A Soldier’s Commitment

Posted: May 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

Life was one, on going, never ending good time. If there was a party to be thrown, a beer to be drank, a bud to be smoked, or a girl to bed down, Rick was there. At eighteen years old and a senior at Parkview High School, Rick wasnt that much different than many teenagers today. Rick was just living by standards set by the world we live in. This is an example of the norm in society.  Rick was a star athlete in school and very popular as well. His parents were well off and even in his home life, he had pretty much whatever he wanted.

Rick had entertained the notion of going into the military when he graduated from high school. He marveled at the idea of traveling the world and he knew that the ladies couldnt resist a man in uniform. Rick even joined a junior cadets type of club where they had military type drills on the weekends. But those drills were only a very small taste of what it meant to really be a solder. Rick enlisted to go into the army after graduating high school. He envisioned living a similar version of the life he had been currently living, only scattered with a few minor changes. Rick had no idea of the changes that were soon to take place.

The first day of his enlistment definitely shook him up a bit. His wavey, golden locks of hair that the girls loved to run their fingers through we shaved off leaving only stubble on his head. His flashy ear rings and belly button piercings….permantly removed by threat of the drill sergeant ripping them out. Shortly afterwards, Rick was shipped out to boot camp. There was no partying. There were no hook ups with the girls. There were no drugs or alcohol. Rick’s days of living life on his selfish terms were gone. He made that choice to give them up the day he committed to the military. Had he truly known what it would be costing him, he may have thought twice about enlisting.

Back in Rick’s home town, a few of his high school buddies were planning on coming to see him graduate from boot camp.  They had missed ole “Party Time Rick” and we’re anxious to see their friend. But upon seeing their friend Rick after the ceremony was over,  it was apparent that he wasnt the same guy they had always known. Immediately, their was something different. He carried himself in a different way. He stood a little straighter and walked a little bolder. Like he now had some sort of purpose in life.

Rick’s friends talked about the big party they wanted to throw for him that evening in celebration of his graduating boot camp. To their surprise, Rick denied the invite. Rick went on to share with his friends that he was shipping out in the next few days on a very important mission over seas for the US military. Where before leaving, Rick had told his buddies that he was only enlisting part time, he had now made the decision to go full time into the military. Rick said he felt his life now had a real purpose. Rick had made a choice. He had to give up many of the things he loved that served no real purpose, in exchange for living a life filled with making a difference in the world.

Rick had committed to something bigger than himself. Any commitment in life requires some sort of change. Some commitments as large as joining the army involved and require radical life changes. It is impossible to sign on to serving our military and not be changed. In the military, you cannot live selfishly. Its impossible. The life of a solder demands sacrifice and putting the good of the country before yourself. You no longer behave like a regular civilian. You behave like a solder. You no longer live life on your terms, but on the terms given by your commanding officer.

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” 2 Timothy 2:4.

This is what the apostle Paul writes to his disciple Timothy in the bible regarding the christian lifestyle! Paul likens our commitment to God to that of a military solder. There are so many people today living out a false salvation because they do not know the commitment to which in Christ they have signed up for. So many adults will make the commitment to give their lives to Jesus only to continue living only for themselves. So many youth will walk down the aisle asking to be baptised yet their Facebook pages continue to expose their unchanged hearts.

We all gravitate towards the idea of eternal life. Who wouldnt want that? So when we hear the offer of living forever by giving our lives to Christ, it seems a no brainer. Sadly, the people that make this commitment with no life change are the very people that had they understood the true gospel….had they understood the commitment…they would probably have never signed on to begin with. We put so much emphasis on the “believe” part of salvation, but water down “repentance” to the point of being optional.

When a person truly give their life to Christ, they change. If someone enjoys getting drunk, having sexual relations out of wedlock, and living for the pleasures of the flesh, yet they claim to be a Christian, they make themselves a fool before God. Because they do not know him. Ive used this example many times, but even if we find enjoyment in movies and entertainment that glorify sins that nailed Jesus to the cross, then we should be greatly afraid for our souls, because we dont know him.

If we read in the newspaper that someone we have never met was killed by a drunk driver, we may hate that it happened, but it really doesnt effect our personal lives. However, if a family member or loved one of ours is killed by a drunk driver, then it becomes very personal. We would more than likely have a disdain for alcohol and a heart for those who operate under its influence to understand the pain it cost you in hurting your loved one.

Our sins nailed Jesus to a cross. He is our father in Heaven and he gave his life so that we might have eternal life! So why would we view our relationship with Christ any differently? As children of God, we ought to have a repulsion to the perversions of this world because we know the pain in which our Father endured for them. If you can continue to live a sinful lifestyle and claim to be a christian, then what did Jesus die for? He died so that we may be changed! Not to harm us as it says in Jeremiah 29:11, but to give us a hope and a future!

Imagine that someone close to you was thrown into prison awaiting the death penalty for a crime they had committed. You do not want them to die, so you sell everything you have in order to raise enough money to free them. By the time you are finished, you have nothing left. You go before the judge and you pay their bail, and your loved one is set free. Yet in spite of the sacrifice you made to free this loved one, they go back to committing the very same crime that you gave away your life to save them from! How would you feel? Would you feel that this loved one had any kind of respect or gratitude towards you? This person wouldnt be showing you love. Because they would be taking advantage of your sacrifice, and in not changing their lives, they would be mocking what you did for them.

So many young people say that they accept Christ as their savior, yet they continue in their sins of the flesh. So many people never realize that coming to Christ like joining the Rotary Club. Its more like joining the military. Its a life long commitment. Our lives should look radically different when we turn to Jesus. Our life should look more missional.

Instead of  living for ourselves, we now live for a purpose in Jesus. We have a heart for seeking out those who are in danger and do not know him, and we take the gospel to them….in our communities and if necessary, to the ends of the earth.  If our lives do not resemble the disciples in the Bible regarding our commitment level to Christ, then somethings not right. If we are more concerned with saving money to buy that new big screen television rather than putting that money towards saving for a mission trip to bring the gospel to those in need, maybe we need to reevaluate our lives.

You may read this and think I am going to far and making life seem like its all about Jesus. Isnt it? Isnt that what Paul meant when he said “To live is Christ and to die is gain?” Isnt that what Peter meant by telling his persecutors to crucify him upside down? Isnt that what John told the Romans when they told him they would let him go if he denied Christ, and boil him in hot oil if he didnt….and he choose the oil?

How can we read stories in scripture and history about these men who were so dearly devoted to the cause of Christ  and we….having not even half of their commitment claim to be disciples just like them? Their whole lives were about HIM! Their whole lives were as one big mission for the kingdom! Is this to say that to have times of joy is a sin? By no means. Their greatest joy came from serving Jesus Christ!! And its a joy that is unlike anything this earth can offer. But so few people experience this type of joy. And its because they base their own personal walk with Christ more on how other modern day believers look and act rather than the example that has been given to us in Gods word? If we compare the majority Christians in our modern world to those in scripture, their lives look NOTHING alike!!

The greatest joy one will ever experience is in serving Jesus. Jesus said that which we have done to help the very least of people, we have done in service to him! In hearing this, what joy could I possibly draw in wasting money or time on my own selfish, fleshly desires? Why wouldnt I want to put all my efforts….everything I do into serving the kingdom? This is the life we were called towards. This is what Jesus meant when he said,” Follow me.”

Are you walking in the path of fleshly and selfish desires? Jesus didnt follow that path, so it is not him that you are following. The majority of pain in this world we inflict upon ourselves because we seek joy in things that have no eternal significance. Material things, intimate relationships, and earthly vices entice us with promises of eternal joy only to eventually lead us to a dead end. Ask yourself what is it that you find your joy in? Is it your spouse? Because your spouse is only human and will at times disappoint you. Is your joy ultimately found in your children or grand children? If so, what happens when they leave the nest? Or is it found in the person who formed every aspect of your being in your mothers womb? Why do we not look to the one who gave us our mind, our heart, even our deepest desires?

“Take delight in the Lord,and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4.

God knows the deepest desires of our hearts. We think we know those desires outside of God, but we are mistaken. Ask any alcoholic who once sought joy at the bottom of a glass and he’ll tell you he was left empty. Ask any person who searched for joy in an intimate relationship and they’ll tell you that happiness can never be found in any human being, because they are not perfect and will at times disappoint. And ask any parent or grandparent if they have found never ending  joy in their children and their their answer will be no.

So why do we continue seek the desires of our hearts everywhere but in Christ alone?  In him we find purpose for our lives, and in finding purpose comes a joy that is amazing. You see, as a Christian, we are called to a mission. We are called to live a life of sacrifice. And we are called to fight against our carnal, fleshly instincts. Those are the instincts that Satan wants us to focus on. And those are the instincts which our world does focus on. But look at our world. Its shattered since the fall of creation. Its broken. And Satan would have us stay fixated on the broken, because he doesnt want you to ever find real joy by seeking  Jesus.

Real joy is found in commitment. Real joy is found in sacrifice. Real joy is found in surrendering life, every aspect of it, to Christ. Before coming to Jesus, I thought my  joy was found in fitness. I thought my joy was found in acting and the pursuit of fame. If you had asked me, thats what I thought made me happy. But I really didnt know me. Because I didnt know the one who made me.

Flash forward to God saving me. I have found that I have a heart for foreign missions. Not only a heart, I have a joy found in serving the Great Commission. A happiness and fulfillment springs forth inside of me that I never knew existed at even the thought of bringing the gospel to an area that is in need of Christ. Its a passion that greatly outweighs any earthly venture or even relationship Ive experienced in my life. I have a passion that is fueled and driven by glorifying Christ! And in finding this passion, it makes sense to me.

All my life I had heard of finding joy in the lord. But had never understood how I could find my deepest joy in someone I couldnt physically see or touch. Thats why Christ calls us to know him. To know him through his word. And to trust in his promises. And as he promises, in that he gives us the desires of our hearts. Desires that we would have never known outside of Christ!

Following Jesus is a mission. Its a life contrary to this world. And it offers us so much more. But we have to be willing to follow. We have to be willing to not pick and choose what areas we will turn over and surrender to Jesus. Its all or nothing. If you havent found your joy in the Lord yet, examine yourself and determine what it is your are holding back from him. What area of your life are you still seeking fulfillment in as a substitute for him? Maybe its that you’ve claimed to be a solder of Christ, but are still living like a civilian of this world. And if you still walk like a civilian and talk like a civilian, then your not a solder. If we are true children of the king nothing of this earth will ever be able to satisfy us. Find your joy in the Lord, and find rest for your ever searching heart and soul. Following Christ is not for the weak willed. It takes a soldier’s commitment.

Effective in Going

Posted: May 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

No one wants to be complacent. That is just not how we were designed. We all want to improve in some way or another. Take for example sports. A football team improves by practicing and watching film. I remember being on the football team in high school and our team having to watch video of our upcoming team as well as our own players. We would evaluate ourselves to see where we could improve. Boxers and fighters do the same thing. Yes, they watch footage of their opponents, but they also watch themselves. They pick apart areas that they are lacking in and target those in training.

Businesses have annual and quarterly reports. When I was working in radio advertising we had weekly meetings. We were asked to give a report of clients we had spoken with, and went over ways to improve our sales techniques. Even back when I was working as an on air radio DJ, we would meet many times weekly to discuss ways to reach our listeners and get them involved in promotions we were running. Whatever career path you have chosen, you have meetings. Why is this? So you can improve in your effectiveness for the company. And in being more effective, the company name will become more well known due to the hard work of its devoted representatives.

Constantly evaluating our forward progress is ingrained into almost every aspect of our society. But if this is such vital characteristic of cultural growth, then why is this concept so lacking inside of the church? Think about our church society today. To many, church is view almost as a side salad on the plate of life. It is just kind of like an accessory to our families, our jobs, t-ball, and time with friends. My point is that serving Christ is not the very essence of our lives. And some will argue this point, saying that church is indeed top priority. I thought so too. But then I began to evaluate my effectiveness for Christ not by others in our world today, but by those who made the biggest impact….the disciples and apostles in the Bible.

To begin with, ask yourself this question. What is usually your first initial thought upon waking up in the morning? For most we begin the day with a mental check list of sort of things we have to get done. Business meetings, grocery store runs, parent/teacher conferences, or whatever it is highlighted in your daytimer. Our daily priority is to get these duties checked off and completed. Church is viewed as a place where we can be served. Its view as a place where we go as Christians to deepen our faith and worship the Lord.

The going to church to deepen our faith and worship is a wonderful thing! But what are we really accomplishing when these two elements of going to church become the whole point of church in our lives? How are we accomplishing real Kingdom work? You see, when I was working in advertising, my boss loved that I was trying to grow in my knowledge of how to be a better salesman. And he loved it when the employees praised him for being such a great boss. But if all the employees did was constantly study up on their sales techniques and come into the office to tell the boss what a great guy he was, the company would die quickly!

Becoming a more knowledgable sales man is great! Recognizing the boss for being a great leader is great! But if the company wants to be effective, the sales team has to GO!!! They have to leave the office and go share with others what they already know! They have to go out to people that are not associated with the company and explain to them how being associated with the company will better their lives! Thats how companies grow! So coming back full circle, are we as the body of Christ focusing more on our self improvement and occasional worship of God? Or are we being obedient to the words of Christ to the disciples in telling them to go out unto all the world making disciples and spreading the gospel?

Some people may argue with me that worshipping God is more important than anything we do as the body of Christ. I totally agree. But contrary to what many think, the greatest worship of Jesus Christ is not done standing before the preacher on Sunday mornings. The greatest worship we could ever give it to obey Jesus with our lives.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15.

What was the mission given to the disciples before Jesus ascended into Heaven?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19.

But that is not the mindset of many  Christians today. Church today has taken on more of a feel good, fun and games, vacation retreat, pizza and ice cream social, kind of identity. Sure we reach out every now and then with a few scattered community service projects, but even these can be done at times centered around fellowship with friends as the drawing factor in service. I am not directing this accusation at anyone person. Honestly, this is a heavy burden that the Lord has recently laid on my heart. The Holy Spirit has placed a finger on this way of thinking in my own life and I am very convicted to be more effective for Christ. The stick to which I measure my effectiveness has been raised to that of the men who were the most effective for Christ….the ones who saw him resurrected.

In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul came to Ephesus and began preaching in the Hall of Tyrannus with only twelve men. Ephesus was known to be a pagan place. Kind of like our world today. But Paul and his small band of disciples were committed. Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ was their mission. It was what they were passionate about and what drove them. In fact, they were so committed to sharing the gospel, something utterly amazing happened in the time they spent proclaiming the word of God.

This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” Acts 19:10.

For two years, Paul and only twelve men went out, sharing and preaching the gospel. And after two years, we read in the verse above that there was no one in all of the continent of Asia who had not heard the gospel! If that didnt take your breath away, stop and reread that again. And this time, think about it.

After two years, there was not one person who had not heard the gospel!

Do you know how huge Asia is? They didnt have cell phones. They didnt have internet blogs and websites to reach the masses. They had a pair of sandals and the word. So you may ask yourself, how in the world did thirteen men cover all of Asia in two years? They simply followed the commands of Jesus. They didnt sit in the synagogue planning pot luck dinners, and they didnt put all of their focus on constantly studying Theology. They followed one simple order from Christ….Go.

When the bible says that not one person hadn’t heard the gospel within two years, that doesnt mean that everyone accepted the gospel. But it does mean that they were presented the truth of Jesus Christ. Does this mean that within two years, these thirteen men talked personally to every single person, personally giving them a witnessing tract and sharing Christ? I dont believe so. I believe these men modeled what Christ had intended for all churches that have been and will be. These men invested in other men and women sharing Christ. But they didnt just invite them to church. They didnt just tell them to say a pray and believe in Jesus that they might be saved. You see, converting people to Christ was never the intent. At least not converted in the way we think today. They trained them up to be mission minded disciples armed with the gospel. And they did as Jesus commanded of them and sent them out with order of making more disciples.

A convert today is someone who didnt go to church but at some point, comes to Christ and attends church. If a new convert to christianity were to ask what were his responsibilities as a new Christian, he would probably be told to read his bible, pray regularly, and live a life glorifying to Christ. And all of these things are true signs of a true believer. But how many times do we tell people now that they have become followers of Christ, they will be held accountable in reaching out daily and sharing Christ with others?

What would the church look like if we spent less time organizing beach retreats and more time strategically analysing the towns we live in on how we can reach others for Christ? And correct me if I am wrong, but I have yet to see one instance in scripture where the church used something like a bake sale to share the gospel. Instead, we see people personally going into the world and sharing the gospel of Christ regardless of what it may cost them! Im not saying the occasional retreat or bake sale is a terrible thing. Im just saying it shouldnt become a crutch in really going into the world and reaching others.

One of our middle school youth here in Avon Park is a good example. This young man has been growing in his faith. He began by asking many questions and had all the signs of a modern day “convert” to Christ. But in the weeks to come, Ive seen something different in this youth. He has a war time mentality regarding the gospel. He has shared with me in the past weeks many times his burden over kids in his school that do not know Jesus. And he has expressed a hunger to not just convert others, but to make disciples.

His question to me last night embodies what I am getting at. He asked, “How can I be a better, more effective servant for Christ in my school?” How many middle schoolers have you heard having this concern? Let me take that question up a notch….How many adults have you heard ask this? How many of us adults are burdened and consumed with how we can be more effectively used in sharing the gospel? This young man is no mere convert. He is a very rare breed of Christ follower. This young man is a disciple.

Do you see the difference? Our church culture, myself included, needs to get out of the complacent, relaxed, attitude towards following Jesus. That has never been what Christ intended for his followers! Paul reached all of Asia in two years! I began to ask myself, “After two years have passed here in Avon Park, how many people will I have been effective in sharing the gospel with? I want the community that I live in, after two years, to be able to say one of two things about me…..

“Yes, we know Charlie. He just wont shut up about sharing the gospel.”

Or………

“Yes, we know Charlie. God used Charlie to call me to himself.”

In a business, reaching out to others and telling them what you believe in is not an option. You either do it, or the business will become an unknown. In the same way, when we become Christ followers, being a disciple of Christ and following His command to  go is not an option. Yet so many of us treat it that way. Paul Washer said it better than I could. He said the first thought we as Christians should have each morning is this. “There is a place where he is not worshipped.” We should be burdened by this.

You know that you have gone from being a complacent convert to a true disciple of Christ when your mindset changes. In order to be effective just as Paul and his twelve were effective in Asia, we must shed our Americanized view of Church as being a place of comfort and shelter and replace that with, as John Piper coined it, a war time mentality. Sharing the gospel has to become our mission in life. It has to become what we live for and what if pressed would die for. That may seem like an extreme version of Christianity to some. But read your Bible. And look at the lives of those who were converted in Christ. They were never complacent. Their lives revolved around taking the gospel to the nations. Why is that? Because that is what Christ intended for his followers all along. Challenge yourself just as I have. Within two years, how many people will have heard the gospel and how many disciples will you have made for our Lord Jesus Christ?

Wounded For a Purpose

Posted: May 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

For those of you that really know me, you know that I am not a daredevil. I dont take alot of risks or chances, especially with things concerning my life. But I actually havent always been as safe guarded as I am today. There was a time when I thought I was invincible. In fact, I used to love motorcycles. I was around eight or nine years old. I would see them driving by or watch a television show with motorcycles and marvel at what fun it must be to actually ride one.

My best friend at the time was a little boy named Jason. He was a year younger than me, and he had the same need for speed as I did. I gazed out the window to see him running towards my house, more excited to see me than usual. I ran to the door to see what all the excitement was about, and came to find out that his parents had gotten him a motorcycle built for a kid. I ran and got my parents permission to go see this new toy and then darted over to Jason’s house. Mom and dad came too.

As our parents visited, Jason and I took turns riding the motorcycle within the view of our parents. Up to this point, I had only gone slow on my turn driving. But I watched Jason and he seemed to have no fear of going fast. And it looked like so much fun. Granted, fast on this mini motorbike was probably like 15 mph, but it was fast to us. I got on the motorbike and I remember telling my dad to watch how fast I was going to ride. Then I took off. I gave it all the gas I could and the speed began to increase. Then suddenly, I froze. I dont know if the speed took me by surprise or what, but I literally couldnt move.

I kept gaining speed, and I was headed right towards our neighbors house. Like a deer caught in headlights, I was scared to death and speeding right towards this house and unable to move. All of the sudden, something pushed me on my right side and made me fall of the motorcycle. It was my dad. I dont know how he did it, but he ran and got close enough to me to hit me off of this bike.

I sprained my wrist pretty bad and scraped up my leg in the fall. But about ten more seconds on the course I was traveling and I would have hit the neighbors house head on going full speed on this motorcycle. My dad didnt mean to scrap me leg and sprain my wrist, but he would rather I get banged up a little instead of possibly what could have happened had I hit the house. I could have broken bones or even been killed. My dad wounded me that day. But not with the intent to hurt his son, but to save me from a fate much worse than a sprain. Given the current path I was on, I was headed towards possible death.

Dad wounded me to save me.

I heard the story of a man named Bill who went to hang out with friends at a lake. There was a little cliff overlooking the lake, and he and his friends decided to go jump off the cliff and into the lake for fun. Bill ran towards the edge of the cliff to make his dive into the waters below. Suddenly, he tripped over a stone in his path which effected his dive. He stumbled to the side before reaching the cliff’s edge and broke his wrist in two places.

No one went cliff diving that day as his friend drove him to the hospital. The break was pretty bad, and as a result Bill wouldnt be able to play football his senior year.  This would cost him a scholarship to college. The young man cursed God for the circumstances of his life. A few weeks later, he read in the newspaper that someone had been killed at the very lake he fell and broke his wrist. It seems this person was cliff diving on the same cliff he had intended to jump from. Underwater jagged rocks that were unseen from the had claimed this person life upon impact.

Had Bill not tripped over the stone that day, he wouldnt a have broken his wrist, he would have lost his life.

How many times have you questioned circumstances in your life? Have their been times when you have wondered why God was allowing you to be hurt or experience something painful in your life? God may be wounding you now in order to save you in the future. We dont see the big picture. We see clear roads and sunny skys where God seeing the speeding tractor trailer truck just out of our sight and the coming storms on the horizon.

Pastor and author Francis Chan has told of he traumatic childhood growing up. His real mother and father passed away while he was still a young boy. He went to live with his aunt and uncle and in his teenage years, his uncle pulled a gun on his aunt and shot her and then turned then gun on himself committing suicide. Francis was all alone and had experienced great heartache in the early years of his life.

But he pointed out that had he not been wounded he would have never recognized his need for Christ. He would have never sought after Jesus. And if he would have never sought after Jesus, he wouldnt spend his eternity in Heaven. Instead, he would have been destined to die the second death forever in Hell. God allowed Francis to be wounded in order to safe him from the damning path he would have followed.

What is your heartache right now? Is it a failed relationship? Is it a loved one lost? Maybe its an illness that you are going through or even something worse. Whatever it is, it will be used for good in your life. Thats a promise from God.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28.

God says all things, good and even bad, will work together for a good outcome. But do not overlook for whom this good will come….for those who love Him. To love God, you must trust God. Even when you cant see the sunshine for the storm, he has great plans for all of those who will put their trust in him.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

What do you think would have happened if after my dad knocked me off of that motorcycle, I got up and yelled at him for making me fall, and then in anger I got back on the bike and continued in my mission to hit the house going full speed? What if I didnt trust my dad when he said, “Dont go so fast again”, and in my anger, I had continued to ride how I wanted to ride? I would have ended up in the hospital or the funeral home. I had to trust my dad. I had to stop trying to ride the bike my way and listen my dad. I had to repent, or turn from, my need for speed way of driving and believe, trust, and obey the will of my earthly father. Not to kill my fun. But so that I wouldnt be killed.

This is exactly what our Heavenly Father asks of us. To repent of our sinful ways and to believe in Him. (Mark 1:15). Not to be a kill joy, but because he knows the future destruction that can lie ahead, and his wish is that no one perish. (John 3:16).  That is the good news!! That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ!!

Sadly, this is not how many react to the hard times in their lives. Instead of trusting the promises of God, they grow bitter at their current circumstances, turning from God and missing out on the blessings that he had intended. There is a purpose to all pain. There is a plan to redeem all things gone wrong. But we must trust in Christ. To to trust him means we must believe in his promises, and realize that the pain we experience in a moment may actually be God saving us from something far worse in the future.

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:5-6.

Do you see how Gods plan for good in our lives builds constantly? God predestined us to be his before the world was formed. God calls us to himself, sometimes the only way he can get us to stop running towards the cliff is to place a stone in our path. But for those who trust in him, he justifies them as righteous and their sins are wiped away. And for those he justifies, in eternity, they will be glorified in His presence. But notice in the verse above, Paul mentions this plan of good is for those in partnership in the gospel. For those who trust him.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. ” Romans 8:29.

We dont always see the reason for pain in our lives. And in some cases, we may never understand the reason for it this side of Heaven.  But God does. God has a perfect, awesome plan for your life. Even in your darkest hour. Will you trust Him?

Faulty Fuel

Posted: May 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

Have you ever done something that you swear to never tell anyone? I mean done something so bone headed that you vow to carry the secret to your grave? I made one of those vows during our initial move to Avon Park. And in relating my personal life stories to the word of God, the good Lord laid it on my heart that this was one little secret that could be used and redeemed in relating His word to those who may read my posts. So with a reluctant but obedient heart, I now share from my own personal, secret library of blooper moments…..”Charlie Parish Boneheaded Move #348,908,990.

We had just accepted the job offer here in Avon Park for me to be the Associate Pastor of Youth and Families. We had just flown back from Panama and literally had all of our stuff scattered amongst family here in the States. So we rented a U Haul truck and packed it full, and we drove our family ten hours to our new home in Avon Park.

This U Haul truck was a big one. Before leaving on our road trip, the manager at the U Haul company went over a list of rules pertaining to the truck. And wanting to get it right, I did pay close attention.

Make wide turns as to not hit the curb….Check!

Dont drive it too fast and always keep control….Check!

Put on the brakes a good ways out before stopping….Check!

If I get pulled over, my paperwork is in the glove compartment….Check!

It seemed like there would be nothing to this. Driving a big truck was almost like an adventure to me. I was excited. With my blue jeans, t-shirt, beat up hat, and face full of whiskers, I looked the part of an extra in the movie, “Smokey and the Bandit.” I was following behind Lacy and the boys as she drove our van ahead of me. And we hit the road early in the morning hoping to get to our destination before nightfall.

The trip was going fine for the first few hours. No problems at all. We were getting low on gas so we all pulled over into a gas station. Lacy grabbed snacks for the kids and we filled up the van and truck. After grabbing a bag of beef jerky (real truckers keep a stock of the stuff) and a kiss from my wife, we hit the road again.  We road for about two more hours and suddenly, the truck started acting weird. I kept a steady speed of 60 mph when all the sudden the truck would slow down on its own and then slowly climb back to 60 mph. Then when it reached 60 mph it would lose speed down to about 30 mph and then speed back up to 60 mph.

I knew something wasnt right. With Lacy driving in front, I decided to blow my horn at her to get her attention and tell her to pull over. I hit the horn and nothing happened. The manager for U Haul didnt mention that the horn didnt work. The truck began to slow down to a crawl and I couldnt pick up speed at all. And judging from my gas needle, I still was over half a tank full. I was pounding on a horn that didnt work trying to get my wifes attention. She happened to look back at I motioned with my hand for her to pull off at a truck stop.

We got out and parked as I popped the engine hood. No smoke or anything unusual. Everything looked normal. I jumped back in the cab of the truck and started it up, but only to sputters. It wouldnt even crank now. And it had plenty of gas! I didnt understand it! After thirty minutes of trying to figure out the problem with no luck, I called Triple A roadside service. They arrived about twenty minutes later. The AAA engineer went over all the standard engine checks and everything appeared in order. Then he asked about the gas. I told him I had over half a tank.

He said, “Did you put diesel fuel in the tank?”

“Of course not!!” I said. “Im not a mechanic, but I know enough not to put diesel fuel in a U Haul!”

And that revealed the whole problem. “Sir…this truck runs on diesel fuel.” The mechanic replied.

I felt like a moron. The mechanic said that the truck would run for a short time on regular gas, but if it wasnt given the proper fuel that it’s engine was made for, eventually it would fall apart. It turned out that it wasnt totally my fault. I asked him how I was suppose to know my truck ran on diesel fuel. The mechanic told me I should have been told by the manager, which I was not. And there was suppose to be a sticker above the fuel tank that indicated it ran on diesel, but we saw that the sticker had been ripped off.

Long story short, the mechanic got me enough diesel fuel pumped into my truck to get me to a gas station. Luckily, no permanent damage had been done to the engine as we had stopped at just the right time. You can be sure that if I ever drive a U Haul again, the first question Ill ask is the type of fuel it runs on. Take it from me, a diesel truck will NOT run very long off of regular gasoline!

1 John 4:7 says  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Similar to automobile fuel, a relationship can only run a short time on worldly love.  God made us to require a special kind of love….His love. So we know from the above verse that love…REAL LOVE…is from God. And you cannot experience real love unless you know Christ in a personal relationship. Im not saying you can’t know a type of love, its just not the love you and I were made for. Look at marriage today. One of the main excuses for a marriage falling apart is one of the spouses saying, “We just fell out of love.”

When I pulled over at that truck station and my U Haul had all but died, my first thought was, “I just ran out of gas.” But that wasnt true. My gas needle still registered half a tank. I still had gas, but I had the wrong kind. In the same way, no one just falls out of love. But God created love. And through Christ and the Holy Spirit in us, we are filled with Gods love. His love doesnt die, and it doesnt run empty. Why is it that the word of God teaches so much on the subject of love? Because it is the single most important element in any human relationship.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-39.

So many marriages start off with no problems in sight. They may have even heard the pastor who married them talk about loving each other in all circumstances, for better and worse. But where many pastors fail in preparing couples for marriage is that they tell them love is what makes the marriage run, but they neglect to tell them what type of love. Because of this, many marriages start off into the first few years of the marriage running off of emotion, butterflies, and our humanistic type of love.

The only problem with the world’s type of love is it is not eternal. And it is based more on feelings than truth. God showed us that real love has nothing to do with feelings. Real love is a decision in which action follows. Case in point….do you actually believe that Jesus Christ “FELT” like dying for our sins? Do you think he felt like being tortured for a people who mocked and spat at him? Of course not! Yet he made the decision to give his life in exchange for ours! And with this sacrifice, he gave the example to the world and every generation to ever come what real love is like. Its not based on receiving. Its based on serving. As a wise bumper sticker once stated….

“NO JESUS, NO LOVE….KNOW JESUS, KNOW LOVE!”

There are two types of ways love is classified on our planet. The first is unconditional love or Gods love. In this love, there is nothing so terrible that cannot be forgiven. This love comes not from our own human heart, but from God himself. And to receive this love in us, all we must do is have that personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not just a knowledge of him, but a deep, personal relationship where he is first in our lives. This love is eternal. And it is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Did you catch the last description of love in that verse….”LOVE NEVER FAILS.” If God says that love never fails, then why do so many relationships end with broken hearts? It this is true, and the word of God is true, what does that tell us about a marriage that crumbles? It was destined to break down from the beginning, because it wasnt filled with the right kind of love. It void of God’s love.

You see, God teaches us so much in scripture about love, because he knew how humanity would pervert its true meaning. The second kind of love we see in our world is a love void of God. It is conditional as long as we are still “happy.” It is non sacrificial and has the individuals more concerned with having their own needs satisfied than becoming a servant to their spouse. And contrary to Gods love, this worldly love will always fail. Yet this is the type of love that most relationships are built upon in todays world. People look to Oprah, Dr. Phil, even their friends for relationship advice. When all along, Jesus is the only one who has the answer.

Many relationships that begin to crumble do not end in divorce. They just live a miserable existance and tolerate each other.  Sometimes that lack of Godly love is evident in a marriage where the husband and wife have little to no communication with one another. Its apparent in a marriage where one or both spouses are more hung up on how the other person hurt them and their feelings rather than having a forgiving heart and choosing to persevere and build back stronger than before by placing their focus on Christ before each other. These types of marriages will have the husband or wives cast stones saying, “If you only knew what he or she has done to me!” But if Jesus Christ can heal the sick, give sight to the blind, raise the dead, and still love a sinner like me who nailed him to a cross, then I truly believe there is no relationship crisis so big that HE cannot fill with unconditional love.

You may have done all the engine checks on your marriage and even filled the love meter with affection and words of affirmation. But if you have not been filled yourself with the love of God, the you dont have that love to give to your spouse. If you dont have a relationship with the one who gives unconditional love, then how can you know or even possess unconditional love? Without Christ, we are all self centered an incapable of putting anyone or anything above our own fleshly desires. We are running on a fuel that will slowly corrupt us from the inside out.

I am no marriage counciler and do not claim to be. Ive never written a best selling book on “Ten Steps to a Better Relationship.” But I do know the word of God. And I believe that every word of it is truth. And straying from that truth will only cause destruction.

Tap into the love of God before you run dry. Read your Bible. Go to church. Pray for your spouse. But most importantly, ask that Jesus transform you. So many people pray that God would change their spouse. Pray for God to change you. Pray for him to make you more like Christ, and to fill you with HIS love. Men lead your family with family bible studies at night in your homes. Teach your wife and kids the love of God. Be men and lead. Women support your husbands. Put Christ first in your life and put your kids third behind your husband. Laugh together. Cry together. Experience life together. Worship together. And pray together. Dont settle for a love that you were never designed for. Human relationships were designed by God to run off of a supernatural type of love not found on earth. It’s a love that can weather any storm in this journey we call life. Buckle up and safe travels.

Made For Greater Things

Posted: May 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

I am a warrior. I was born three years ago when Christ came and enlisted me. I joined the ranks of His elect on an early morning in April, and my former self was put to death and raised anew in the likeness of my Savior Jesus. I was once a lost soul, living my life without a purpose and chasing after rubbish that will soon fade. Now I have a calling. Ive traded in my comforts of this materialistic world in exchange for a haunting anguish.

This thorn in my flesh is what drives me. Its what now consumes my thoughts, and it gives me a boldness that wouldnt be possible otherwise. This burden is for those not traveling the narrow road. There are those who do not know Him. And eternity could come at any time. I was made for this very purpose. God predestined me to serve him. I was called, justified, and will one day be glorified so that Christ may be known throughout all nations.

“And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:30.

Although I take great pride in being a father and husband, those are not the main titles I wish to be associated with. When I one day draw my final breath on this earth, I dont want people to talk about my  love for my family. I dont want to be remembered for any good deeds I may have done to help my neighbors. I want to be remembered as a missionary for Christ. I dont want it to be said of me that my passion was my family. I want my family to say that they took second place in my life to my passion, devotion and love for Jesus Christ.

My time spent living in Central America radically changed me. It changed me in ways that can only be fully comprehended by others who have gone before me, transplanting their lives to be full time missionaries.  Its funny, I was born in Alabama. I lived most of my life in Georgia. But a piece of heart was left behind in Panama. Since returning to the states and meeting new friends, I am asked the question quiet often, “Where are you from?” And I find myself answering more times than not….Panama. It became home to me. And Panama was where God really began to give me a new mindset and an eternal perspective. My heart was reborn in Panama. It is there that i was given a glimpse of what Heaven must be like.

One of the first times I went to the Camarca (Indian Village) to minister to the Guaymi Indians, I saw Heaven. A friend and fellow missionary I met in Boquete named Harry went with me to the village. We had to take his car to a remote village to pick up some Guaymi children and transport them to the mission which was at another Camarca where we had worship and food for them. Harry had a small SUV. When we arrived at the first village, to my surprise, we had at least fifteen children waiting to go to worship.

I got our of the front seat and let one of the young women sit in the front and I piled in the very back with the rest of the kids. We were literally piled on top on one another. We had that car packed way over capacity that day.  We had a good twenty minute drive to the mission house. All the kids only spoke Nobe, (the Guaymi language), so we really couldnt communicate. So I reached in my pocket and pulled out my I Phone. I downloaded some quick cartoons to show the kids, and they were in awe.

I dont even think that description does justice to their amazement. You would have thought I had just done a miracle in front of them. When we got to the mission, we had a worship service for the Guaymi who attended.  Afterwards, we had a meal for them. And they indulged in this food as if they had not eaten in days. There was candy for the kids, and their reaction to it was as if I had given them million dollars. Even something as simple as a pen was such amusement for them. And it dawned on me that the little things I took for granted, they had never seen before.

They had never had food in abundance. They couldnt just go to the fridge at night and grab a late night snack. For starters, many didnt have electricity. They couldnt go out and buy nice clothes or I phones. One of the most well off Guaymi men i met was working as a grounds keeper for twenty dollars a week. And they were satisfied with what they had. Even joyful over it. Because they had never known any different.

CS Lewis once said that humanity is akin to little children playing with mud pies, living in the slums. We are satisfied and even joyful over the mud pies because we have no idea what the finer things in life are like. Basically we are satisfied with filth because we cannot comprehend that there is anything greater out there.

He was making a reference to Heaven. I heard one pastor say once that if God pull back the curtain and gave us just a quick glance at all the wonders awaiting us in Heaven, that all the things on this earth we hold so dear would instantly become as trash in our eyes.

Pastor Paul Washer said to the young people in one of his sermons, “Crush those stupid video games under your feet and throw the television set out the window! For you were made for more than this!”

Have you ever stopped to consider that we were made for more than what we settle for? Have you ever considered that we may be missing out on living such an adventure here on this earth because we are so chained to material things? I noticed that once I began living for Christ, life stopped becoming mundane. It became an adventure. It became a war. It took on a new meaning and an eternal perspective. In Christ, there are no lazy days. We dont have time for boredom. Because the mission is never accomplished. There are ALWAYS people around us who have yet to set their eyes on Christ. We are called to such a great mission.

In war, the military is called to rescue people from the enemy. They are called to save lives. Even when the civilians cannot see the full picture, the military can see the costs. They feel the weight of each life, and they leave none of their own behind. Christ calls us to the same mindset, only the war is on a much broader scale than any battle ever to be fought on this earth. A child that was born into royalty couldnt stomach endulging in living a life in the ghetto. Because they were children of the king. They had a pedigree and were raised for the finer things in life. As followers of Christ, we were made for greater things than this present earth could ever give us.  We must take on an eternal mindset. This is not our home, and in his Kingdom, our father has many mansions. We must realize that God made us for the wonders of Heaven. What is it that you are living for today? Whatever it is, make sure that its something worth dying for!

“If you’re a child of the King, nothing on this earth will ever satisfy you….Nothing.” -Paul Washer

No Gimmicks Needed

Posted: April 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

I give full credit to the clowns. That was what drew me in. I couldnt wait to see the clowns.  Each year the Circus came to town when I was a kid. And the appeal factor to a boy of eight years old such as myself was all but irresistable. The commercials would start a good month out from the actual show in order to promote the self proclaimed “Greatest Show on Earth.” The thirty second television commercials were a mirage of numerous, very enticing attractions aimed at getting the attention of kids. In less than a minute, these advertisements promised face painting, ring of fire stunts, hugs from clowns, cotton candy, and Im sure more subtle tactics with the purpose of selling tickets. And boy did it work on me.

Hook, line, and sinker, I bought into the sales pitch and pestered my mom day and night about going to the circus. And being the great mom that she is, it was a done deal. However, getting to the circus proved to require a little effort on my part that I didnt expect. Now that mom had purchased our tickets, mom expected some effort on my part. In the week leading up to the circus, mom laid down the law. There was to be no more fighting and or picking on my little brother. I was expected to stop being lazy and selfish and start pitching in to help in family chores as well.

Contrary to what I thought at the time, mom didnt lay down a list of legalistic rules for me to follow in exchange for a circus ticket. In fact, that which mom expected from me could not be classified as rules at all. She was asking me to do what was right. She was asking me to stop being a self centered kid and start learning how to be a dependable young man. I had bought into the commercial promoting a fun circus. The commercial said nothing about a change in my life. The commercial for the circus promised all kinds of thrills, but it never told me I would have to actually change my life in order to attend. I bought into the idea of going to a fun circus with no strings attached. If I knew I would have to actually stop being lazy to get this ticket, I may have thought twice.

Im ashamed to admit that something similar to the circus incident happened to me a few years ago. I have always worked out in some form or fashion throughout my life. But Ive never been “Hollister clothing model material”, if you catch my drift. My six pack abs resemble more of a two pack. And thats on a good day. So I began seeing this infomercial for a home fitness DVD called P90X. The guys on the infomercial were flashing before pictures of themselves, appearing to be in far worse shape than I had ever been. And six months later after doing the P90X workouts, boasting a total body makeover, toned and ripped.

I thought to myself, “I can do a home video workout for six months!” So having bought into the infomercial, I ordered the P90X DVD box set. Finally, I was going to shed those stubborn pounds within six months, right in my own home. The DVD’s arrived a few days later, and I eagerly opened them up. Along with the workout DVD’s, there was an instruction booklet that came with the videos. I opened the booklet and begin to read. It was a very strict diet. And it stated in this booklet, “For best results, incorporate this diet along with daily workouts.” Upon first reading this I thought, “No problem.”

But in the coming days, I began to see that in order to reap the rewards of a Baywatch body, there were certain things I would have to give up. Things like junk food, pizza, ice cream, and late night snacking. I would have to make sacrifices in my life that were for some reason, not mentioned in the infomercial. Needless to say P90X didnt last long in our home. Id love to be lean and mean, but if it means denying myself of the occasional bowl of cookies and cream ice cream, its more of a committment than I bargained for.

In both instances, I was sold on something without fully knowing the costs, sacrifice, and committment that was entailed. And I believe that this is very common now days. If it wasnt, there wouldnt be so many garage sales, and Ebay wouldnt be one of the top websites in the world. We are a very impulsive society. This is evident even in marriage today. The world celebrates and rejoices in matrimony. When two love birds envision a life together, they think of all the perks. Rarely do engaged couples seriously put any thought towards how they will react when….notice I didnt say if….WHEN…the trials of life come their way. Thats why so many marriages say “For better or worse”, but they really mean only for the better.

People like the things that benefit them. But they want that benefit to be with no commitment required. I believe this is one of the biggest reasons that the christian church in America is so deceived today. And I believe with all my heart that this is why the church today is filled with more hand raisers for Christ than true disciples. They were sold the typical sermon jargon of questions we’ve heard quite often…..

1.) Do you know that you are a sinner before God?

2.) Will you ask God to forgive you of your sins?

3.) Will you believe upon the lord Jesus?

4.) Will you ask him to be Lord of you life?

5.) Will you be baptised?

CONGRATULATIONS!!!! If you’ve said yes to all of these question, you’ve just qualified to receive a golden ticket to THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, paid for by the blood of Jesus!

A bit of an exaggeration from what we hear in churches today, but in reality, not that far of a stretch. I’ve heard so many preachers preach eternal life, the love of God, the wonders of Heaven, and the glory of Christian living only to end their message with telling the congregation things like, “If you believe in Christ as your savior, then you receive eternal life. And nothing you ever do will take you from his hand.”

You may be thinking, “Isnt that true…that once we believe in Jesus, that we cannot lose our salvation?” Absolutely! But the problem is that many preachers only preach half of the truth. They put together a very attractive “infomercial” of the gospel, leaving out one very important element…..Repentance. They draw a crowd with the rosey picture of a  noncommittal plan of salvation, but unless people are willing to follow the directions that accompany their sales pitch, they will never receive eternal life.

When I first became an associate pastor here in Avon Park, I really wanted to set my youth ministry apart from the rest. The facilities that we have here at First Baptist are amazing. I first thought I could draw kids from the community in with a basketball night. I would make flyers promoting free basketball and pizza! And I could put this in big bold print on the flyers and just cover the town.  Then once I had the kids here, we would play ball for about forty five minutes and then I could have a fifteen minute bible study with them.

My heart had good intentions. I really wanted to draw them in so I could present the gospel. But then it dawned on me that Jesus never used this tactic to reach people. He never painted a foggy picture. It was black and white. Take for instance when Jesus fed the 5000. Tons of people had followed him to see what all the fuss was regarding this man who could perform miracles. So why did Jesus feed all these people? Did he do it as kind of a hook sales pitch to get their attention?

If we examine the story, we see that these many people had be following Jesus, intrigued by him and curious, all day long. Jesus could tell they were tired and hungry. So Jesus provided for their needs. He did not provide for their wants. Jesus provided for what they needed. He served them. Notice that this was also an opportunity for Christ to teach his disciples to be servants. The twelve had been with Christ all day as he taught the multitudes. They were no doubt tired, and they had a bit of a elite attitude because they were the core twelve. They were Christ’s boys so to speak. The inner crowd. They are tired and ready to kick back with Jesus for a relaxing evening.

 “By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” Mark 6:35-36.

Can you sense a little bit of “we are better than the multitude” type attitude coming from the disciples? Id be willing to bet this was Peter who said this. “We’re tired, and the multitude of people are hungry. Send them away Lord so they can eat and we can relax.” Thats basically what is being asked of Jesus here. But I love how Jesus responded.

But he (Jesus) answered, “You give them something to eat.” Mark 6:37.

Jesus motives for feeding the 5000 are two fold. He is caring for the needs of the people, and he is teaching the disciples how to be true followers through servanthood. And that is the core of who Christ was and calls us to be. If we are not servants, then we look nothing like Christ. If we go to church more for how we get ministered to rather than looking at it as a chance to minister to others, then we’ve missed the point. So many Christians miss this.

Who will visit the shut ins?

Who will feed the poor in our community?

Who will take care of the poor?

The answer many churches give is, “we’ll pray for them.” When all the while Jesus is telling us, “YOU GO!” But we dont want to hear that. And we have a million excuses at times as to why we cant serve. You see, many have bought into “believe in Christ and your saved.” But the call to repent, which is turning from former selfish ways and putting others before yourself, thats easier said than done. Yet what we dont realize is that repentance…this giving of ourselves is an essential part of the plan of salvation.

Mark 1:15 tells us two things are required for salvation. Belief in Christ and repentance. REPENTANCE. A turning from the sin and selfishness we once loved. A growing in holiness and a desire to begin to look more like Christ than the world. And Jesus was the absolute embodiment of a servant.

When the crowds had filled their bellies, the noticed that Jesus had gone to the other side of the sea. So they followed him. But why did the crowd follow after Jesus?

“Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.” John 6:2.

They were eager to see what else Jesus could do for them. It was all about how Christ could benefit them. As we will see, many were their only for the miracles. Look at what Jesus says to the crowd shortly after they arrive.

 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. ” John 6:26.

They follow Jesus for how he can benefit them. So now is the time when Jesus puts it out there to see that which he already knew….who was truly a follower of Christ and who cared only what Jesus could do for them.

John 6:53-59 “Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

For My flesh is food indeed,and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.”Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?

Did you catch that last line? After Jesus has told them that He is the true bread of life, many of those who followed him began complaining, saying that they didnt understand. Sound familiar? How many times in church have you tuned out and used the excuse that the teaching was just over your head instead of resolving within yourself to find the answers to your questions? Ive been guilty for sure.

Thats the picture we see here. People who bought into the frills of Christianity, but couldnt commit to seeking to understand the teachings. This is a picture of lukewarm, self centered, grumbling, whining because the sermon is too long, complaining the music is not their style, church folk….not followers of Christ. Not Christians as Christ defines them in the scriptures. And if they are not matching up to Jesus description of one of his followers, that should tell us something.

So when Jesus notices these “church folk” complaining, does he quickly huddle up with the disciples and come up with a more “ear tickling sermon” to keep their attention? By no means! He began to preach the gospel even more directly!

“When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

So much we can learn from this story. Like the final sentence in the above verse stating that no one can come to Christ unless it is granted him from the Father. And one of our favorite things to say in our salvation is, “Ive accepted Jesus as my savior.” Jesus says God granted us the gift of salvation. Our “acceptance” plays no part in it. We have no part in saving ourselves, its all Jesus. But I digress….back to the story. Notice what happens next.

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” John 6:66

When the multitude realized that their “golden ticket” came with a higher commitment, they walked away from Jesus. I heard a pastor tell the story of a man who left his church because the man didnt like the preaching. The pastor called this ex church member and asked why he didnt like the preaching. The man replied to the pastor,” I feel like you are interfering with my life.”

And this is full circle, one of the reasons as Matthew 7 tells us, that many on that day will stand before the Lord and hear him say “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

“I love you Jesus…just dont ask for my money.”

“I love you Jesus…just dont ask me to forgive my spouse.”

“I love you Jesus…Just dont ask me to give up my sin.”

“I love you Jesus…just dont ask me to serve.”

‘I LOVE YOU JESUS…JUST DONT ASK ME TO FOLLOW!”

Yet that is exactly what Jesus requires of us. To follow him. And in following him, we forgive the unforgivable. In following him, we serve when its inconvenient to us. In following him, we die to our selfishness and seek to glorify him in ALL that we do.

Going back to my dilemma with how to preach here in Avon Park, I follow the example of Christ. No gimmicks, no Happy Meal type sermons with a prize to entice the masses. I present the gospel for the entire time we are together. And as a result, the numbers initially dropped in our youth group. There were those, like the multitude in Jesus day, whom were not ready for the commitment. But the gospel is sufficient. And its enough. The word of God doesnt need my help in being effective.  As David Platt put it, “Many churches have watered down the life blood of the Gospel and replaced it with cool-aid.”

Jesus didnt tell his disciples to throw cool parties and call in the clowns and carnival attractions to draw the masses. Jesus simply ordered them to go to all nations. And do what…….AND TO PREACH THE GOSPEL! Period. That is our model. As I said, the numbers initially dropped in the youth group as some left in search of a more worldly draw. But heres the beauty in this…..the kids that stayed have gone from being listeners, to followers.

Radical…dedicated…servant hearted…real followers of Christ. Our group is growing in Christ. But the growth is due to NOTHING I am doing. Its ALL Christ. And thats the amazing thing! You see, Jesus doesnt need my help in drawing a crowd. He doesnt need my help in spreading his salvation. He doesnt really need me at all. But he allows me to play a part in his plan. And all he requires is my obedience. Never be deceived as I was into thinking that the Gospel needs extra ingredients in order to make it more appealing. Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Our job is to preach the truth. What happens next is supernatural and out of our hands. Our job is to go. We leave the rest to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Read The Instructions

Posted: April 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

My head felt like a furnace as I frantically attempted to empty out all of the information I had crammed into my brain for the last two weeks. It was math test day, and being terrible in math, I had been studying very hard for this exam. And to my complete surprise, I found myself having no problem coming up with the answers that I was now seeing on the test. I couldnt believe how easy it was! It felt like my pencil could not move fast enough. It was like I was so surprised I knew the answers, I felt I had to get all this information out of my head and onto the paper before I had a lapse in memory. Upon completing the very last question, I saw that I was one of the first kids finished.

Eager and satisfied that my work was done, I proudly took my paper to the teachers desk. The next day our teacher called each of us to her desk to pick up our graded copy of the test. I just knew that I had made a very high grade. It was so easy, I had no difficulty at all.  I had heard my friends whispering about how hard the exam had been. I thought to myself, “They should have studied hard like me.”

Finally my name was called. Confident, I marched up to the teachers desk and grabbed my exam. And to my complete surprise, my grade was not one of the top letter in the alphabet. It wasnt even a passing mark. I had failed the exam. I was confused, and I wondered how this could have happened! I glanced over the test to see that I had answered most of the answers correctly. Still confused, I brought this to my teachers attention. I asked her,”How could I get a failing mark on this exam! I answered most all the problems correctly!

She looked at me with a disappointed and compassionate look. “Im so sorry Charlie”, She said. “But you didnt read the directions completely” Not knowing what she meant, I read over the directions. And I realized my folly. The directions instructed me to complete the problems on the page, and then complete part two of the test on the back of the paper. I was so eager to dive into the test and answer the questions, I forgot to pay attention to the instructions. I thought I knew what to do. But I didnt realize there was more to it than just the first part of the exam.

When we think about our mission as Christians, we think of preaching the gospel to all people. Sharing Jesus with friends, family, and others who may not know him. Thats the way many of us test ourselves in our walk with Christ. We must ask ourselves, “Are we effectively sharing our faith with others?”  And sadly, many Christians are failing that test miserably. A complacent Christianity looks nothing like Jesus. And if we are not continuing to look more like Christ, then we’ve never met him.

However there are many Christians who are being active in sharing their faith. I find this spiritual test easy, being that my job is ministry and I have the opportunity to regularly share my faith. But a few years ago, upon a closer examination, I realized that I was in grave danger of failing the test. You see, I made the same mistake in ministry that I had made in the math class of my youth. I had skimmed over the directions and left some problems incomplete.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19.

These are the basic instructions that Christ gave to his disciples. Many christians and even preachers can fall into the trap of not taking time to comprehend these orders. We are so excited when someone walks down to the front of the church and claims they want to be baptised. And in the same way, people are excited to make that initial decision. And after the decision is made and the person goes through with believers baptism, more times than not, we praise God for another saved soul and move on to the next person.

And this is so dangerous, because forgot to turn the page over. We are so excited to pat ourselves on the back for helping someone come to their decision, that we forget that there is still more work to be done. Jesus never ordered his followers to go and make converts to Christianity. His command was much more intense. He said go and make disciples! Today we raise up believers and tell them to go and preach the gospel to people. But if we take seriously the instructions Christ has given to us, the orders should be two fold.

First, go and preach the gospel to all people. And secondly, and this is the part of the instructions we so often neglect…..teach them to preach. We miss the point of Christianity. It is not to get people to jump into the baptismal pool and say the believe in Christ. Most new believers know they need Jesus, and after they make that decision to follow him, they have no clue how to be a disciple! Sure, we tell them to come to church and to read their Bible. But they can still be confused as to how to do this.

A few years back, Lacy and I owned a gym and had all sorts of state of the art equipment. It was simple for me to use because I knew about working out, fitness, and I understood what it took to get in shape. Imagine someone who knew little to nothing about working out had come to the gym and said, “I really want to get in shape.”

In response, the personal trainer says, “Great, lets sign you up to be a member of this gym!” (Think baptism here.)

Then the trainer says, “Now that you are a member, you have access to all this great state of the art equipment! So use it everyday and good luck!” With this, the trainer provided no further instruction on how to use the machines or even get in shape.

That personal trainer wouldnt have a job very long. And the people joining the gym would soon get frustrated at their lack of understand and shortly after, stop coming.

One of the big reasons people stop coming to church is because they get nothing out of it.

The reason they get nothing out of it is because they are not growing in their faith.

The reason they are not growing in their faith is because they are not spending time in Gods word, bathing in the gospel. 

The reason they are not bathing in the gospel is because they dont have a proper understanding of just what Jesus did for us and how that affects our lives.

The reason they dont have a proper understanding is because they were taught how to say the sinners prayer but never taught how to live a new life as a disciple.

And finally, the reason they dont understand how to be a disciple is because someone who was instrumental in leading them to make a decision for Christ failed in the second part of the exam…..discipleship.

If we are going to be missional about sharing our faith, then we need to be prepared to invest our time into those whom we are preaching.  We need to be careful when someone proclaims they want to be saved instead of rejoicing. Yes it is an exciting time. But the worst thing that could take place is for that person to make a commitment and have no clue as to what they are committing to. Becoming a follower of Christ is a life long commitment. Major changes must take place, transforming them from a life that was formerly self centered and grounded in sin, to now in Christ abandoning those fleshly desires in exchange for pursing righteousness.

When someone has a drug addiction and commits to get sober and cleaned up, they go through an intensive detox program to assure that they never fall into that hurtful lifestyle again. And even before detox, rehab programs seek to really find out if the person is sincere in wanting to break their addictions. Yet when a person who is addicted to a lifestyle of sin comes to church and says they want to change, many times we rejoice with little to no questions asked. We make them commit to abandon their sinful ways and then leave it up to them to navigate in their new life.

Show people their need for Jesus. But dont stop there. Raise them up as you would a child. Feed them the word of God and teach them His commands. And teach them how to lead others to Christ. Share with them one of the fundamentals of the Christian faith is to GO!  Once we come to Jesus, our life transforms into a ministry. Glorifying Christ is to become the very most important thing in our lives. If we allow people to think of Jesus as just an accessory they add to their lives and not their treasure in which they would forsake everything else, then we’ve missed the point.

Our life’s mission as believers in Christ should not be to make Christians. It should be to make disciples. The goal is not to baptise people into a short lived faith. The point is to direct them to the savior who can break their chains of sin. I dont want to stand before the Lord one day and hear him declare that I failed for lack of following instructions. I want to meet His standards in this exam we call life.  There is a huge blessing in intentional discipleship. Not only do you get to play a part in leading someone to the Lord, but in each discipleship, you become a little more like Jesus. That is the reason for all that we do. It’s always about Jesus!