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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Obama's response to the oil spill

My uncle sent me this video.  I think it's great...I'm not going to comment on it.  I think the video says it all. 

Oil Spill Timeline from RightChange on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Pastor's role in God's House Part III

Click here to read the rest of the entries in the God's House Series

The Pastor's role as Shepherd

I grew up listening to many wonderful pastors.  My Dad and his ministry taught me to love deep teaching.  I remember sitting in church with my Bible on my lap and a note pad beside me.  He had a wonderful way of weaving contemporary situations into Biblical teaching.  He was easy to follow and always left me wanting more.  My mother was also a minister and evangelist.  It was impossible to sit through one of her charismatic sermons and not cry. 

Pastor Reese Thomas inspired and touched my heart during my years at Evangel University.  Pastor Don Argue was one of the kindest and most inspiring ministers I've known.

I could go on and on about the pastors that have influenced my life.  There are many.  All of these men and women were called by God, had a life changing experience and.....they loved the people they served.

I've known some ministers that believe the decision to enter the ministry uses the same decision making process as say....a banker.  So's not the same!  In order to lead God's people and to be responsible for God's house --- you must be "called" by Almighty God himself.  You must have a transformation of your mind, your heart and your life.  You must know in the same way Jonah knew, that there is nothing else for you to do with your life but to "feed God's Sheep".  You must have a clear cut insight into God's will for your life and how your talents will be used to "feed God's sheep". 

John 21:15-17
 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.  When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."  The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.

I actually heard one pastor announce from the pulpit, "I decided to enter the ministry because I am a talented speaker, I have a sense of humor, I like to read and I want to determine my own hours."

Looking at John 21,  I believe there are two huge requirements for being a minister.  Without those two things in place, your ministry will be much less than it should be.  #1  Do you really love Jesus?  (Do I need to ask that three times?)  #2 Are you feeding for and caring for the sheep - those in your fold? 

If a pastor isn't doing those things first....he can't go on to other things without becoming distorted.

What would a John 21 pastor be like?  He's the kind of pastor that greets you at the bread aisle of K-Mart the same way he greets you when you come into church.  He knows your name and he's glad to see you.  He looks at your face when you tell him about your four year old being sick and he remembers to call two days later to see if he's better.

He's excited to be invited to your house for dinner and wouldn't miss your husband's retirement party.  Not only will he pray with you about your rebellious teen, he will get involved.  He might show up to take them for ice cream or he might make sure the youth pastor and your son has the money to go to a concert together.  When he tells you he's praying, you can take it to the bank.  He spends the first hour of his work day praying for his sheep and the last 30 minutes of his work day praying for the entire ministry.

When you call his cell phone to tell him that your mother is being rushed to the hospital, you may find that he's beat you there.  He's waiting at the emergency room door dressed in shorts and has charcoal on his hands.  When you ask what he was doing he tells you about the steaks on the grill.  Then he quickly shifts the conversation to ask if you want to pray. 

How can a pastor do all that?  He can't if he wants to build a mega church.  He can only be that involved if he's not out for the numbers.  He must be more concerned about individual people than he is about building a mega church. Maybe his little church is only 100 people.  Maybe he doesn't have a big choir or a ton of youth in a specialized program....but he personally feeds the sheep he has.  He sings through his day because (other side of this issue) his sheep know his voice and they love him.  They care about him.  They pay him a decent salary - not huge - but enough to live comfortably.  They have birthday parties for him and his family and they lock arms and pray for God to bless them. 

The pastor feels loved and appreciated.  The congregation feels loved and appreciated.  They all become a tightly knit community of caring, kind, loving people.  And what if a stranger approaches....they love him too!  It's not a click.  It's the family of God!  A group of people growing and loving each other until the Father comes back to claim his own.

WOW!  Doesn't that sound great??? 

Hum....Debbie, it does sound great.  But is it real?

Yes.  I know it can happen because I've lived it.  My parents pastored a church in Indiana that exhibited all those traits.  It's hard to maintain and Satan will work on you to try to break it up.  It takes both the pastor and the congregation working together to protect the "family of God".  But...that's the way the church is supposed to be.  And....that type of church makes evangelism easy.  Who wouldn't want to be part of that type of "family"?  Why aren't pastors striving for that kind of ministry today.  Could it be that their eyes are on "bigger and bigger" rather than "take care of my sheep"?

My son is at a large church and we had a discussion on this subject.  He likes the feel of the large churches, the big programs they can produce and the big projects they can execute for God. 

Sounds good....but I wonder, couldn't you accomplish all that with 10 smaller churches that unite once a month to work together on a project? 

Mega churches scare me.  The pastor can hide his own problems and sin.  The parishioners can hide their sins.  The children can run away from accountability and the person of Jesus can get lost in the programs.  There's too much room for people to be disconnected from the original teachings, accountability and Christ like service.  Mega churches have lots of people working, but they also have lots of lazy Christians who take much more than they give.  I've known large churches that have 250 Sunday school classes.  There's no way the pastor can know the lives of the teachers...the way they teach....or the spiritual condition of their unit.  It would take him almost a year to just sit in on the individual classes. 

So....what difference does that make?  He can appoint an overseer to make sure everyone is on the right track.

Yes, yes he could.  But why wouldn't the Shepherd want to connect with his sheep on a personal level?  And then there's the money thing.  Bigger means more money coming in....but also more programs going out and needing more stuff, more staff and more things and more responsibility until's all about money. 

Let's run with the thought of "feeding" the sheep.  Let's look at dining out kind of like Diners, Drive Ins and Dives on the Food Network.  We all love finding that neat little restaurant where all the cooking is special because the chef puts his heart into every dish.

You walk in the door and everyone knows you.  You can ask for special things and the owner smiles and is happy to grant your request.  It feels like coming home or Thanksgiving dinner every time you show up.  But...the word leaks out and suddenly there are bus loads of people from a neighboring town.  You have to wait in line for an hour or so to get a table.  The owner has to hire help that isn't local.  Finally it's too much for him and he sells to a big company.  They come in and change the decor, change the menu so their profit margin is higher, the help is micro managed and no longer fun to talk to and pretty soon you just stop going.  It's lost its appeal as a little diner and with it the feeling of "going home". 

That my friend is what's happening in churches that pursue the "mega" label.  We've lost the feeling of home and the Spirit of God.  I'm sure God is so sick of the micro management, the show type programs and the loss of "family" that even He wants to skip the service.  God desires to be involved in the lives of his people.  Without relationship there can be no worship.  Without worship there can be no Spirit.  Without spirit - God does not inhabit the house!

I called a pastor once and told him my child was discouraged and having a hard time.  "He admires you.  If you could just give him a call, I know it would mean a lot."  Inside I was hoping he would want to spend a little time with my child and be sure he was okay.  After all, our family had attended the church for almost 10 years. 

"Look, I'll pray for your child, but you need to get him to church and get him involved in some ministry.  If he becomes part of my inner circle, then I can spend time with him. I just don't have time to hang with people that aren't part of my inner circle."  I hung up the phone and cried.  My pastor didn't understand the parable of Jesus and the "one" lost sheep.  How Jesus loved that lost sheep and looked for him.  How he took the time to go out and find him and bring that sheep home.  Luke 15:4-7
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

I know many of you may be attending a large church.  That's fine.  I just hope that your pastor is a "true" shepherd of God and is leading his congregation with love and more importantly with involvement in their lives.  I hope this discussion on pastors will inspire you to search out the scriptures and hold your pastor accountable to his "heavenly" goals.  I hope you and your pastor will take a look at the people attending and ask yourself if you have properly grounded those "sheep" in the word of God and the love of God's family.

My purpose in this series is NOT to hurt any pastor or member, but rather to get you to "question with boldness" all that is going on in the House of God.  According to the Barna group, every year we lose more Christians than we add.  We better figure out what's wrong and why before Christianity becomes the smallest faith in the world.

God loves you,


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Pastor's role in God's House Part II

You can find Part I here  Pastor's role in God's house Part I

I am currently reading a book titled 5 Ministry Killers and how to defeat them by Charles Stone.  He talks about how the demands of parishioners often hurt pastors and drive them out of the ministry. 

I agree with Charles!  Too many ministers have been mistreated and are so starved for love and appreciation that they leave the ministry in despair.  Shame on any congregation that doesn't take care of their ministers.  We will discuss you later in this series.  There's an old saying - "Christians are the only organized group that shoots their wounded!"  It's true -- and it must stop!

However, as kind as Christians need to be - we do have a duty to require certain standards in our churches.  That standard must start with the Pastor.  I'm an only child and both my parents are ministers.  They built three churches and pastored many more.  They have been great examples of sticking close to the Bible and its demands for pastors. 

I observed an "unspoken" requirement for a good pastor.  I don't recall my parents ever talking about it, but it rang loud and clear for me.  As a child I witnessed the problem with bad marriages and bad parenting within other pastoral homes.  Some ministers were even ask to leave because of their homelife or rebellious teens.  How can you lead your congregation to a closer walk with God when you are unable to lead your own family? 

If I was the administrator of a college or university, I would add marriage and parenting classes to the requirements for a divinity degree.  In those classes I would insist that young pastors pray long and hard about their spouse.  After all....she will be called into the ministry - by marriage.  You can't fake ministry.  At some point the light will shine on your spouse and he/she will have to show the congregation the personal side of your faith.

Look at it this way.  If I belonged to a church where the pastor can't control his teens, why would I think I could control mine?  His lack of expertise would make me think that the task is impossible and can't be done.  I wouldn't have any reason to continue to try. 

Why is that important?  Pastors are our example of "how to do it right".  If he can't resist temptation, resist anger, grow children who love God, have a great marriage, love people.....what hope do I have of doing those things?  Everyone agrees that we need "spiritual role models"....but contemporary churches want to look outside the church for those role models.  The Bible however, demands that our role models be closer to home.  The entire chapter is enlightening, but let's look at I Timothy 3:1-5 specifically.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer (Bishop-Pastor), he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)

It is important that any congregation be loving, kind and helpful when the pastor is experiencing stress.  But maybe it is just as important for a young pastor to "plan" for the dangers ahead by building a strong family as he goes along.  He will need that family to support him when the job is overwhelming.

I ended my last post with three questions.  How does a discussion about the homelife of a pastor fit with the question - What are the Biblical goals of the church?  Goals must come from the top down.  If your pastor isn't leading the life God has called him to.....neither will the congregation.  I've had to counsel with many people who have been hurt and spiritually destroyed by a pastor who was not living like he should.  The Pastor is our earthly Shepherd.  If he can't get it right - neither will we!  If he walks down a rocky path and eventually off the cliff - if we are following him - we will too!

But Debbie....we aren't supposed to follow our pastors...we are supposed to follow Jesus!

That's right, with an exception.  Our eyes should be on Jesus but when you sit week after week and listen to your "pastor" explain the scriptures - he will be preaching what he feels.  Little by little his problems will leak into his sermons and into your hearing and eventually into your life or worse....the life of your children. 

Plus....if your pastor isn't living a Godly life and he isn't engaged on a daily basis with spiritual enlightenment from God - why would God show up on Sunday morning?  Go back to our last discussion....God's house must be sanctified.  If your pastor isn't - how can God show up and bless the service?

Several years ago a friend complained about his church.  He said they were growing as in adding members - but he just didn't "feel" the spirit like he used to.  The services were more "excitement" oriented but he just didn't feel like it was touching his heart.  Just three months after that conversation, the pastor announced he was having an affair and yet wanted to continue as pastor while he went through his divorce.  Hum...."Sin" isn't the way to invite God into your services.

The Biblical goal of the church is first and foremost to follow the teachings of Jesus and then to evangelize the world.  If your pastor isn't following those teachings - how can God bless the church spiritually?  Remember, numbers are NOT an indication of spiritual blessing.  Go back and look at the picture above.  Does it remind you of a spiritual meeting - or more of a show or concert?  Church is not about outdoing secular shows - church is about spiritual growth! (more on that later)

What should my pastor be teaching?  The full Bible, the teachings of Jesus and the love and forgiveness demonstrated on the Cross.  He should be teaching about sin and how it pulls you away from a Holy God, how your life would be better without sin and how to avoid separation from God.  He must teach about Heaven and Hell.  If he avoids that subject, something is wrong.  He should also give a regular alter call.  If he avoids that, something is wrong.  The teachings of Jesus demand repentance.

My grandmother (a minister who built six churches in the south) used a neat illustration.  An elderly woman needed to hire a driver.  Three men showed up.  She asked only one question.  "If you had to drive me up a steep mountain, how close could you drive to the edge of the mountain without going over?"

The first driver said he could drive within 2 feet of the edge of the mountain.  The second driver said he could drive within 1 foot of the edge of the mountain.  The third driver said he wouldn't go near the edge of the mountain.  Instead he would drive as close to the yellow line as possible.  The woman hired the third man.

This illustrates how we should view the role of the church.  Do we want to attend a church that takes us as close as possible to the cliff that leads to Hell?  Do we want to trust that a "contemporary" pastor can show us how to cheat God and get away with as much as possible and yet hopefully God will smile and let us into Heaven anyway? 

Or in contrast, do we want a pastor who says, "Perhaps you could go to an "X" rated movie and still make heaven, but why would you want to?  Why not stay here with me, clinging to the cross and begging God to keep me safe.  Why would you want to take a chance with eternity?  You may think that avoiding some things in life is boring - or unnecessary.  But this life is only 90 years at best.  Wouldn't you want to be positive that you will have all of eternity to enjoy every good thing? 

Our last question is....How can I tell if I'm at the wrong church?  Are you growing?  Do you feel closer to God now than when you first joined the church?  If the answer is are at the wrong church. 

If you can't tell any difference in your life now and when you first began need to look for a Pastor that will challenge you to grow.  Why?  God never leaves you where you are.  He insists on growth. 

Yes, growth will depend on your involvement in the process.  But...if the pastor does not challenge you or preach sermons that "convict" you to change, something is wrong.

I'm 58 years old (agh...) and I've been in the church all my life.  I gave my heart to God when I was six and I've been growing for 52 years.  About the time I think I've learned all my lessons, God hits me with something new. 

When I was a teen I decided to write down all the scriptures I could find that commanded me to "do something".  After 280 scriptures I stopped recording.  I figured that God has so much for every Christian to do that there's no way to do it all.  We are required to grow through this life and graduate into the next.

Are you growing?  When God comes back or when you face the pearly gates will he be able to say..."Well done thy good and faithful servant!"

God loves you,


Monday, July 12, 2010

Is America Incompetent?

I loved growing up in the 50's-70's.  Yes, we had to suffer through Hippies, Vietnam and assassinations - but basically, life was still good and most families prospered. 

The thing I liked the most about those years was the drive for excellence.  I personally believe that's why life was so good.  Criminals and idiots weren't given the spotlight and public opinion looked down on them.  Now unfortunately... we elevate stupid to the point of making movies like Dumb and Dumber. 

In my day no one talked about the "bozo" in the family that went to California in a van painted with psychedelic flowers.  Instead we talked about, praised and applauded the accomplishments of the valedictorian who went on to college to become a doctor! 

The bum that banged on a tin can with two sticks he found in the yard wasn't going to be asked to do a concert.  People hurried past and knew that he was just foolin' around.  The concert pianist and the gal that could sing like songbirds not only received compensation for their hard work, they received rave reviews in the press.  When did we decide that the bum deserved money for lack of talent?

And my favorite 50's trend was the craftsmen that stood behind their work.  If you bought a table from "Al's furniture store" you could be sure your great-grandchildren were going to eat off that table.

My parents provided a nice home and I had a very nice bedroom.  However, it had somewhat childish decor and the bedroom suit was eclectic with a table hand-me-down from my parents and a headboard that we found at a garage sale.  They still worked...but I wanted something a little nicer.  Something that said I was a young adult.  So at age 14 I asked my parents for a new bedroom suit.

My Dad thought it was a wonderful idea.  However, he felt that if I was old enough to ask for and make a large purchase, I was old enough to pay for it.  After all, when I married I would surely want to take it with me.

Mom and I went to a great "mom and pop" furniture store and I found the perfect bedroom suit.  I even promised mom that with so many drawers, I could keep my room clean without even trying.  The bed, the dresser and a nightstand cost a whopping $400.  I was given a 30 year warranty but the manager smiled and added, "We stand behind our work.  If you have any trouble with this you let me know and I'll take it back and replace it!"

I worked 800 hours at $.50 an hour babysitting.  I charged $.75 if I did laundry or cleaned house.  I paid it off all by myself and on time!  (And I was taught to take care of it and not beat it up.)

What a fantastic claim.  "I stand behind my work!"  I still have that bedroom suit.  It's in wonderful condition and will probably outlast me.  Every drawer, every perfectly and I'm four years past the warranty date.

What has happened to America?  We praise, worry and coddle teen idols that don't have a clue about history or decency.  We spend hundreds every year supporting the movie industry that continues to spout garbage that's hurting our teens.  We accept the fact that any item under $300 is probably going to break within a year.  We tease about being a "throw away" nation. 

We turn our head when people who can't sing and have no real talent - pick up a mike, spit and sputter while yelling obscenities....and our children pay $20 a pop to listen to their rant.  And...then that angry generation has the gall to fuss at me when I say it is not music!

We allow our children to graduate when they can't spell, can't read and can't count.  We give them jobs they are not qualified to do in order to appease the government or some special interest group.  What they really need is a tough love program that kicks them on the behind when ever they act stupid. 

We allow smart children to be put down while we coddle and don't want to hurt lazy stupid children.  Then America is surprised when those stupid young people go into the work force and can't do their jobs.  Have you ever called a company for help and got a stupid person who makes matters worse.

My uncle was Vice President of a very large company.  He had given a young lady almost a year to learn her job.  Finally he called her in and said he was going to have to let her go.

"Because you can't do the job."
"Just 'cus I can't do the job doesn't mean you gots to fire me!"

My son Ken introduced me to a heartbreaking phrase.  "You can fix almost anything in this world.....but you can't fix stupid!"

We find ourselves using that phrase to calm down every time we meet someone who just doesn't get it.  But...the problem remains that if we aren't at least trying to fix stupid we are probably sealing the downfall of our country. 

It's time to step up to the podium and demand "Excellence".  We need to demand it from our children, from our spouses, in our churches, in the workplace and above all....we desperately need it in the political arena.  Without it this country is doomed to an avalanche of "Stupid" that will not be able to solve the issues we face. 

I received an e-mail today from a ticket agent in DC.  You won't believe the junk he has to deal with.....from political figures!  Out of the 15 or so examples he gave, here's just a few.

***A senior Vermont Congressman (Bernie Sanders) called, furious about a Florida package we did. I asked what was wrong with the vacation in Orlando. He said he was expecting an ocean-view room. I tried to explain that's not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state.

He replied, 'Don't lie to me. I looked on the map and Florida is a very thin state!'' (OMG)

***An Illinois Congresswoman (Jan Schakowsky) called last week. She needed to know how it was possible that her flight from Detroit left at 8:30 a.m., and got to Chicago at 8:33 a.m.

I explained that Michigan was an hour ahead of Illinois, but she couldn't understand the concept of time zones. Finally, I told her the plane went fast, and she bought that.

***A Senator John Kerry aide (Lindsay Ross) called to inquire about a trip package to Hawaii. After going over all the cost info, she asked, ''Would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii?''

***Senator Dianne Feinstein called and said, ''I need to fly to Pepsi-Cola , Florida . Do I have to get on one of those little computer planes?''

I asked if she meant fly to Pensacola, FL, on a commuter plane.

She said, ''Yeah, whatever, smarty!''

***Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Senator, called and had a question about the documents she needed in order to fly to China . After a lengthy discussion about passports, I reminded her that she needed a visa. "Oh, no I don't. I've been to China many times and never had to have one of those.''

I double checked and sure enough, her stay required a visa. When I told her this she said, ''Look, I've been to China four times and every time they have accepted my American Express!''

And you wonder why Washington can't get anything done!  Duh!
God loves you,

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Pastor's role in God's House

I may not be the most popular gal at parties....but I love to ask questions like the following and I'm always amazed at the answers.

Why did you decide to go to your current church?

"I like the music.  It gets me all excited and I have a good time."

"I have small children and Sunday is my day to turn them over to someone else.  My church has a large child care facility.  I'm sure they are okay and I get a full hour to sit quietly without someone pulling at me."

"My teens insist they don't like church.  I let them pick.  Even if I don't like the church or don't agree with them on certain issues at least my teens are happy.  They picked a church with a large youth group and lots of activities."

"My husband likes sports and our church has a large sports team.  Better to go there and have him with me than go where I want and leave him at home."

"My son likes rock music.  He won't go anywhere that won't let him play his electric guitar.  (whispered to me) I have a nice set of ear plugs."

"I'm a singer and I picked a church with a large choir so I can sing."

Unfortunately for people who believe the preceding answers are good reasons to attend a church - they are betting their eternal souls on their choice!  There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that instructs us to pick a church based on anything it offers us in the way of fun! 

There are only two reasons we should choose a church.  (1) The pastor adheres to and preaches from the full Bible.  His knowledge and understanding of Biblical principles is not based on his congregation's desires but on the truth contained in the word of God.  (2) God is leading you there in order to be a servant and to participate in the outreach of the Gospel.

That's it!  

Organized church isn't a big topic in the Bible.  But when it is talked about, the Bible is clear about the holiness of the church body and its pastors.  Read the book of Corinthians.  The members of the Corinthian church were rebuked and chastised for their crooked and unchristian ways. 

For example, Chapter 10:14-22.  In this passage Paul was asking the people to "flee from idolatry".  The contemporary church today doesn't pay much attention to this verse.  After all, how many Protestants believe in idols.  But if you read verse 18-22, you might get a different take on the scripture. 

"Consider the people of Israel:  Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?  Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?  No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God and I do not want you to be participants with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons.  Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy?  Are we stronger than he?"

I read that and had to sit back in my chair as I felt conviction.  I'm not an extremist.  I'm not sure we have to avoid everything this world has to offer.  I censor the type of movies I watch, but I love a good movie and it doesn't have to be a specifically Christian movie.  I censor the type of music I listen to, but I love Dean Martin, Perry Como and of course Elvis Presley.  So I wonder what does this scripture have to say to me.  Am I wrong?

Continuing in the article by Lorin L. Cranford on Sanctification she writes....
"Sanctification is vitally linked to the salvation experience and is concerned with the moral/spiritual obligations assumed in that experience. We were set apart to God in conversion, and we are living out that dedication to God in holiness."

Wow!  If we are set apart in holiness, how much more should our church be set apart?  I've heard stories of pastors bringing actual circus acts into the sanctuary in order to increase attendance.  Some pastors approve professional dancers, zoo animals, local secular bands and any other "show" type efforts - not for edification of the body but just to fill the pews on Sunday morning.  Pastors want to look cool and contemporary.  Yet, when I search the scriptures I can't find one verse where Jesus, Paul or any other writers thinks it's our duty as leaders to "blend". 

The scripture in Corinthians is about Sanctification and perhaps we all need to rethink our priorities.  But what about the church?  Not only should we be careful about sanctifying our own lives to God....but we must not and can not bring anything that has been offer to or used by demons into the house of God!  God will not share his house with the unclean.  You can bring your unclean friends for salvation and for God to save them....but our house of worship must be consecrated and sanctified in order for God to be there.  How?  (More on that later)

This subject then is where we desperately need a pastor who has not only given his life to the service of God....but also is "living" in the constant stream of enlightenment from God.  The pastor you choose will have to sort out all the details of how your church service is presented, how the business of the church is administered, who can be a member and how to present the Gospel to your community. 

Again I asked a deep question.  Once I asked a pastor, "What is your week-day schedule like?"  I was amazed that 90% of it was business.  He started his day with devotions and a prayer with his staff, but the rest of the day was business.  He didn't visit the sick; he passed that to someone else.  He rarely called members - that was someone else's job.  After listening for a few minutes, I felt that his main function was to come up with ideas that would build membership.  (Notice, I said membership - not evangelism.)  He based his decision to sort of distance himself and only deal with his "inner circle" on Rick Warren's teachings.

I did some research on Rick Warren.  While I don't know the pastor personally and I don't want to say anything bad about him....I can NOT agree with his philosophy that the church is a business.  The Holy work of God is not a business.  The Holy work of God is about preparing us to approach a divine being.  I do NOT believe (as Rick teaches) that the Bible supports the idea that we need to give the congregation what they want so they will be happy.  (2 Timothy 4:3  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.)

Most important however is that your pastor has been charged with taking care of "every one" of the sheep in his congregation!  He is responsible not only for you but for everyone that attends his church.  That means that like the good Shepherd, he must be able to go out and leave the 99 and look for the lost sheep.  (Matthew 18:12 What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?) Your pastor must be just as concerned about the elderly as he is the newborn.  He must visit the sick as much as he visits the well.  He must participate in the lives of his congregation as much as he participates in the local baseball game. 

The worst lie spun by Satan is that the head of any church is not responsible for the sins within that church.  Matthew 18:6-7 is for all of us...but how much greater is it for a pastor - God's man to lead his children?  But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!

Pastor, your main function is to prepare your congregation to live a life holy and acceptable to God.  If you aren't doing that - you are not doing the work of God.

Whew!  Debbie that's kind of strong.

Yes it is.  But losing your soul is even stronger!

Don't think that I'm suggesting we all go fuss at our pastor.  I'm not.  You must respect him and allow him to lead your church.  But....we must be sure that in our constant request for what we personally want that we are not "pushing" our pastors to step back from teaching the hard stuff and instead become a "people pleasing" pastor.  We need to ask for and appreciate it when our pastors preach about living a "Holy" life.  We need to require him to answer first and foremost to God and the Bible on which all of this is based!'s imperative that when choosing a church, we look first to the teachings of the pastor and determine where those teachings will lead us.

Join me tomorrow for Part II of this discussion.  We'll discuss the following topics.

What are the Biblical goals of the church?
What should my pastor be teaching?
How can I tell if I'm at the wrong church?

God loves you,


Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Importance of Sanctification

We have to get this one right.  If we don't, the result could be hell. 

Not too many people think about God's house this way.  They have been conditioned by Hollywood, the media and even some pastors - to believe that "God not only loves everyone but that he will keep on loving us no matter what we do.  Unconsciously...many live as if they believe that God will give us a free pass to heaven if we just come close to obeying his commandments."  In other words, we can skip over much of the teaching of the Bible and not take it too literally. 

But...that's not what the Bible really teaches.  Yes, God loves the sinner as well as the Christian.  After all, he went to the cross for the sinner.  But loving them doesn't mean they get a free pass on their sins.  If God "accepts" everyone regardless of their actions, why would he provide the Ten Commandments?  The beatitudes? Why would there be so much teaching about our daily lives, consequences and personal interactions?

If God "accepts" every action just so you "believe" on him, why would he take the lives of so many people in Sodom and Gomorrah or turn Lot's wife into stone just because she took a second look (Genesis 19:24) or when Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark of Covenant (2 Samuel 6:6-7) from rocking over, why was he instantly killed?

God's standards are very high for people that call themselves Christians.  His standards for those entering his presence are even higher.  He cannot tolerate sin in his presence.  He requires sanctification.  That's not a word you hear too much today, but it's probably the most important thing to learn about being a Christian. 

I suggest that you read the entire first chapter of Isaiah for your Bible reading today.  Parts of it sound a lot like America today.  I would like to center on Isaiah 1: 13-16

Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations-- I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong.

"Oh come on Debbie....the Old Testament doesn't count.  We live under grace in the New Testament." your Bible dear.  The New Testament simply made things easier by allowing us to talk directly to God and to skip the sacrifice routine.  It did not wipe out all the teachings of the Old Testament.

I don't want to get into the argument about when sanctification happens or if it totally comes with salvation or not.  I personally believe that we are given all the tools we need at conversion to take our spiritual journey.  But...I also believe that a lot of people find the first bench along the road and instead of taking a small rest, they pitch their tent and immediately begin to build a house.  (Hebrews 5:11-14  6:1-8)

Your spiritual journey is about changing you.  Once you become a Christian, there's a lot to do.  You don't just join a party.  It's not about meeting once a week to enjoy music that will leave you feeling like you want to dance or hyperactive like you've just left a rock concert.  It's not your pastor's job to give you an inspirational pep talk so you feel good about yourself.  His job is to help you see the areas of your life that need changing so you can walk into the presence of a Holy Righteous God.

Your spiritual journey is about preparing you to stand in front of a holy God and present Him with the gift of your life.  It's about God looking at the changes you have made and saying, "Well Done!  You've been a faithful servant.  You've learned your lessons.  You've learned a lot about your God and you "deserve" to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Your graduation party is ready for you.  Now that the work is over, come on in and enjoy the fruits of your labor!"

That in a nutshell is the goal of your spiritual journey.  That's sanctification.  Let's take a look at an article from the Holman Bible dictionary by Lorin L. Cranford.  She defined Sanctification as "the process of being made holy resulting in a changed life-style for the believer."

She goes on to say... The English word sanctification comes from the Latin sanctification, meaning the act/process of making holy, consecrated. In the Greek New Testament, the root hag- is the basis of hagiasmos, "holiness," "consecration," "sanctification"; hagiosyne, "holiness"; hagiotes, "holiness"; hagiazo "to sanctify," "consecrate," "treat as holy," "purify"; and hagios, "holy," "saint." The root idea of the Greek stem is to stand in awe of something or someone.

The New Testament usage is greatly dependent upon the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, for meaning. The hag- words in the Septuagint mostly translated the Hebrew qadosh, "separate, contrasting with the profane." Thus, God is separate; things and people dedicated to Him and to His use are separate. The moral implications of this word came into focus with the prophets and became a major emphasis in the New Testament. 

Wow!  You may not have followed all the translations and root word stuff....but did you get the last two sentences?   God is separate.  Things and people dedicated to Him and His use are separate! 

I want to leave this discussion today with two important questions.

1.  How many times have your friends, family or co-workers singled you out and said..."His/her life is different.  I know they are a Christian because...."  If no one has ever said that about you, is your Christian life "separate" from the average life of a sinner? 

2.  How many times have you felt in awe while sitting in a church service?  Does your church service reflect the HOLY Separate Righteous God?  Or do you feel so comfortable with everything around you that there would be no difference if you were sitting at home, eating popcorn and watching TV?  Is your church service "dedicated" to being separate?

The answer to these questions may determine why Julia Duin, religion editor for the Washington Times, writes, "Many evangelical Christians are slipping out or barely hanging on to their churches."  Duin herself dropped out of church for a while and remarked that when she did, she was "surprised to find out how little (she) missed going to church."

If God has left the building....why would we want to be there?

God loves you,