Welcoming you to go to hell

Saturday night it was pretty cool in our area for the middle of summer.  Sunday morning very early when I entered the church it was warm inside.  I typically turn the air conditioner on.  Instead, I opened all the doors (8 doors in all, and it was so early that the flies were not awake yet) and put a fan in one of them.  Within 30 minutes the temperature in the church had dropped about 10 degrees.  I then closed the doors and turned the AC units on so they would kick on as people entered and the sun warmed things up.  I do not tell you this to brag and on the other hand, I hope nobody thinks I have lost it.  When I walked around looking at all the doors open, a lot went through my mind.  I took the picture planning to blog today about being good stewards, not unnecessarily running the AC units when nature could do the work.  I hate wasting electricity and resources.  That is even the direction I was heading as I initially titled today’s post, “Taking care of what you have”.

But seeing the picture as I am writing, what comes to mind is about a church “open door” policy.  The only people I can think of that I would have concerns about in our church are sexual predators.  Whatever your sin, whatever your offense, whatever your crime… You are welcome in the church I pastor.  I remember Adam Hamilton from Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas relaying a story in a sermon years ago that best exemplifies my understanding of an inclusive church and ministry. I will never forget it. He said that he and his youth pastor were at a bar about 10 p.m. having a meeting, quick to point out they had ordered soft drinks and appetizers. Hamilton had his Church of the Resurrection t-shirt on. The waitress sat down at their table and said she had been a Wiccan witch the last eight years and it was not working out so well for her. She wanted to know if his church (not knowing he was the pastor) would let someone who had been a Wiccan witch for the last eight years attend. I think I remember his exact words. He said, “I can tell you unequivocally, you would be welcome at our church.” In the sermon, he told the congregation that he didn’t want to appear melodramatic, but if she would not be welcome there then he did not want to be their pastor.

Hamilton would surely not welcome her to the church and affirm her belief in and practice of witchcraft!  God’s Word would have Hamilton lovingly tell her to repent, turn to Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit to help her give up her sinful ways.  And we read that God’s grace is sufficient to cover us as we try and fall short.  I take umbrage (offense) when anyone says another church welcomes certain people as if the church I pastor does not.  The error in thinking often occurs when we confuse the words “welcoming” and “affirming”.  We welcome everyone. Jesus welcomed everyone.  He also told people to quit sinning.  If a church welcomes someone and does not tell them that Jesus wants them to quit sinning, they are false teachers welcoming a person to go straight to hell.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” ~ Matthew 23:15

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Inconsiderate Believers

On a Samaritan’s Purse mission trip, lights out is 10 pm and lights on is at 6 am. Regarding the lights on, I take that to mean that lights are not to come on before 6 am. I do not take that to mean the lights MUST come on at 6 am.  I got up at 6 this morning but my roommate in the men’s bunk room (there are only 2 men on this trip) is still asleep. I did not turn the lights on. He will probably not get up until 6:40 so I will not go back in the room, let alone turn the lights on while he is still asleep. I don’t say this to brag about how thoughtful I am. It just seems like common decency. 

I’m amazed at how many times on my numerous trips that someone takes it upon themselves to be the light monitor, faithfully flipping on the 48 fluorescent bulbs at 6:00 on the dot, while 2 or 6 people are still in bed asleep. Perhaps they think they are being faithful to rules. I’m not sure what they’re thinking. The same goes for those who let the door slam instead of gently closing it. 

As a Believer and follower of Jesus, I truly believe we are called to treat others how we wish they would treat us. (Luke 6:31). Society calls this the “golden rule”. If I was the one (and I often have been) asleep until 6:30 for whatever reason, I do not want the lights to be flipped on at 6. Therefore, if I am up at 6 and my brother is asleep, I should not be turning the lights on. If it gets to be 6:55 and since breakfast is at 7, I will go wake my roommate up, because that’s what I would want him to do for me (I’ve done this for Michael Nelson and Jacob Kneeland before). 

If someone is lost and/or caught up in sin, the “golden rule” is the same reason I must lovingly call them out on it. It is Bibilcal, and I would not want them to let me go to hell without warning. 

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Getting the kids out of bed

Diane and I woke up in Greenbrier County WV this morning for another short term (week long) mission trip.  We are sleeping in a church. This week there are about 50 high school kids around the church campus working with Habitat for Humanity. Some of the teen boys are sleeping across the hall from us. 

There are two grown men who, for the last 15 minutes, have been coming down the hall yelling, “Come on, we gotta get up and go” and now they’re yelling, “Come on, you’re cutting in to my breakfast time now”.

I do not envy the adults trying to get 50 high schoolers out of bed. Nobody is yelling at the adults in the men’s and women’s bunk room of our teams.  The Samaritan’s Purse staff knows we are responsible for ourselves. They do not expect us to be irresponsible. They expect some level of maturity. 

I’m going to level with you. As a pastor, sometimes I feel like those men who were shouting at the teens this morning. It can be frustrating. I know what the apostle Paul meant when he differentiated between people who were drinking milk for nutrition verses those eating solid food. (1 Corinthians 3:2 and Hebrews 5:12)  Paul was pointing out that some people are not on a Christin walk, growing in faith and power, they’re at a Christian standstill, never advancing. 

This begs the question, what about you? If you’re a faithful reader of my posts, you’re probably moving and chewing. You wouldn’t keep coming back to read convicting blogs like this if you weren’t!  

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How the enemy steals and destroys

I saw the name of college football coach Hugh Freeze was trending.  Then I saw that it said he had resigned as the head football coach at Ole Miss.  Then my heart broke when I read that he had been forced to resign because they had found at least one call to an “escort service”.  The whole thing is so sad, not the least of which is prostitution is a large cause of human trafficking.  The other part of this that bothers me so is that Hugh Freeze claims to be a radical follower of Jesus.  I’ve listened to him give testimony.  I follow his twitter posts about his faith.  And I have heard him give God glory over and over.

Now to probably oversimplify the situation, I see it as one of two things going on.  Either Freeze has been a fraud using Jesus to gain the trust of football recruits and fool the public and football donors, or he has been taken down by the devil, becoming yet another Jesus follower to fail to resist the devil.  And I want to think that he loves Jesus and he was overcome by the enemy of God.

Sometimes I talk a good game, but I do fear the devil.  I read about what he did to Job.  I see how he takes down pastors, church leaders, and public professors of faith like Hugh Freeze.  He is like the bees the painters found today outside in the hand rail coming up the steps at the front of the church.  Any nook or cranny, and he makes his way in and starts to set up shop. (…give no opportunity to the devil. ~Ephesians 4:27)

Every time something like that happens to someone whose Christian walk I admire, I am always reminded there is an enemy out there –  one who seeks to kill and destroy.  He wears many masks and he will fill any gap you leave between you and Jesus. It is all the more reason to stay close to Jesus.

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“I am tired of all the negativity on Facebook”

Let me begin by saying I am not tired of all the negativity.  No, wait.  That does not sound right.  What I mean is that the title of today’s post is to make a point.  As far as negativity, I really try not to let negativity bother me, even as I do not always succeed.  And the truth is that I absorb much more “positivity” than I do negativity.  The problem is when I focus on the negative instead of the positive.  I absorb positivity when I am in prayer, when I am in God’s Word, and when I am around Jesus loving people like Marvin and Christine Funkhouser, and their daughter Diane and her husband Donny Kile.  Marvin stopped in yesterday while I was preparing dinner for last night’s community dinner.  He is a great guy to spend five minutes or an hour with.  I also enjoy the positivity that comes from serving Jesus.

As for the negativity, sometimes things just appear negative, but they are really a positive.  One example of this is from Hebrews 12:11: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  When people are offended by the Word of God, that’s not a negative, even if they feel like it is.  It does crack me up when I see the occasional Facebook post that says, “I am tired of all the negativity on Facebook”.  I see that as only adding to the negativity on Facebook. You know if you have ever posted that…. I am laughing with you right now, not at you.

I just got a prayer book written in 1949 by John Baillie.  I am going to try and add positivity to Facebook from the church Facebook page by paraphrasing excerpts from Baillie’s morning and evening prayers.  Here’s the one from this morning:

O God, my Creator and Redeemer, I do not even want to begin the day unless Your Spirit goes with me. I do not want to let the bright new morning, my good health, and my own abilities deceive me into thinking I can handle today on my own. These are all gifts from You. Help me cherish them today. Give me the grace to fulfil Your divine purpose for me in the world today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

(You can like and follow the Wesley Chapel Facebook page here.)

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Maybe one more prayer will do it

Bart Millard from MercyMe shared a testimony about how he feels about his son who has been a diabetic since he was 2 years old.  His son is now a teenager.  He said as they were leaving a doctors appointment, a woman he knows asked about his son and asked if she could pray for him that God would heal him of diabetes.  To himself, Millard said something like, “Pray for a healing for my son?  What a novel idea.  In 13 years, praying for healing has never crossed my mind!”

When I occasionally reflect on the true purpose for prayer, I nearly always come to the conclusion that it is to change me and my outlook.  This in spite of the default attitude of prayer in our society, which is “to get God to do what I want”.  Oswald Chambers writes,

“To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature.”

So pray.  Pray for healing.  Pray for loved ones.  Pray for employment.  Pray for peace.  Pray for wisdom.  Pray without ceasing.  But do not judge the effectiveness of your prayers based on whether God does what you ask.  Unless what you are asking is for God to change you.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

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If 80% of the church is lost

I listened to a Matt Chandler sermon today.  Chandler is pastor of the Village Church outside of Dallas, TX. He was basically trying to talk the pious church people into leaving the church he pastors.  He was preaching about “church people” who complain about all the people with messed up lives, far from God, who were attending the church.  (He specifically mentioned strippers and chain smokers.)  It was a Jesus-like, “You will always have the poor among you” sermon, even though Chandler did not use that Scripture.  He was implying that as the “far from God people” got saved, got clean, and became followers of Jesus, that they would no longer be the “far from God” but their job would then be to bring the far from God to church.  So their church should always have the strippers and addicts attending the church, even though the faces should change.  And he said, if the church people were not OK with that kind of church, then they should find a “safer place where they would be more comfortable”.

The most relevant part for you who read my blog, the majority of whom are church going Christians, is that Chandler said 20% of the Village Church were committed, Jesus loving, God followers who were all in.  They do their best to live their lives for Christ.  That is one out of five people who go to the church.  He said 40% of the Village church attenders were pretty good people, not quite all in, not quite committed, but seeking Jesus.  He estimated that 40% were completely lost and attend church to make themselves feel good about themselves.  And they attend the Village church because they think the music is pretty good and Chandler’s preaching is somewhat entertaining.

If I did not think he was pretty accurate, I would not be sharing his views.  When the church has 5,000 people, that is 1,000 all in, 2,000 seeking, and 2,000 completely lost.  When your church has 100 people, that is 20 all in, 40 seeking, and 40 completely lost.

I do not know what we can do about the fact that the world judges the church by the 80% of the church that is not committed to Jesus.  And it is not that the church needs to shed the 80% of non-committeds.  We need the Lord to move so that they become committed to Him.  And then we need the Lord to bless the church with more people who are lost.  But how long is long enough for the 80% to spend at a particular church?  I do not know, but to spend your entire life in a church where you are not growing in Christ is a waste of your time and is not beneficial to Jesus’ church.

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