After finding this resort, I have enjoyed fun and challenging ski recreation year after year for a fraction of the cost.

It’s important that we take the wheel of our own destiny. Certainly we want to follow and obey God. However, look at it this way. Looking at a map will give you a sense of direction for a road trip. However, the experiences, sights, sounds and feelings of the journey will never come alive and truly affect your life until you follow your heart and take the journey.

Walking with Jesus is an exciting journey if faith is the compass for our path!

PC

Who Do You Trust?

There is an interesting statement in the New Testament regarding personal trust. It references Jesus and His accessibility to trustworthy confidantes and friends. Referencing this statement, it would appear that He had not found many, if any by that time in His life:

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, be He knew all men” (John 2:23-24).

Trust is not something we should or can casually invest in anybody. When I say that, I do mean anybody – including the Lord God Himself!  Now before you get religious on me and allow that last statement to offend you, follow me on this.  When we talk about having a genuine salvation experience, we are talking about committing our life to Christ in a wholly devoted and unwavering fashion:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment” (Mt. 22:37).

That is pretty intense. We are talking “COMPRENSIVE COVERAGE” here! It doesn’t appear that God leaves us any option to hold even one or two things back from His influence or control! Well He is God so of course we should trust Him.? I mean should you really put your trust in Him? Have you ever seen God? How do you know that He is even real? How do you know that, if He is real, He actually has any interest in caring for you?

I’m not sure that I can offer you any statement of guarantee which would take all of the uncertainty out of your mind or heart. After all – our personal belief system is pretty complicated if for no other reason that our experiences with human connections are often filled with disappointment, deception and outright betrayal. In the mix of such an ambivalent track record through the maze of personal relationships – how are we to proceed with this thing called faith and trust in the Lord? Extreme faith and trust I might add (see above).

Relationship requires risk. Any and every relationship inevitably involves disappointment and misunderstanding. If you have been married for more than 48 hours, you’ve surely experienced one or both dynamics by now! God has promised to never leave nor forsake us. He has not promised not to disappoint us. After all, disappointment is a byproduct of unrealized expectations and unmet “need” (real or imagined). God’s promises and my expectations are not necessarily in sync with each other. By way of explaining my thought, let me use marriage as an example. We all come into marriage with some very specific and rather extravagant expectations.

After nearly 4 decades of marriage, I can state unequivocally that I believe in my wife and I trust her love for me. She never means me any harm and she is devoted to pursue a life of meaningful purpose and fulfilling love with me for the rest of our days here on earth. That doesn’t mean she won’t disappoint me. My “expectations” and her “performance” may not always synchronize. Of course, she isn’t perfect and neither am I. God, on the other hand is perfect.  Most significantly, He is perfect love. Perfect love casts out fear. Therefore, I need have no fear that God will ever do anything less than love me perfectly. However, I must be honest. My expectations and His performance do not always sync together.

When that happens I have but one of two choices. I remain faithful in my trust, confidence and hope in Him – realizing He is God and I am not. He sees me fully and knows what I need. He is for me and not against me. Otherwise, I can choose to reject Him because He seemingly denied, overlooked or forgot me. Which is the better course? What would you do if that happened to you?

Allow me to be clear! Here is how I see my life journey playing out to its earthly conclusion! I am going to trust God and His love for me through every season, phase and circumstance of life. Problems and difficulties are going to be opportunities to see and believe in HIS love demonstrably exercised toward me and for me. I am going to love Him in return. I mean I am going to love Him with all that is within me – period! Everything else will take care of itself! Why do I say that? How can I say that? I say that because I’ve truly discovered that love conquers all. It’s absolutely true – love conquers all and I believe that God is love! Therefore, I am going to return that love with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. That’s the very foundation of the faith relationship I have with HIM!

IMPARTATION for BATTLE

“Impartation is a transference of the anointing.  It is not magic!  It is sovereign” (Randy Clark, spoken at VOA in Orlando, FL on Thursday August 14, 2014).

This past weekend the Lord deposited an anointing and instructed one who is his son and servant, to impart courage upon all who would believe and receive. Now is the time to take up your weapons and fight the forces of darkness surrounding you with all your spirit, mind, soul and body.

Your spirit indwelt by God’s Spirit is ALIVE and it is MIGHTY!  Your mind, infused with the Word of the Lord is SHARP, INTUITIVE and SOUND!  Your soul, surrendered to soundness of mind and the study of God’s truth is now capable of receiving CLARITY of MISSION and remaining faithful to the assignment at hand!  Your body submitted unto the righteousness of faith will become STRONG, AGILE and HEALTHY!

Furthermore, your emotions, which often rage against all reason and sanity, are now surrendered to the revelation of the Holy Spirit and the SOUNDNESS of a RIGHTEOUSLY driven conscience. Therefore, you can now have a penetrating understanding of the WILL, the WAY, and the PURPOSE of God.

It is not the time to stand down and rest. It is the hour to rise up and fight! Take back the land. Give no quarter to the enemy. Settle for nothing less than God’s full inheritance declared over you, spoken into your spirit and confirmed in your heart.

GOD has not given you the spirit of fear.  No way is that from HIM!  HE has given you a spirit of love – indeed love so strong that it encompasses even your enemies.

The LORD has given you the spirit of power, POWER so forceful that you can literally run through and over the enemy troops with agility and intensity.  As you do what you’ve been appointed to do, God will cause mountains to melt like wax before you.  Speak to the mountain (the GOLIATH) in your way and cast it aside. Behead that wicked lie opposing you and display its folly in the shadow of the light of Father’s revelation of WHOSE you are and WHO you have now become!

HE has given you the spirit of a sound mind – so sharp that you will suddenly know and comprehend things you never understood before and in some cases, things you’ve never studied or contemplated until now!

Our Father has given unto you EVERYTHING you need. Now stand, go forth and see the salvation of the Lord. Press on until you see and comprehend the beauty of HIS holiness and the greatness of HIS glory!

CHURCH: What Is It Good For (Part 2)

Because I am a Pastor, you probably surmise that I really like church and that I am inherently “pro-church”.  Generally, that would be a true statement. However, and that is with a capital H, I am well aware that church – even a healthy church – can suddenly and without warning turn toxic.  Why you might ask? Isn’t Jesus the head over all things concerning the church? Yes, indeed, He is.  But those of us who fail to realize that we are mere humans often forget that essential fact.  Even worse, those who believe themselves to be “God’s gift to the church” (or the human race, for that matter) can and often do become toxic agents within a body of believers. Those who somehow “maneuver” themselves into positions of influence and power eventually become of agents of much harm and confusion.

People need people.  We all need people.  We typically find significant relationships through the organizations we are a part of. Church is an organization where wonderful relationships can form. However, the church is also an organism, and organisms inherently have problems and upheaval from time to time. At times certain members or parts of an organism become unhealthy and need healing, discipline and restoration. Trust me when I tell you that serving as the pastor of a local church can be a dangerous occupation.  There are seasons of abundance when you feel you are truly loved by the people you lead. Then there are seasons when you are certain that you are loved but not liked so much anymore.  Truth be told, there are periods when people you’ve loved much and been blessed by their appreciation greatly suddenly turn and, seemingly, become your mortal enemies.

Let me hasten to say, even in the most negative relationships, some level of resolution and peace can be found.  I merely reference the above to let you know that leading a flock of God’s “sheep” is not a perpetual stroll along streets of gold.  Why should it be?  God became flesh and walked among us.  He is known in the Bible as the “good” Shepherd.  He functionally served as a “shepherd” here on earth for three years.  In the early to mid-stages of His “ministry”, He had throngs of loving and loyal followers.  By the end of His days of physically leading the church here on the planet, He was down to a small group of disappointed and demoralized onlookers. Out of that number, there seems to have only been a few faithful followers prepared to go the distance with Him.  Even they were on the brink of dispersion to their former lives.

The intensity of the spiritual warfare involved in following Christ, dying to self and living for eternity can exhaust or demoralize the heartiest of brave soldiers. Ah – perhaps that is the secret.  The true church is not an assemblage of sight-seeing spectators! The true church is an army at war.  We are fighting a notable, yet largely unseen foe.  He is a master strategist of doom, gloom and dissension.  Our Savior showed us the way we would have to do life if we are to be successful as followers of Christ.  We are going to have to die to ourselves in order to live unto God.  We are going to have to live a sacrificial life of love, service and labor as unto the Lord rather than the praises of men. Translated, this means that we should not expect a life with lots of applause and gratuitous praise.  We should not expect an immediate or even “fair” return on the investment involved in living for Jesus in this organism called “church”. Furthermore, as long as we are alive, we remain active duty soldiers at war against the powers of darkness. Soldiers sacrifice for the good of the cause and for the sake of others.

THAT-MY FRIEND-IS WHAT BEING THE CHURCH IS REALLY ABOUT!

Don’t be scared off by this. There is no more exciting, rewarding and fulfilling life than being a follower of Christ in active duty as a part of HIS church. I’ll have more next time!    

PC (Pastor Chris)

CHURCH: What Is It Good For?

Who needs church?  What good does “going to church” do?  Why bother anyway?  All Christians are hypocrites – at least most of the ones you know may be!  Let me address that last statement from the outset of this blog series.  The word “hypocrite” has a variety of meanings.  The most damning of definitions carries the idea of being fake or disingenuous.  It is characterized by words like charlatan, fraud, or phony.  A more gracious depiction carries the idea of a person who is merely “an actor on a stage”.  

There is no doubt that all “Christians” fall short of the ideals lived out by Jesus Himself.  We may even fall far short of what was modeled by the earliest post-resurrection Christians.   However, I do not necessarily think so.  The Bible never paints such an idyllic portrait of people of faith.  They are shown to have every possible human frailty, communication breakdown, insincerity and other negative quality you could name as characteristic of our 21st century church group dynamics.

People are human and flawed. We were created in the image of God; but through the rebellion of our “fore-parents”, Adam and Eve, the sin nature holds a lot of power within us.  Relationships within the church are as far from perfect as in any other group of people attempting to do life together.

But, you might say, Luke describes them as “unified and compassionately committed to one another.” (see Acts 2:40-47)  This is true. They came together in a common bond of faith.  They were diligent to convene together, to break bread in fellowship with one another.  They were also prone to share generously as they took care of one another during the crisis stages of first century Christianity.  However, if you seek to fully understand Bible history, you will catch a more transparent understanding of the rest of the story.

These early saints were not always so “saintly” in their interactions with one another.  The Bible honestly and openly describes the reality which made up their lives together. They experienced every kind of controversy you can think of.  Just point to any actual events you have been a part of or heard about as it relates to the “church” world today, and you will find parallels in the New Testament.  The historical record of Acts pulls no punches.  Many of the adjustments inserted into the developing communities of Christian faith came about through hardships, misunderstandings and inequitable behaviors toward one another in less than Spirit-led interaction.  However, Jesus was still Lord and God remained committed to the investment of trust He placed upon the Body of Christ.

Jesus is still for the church. He is for her because she is His bride. He knows how to love, disciple and empower the church.  He will never give up on the church because God hates divorce.  He is in the process of the restoration of His church, and I am glad to be a part of it!