Letting Loose

I have experienced some things in the last few weeks that have been very freeing. It is amazing thing when we are loosed by the Spirit of God. The Bible teaches us that the truth will set us free. Jesus says that if we come to him heavy and laden that he will give us rest. The Scripture teaches that the following of Christ is freedom.

The amazing thing about this freedom is that we best experience it when we fully live as bondservants of Christ. When our lives are 100% focused on being bound to the Lord Jesus Christ and his service and His Kingdom. It is then we discover and experience the truth that if we seek first His Kingdom and his righteousness that he will provide all we need.

The problem that too many of us as Christians face is not that there is not freedom in Christ but that we are not willing to live that life of freedom. Let me tell you why I say that. Truth sets us free. Seeking God’s kingdom first sets us free. Coming to Jesus and giving him the burdens sets us free.

We are not set free when we are in control. There is no freedom when there is a lack of lordship in our lives. When we decide who we are and what we do for the Lord, we do not experience freedom. Truth is that we don’t like that type of truth and that is why we lack freedom. There is freedom in the truth but the truth is what we too often avoid with our lives. We don’t avoid hearing it, we avoid doing it.

My challenge for you today is to let Jesus loose in your life. Tell him that you are his and you will do whatever he wants whenever he wants. There is an incredible freedom found in that. What you might discover is that the truth you learn when you get there is not the truth you thought you would learn.

This is the truth that I have learned this week. I have a great privilege and a great responsibility to be the pastor of Fellowship Church. God has trusted me with the souls of this city and to lead out in seeing our entire city come to Christ. You would think that would be truth to avoid, but the opposite is true. I much prefer that truth over the truth that I have privilege of pastor a good church that will do some good things. The truth that God has something bigger and bolder for Fellowship Church is not a burden but freedom for me.

For those of you at Fellowship Church who missed yesterday, first I am sorry because it was a great day of worship. Second, we announced that we are having a Night of Vision with Pastor Kirk on Friday, March 6 at 6:30 PM. Childcare will be provided and you want to be there.
That might sound arrogant, but I learned this week that it is in humility that I am who I am but it is in the boldness of Christ that I must do what I do. I have something to share that I think will change your life, the life of Fellowship Church, and honestly the life of our city.

Those are big words, but it is because we have a big God who has given us a big task and he has given me a big vision for that. Honestly, I see more clearly than ever before because I have allowed Jesus to set me loose. It is not my burden to see Prairieville come to Christ, it is his work. I will, however, seek that Kingdom first. Not second. Not third. Not after I get my life taken care of. First.

I ask everyone at Fellowship to make every effort to be there on Friday, March 6. If you are going to be a part of this vision, though, you have a decision to make.

Are you ready to live free knowing that freedom means bound and that bound means bold?

The Value of Connection

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 1 Cor. 12:12

The thing that too many people fail to grasp in today’s world of church is that we are a part of a body. Each one of us (who are followers of Christ) are one part of the body. The thing about bodies is that they work better when they have all their parts.

A part of a body that is healthy has several things that are always true about it. You will see I emphasized always true, not some times true, but always true. Here are those things about healthy body parts.

1. They function in their intended capacity. A healthy body part does what it is intended to do.
2. They are connected to the rest of the body. A healthy body part is not disconnected from the rest of the body. Disconnected body parts die.
3. They follow the function of the body that begins in the head. The brain runs the whole body and Jesus is the Head of his body. Healthy parts do what they head says to do.
4. They do not disconnect from the body and look for another body every time another part causes it pain or does something in a manner they would have wanted done differently.
5. They do not try to harm other parts of the body because they are jealous or selfish.

Unfortunately there are too many people in church today that don’t get the whole view there. They simply see the church as something that they benefit in not as something they participate in the health and work of. The sad part of this is not what it does to the church, but what it causes in people’s own spiritual lives. They miss out on so much when they are a part that is apart.

So the question all this brings about is, “Are you connected?” Are you truly a part of the Body of Christ? You must understand that this is not a question about the universal group of people around the world that are followers of Christ. This question is about a local body of believers. You will never be a part of the Big Body of Christ until you are part of the Local Body of Christ.
So at Fellowship we talk a lot about getting connected. Our statement that is used to describe the process of building up believers in our church is this Connecting to Love, Grow, Serve, and Go.

My challenge for you is to consider where you are in that process.
1st – Are you truly connected to love of Christ? Do you know him as your Lord and Savior? (Love)
2nd – Are you connected to other believers through the main discipleship ministry of a local church? At Fellowship that is Life groups. (Grow)
3rd – Are you connected to your God given function and purpose in the church? (Serve)
4th – Are you connected for the purpose of connecting others to Christ? (Go)

If not, you don’t really understand the fullness of what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ. You are still missing out on so much. At Fellowship Church we believe we are on the VERGE of a great movement of God. How deeply you connect will affect how much you are a part of that movement.

If you show up without the purpose of connecting deeper you might have a good view of the things God does, but you will not be a part of it. You might be able to see it, but you will not be able to celebrate it.

So this week take one step further in the process and make a deeper connection. If you are not connected to a church or Christ at all please visit us Sunday morning at 10:30 AM for our worship service. If you are already attending a service then show up at 9 AM for a Life Group and get connected to grow. If you are already in a Life Group and are growing then get connected to serving by speaking up and saying you want to serve in one of our ministry areas. (Your Life Group leader can help you with that.) If you are already serving then start going in the world and being a greater influence by finding one other person that is not at your level of spiritual growth and help them move forward.

The Verge is a great view, but it is not one that lasts long. Get connected so we can get going!

For more info on Fellowship like location and worship times check out www.4fellowship.org

On the Verge

I have experienced the verge of great things in my life more than I have really experienced the great things. Often in life we have the ability to see possibility more than we see actuality. In my life as a pastor this can be very frustrating and discouraging. It is also very challenging and encouraging. It depends on where you are standing. If you are standing at the verge looking forward with hope then you are inspired and encouraged, but if you are looking back trying to find the verge you once thought you saw you are often frustrated and discouraged.

I find myself on the verge again right now. God is doing some amazing things in the lives of the people of Fellowship Church and within the church corporately. There is this feeling that comes from the Lord for me when I see the future possibilities. Honestly, I believe the Lord is ready to do more than we can ask or imagine. I believe Fellowship Church is at one of those verges.

The issue I now face is my own past experience. There is some trepidation and fear to speak of such a verge – to share with others the possibilities I see ahead. Why? Because I have seen it before and the verge of possibility did not come reality. So I have asked God over the last couple of weeks, what is it that needs to change as we stand at the verge this time.

I had some assumptions about what needed to change to see a verge become a launching point instead of a lost dream. I assumed we needed to cause some momentum, but then I realized God has already done that. Then I thought about how we needed to draw all the new people in – but then I realized God was already doing that. So I simply stopped thinking and started listening.

I stopped because Sunday morning was one of the toughest for me ever in preaching the Word. (Not just because I preached the longest sermon that I have preached since we started the church – sorry about that) It was difficult spiritually. It was a feeling and an experience I have had before. The crowd was down and my heart was heavy and my day was long – very, very, very long. Immediately I began to consider the times I had seen the verge in the past and thought about shrinking away with no expectation, but I realized I could not and that I would not.

So Sunday morning I got up at the end of church and told the church we were at a verge. I shared that it was time for us to work hard and move forward. I tapped into my inter Tebow and laid it out there that I would not be outworked because was ready to see God move in a mighty way. And I said with an excited spirit but a doubtful mind. The attendance was the smallest of 2009 and it did not seem the day to lay out such a statement.

That was when I realized we really are at the verge. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. That is when too often we turn back from the hope of the verge and walk back into the valley of mediocrity.

NOT THIS TIME! I am calling everyone at Fellowship to prayer. God is at work. He is changing lives and he is using us. Are you ready and are you willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES? I am. The first thing it will take is prayer. The second is work. We must get on our knees and then we must get up. And when we get up we must run…run…run. We need to not measure our actions and commitments by the hours they cost us but by the eternity it impacts. It is time to stand at the verge and to see not the possibilities, but the Person of the possibilities. We must fix our eyes on Jesus.

So I call you to kneel at this verge with me and to pray. And then to get up and not walk forward but run into what God has ahead of us.

Expect more blogs along these lines over the next couple of weeks as I layout some prayer thoughts and share my personal experience concerning this verge we are at.

THANK YOU

“Thank you” can be some of the most powerful words we ever hear. When we know we have done something that is worthy of appreciation and someone really expresses gratitude it is powerful feeling. I would imagine it was a powerful emotion for Jesus the day that he healed 10 lepers and while they were running away to go be judged as clean, one turned back and simply said, “thank you”.

“Thank you” can also be some of the least powerful words we hear. This also happens when we know we did something worthy of appreciation and were not appreciated immediately or without something else causing it. Like when one person says thank you and another one says, “oh yeah, thanks.” Times like that. Or when someone says “you’re welcome” to get you to say thank you. You know it is meaningless then.

The other time “thank you” is powerless is when you know you don’t really deserve it. You know in your heart you have not done anything worth those words. Some times in my life I feel like people appreciate something so much that really was not much from me. It is an odd feeling to get underserved appreciation.

The other problem with “thank you” is that we feel it becomes obsolete in our ongoing relationships, but it does not. The other night Wendy pulled one of those “you’re welcome’s” on me. Truth was – I deserved it. I was not thankful. Why? She had done something she does all the time. Does that remove the value of it? Does it make it less worth thanking her for? No, but I have grown accustomed to it. (Unfortunately we all tend to do it.)

I challenge you in your relationships to be authentic in gratitude. I don’t care if the person does the thing you are thankful for every day for 50 years, be grateful. Say thank you. But don’t only say, live it. Serve them back. Do for them what makes them feel thankful towards you.

So today, on Valentine’s Day, I want to say “THANK YOU, WENDY.” Thank you for the clean clothes, the cooked meals, the cared for kids, the clean house, and all the times those things are in some state in between. Thank you for the listening ear and the supportive talks and the challenging questions. Thank you for the quiet walks and the loud laughs and the moments in between. Thank you for believing in me and supporting me and encouraging me. Thank you for serving me and serving with me. Thank you for being you and for allowing me to be me. Thank you for being a great mom and a fun wife and an absolutely beautiful (in every way possible) woman.

Thank you most of all for loving me. Your love carries more days than you will ever know. Without you I would not be who I am, I could not do what I do, and I wouldn’t enjoy it even if I could.

So if I do not say it enough, forgive me, but today I want to Yell it. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

And God, thank you for giving me in one person more joy and love than I knew was possible.

Wendy, I love you, always and forever.

When prayer is powerful

Scripture teaches us that the “prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” One of the problems with experiencing the power of prayer is the issue of righteousness. Righteousness is not something that begins with us. Truth is that “He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.” Righteousness is not something that we cause, but it is something that we cultivate.

Living a righteous life is the result of doing what we are hearing. A righteous life is one lived in full appreciation of the grace of Christ in our life. We must appreciate his righteousness with the way we live not just the words we say or the songs we sing. Sure our voices in speech and song must declare the work of Christ to all around us and must declare the praise of the One who has redeemed us, but living a righteous life is so much more than that.

So back to powerful prayer. I believe it is a man (meaning a person) that accepts and understands the righteousness of Christ in his life and lives out the righteousness in what he does that is powerful in prayer. It is one of those doing things. We know we are to pray, but too often we don’t. Many of us know how we should pray, but we don’t.

The question comes back to why. Why don’t we do what we know? Truth is doing what we know is difficult for many reasons. Many do not pray because the do not feel righteous. Others do not pray powerfully and effectively because they feel too righteous. Yet others do not pray because they simply do not see the value of it in their quest for righteousness.

I have been guilty of all three reasons and all have led back to a struggle in righteousness. The more we stray from the reason we pray the less the prayer is powerful and effective. Righteousness is not a religious thing, it is a real thing. It is a reality we can experience when we quit seeing religion and we start seeing Jesus.

I share this with you for the background of an event in my life I feel led to share. I do not have the best prayer life in the world. Truth is I pray for others a lot. I pray for Fellowship Church and my family and the lost. I love praying for my wife and my kids. I love to pray and ask God to allow me to do something well.

What I never really pray about is me. I do not pray about who I am. I ask God lots about what I am doing, but little about who I am becoming because no matter how much I preach it to others I still struggle with seeing that as my work and not his. I feel responsible for being a righteous man, like I could some how change myself.

This has been a truth I have grappled with for a long time, but God is really working in me on right now. I have always desired to please God. I want my life to matter. I desire to be successful. The problem is how I define that.

So this morning, I just prayed. I stopped talking and listened. I was not asking for instructions about where to lead the church nor what to say in a sermon nor the words to speak to a straying sinner or a grieving human. I was simply still and allowed God to speak to me about me.

And you know what. He did.

Today I feel more righteous. Not self-righteous. Just righteous. I feel ready to take on the world. I might share exactly what he said in a later blog, and I might not. The issue is this. Today I did what I heard.

Don’t stop there though. The conclusion of this type of movement of God is not that I would feel better about myself. Experiencing the righteousness of Christ is a gift for me from him. In that experience I interceded on behalf of many people. I pray that prayer will be righteous and effective, but I know because I allowed God to give me his righteousness first that I boldly walked into the throne room of Grace and made my requests known. I do not know how to measure the power of a prayer but this morning I fresh and new experienced what it feels like.

Righteousness is not about you. Nor is it about me. Doing what you hear is not about us, either. It is about God and his glory and his work in others, but the real issue is that we have to allow him to start in us. The problem is that some of us are only focused on the work he is doing in others while others are only focused on the work he is doing in us.

We both must learn. DO what you HEAR!

What have you done for me lately?

Do you remember this song? Janet Jackson gave us this deep insight into love back in 1986. (Holla if that makes you feel old.) But here are the great insights we learned about love in this song.

Used to be a time when you would pamper me…Used to brag about it all the time…Your friends seem to think that youre so peachy keen…But my friends say neglect is on your mind…Who’s right? What have you done for me lately

Janet actually does a really good job of capturing our world’s view of love. The problem expressed in this song is what is called lost love or having lost that loving feeling. (Another great blast from the past.) Our world is full of people asking the question what have you done for me lately. The problem that they are expressing is that they lost that loving feeling.

The real problem is the horrible concept of love our world has. Love is not about what someone else has done for you lately. Love is not about a feeling. Love is so much more than our world is looking for and sadly because it is what people are looking for it is also the love they give. The love of this world disappears when the loving feeling no longer makes our stomach do flips and heart beat real fast. The love of this world is always asking what have you done for me lately.

I want you to understand love as God does. That is what I talked about Sunday in my sermon. We are in a new series called Connected. I am teaching 4 characteristics needed in every relationship for it to be healthy. Our relationship with God, our marriage, our family relationships, our friendships, our relationships with acquaintances all are healthier if we exhibit these four characteristics – LOVE, AUTHENTICITY, FORGIVENESS, and COMPASSION.

So we started with love last week. The text was out of 1 John 4. In this passage we hear this truth. “We love because he first loved us.” The very definition of love is the opposite of the songs in our culture. We also hear the truth that “God is love.” God is the very definition of love and the definition of love is to love first. He showed us his love by sending his son as a sacrifice for us – another truth in this passage.

So here is what love really is. Love is action. Love is something we do because we choose to do it. We choose to love not because someone loved us but because we loved them. That is love. (There should only be one love in our life that we are second in and that is the love we have for God.) In all other relationships we must love as God loves. We must love first. We must act and not react. We must do what someone else needs whether they deserve it or not. That is what love is.

Love is not about what you have done for me lately. Love is not about that loving feeling. Sure love is emotional but it is not an emotion. Love is expressed in our actions. There are many feelings that go along with those actions, but love is not the feeling – it is the action.

It is great to be loved. We all need to be loved. But truth is, if you want to be loved – LOVE! Don’t stop and ask what have you done for me lately. Ask what have I done for you lately. Answer that question in the life of someone you love everyday and you will not lose that loving feeling.

Hearer vs. Doer

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

Fellowship Church is currently going through some change right now that essentially boils down to this truth. As the pastor and leader of FC I have a great driving passion to see people live lives that fulfill the commands of Scripture and result in the great glory of God.
The problem that we face too often in being doers of the Word, however, is how we hear it. I actually think that the culture of church has conditioned us to be hearers and not doers. I say this as one of the leaders in a church. I want to help people do what they hear.
The culture of church has, in my opinion, taught something it never intended to teach. When I was a child growing up in church I think I would have told you that the Godliest people went to visitation on Tuesday night. The next group of committed believers were Wednesday nighters. I would have also thought highly of the Discipleship Training and Sunday night worship crowd. The Sunday morning crowd was divided between the Sunday schoolers and the just show up for churchers. No one taught me that mindset, but somehow I picked it up. I think perhaps it is the use of guilt in communicating the fact that it would be really good to show up at each of these things.
So I say all of this to make the point that I think the church, without meaning to, has made a culture that fosters the idea that the result of hearing the truth is to come back and hear more truth. If you were to take visitation out of the mix everything planned is an opportunity to hear more truth. Christianity in the culture of the average church in America is defined by church participation and attendance.
Now granted the Bible clearly tells us to not forsake the assembling together. Many churches today are trying to make Christianity easy and doing just that. I do not think following Christ is easy, but I do believe it is simple. We need to learn to walk away from the ideas and assumptions we have about why we do what we do and take a new look at what we do.
Does a person really become a better follower of Christ just because they are at church for two worship services on Sunday? Do we automatically grow in Christ because we show for a Bible Study on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night? I do not think so. I actually think the opposite happens.
I believe that average Christian judges their growth in Christ by how much they are hearing not by how much they are doing. The people in many churches today are so busy studying and preparing and going to Bible studies that they rarely have time to stop and become what they are learning. God has not called us to make theologians, he has called us to make disciples. I want people to learn the great deep truths of Scripture as their life goes on, but I would much prefer to see them do what they have learned before they commit to learning more.
Fellowship is focused on learning how to help people do what Christ has called them to do. To be who Christ has called them to be. Sure there is a lot to learn, but we are not in a hurry. There is only so much we can learn and apply at a time. God is a patient God. It is us that has created the hurried concept of church pushing people through programs instead of walking with people through the changes of life.
The church needs to be called back to a simple approach. Fellowship is not a frantic pace church as it is, but we need to be more purposeful at each step. We are working on this. We want everything we do to move people forward in their faith from where they are.
The question is, “where are you?” Are you hearing or are you doing? Here is a quick litmus test for that. When was the last time you told a lost person how to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord? No doubt you have heard to do that, but have you done it. Are you being the church or are you just doing church?
This week Fellowshippers have been given a bold challenge to be the church. I pray that this movement will never stop and that we will see more and people connect to love, grow, serve, and go.
(More about this topic will follow in coming posts. I know your anxiously awaiting my thoughts on the church.)