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Archive for the category “Christian”

Losing the Faith

If you run in the Christian circles like I do, you have most likely heard or read about several recent prominent Christian leaders who have “lost the faith” or “turned away from the faith.” While this is alarming, it is definitely not a new trend.

Back in the 80s and 90s there were quite a few very popular Christian bands that had some high profile artists. There were several of those who turned away from Christ. Many are now claiming atheism.

But let’s go farther back.

In the Bible we see many stories of people who either turned away from their faith or doubted it. In Exodus 12, for example, we learn that Miriam and Aaron both oppose Moses but end up being restored. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert due to a lack of faith. It even led to a bloody conflict that led to half of Israel being killed by the other half of Israel because of faith.

Then you have Jeremiah who wished he had never been born.

King David, in Psalm 13, had doubts. Even in 1 Chronicles 21 we see that David counted his armies rather than trusting God.

Even Elijah, in 1 Kings 19, despaired.

Then you have the doubters. Moses, Thomas, and Gideon all doubted. Peter both doubted and denied. Judas turned away from the faith altogether, and he was in Jesus’ inner circle.

I know that over the years, I have viewed my faith as a moving target sometimes. As humans, we all wax and wane in our faith. There are times we feel so far away from God and others we feel that we are best friends.

One thing I have learned about doubt, or even the “failure of faith” is that we easily get confused when we see ourselves as the prime leader in the relationship. I’d like to focus on a few Biblical characters whose failures could have led to any of them turning away from God altogether. But they each ended up humbling themselves, realizing that they were not the Creator of the Universe (even their own), and came back from their failures.

I like to start with Paul. He is someone I like to think I associate with closest in the Bible. An evangelist at heart but with so much baggage in his past that he always wonders how God can use him. Paul was the epitome of sinner. Prior to his conversion, he was the dreaded Saul of Tarsus. Not only was Saul a killer of Christians, but he was the one who approved the execution of Stephen in Acts. Saul’s sole purpose was to destroy the Christian church. He would go door to door in Jerusalem and seek out Christians and then throw them in prison. Once there, he would track the letters they sent to fellow believers and gather them up as well.

After Saul’s conversion to Christ he changed his name to Paul and became one of the world’s greatest evangelists.

But he still hated who he was.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 – Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

So what can we learn from Paul? No matter when you give your life over to Christ, even after an entire life of horrible sins, the Gospel is too powerful to leave you the same person you were and that transformation becomes a powerful testimony to God’s grace.

Next, let’s look at David. David was the same guy who took a stone and killed the Philistine champion Goliath. He wrote many of the Psalms as worship to God. He was a man after God’s own heart.

However, David was not only mentioned in over half of the Bible’s books, but he broke over half of the 10 commandments!!! He coveted Bathsheba, committed adultery, stole her from Uriah, lied to him, and then had him killed!

But when he is confronted, David repents.

That repentance doesn’t undo everything he did in the past, but it does change the trajectory of his spiritual future.

2 Samuel 12:13 – David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

What we can learn from David is that if we truly do repent of our sin we are not saved from the consequences but we are still able to be used by God.

Third, I would like to look at John Mark. John Mark came from a very important family. Peter went to John Mark’s house when he was released from prison. Paul & Barnabas pick up John Mark on the way back from a mission journey. Unfortunately, we learn that John Mark left Paul & Barnabas in Perga and went back to Jerusalem.

While we don’t know the reasons behind why John Mark left them, we do know that it wasn’t for a good reason. Barnabas later suggests they go get him and Paul refuses to do it. This leads to the disagreement between Barnabas and Paul that causes the two of them to part ways. Barnabas chooses Mark and Paul chooses Silas and they go their separate ways for as long as we know in the Bible.

Later, when Paul is in prison, he writes to Colossae and tells them that John Mark is with him and has been a great comfort and that they are to welcome John Mark. This is the same person that disappointed Paul earlier in life so much that it caused division among the saints.

And now, Paul is calling him a “fellow worker.”

What can we learn from John Mark? While conversion is instantaneous, it takes a lifetime to grow into the faith you are accepted into. Maturity comes at a later date, even when we think we are mature enough to handle situations we cannot. As long as we persevere, we can outgrow those immature moments in life.

Next, let’s look at Peter. Peter was loud and shoots from the hip quite a bit. Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. He was the only one to attempt walking on water and he was the first to tell Jesus he believed He was the Son of God.

But we know what happens, Peter denies Jesus not just once but three times!

Jesus doesn’t give up on Peter though. Peter is the first person Jesus appears to. He restores Peter at the Sea of Galilee.

And then Peter went on to preach the first sermon in which 3,000 people got saved!!!

What is it that Peter can teach us? Failure doesn’t disqualify you from the Kingdom of God.

The last person I would like to look at is Elijah.

Elijah was someone who worked so many miracles it would be hard to think of him as human. He caused the rain to stop for 3 years, he was fed by ravens, he witnessed a young man resurrected, and he called down fire from heaven, thus destroying the prophets of Baal.

But then we see that Elijah burned out. After calling down fire, Elijah realized he couldn’t take anymore. He fled to the wilderness and felt totally alone and afraid.

God met him there. He fed him. He allowed him the time to rest. And after a while, he answered Elijah in the still, small voice.

What can we learn from Elijah? Burnout is only permanent if you allow it to be. Don’t listen to everything and everyone when you are exhausted. Take time to care for yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Then get back out there and win people to Christ.

The only way that failure will win in your life and cause you to leave the faith is if you allow it to do so. We serve a big God. This is the same God that created the universe! He can give us what we need, if we only allow Him to do so.

The Sinner’s Songbook

I love music. Not the music all you people like, but music that speaks to me. Sometimes that will be hymns. Sometimes that will be punk. Sometimes that will be rap. Sometimes that will be swing.

Tonight I was listening to a band that I used to listen to when I was growing up. The band is the Insyder’z. They consider themselves ska-core. Basically punk music with a lot of horns. Their newest album is The Sinner’s Songbook.

Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

As I was listening to the title track, I started to really relate with what they were singing. I got to remembering people I have come in contact with during my short life in ministry. I’d like to share some of those stories here. Please know the names have been changed to protect people.

First, there is Harvey. I met Harvey in 2013 when I led young adults at my former church. Harvey approached me one night afterward and said he was exploring his bisexual side. I didn’t know what to say. I simply asked him to explain to me what he was feeling and why he was feeling that way. We spoke for a very long time that night. Over time, I noticed that he started coming less and less. Eventually he stopped coming altogether.  When I saw him at work a few months later we started talking again. He said that he really loved our conversations but others in the church weren’t accepting him because of his lifestyle. I explained that he, as a person made in God’s image is always accepted, but his lifestyle is not. Even to this day, we talk when I see him at work and he thanks me for being approachable.

Next, there is Cassidy. Another young adult, she has had a troubled life. She has been abused by her “loved ones.” This led to her having a low self-worth and eventually ended up in her making poor life choices. She had an unhealthy addiction to sex and has had several abortions. Immediately I connected her with women in the church that could walk alongside her. She wouldn’t go to church that often because she felt as if the people in the pews were judging her, but she continued to come to young adult group and built great relationships with the women there. As those women moved on in their lives, she eventually dropped off. I haven’t seen her in a long while, even before I changed churches.

The next person is John. I met John as he was mid-divorce and dealing with an addiction to porn. As someone who has been through a divorce and had those same feelings that John had, I started meeting with him along with one other man. The three of us would hold each other accountable. Then John started pulling away and I didn’t chase after him to find out what was going on. Then it happened. I got a call from one of his family members that he isn’t answering his phone and one has seen him. I called the other guy that we were meeting with and he and I searched everywhere from his apartment to his hang outs to his work. That’s where we found John. He was hanging from a tree. Dead.

The last story is Fred. Fred led a great life. He had a wife, 2 kids, 5 acres with a large house and a 6-figure job. Fred spent his whole life focused on a great career so that his family would never have to worry. Unfortunately because of the focus on the career, the marriage ended. Having it all and then losing it brings with it a ton of baggage. Fred has turned his life around, but still struggles with the sins of the past. Sometimes that past creeps into his new marriage. Sometimes his past creeps into his job at the church. Sometimes it leads to Fred withdrawing from people, focusing on tasks rather than relationships. The fear of another broken relationship is sometimes overpowering. His relationship with Christ gives him the strength and ability to bring about change in his life. A lot of that had to do with the people God put in his way. He had people to talk to and to build him up.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

If you haven’t guessed, that last story is me. The other 3 were people that I have come across in my time in ministry since 2013. There is one thing that is a common thread between all of these people. They all have a strong desire to change their lives. Something else that is common among all these people is that they all cried out to the church to help.

All four of the stories were affected by sin. Every single person was singing from the same Sinner’s Songbook. It didn’t matter if you were homosexual or have had several abortions or was suicidal or had an unhealthy focus on career. The tune might be different for each person, but the lyrics are the same.

“My life was affected by sin. I let the enemy win. I cried out in my distress. Depending on my difficulty, God’s people could do more but usually do less.”

Ok, so I am a terrible songwriter.

But the interesting part of the story is that there is a God who created all these people. All these sinful people. He created us all in His image. We all struggle. We are all afflicted. Any one of us, left alone in our sin, will be separated from God for eternity.

But God….

(any of you who read this blog regularly know that I love that phrase)

Romans 5:8 – But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us

But God….

God can change your trajectory.

I know that for sure because, as I said, I was that fourth story.

The same God has called to each of us in His still, small voice.

But I listened.

I didn’t fear the change that comes with listening to the One True God.

Because of listening, my life has changed course. I was headed to hell with a full tank of gas and I listened to God as He intervened in my life and made a complete U-turn.

My salvation is sure.

My future is bright.

I went from a 6-figure salary and a focus on myself to less than half that salary and filled with joy. Am I always happy? Of course not. But I am assured that the God of all creation has secured a place for me in His Kingdom.

I don’t have to fear when my life is up ended. It just means that I am either being attacked by an enemy who desires to steal my testimony or my God is trying to get my attention back on Him.

Either way, I win.

So I implore you, reader. If you are a Christian, then live like one. Live like you have the God of all creation in your corner. Live like He has nothing but your best interest and His glory at heart. Live like you belong to the family of God.

If you are not a Christian, then I will ask you to sincerely seek the God of all creation. If, at the end of your search you can still tell me you don’t believe, then we can still be friends but not family. If, however, you decide to make the decision to follow Christ, then welcome to the family and please tell me about it.

Your life will never be the same.

You are still a sinner singing from the Sinner’s Songbook, but you are a sinner that is redeemed by the blood of Christ and being sanctified each day.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast

 

Learning to be in dependence

John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

It has been a very long time since I posted anything on here. People were worried. Women and children were crying. News outlets posted that something nefarious had happened to me.

Actually, none of that is true.

Apart from a couple of people who regularly read my posts, I didn’t hear anything from anyone.

And, yet, surprisingly my numbers didn’t fall either.

So why has it been almost 3 months since I posted anything here?

I’ve been learning about being in dependence.

Tomorrow is July 4th. This is the date in America that we celebrate our independence. We are free. We aren’t tied to any other country.

We celebrate independence so much in this country. When children reach certain milestones in their lives they accept more responsibility which leads them to being more and more independent.

When we move out of our parents’ house and on our own, we accept full independence in our lives.

Growing up becomes a journey toward complete independence.

Psalm 40:3-4 – He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!

Sometimes we become so independent that we need to be stepped back a little.

That’s where my life has been.

I have always been able to handle what comes in my life. I have had tough times, but usually my own determination and grit got me or my family through. Sometimes that didn’t go so well. I think back at my divorce, for example. I didn’t have enough determination or grit to make it right and I didn’t listen to God enough to accept his grace and mercy and help.

But now I am starting to learn to move away from independence and move toward being in dependence.

My wife and I have had a lot of turmoil in recent months. I took a new job in full-time ministry. Right around the same time, she was laid off from her job. Then my dad was in and out of the hospital and then decided to move closer to us.

There is a lot of good stuff in there!

But it is also a lot of stuff that is happening at once. And couple that with the fact that our bank account is dwindling daily, it is pretty daunting.

In my past I have had 6 figure jobs and was never trying to find the next dollar to pay for anything. I was always able to do it on my own power. I can flippantly say that God gave me those jobs so I really was depending on Him, but truth of the matter was that I didn’t need God to do anything that I could do in my own power.

Now I am learning just how little of a man I am.

And in that weakness, God has done some very amazing things!

Each day I go to God and ask Him for the provision for the day. In my past I would have had enough provision for the year within 6 months of working. Now I am learning to lean on God more and more.

It has changed the way that I speak to Him.

Isaiah 30:15 – For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling

When I had everything I ever wanted, I found I wanted more. “God, please give me the ability to take the vacation so I can go cruise the southern Caribbean again.” Or, “God, let me be able to save enough so I can clear the trees from one acre of the property so I can build a party area.” Or here is my favorite, “God, give me more so I can start tithing. I just don’t have enough to give back to you yet.”

But now, my prayers are quiet. I don’t have any ambition left in me. There is nothing more that I want out of or from this world.

My car is no longer something that matters to me. It is a utilitarian need for the ministry.

My house is no longer that something that I care about. It is simply there to shelter us and keep us safe. As long as it does that, I don’t care if it is decorated or sterile. I don’t care if it is clean or filled with pet hair.

Food? That is still my issue. Anyone who knows me knows I love food. When I used to have a lot of money I would get my favorite, steamed blue crabs, as much as I could. Now, those are a far-off dream since they are so expensive. I was blessed to be able to have crabs once last year. Who knows, the summer is young, there still may be a chance this year. God willing.

But see, my prayers are no longer about the stuff that I have or the stuff that I want (except steamed crabs lol). My prayers are about how I can be used in my current role, in my current condition, in my current state, for God.

I pray for provision to make it through the day. I pray to not have anything pop up in our expenses that God won’t cover. And I pray for the time to get everything done that He is requiring of me.

Other than that, my 45 minutes or so in prayer each morning is in silence or reading the Bible. I am looking for God to speak to me rather than spending all my time speaking to Him.

And it is in that place, the place of utter dependence on God, that I find my contentment.

Yes, I still get frustrated. Just today as I was talking with my wife about finances I showed my frustrations. That is still my humanity. I can’t give up my humanity.

But it is in that place that I learn dependence.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So on this Independence Day in America may you seek to be in dependence of Jesus Christ, the One and true Creator, brother and friend. He is all that and yet is God alone.

Can you tell me about Jesus?

John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

So today, after the snowstorm of the century in Maryland (actually, it was only the 7th worst storm in the last 30 years), I decided to go to the grocery store. Safeway was not busy at all, so I got a space pretty close to the front. Since there weren’t a lot of cars, I was able to pull through the parking space and into the next space.

When I came out of the store, I rolled the cart to my car and started to put the groceries in the trunk. The space behind me was still open, and there were several other spaces throughout the parking lot that were actually closer to the store than the one behind me.

I just put the last bag in the car as it dropped and the groceries went all over the back of the trunk. I started to clean them up when a car started to pull into the spot. The woman blew her horn and proceeded to yell at me through her windows. I couldn’t understand what she said because all her windows were up, but she clearly was not happy at me.

I held up my index finger to say, “give me a minute” and continued to clean up the groceries in the trunk.

She blew her horn again and, as I looked at her, she threw up her arms in frustration and stared at me until I was finished.

I rolled the cart to the cart return area as she parked right behind me. As I walked back to my car I noticed a couple of Christian decals on her car.

When she got out of the car, I decided to ask her if she could tell me about the gospel message.

She gave me a nasty look and turned and walked away from me and into the store.

My mentor shared a sermon once as the church handed out bumper stickers to everyone that he didn’t want people to put the stickers on their cars if they were going to not act like a Christian as they drove places. This woman was clearly the subject matter of his sermon.

Now when I asked this woman to share the gospel message with me I clearly had a ulterior motive (I needed a topic this week for my blog!)

But the point, to me, is clear as crystal.

The world is watching us.

What would have happened if it wasn’t me, but someone who really needed to hear the gospel?

What if someone was contemplating the sermon they just heard and whether they need Jesus in their life and then they have this experience.

Now let me say that I don’t know what this woman was going through. She may have had a serious problem happen in her life that I don’t know about that she is struggling with that set her off.

But the world doesn’t know that, unfortunately.

The world just sees a supposed Christian woman acting very un-Christian like.

When that happens, we lose our testimony.

I know a lot of people who would say that this woman is not a Christian because of the way she acted. And she may not be.

But what if she really is?

As I said, she might just be having a very bad day that set her off.

But Satan isn’t trying to “unsave” the Christians.

Satan is trying to destroy our testimonies.

Satan knows that he can’t take us out of God’s hands. So he wants to bring doubt, confusion, anger, bitterness, sarcasm, and other demons into our lives to make sure that Christians can’t share their testimony.

That might have been the case today. This woman might have been having such a bad day and she was trying to handle everything on her own instead of relying on God. What that does is causes us to handle our issues incorrectly.

We lash out.

We say those four-letter words.

We hurt those we love.

We get our testimonies destroyed by the one who comes to kill and destroy.

So what is the answer? How do we ensure that Satan doesn’t kill our testimonies?

Well, even though Jesus, in the beatitudes, commands us to “be perfect,” you are not perfect. You won’t get it right all the time.

But God…

God has enough grace and mercy to love you and give you your testimony back.

The way to do that is to follow what is written in the Bible,

James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

While I only chose James 4:7, the entire beginning of James 4 is pertinent to this post. James asks us what causes quarrels among us? It is our passion. It is our desire to put ourselves on the altar and not God.

But you might say to me, “Fred, I asked God for help and he never answered me.”

What does James say about this?

James 4:1-12 – What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

James pretty much pegged what that woman this morning was going through. Even though I don’t know the specifics, the fruit of her actions is evident. She didn’t submit to God. Even if she asked God for help, she ask wrongly.

And that is our problem as Christians.

We tend to think that God will do so much more for us that He already did.

Jesus already died on the cross. He did that so you could have an eternity with Him. But sometimes I believe we expect Him to fix every problem that comes our way. To replace the rainy seasons with rainbows, to take away our bad attitudes and idolatry and replace it with smiles and peace.

God is not a genie in a bottle.

We have accountability in this life. If we choose to humble ourselves, God will exalt us. If we choose to exalt ourselves, God will humble us.

Here is my challenge to you, Christian.

Over the next week, take everything you do and place God before it completely. Are you about get in your car and go to work? Pray and ask God to guide you. Are you about to go eat lunch? Pray and thank God for the provision. Are you about to come into a rainy season? Pray and ask God to give you clarity about how to get through it.

It may seem awkward at first. But eventually you will feel more and more comfortable with talking to God and you will learn how to talk to Him and how to listen to Him.

The Church Has Left the Building – Part 2

Back in 2013 I wrote an article called “The Church has left the Building.” It was a year and half after I had started blogging and I hadn’t yet acquired an audience. Looking back at it, theologically there was nothing wrong with the article, but as I have aged, I have come to realize that the phrase, “The Church has left the Building” is more than I wrote about in 2013.

Back in 2013 I was concerned with the state of tithing in the church and that if the church doesn’t follow the God-given request to test Him in our tithes, then as the greater church we cannot do many of the ministries we need to do in order to be a thriving church.

FYI…for the 2019 year my buzzword is going to be “thrive.” That is going to be a post for a different day, but suffice to say you will read that word a lot over the next 12 months.

Now I realize it has taken me 5 and half years to write a follow up to the original post, but I want to share the wisdom that God has been teaching me over the past 5 years as to what the phrase “The Church has left the Building” means to me.

Too many people think the church is the building and the people that are in the building. I recently changed churches from Chesapeake Christian Fellowship to Friendship Community Baptist. One is non-denominational, single-elder led while the other is mainline Baptist and congregationally led. Very different polity.

But the same church.

Both churches are amazing in various different aspects of ministry. There are things that CCF is strong at that FCBC is not. There are areas that FCBC is strong that CCF is not.

How we “play church” on Sundays is different.

But the goal is the same.

Plunder hell and populate heaven.

The writer of Hebrews knows this well (I also wrote an article about who this writer could be back in 2012, but, again, that is for another day as I realize that many people will disagree with my view on that as well).

The writer of Hebrews says,

“For we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of the lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” – 13:14-16

We have no lasting city.

When I started attending CCF back in 2002 I had no clue what Christianity was truly about. It was by the grace of God and His mercy alone that I came to find that faith. As time went on, I became comfortable at CCF, thinking that was my lasting city. I even wanted to eventually pastor there.

But God.

God had other plans.

He realized that I needed to become uncomfortable in order to continue growing.

I needed to leave the camp, so to speak.

Again, the writer of Hebrews explains this,

“For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.” – 13:11-12

The sacrificial offerings were burned up outside the camp. Jesus suffered and died outside the gate of the city.

In order for us to be used to our fullest for God, we need to go outside the gate of the city.

My city, for so long was CCF. And while I would occasionally go outside and talk to people (usually about how great my church was more than the power of the Holy Spirit), I maintained my comfort inside the building.

I couldn’t be burned up for the sacrifice when I grew comfortable.

God knew this. Honestly, I knew this. I just pushed against it for many years before truly acting upon it.

In order for me to grow, I needed to leave the walls of the city.

And my new church, Friendship Community Baptist, has been challenging yet good for my growth. I am learning how to work inside a different set of church polity. I am learning what it truly means to shepherd.

I am so thankful for my time at CCF. Without that time, I could not have grown from immaturity to maturity. But there comes a time in every believer’s life that he or she needs to step outside the walls of the city in order to be uncomfortable.  The entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews is an example of that,

“…Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain…Enoch was taken up…Noah constructed an ark…Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out…Moses was hidden for three month…Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter…(Moses) left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king…The people crossed the Red Sea…” – 11:4-30 (abridged)

He continues, saying,

“…through faith (others) conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” – 11:33-34

Every single one of those “by faith” comments in Hebrews 11 required going out.

The Church has Left the Building!!!

By no means am I telling people to leave their churches and go to a different church like I did. That was God’s vision for me and my family at this time in my life. That may not be the vision He has given you.

But you need to leave the comfort of the building and get out in your community. If you are not, by faith, stepping out and proclaiming the gospel to others and discipling others, you need to figure out what kind of faith you really have.

Did you simply accept Jesus to try and become a better person and get a “Get Out of Hell Free” card?

Or did you fall in love with the person of Jesus Christ and desire to serve Him. Are you worried less about looking like a Christian and more about looking like Christ? Are you following Christ by faith because you have  desperation to know the person of Jesus Christ?

I want you to move beyond thinking you have a saving faith and move into knowing you have a saving faith.

That will lead the church to leave the building.

It will become a message that simply too big to contain inside the church building that you need to take it to communities, the streets, the cities, the shanty towns, the neighborhoods, and the workplaces.

Know your faith, Christian.

It is time to leave the building.

2018 Year in Review

Nehemiah 2:18b, 20 – They laughed at us and despised us, and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing?’… So I answered them and said to them, ‘The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore, we His servants will arise and build.

2018 was an uncomfortable year for my family and I. We had a lot of struggles come up that many families have had to face, but we hadn’t…until 2018.

Both my wife and I had job problems throughout the year. For her, the company she worked for shuttered her department and she was laid off. This led to us losing insurance and having to scramble to figure it out. Fortunately, my boss stepped up and set up a plan for us. But then, unfortunately, he neglected to pay the premiums and our insurance was cancelled a couple months later. Then, add to that, the fact that my job went through a financial downturn and paychecks were coming late, and, even those that were coming, we only partials.

This led to a lot of inconsistency in both health and finances this year.

But God….

Staying uncomfortable, when kept in front of God, leads to spiritual awakening. That spiritual awakening can lead to all sorts of blessings from God whether they be spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental.

In this case, it was all the above!

Both my wife and I changed jobs this year. My wife changed jobs because she had no other choice. After being laid off, she needed to find something new. This led to her finding a new job in the same industry but in a capacity that is a better fit for her skills. She still works from home. Every day that she works she truly enjoys what she is doing.

God knew.

He knew that she was unhappy at her last company and provided her, after going through the storm of being laid off, the mercy and grace of a new job that satisfies her emotionally, physically, and mentally.

As for me, I have been seeking to follow my call into vocational ministry. That opportunity came late this year. I started interviewing with a local Baptist church (fcbc.church) around the middle of the year, and by early December, I was able to start as their Director of Ministries. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am that FCBC chose me. Even more exciting is that God granted my call!

As 2019 opens, Mimi and I are in a better place professionally and emotionally. Financially we won’t be making as much as we could have been had I stayed in the corporate world, but God….

God provides.

Even through the job craziness the past couple months, we have noticed something.

Our bank account has continued to grow.

Even though I am making less and Mimi isn’t making any more than she was before, we are actually banking more money away, and our expenses haven’t really reduced. If anything, because of 3 cars breaking down in the same week, our expenses in the final month of the year increased!

Simply put, but God…

God knows!

I am always amazed that He knows what we need and provides. I never want to be so rich that I forget about God, but I never want to be so poor that I dishonor Him either.

2 Timothy 4:17 – But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me

As for this blog, I only posted 31 articles this year, my lowest number ever.

But God…

This blog had its highest readership this year in its 7-year history!

I averaged 78 views per week with over 4,000 visitors this year!!!

It was viewed in 77 different countries, which is just shy of 40% of the world has had access to this blog! The top 3 countries are the United States (over 70% of the views came from the USA) followed by both China and the United Kingdom. I am really excited to see that the number 2 location for reading this blog was in China!!!

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 – But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

I pray that this blog is an encouragement to the Christians in China! Please stay strong, know that your sacrifice for the faith is seen by God. Your faith and your sacrifice will bring about a harvest for the kingdom. The disciples you are raising up will lead to change in generations to come. The struggles you face right now will see an amazing return in the faith of others.

Of all the stats I have ever read about this blog, seeing that it is being read in China significantly a both humbling and remarkable. I pray that God gives me the words to say that will encourage those who are risking everything for the faith.

As for the top posts that were read this year, I always facepalm when I read that my post “Spiritual Farting” is the top read post. This is now 5 years in a row that this has been the number one post.

If I can, please stop reading about spiritual farting lol. Almost 15% of my viewers for the year read that one blog post!

One key learning I have from reading which posts are the most popular is that series seem to be more popular than single posts. The series about Jesus’ disciples provided the most popular posts of those put up this year.

So, what does 2019 look like?

I have no clue. Considering most of my posts are triggered by something that happens in my life at that moment, I don’t know what I will be posting about. The rest of my life is fairly organized, so I like to give this blog to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

One thing I do know, as I move into the next year, boyradd.wordpress.com will continue to post and, God willing, grow.

Psalm 125:1-2 – Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forever.

Thanks for all your support through 2018.

Deidentified

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

When I used to work in both the restaurant and grocery industries, there were times that you needed to close down stores. Sometimes it was good, like when you were closing a competitor’s brand down because you were converting it to your brand. Then there were the not-so-good times, such as when one of your stores failed and you had to close it or when a company claimed bankruptcy and they closed several stores over a timeline.

One thing was common in each of these situations, you had to deidentify the store.

This meant that any branding materials or operating manuals or confidential information must be removed from the location. The most notable point in the process is when the front sign comes down. That is when people driving by that location for years to come will say, “I remember when such and such used to be in that spot. I wonder whatever happened to them.”

Now that I am in ministry, I hope I will never have to deidentify a church.

But the interesting thing is that today I had to do just that.

You see, Christmas holiday is over. I went into the church this morning and started looking for the boxes to pack up anything that looked like Christmas.

When I was done, I texted my wife and told her that I just deidentified Christmas.

I had to stop and pause for a moment after I texted that.

I deidentified Christmas.

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Now people driving by the church will say, “I remember when that church had a nativity scene outside and the cow was a little lopsided, it used to catch my attention every day that I drove to work.”

As a Christian, we should never think about deidentifying Christmas from our lives. Yes, the holiday itself is simply that, a day to commemorate the birth of Christ. Similar to baptism where it is an outward symbol of an inward decision. Christmas holiday itself has absolutely no power.

But the Holy Spirit does.

Now that I took that lopsided cow and put it into the shed, will that random person driving by think of Jesus? Or the church? Or even what happened on the day that we celebrate?

I hope that person will take their faith walk a little farther than just looking for a lopsided cow.

I hope they will realize the power of the God of the Christian faith. King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

But now I want to look at this another way.

Thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, if you are a member of the family of Christian faith, then you have been deidentified as well.

You see, Jesus stepped into your life, a life that was branded by the sins of your past, and deidentified you of them. He then gave you a new identity, saved.

Now when people drive by your life, they will say, “I remember that guy, he used to do such and such back in the day, but he’s changed. A totally different person!”

That’s what deidentification does.

It changes not just what is inside, but what people see on the outside as well.

So as we move into the new year, if you have spent this 2018 year being identified by your sins, then now is the time to deidentify. Reach out to the creator of identity and as for a new one. Bring about the change that will last for eternity, not just a new year’s resolution that will be gone in a few months.

If you want to know how to deidentify and get a new identity, I want to hear from you. Please email me at fred@fcbc.church. I would love to help you take this faith walk.

Ephesians 4:22-24 – To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Fear of Succeeding

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 – But he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Last week I mentioned that I accepted a position as the Director of Ministry for a local Baptist church (fcbc.church). The first week has been a whirlwind! It has been amazing, difficult, challenging, and exciting all in one!

The gifts and talents that I bring into the ministry here seem like they are complementary to the gifts and talents the other staff and elders have. After the first week it seems like an amazing fit!

A lot has happened this past week with the ministry. There have been some deliveries of benevolence funds to people, helping someone find a new job, helping people get food at a local food pantry, and working with local organizations to see if they would be a good fit in our building during the off-hours.

Then there are those items that I have been doing for many years in the business industry: writing training programs for ministry leaders as well as church-wide, doing needs analysis of ministries, and studying up on topics I know very little about (when I started in the coffee industry about 15 years ago I had no clue what coffee really was, the same holds true today with ministry).

I sat down over a couple days and created some training programs. They need work, but I think they are pretty decent programs.

Then fear set in.

Proverbs 18:3 – To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.

How much prayer and seeking of God’s face did I do before working on these? I honestly couldn’t remember!

I knew I had prayed at least a little bit, but I couldn’t honestly say that I was putting God first as I put together those programs.

I hope I didn’t just do something successful without bringing Christ into it!!!

I know that ministry is tough. The first week here has been full, but not tough. I am wondering if I am missing something.

But what IS tough is keeping Christ at the forefront of the ministry.

Some tasks are simple. A door is broken, let’s get the door fixed. Not a lot of prayer time required to make sure I make the right decision.

But what about the benevolence and food pantry and job help. If I get those wrong, then more than my own ego would be in jeopardy. I honestly can’t remember how much prayer I put into them all.

Psalm 5:3 – In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

So today I started something a little different. Instead of coming in and immediately getting to work, I am taking the opportunity to dig into the Bible for a few minutes and then go to prayer. Then, when I am about an hour or so from leaving, I go into the sanctuary and pray.

This is the reason that ministry is a calling and not a job. It is very easy to get caught up in the job aspects of the ministry, but if we look at everything as some aspect of “the job,” then we will never grow and excel in Christian ministry. But, on the flip side of that, if we spend all our time in prayer, fasting and dying to ourselves, then the little details like taking out the trash, setting mouse traps, and cleaning toilets will never get done.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 – Encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

I have had several jobs in my life. Every single one of them eventually gets boring and repetitive. I am sure ministry will be no different in many ways. But the call of ministry, if we see it as such, will carry us through the doldrums and bring us into exciting high winds to fill our sails.

So here’s to hoping that I don’t see only success. Here is to hoping that I fail a little. Here is to hoping I don’t get bored on the repetitive tasks and am able to enjoy the diversity of ministry.

And here’s to hoping that this journey will bring the discomfort to me and my family that causes the awakening that God so sorely needs in this world today.

Forward to the Future

God is working a new thing.

Isaiah 43:18-19 – “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

A couple of months ago I started interviewing for a position as a pastor at a local church. Ever since graduating seminary I have desired to follow the call to pastor. I’ve applied a couple different places since graduating, but pretty much all of them said I was either too old to lead the next generation or that I don’t have enough ministry experience.

Then, a couple months ago, Friendship Community Baptist Church (fcbc.church) reached out to me to interview for their Associate Pastor position.

I went in for the first interview. Afterward my wife asked how it went. I told her that I wasn’t sure, but it is in God’s hands.

Imagine my shock when they called me back for another interview!

During that interview they asked me to elaborate on a few things that I brought up in the questionnaire that I filled out. One of those things, my views on women in ministry, was a point of question.

Throughout the next couple of interviews, that was something that was foremost in the questioning.

Suffice to say, we agreed that we aren’t too far off with regard to our theological views of women in ministry and, where we are in our individual and corporate views, we are able to still work together because, at the end of the day, this is one of those items that isn’t of significant eternal value. Many in the room had differing views, but what we learned throughout the process is that while we have differing views in certain small things, we are able to come together to impact the important things, such as bringing Jesus to Anne Arundel and Calvert counties in Maryland.

After these rounds of interviews I told my wife that everything is in God’s hands and we’ll have to see if this is a case of Paul trying to go into Asia or if this was going to continue to move forward.

The next interview involved both my wife and I meeting the senior pastor and his wife. It was a great meeting and I asked my wife to be brutally honest when asked questions. I am happy to say that she was.

Again, afterward I said that everything is in God’s hands and we waited.

Then there were more interviews and they started preparing me for the congregational interview. Also during this time the position changed and I needed to determine if my ego would kick in or if I would simply desire to be where God was going to place me.

You see, the position changed to a non-ordained role. Everything else is the same, but the ordination wasn’t going to be immediate. It is a Director of Ministries role that will hopefully, God-willing, lead into the ordination later.

1 Timothy 5:22 – Don’t be too quick to appoint anyone as an elder, and don’t share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

I remember when I graduated seminary I desired so much to become an ordained pastor. It actually drove me so much that it must have internalized as an idol.

When this position changed, I struggled for a little while. I needed to go to my mentors and accountability and ask how I get past my idolatry.

It wasn’t until I remembered something that God had said to me a while back that I was able to see this as it is, a blessing.

God said to me, “If I were to have a HUGE revival and an awakening happen in your area, would you be as excited about supporting it if I didn’t choose you to lead it?”

That was painful to hear.

But it took one of my mentors to say to me to not focus on the word “you” in that question. Focus on the phrase “revival and awakening in your area.” See the blessing in the fact that God is about to have a revival in Southern Maryland!

2 Chronicles 7:14 – If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

When my mind started focusing on the blessings rather than myself, I was able to see this role as a tool in God’s shed. The rod in Moses’ hand. The Thaddeus of the disciples instead of the Peter.

When the church offered me the role pending the congregational vote, I was excited! God may not need me to be the next Platt or Greear or even Pastor Pat (my pastor the last 16 years) or Pastor Robert (my new pastor beginning today), but God needs me to be in the role that He is putting me in.

I got the word on Sunday afternoon that I was voted in.

I start Wednesday!!!

I can’t even tell you how excited I am to know that God is doing a new thing in my life! I had become so comfortable in the church I have been in for the past 16 years that I was not growing as much anymore. If we aren’t growing, then we are not becoming more like Christ.

It is time to take the leap. To realize that discomfort is a tool of awakening.

It won’t be easy. Satan will attack me and my family.

But God….

My God is much bigger than Satan. My God is much bigger than my fears. My God is much bigger than any position I can ever hold in any church anywhere.

My God is the end all and be all of my faith – a faith that continues to grow as I lean on Him to provide for my every need, personal, family, and professional.

Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Next week I will talk about one of my fears that I have as I move into this role of Director of Ministries.

But God…

It is one of my favorite phrases to say.

“But God.”

It is in the Bible, in various forms, at least a hundred times or more.

I know that through my own power, there are a lot of things that are impossible for me. Every time I see a Bible verse that has “but God” in it I know that there is some awesomely Good News following it.

Being in ministry, I have heard countless times that people can’t come to God because:

  • But I have too much baggage
  • But my sins, you just don’t know how bad I’ve been
  • But I’m not clean from drugs or alcohol
  • But I have feelings of anger and bitterness toward someone

When I hear people say this, I remember when I used to say those things. I have baggage. I have sin. I used to drink. I have definitely held feelings of anger and bitterness.

But God…

God has taken away the baggage. God has taken the sin. God has taken the “me” that used to get drunk. God has taken the feelings of anger and bitterness!

From time to time Satan will bring up all those feelings, sins, and baggage and cause me to question.

That is sin, to want to go back to where God delivered you from (remember the Israelites in the desert?)

But God…

Those times are short-lived and lead to more spiritual growth on my part because I choose to trust God every step of the way.

But God…

If you want Christians to dance and shout in the sanctuary, tell them that we will be playing Hillsong or Vineyard or Bethel music today. If the pastor gets up in front of the congregation and tells them that they are no longer dead in their sin, the congregation will sit there. Quietly.

You would think that saying something like,

Ephesians 2:1-9 – And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

You would think that would bring the congregation to their feet!

You once were dead but now you are alive!!!

Christian, that is better than ANY praise song out there! That is better than any guitar solo that can be played. That is better than any long-held high note that the singer can do. That is better than any new lighting trick or new sound compression.

The first century Christians understood this!

So, Fred, how was your day today?

Well, pastor, my car broke down and I had to walk to my dentist to get a root canal. BUT GOD…pulled me from the depth of hell, where I would have died without Him for eternity and gave me eternal life!

BUT GOD!!!!

If we go further in Ephesians 2, we learn that,

Ephesians 2:12 – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

We were strangers!

We had no hope!

But God…

BUT GOD!!!

Let’s look at verses 3 and 7 together…

We were children of wrath BUT GOD promises eternal kindness

Now let’s look at verses 2 and 6 together…

We were enslaved to the prince of the air BUT GOD raised us up and freed us to be seated with Christ

Now let’s look at verse 1 and 5-6 together….

We were dead in our sins BUT GOD made us alive in Christ

BUT GOD!!!

Let’s look elsewhere in Scripture.

Genesis 50:20 – As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Joseph’s brothers had done evil to him, BUT GOD meant it for good.

Acts 10:28 – And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.

Peter said that it is unclean for Jews to hang out with Gentiles, BUT GOD brings us all into unity.

Psalm 49:14-15 – Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.

The writer said he was on his way to Sheol, BUT GOD ransomed his soul.

Acts 13:29-30 – And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead

Jesus was put into a tomb, BUT GOD raised Him from the dead.

Romans 5:7-8 – For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

People don’t typically die for other, BUT GOD showed His love to us in that when we were still His enemies He died for us.

1 Corinthians 1:26-27 – For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong

People will think you are crazy because of this calling God has given you, BUT GOD will use the foolish of the world to shame the wise.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 – I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

We can plant. We can water the garden. BUT GOD makes it grow.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

We will be tempted, BUT GOD is faithful and will provide us a way of escape.

Any time you look at a “but God” statement in the Bible you will find that good comes after it.

You may be reading this and saying that those phrases are for people who already love God. You might be thinking that God doesn’t want anything to do with you because of your sin or your shame.

BUT GOD wants you!

BUT GOD loves you!

BUT GOD desires you and to have a relationship with you.

It is as simple as reaching out today. If you would like to know how, please comment or email me at coffeeguy777@hotmail.com. I would love to help you figure out the “but God” moment in your life.

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