Can Christians Just Be Fans?

I was passionate, emotional, and a little exhausted Saturday night sometime close to 11:00. I watched Georgia defeat Notre Dame, barely. I saw a bunch of guys in South Bend, Indiana who were also passionate, emotional, and maybe more than a little exhausted. There was a big difference between me and them. They were all in, committed, giving it up for and with their team. I’m glad Georgia won (though I still like Mark Richt), but in the end, I’m just a fan. Just because I cheered, got excited, and sustained a small injury during the game (pulled muscle when I got a little excited at the end of the game), I’M NOT ON THE TEAM. I’m just a fan.

Christians are more than just excited about Jesus and loosely connected to the church. They are all in, totally committed, sold out followers of Jesus Christ. I shared Matthew 7:22-23 in my last post where Jesus points out the surprise fans will experience when they find out too late that they are not on the team. They never left the stands. They never surrendered their lives to Jesus. Christians are not just fans. You cannot be a Christian unless you have surrendered your life to Jesus as your Lord (Romans 10:9-10).

Does that mean that followers never give less than 110%? We should always give everything in our act of following, but sometimes we don’t. The difference between a fan and follower, is that a follower really loves Jesus and wants to live a surrendered life. When followers realize something is askew in their Christian life, they repent and respond to God’s prompting to get back in the game.

So, are you a fan or a follower?

Not A Fan

Not a fan, but a follower. I’ve heard about Kyle Idleman’s book, “Not a Fan,” for several years, but I began reading it a few months ago. It offers a crisp distinction between being casually enamored with Christianity to being a full-blown follower. I am now sharing a teaching series on the subject, and our small groups are going through Idleman’s study. There’s a big difference between being a fan and being a follower. In my message Sunday, I said…

  • Fans like Jesus; but followers love Jesus.
  • Fans are willing to cheer for Jesus but followers are willing to die for Jesus.
  • Fans focus on the benefits, but followers focus on the benefactor.

Jesus doesn’t want fans. He wants followers.

Consider this question. If you are a fan, are you a Christian? That’s an important question. The issue to consider is whether or not someone who is not “all in” is truly a believer. Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” Were the people Jesus was talking about merely fans?

Think about this question: “Are you a fan or a follower?” Why not spend some time making a list of the differences between fan and follower. I highly recommend the book and the small group study. I will address this issue later this week as we consider the possibility of being a Christian while only being a fan.

Breaking the Ten Commandments

Governor Mike Huckabee tweeted yesterday, “Some idiot in my home state broke all 10 commandments at the same time.” His tweet referenced an incident that happened at the Capital in Little Rock, Arkansas. A man drove his truck into the newly erected Ten Commandments monument, breaking it into pieces. The man posted a video on Facebook that he was going to destroy the monument because it was a violation of the separation of church and state. He then streamed the criminal act live on Facebook as his 2016 Dodge Dart raced across Capital grounds, and as he crashed into the monument, he shouted, “Freedom.”

Ignoring the fact that the man has to be deranged to blatantly break the law and ram a nearly brand new car into a state monument, two things strike me as interesting about this incident. First, the man obviously doesn’t understand the whole concept of separation of church and state. I’ll write in more detail about that in my next blog, but the whole issue was initially discussed out of a desire to protect the church from the state, not the state from the church.

The second incongruity is that the man shouted the word “freedom” as he hit the monument. Why did he shout that word? Does he really think that we are free without God’s law? The fact is that we are free because of God’s law. It’s obvious that the hoodlum doesn’t realize that one reason we enjoy the freedoms we have in our country is that our Founding Fathers built our great nation on the Law of God. The Ten Commandments and the Word of God provide for us the moral code and foundation of our nation that is woven into the fabric of our country. This guy has no regard for law, or otherwise, he never would have driven his car across the Capital grounds. For some reason, he thinks that our society would be better if everyone could just create their own system of law. In other words, if our government passes a law that we don’t like, we have the right and privilege of disobeying it. Really? That’s called anarchy! The unstable man streamed his act of disrespect to the law because he thinks it made him out to be a hero, but in truth, it showed him to be a fool. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Shake the Salt

“You are the salt of the earth.” Jesus told His followers that we have a role in our world to season and preserve. Notice that Jesus said “You are.” Influencing our world should be as natural for the believer as breathing or sleeping. So, how do you influence the world? We all have countless opportunities, but in this blog, I am going to address one area about which I am passionate.

Technology has opened a whole new world to all of us through social media, blogging, and even writing and publishing books. This thought led me to write a series of books called “The Published Pastor.” To date, I have two books in the series (Book 1 – “Expanding Your Ministry Through Writing and Publishing” and Book 2 – “How to Write and Publish Books”), and I will soon be releasing a third book on the topic of marketing Many of you who read my blogs could become a published author, and that would be one way you could be salt in our earth.

While the title of the Published Pastor series suggests these books only apply to pastors, the information is applicable to anyone who would like to write and publish. If you are a pastor, small group leader, Sunday School teacher, or Bible study leader, the books will have easy application to some of the things you do on a regular basis. You will see that I speak directly to pastors about how to turn a sermon series into a book, but the principles are easily applicable to every circumstance. Dr. Gerald Harris recently reviewed this series in the Christian Index. He said, “The book is extremely well written, extraordinarily helpful, and as practical as a Bible is to a Gospel preacher.” You can click this link to read the entire review.

In this series, I wrote to encourage Christians to use the resources availed to them through technology today to make a difference in the world. I also wanted to remove the mystery of becoming a published author and show that if you have ever considered writing a book, you can certainly do it. I originally published these as digital books and then combined books 1 & 2 into one paperback book. If $2.99 will stretch your budget right now, feel free to contact me, and I’ll send you a copy for free.

Whether you want to write books, record CD’s, paint pictures, blog, or create another product with a Christian message, I encourage you to find your avenue to make a difference in the world. Don’t keep saying that you will make a difference one day through your gifts or talents. Do it today. If you are interested in writing, I am happy to help you any way I can. Our challenge is to shake the salt, and God’s Kingdom will shine through us.

Israel in Prophecy

We’ve heard a lot of talk lately about moving the U. S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Does this issue have anything to do with Bible prophecy?

Without a doubt, Israel will play an important role in the last days, and it will eventually serve as the capital city of the world (Zechariah 14:9-11). Anything that happens in our world that keeps Jerusalem on the forefront of our minds could be considered prophetic. If we move our embassy to Jerusalem, we are certainly drawing attention to the city that will one day be center of the world, it it’s not already.

Scholars have differed over the meaning of the word Jerusalem, but it seems to mean “City of Peace.” Israel has not lived up to her name, but the Bible says that in the last days, Israel will experience peace for a season. Ezekiel was led by God to tell us that during a time of peace for Israel, their defenses will be down. It is during this time that the 5-nation coalition, along with Russia, will attack Israel in a battle the Bible calls the Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-39).

So, what can we watch for in the news regarding Israel? We will see continued attention placed upon Jerusalem, and we will eventually see a period of peace for the Jewish people. It is hard for us to imagine peace for Israel right now with all of the tension in the Middle East. It leads me to wonder what will happen so that Israel will have peace. It could be a treaty with the Palestinians and the destruction of Hamas and other factions. Regardless of how it happens, Jerusalem will finally live up to her name – at least for a season.

What about Russia? What role does Russia play in the last days? I’ll write about that next. In the meantime, keep your eyes on Israel. God is moving us toward an amazing conclusion.

A Day Without a Woman

“A Day Without a Woman” – Women’s rights groups organized a march on Washington today to celebrate International Women’s Day, and they encouraged women to stand together against inequality and injustice against women. They marched against President Trump and “the decades long economic inequality, racial and sexual violence, and imperial wars abroad.” The organizers asked women to take off work, avoid shopping, and basically not do the things they would normally do in a day. Thrown into the mix of all of the platforms of the movement was the platform of “reproductive justice,” which basically is a call for the right to kill unborn children at any point during pregnancy. The International Women’s Strike group included this statement on their website: “We demand free abortion without conditions.” Without conditions includes abortion at full-term just before birth, partial birth abortion, convenience abortion at any point during the pregnancy, and any other form of abortion the woman wishes to have without consideration of the baby’s rights. What about reproductive justice for the unborn?

I must hasten to say that I believe if a woman is doing the same job as a man, she should be paid the same, and women should be respected and regarded highly at all levels. In my opinion, this focus today had nothing to do with honoring women. It had everything to do with hatred of President Trump, pride, arrogance, self-servitude and self-aggrandizement. These attitudes are a total 180 from what the Bible teaches about love, servanthood and humility. Organizers of the event referred to themselves as an “army of love,” but I only see hatred (toward President Trump and maybe all men in general).

The only way our country will find healing during this terrible time of upheaval is if we will apply the golden rule (Do unto others what you want them to do unto you) and the Great Commandment (Love your neighbor as yourself). Marching with an agenda of hatred, acting with a motive of malevolence, or speaking with a goal of besmirching political leaders does not honor God and does not make for a strong Republic.

I would like to encourage a day that we would not call “A Day Without a Woman,” but maybe “A Day for a Woman.” Let’s serve the ladies in our lives and give them the respect that they deserve. Let’s thank God for the wonderful gift of women in our lives. If you’re a woman, it is my hope that you are appalled at what transpired today and would recommit yourself to the attributes and character qualities that best represent Jesus Christ. Then let’s have “A Day for Unity” where people of both sexes and all ethnicities stand together as Americans – not white Americans, black Americans, male or female Americans, Mexican-Americans – just Americans. Maybe we could follow that up with “A Day for Jesus” where all Christians share the wonderful stories of how Jesus Christ has changed our lives.

It’s time to come together. Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Let’s all recommit ourselves to community and love. Let’s look around today to see who we can out serve. Focus on giving instead of receiving. Think of serving others instead of reclaiming our rights. That would be a real day worth celebrating.

Personal Growth Plan

sapling-154734_1280Usually, by now, I have completed my personal growth goals and plans for the upcoming year. With my preparations for my mission trip to Mexico and Christmas activities (among other things0), I’m a little behind. I started writing out an annual plan for personal growth many years ago as a teenager, though back then, it was not nearly as formal and detailed. When I was a kid, my family sat around the table sometime toward the end of the year and talked about our plans for the upcoming year. We shared our goals with one another and some of our plans for accomplishing those goals. I eventually began writing these goals down and getting a little more specific with my plans. This eventually developed into my annual plan for personal growth.

I came to the realization that while growing old is automatic, growing up is not. For example, instead of being thirty-five years old, a person could be one-year-old thirty-five times. As a matter of fact, I’ve met a number of fifty plus year old people who still needed a pacifier. I have to confess that I rarely accomplish all of my goals, but because I give it a great deal of thought and write out my annual plan, I’m a lot closer to accomplishing my goals than I would be otherwise. Writing out my goals for personal growth not only helps me to know what to do to grow in six areas of my life, but it also helps me to know what NOT to do. For example, there are so many books out there to read (over a million new books are written each year), but not all of them are worth reading. I have many people suggest books to me. Some of the suggested books are excellent, while others may have been meaningful to the person, but it wouldn’t apply to my life and ministry very well. Planning my reading, which is part of my growth plan, helps me to be more intentional with what books to read. It also helps me to be more balanced in my reading.

I plan growth for six areas in my life: spiritual, family, physical, financial, leadership, and ministry. These are broad categories, and I fit a number of unique areas of growth under the various categories. For example, I want to grow as a writer, so I put that particular area of my life under “ministry.” Remember that this is a plan for personal growth. Even though I typically include various goals under each category, the idea is to create a plan that will help me to personally grow in that area. I will typically go into greater detail on general goals for various areas in a different place. For example, I have an Evernote notebook on my computer where I create detail plans and goals for my ministry through my church, my writing goals and plans, and other details of my life. A plan for personal growth is about growth. The key is to HAVE a plan for personal growth.

Under each broad category, I usually make a general statement of what I want to accomplish in that area and then make a list of books I want to read, people I want to hang out with, conferences I want to attend, or groups I want to join so that I will have personal growth in that particular area. I add some additional goals that may not fit so neatly into one of those smaller categories.

 

How do you plan to grow in 2017? Have you given it some thought? I encourage you to spend some time before the end of 2016 working on your plan for personal growth. When you finish your plan, share it with a few people in your life. When 2017 comes to a close, you may find that you didn’t accomplish everything, but you will accomplish a lot more because you have a plan. Someone once said, “He who aims at nothing hits it every time.” What will you aim at in 2017? Do you want to share some of your 2017 growth goals below?

Singing Anyone? Part 2

microphone-1209816_1920In my last blog, I asked the question: “What if I don’t want to sing?” It’s a valid question. We’ve all faced times where we had no song, but the problem is that God commands us throughout the Scripture to sing. I mentioned two causes for not wanting to sing. If you didn’t read my last blog, you may want to stop and read it now.

Whether we don’t sing because we think we can’t or because a sad circumstance has stolen our song, the solution is simple: sing anyway. God only wants a joyful noise, and we’ll find that singing may be God’s prescription to pull us out of the doldrums. It is amazing that while worship is directed to God, we benefit significantly. As we sing to God, he heals our hearts.

Another reason we are to sing has to do with people around us. You may think you’re doing the people around you a favor by not singing. Actually, you’re not. Colossians 3:16 commands us to sing to one another because our singing has mutual benefit: “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Have you ever considered the idea that the person sitting next to you in worship is benefiting from your singing? Imagine a man beside you in worship next Sunday who may be struggling with a matter or a problem. He desperately needs help from God, and then he hears you singing with gusto and conviction about the faithfulness of God. Your song encouraged him with truth from God’s Word. Before long, he begins to join in with you in giving praise to God. This is one way Colossians 3:16 can be lived out in our lives. Though worship is for God, our singing can certainly bless others with spiritual encouragement. 

We can also teach others through singing by intentionally singing about theological truths. I’ve taught children how to share the gospel by putting music to the “Roman Road to Salvation” scriptures. I learned about the Old Testament story of Israel’s great revival of 1 Samuel 7 because I sang the old hymn “Come Thou Fount.” I had to look up the “here I raise mine Ebenezer” part, and read a wonderful story about God working in the lives of his people. Singing can have great value in teaching us God’s Word.

What if I don’t want to sing? Sing anyway. It honors the Lord, and someone in your life needs to hear it. You will benefit greatly by lifting your spirit and by opening up your hearts to spiritual truths. Music is a wonderful gift from a loving God, so, tilt your head back and sing for the glory of God.

 

Singing Anyone?

bear-1124548_960_720What if I don’t want to sing? God commands us to sing in numerous passages, such as Psalm 95, 96, 100, & Colossians 3:16. While I am sharing a message series about worship with my church family, I have reminded all of us that God established singing in our DNA. While we are made to sing, and God has commanded us to sing, what if we don’t want to sing? Has that ever happened to you? Some people don’t want to sing because they believe they sound horrible. Others have lost their song due to personal struggles and disappointments.

Let’s first of all acknowledge that it’s not abnormal to lose our song, or never have one to start with. For those who believe they are doing humanity a favor by not singing, I think the solution to the problem is that they must change their thinking. Think back to watching your two-year old daughter dancing for you or your young son swinging a baseball bat and dribbling a ball five feet from the tee. You loved it and applauded your little ones. Our singing is not for us. On the most part, it’s not even for the people around us (though I’ll share some thoughts about that in my next blog). God made us to sing for Himself. If you don’t want to sing because you think you can’t, actually, you can. You may not sing well, but you can make a joyful noise. Give it a try. First and foremost, it will put a smile on the face of your Heavenly Father. Worship is about Him and not you.

We face other challenges that may steal the song from our hearts. We may be struggling with financial problems, health challenges, or relationship issues. Singing is an interesting thing. Not only can singing be the overflow of a joyful heart, but it can also be the cause of a joyful heart. Singing is therapeutic. Worshipping God with a song in our heart always takes us to a new place in our spirit. When we feel down about something, worshipping God always brings new perspective on our circumstances. Scientists have determined that singing releases endorphins in our body that bring about feelings of pleasure and joy. It also releases Oxytocin, which creates feelings of trust and bonding, helping us overcome struggles with depression and loneliness. God loves us so much. It’s no wonder He commands us to sing.

What if I don’t want to sing? Sing anyway. Singing and worshipping Almighty God is just the prescription you need to take you to a new place in your life. While worshipping God is about God first, it’s amazing how we ultimately benefit by putting God first. Christmas is a great time to make a shift in our song. Why not start today by finding a song in your heart. Maybe you could start with “Joy to the World.”

Thanksgiving

happy-thanksgiving-picturesAlthough the Pilgrims set aside a day of thanksgiving in 1621, Governor William Bradford, governor of the Pilgrim’s Plymouth Colony, formally declared a day of thanksgiving in 1623 with these words:

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

On this day of Thanksgiving 393 years later, we all share similar sentiments. God has given us an abundant harvest of His provision, and He has protected us from the savage attacks of countries and terrorists who hate us. He has spared us from disease and granted us freedom to worship Him. We have much for which to give Him thanks.

I am thankful for a God who loves me with a love that can’t be measured, redeemed me with a price that can’t be earned, filled me with a peace that can’t be understood, and secured me with a hope that can’t be conquered. He’s given me the joy of my family, the community of my church, the mission field of His world, and a home that is eternal. I am a blessed man indeed. I have a wife who loves me, children who honor me, and a church who gives me the privilege to serve. I could die today a very contented man.

Today, on this Thanksgiving Day, I can only say with the great hymn writer: Praise God from whom all blessings flow.