boyradd

Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

Are we Really a Hospital?

Luke 4:18 – The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed

If you run in the evangelical circles for any length of time, you have more than likely heard the phrase that the church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints.

I realize that is the goal, but are we truly striving for that?

As I write this I am sitting in a hospital setting as my dad is getting a hernia surgery today. Let me explain my experience.

It snowed today in Pennsylvania. About 5” of snow came down overnight. As we drove to the surgical center, we went by a couple of churches and I noticed that their parking lots were not cleared. When we got the surgical center, not only was the parking lot clear, but the majority of the parking surface was dry, which meant no ice.

As we pulled into the parking lot, the signage was amazing. This place has several doors and they are very well marked with signage throughout the parking lot as to which door to use and how to get there. I know in many churches signage is a huge issue. Many people who lead churches are still thinking old-school. You walk up to the front door and have a one-room schoolhouse mentality. Those days in churches are over. The church today is a multi-venue location that has several KidMin locations, Bible studies running concurrently to the service, and, in some cases, several different entrances to the service venue. If you walk through your church and pretend to be a newcomer, do you know where to go?

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

Try bringing someone who has never been to your church before and let them try to navigate it on their own and see what they say. That is how your church looks to the world.

As my dad and I walked into the building we were easily able to figure out where to go as it was all clearly, and cleanly, marked. If we couldn’t figure it out, however, there was an information desk that had a very happy woman with a smile from ear to ear who got up from her desk and walked out to me to ask me if I needed help. And they must have cloned this woman because there was someone just like her on the lower level of the building at the other entrances.

Is that the same in our churches? Can we honestly say that if someone new comes to our church that we are that exuberant to greet them? Do we have someone smiling at the entrance or does the person looked stressed out? Are we simply happy to see newcomers or do we say, “I don’t know who that person is…?”

A side note to entering the building is that, while it was snowing and messy outside, the building had someone there who was putting out wet floor signage and keeping the floors as clean as possible. I don’t expect the main floors to be so clean you can eat off of them when the weather outside is dreadful, but making the effort is important. That same person was going around the building and changing the trash as well as cleaning the windows and sweeping/mopping the floors. A single person who was taking care of a building probably 4-5 times the size of most churches.

Once we got to the check-in area there were smiling people behind the desk ready to take our information. I liken this stage to our KidMin check-in areas. We signed in and my dad’s name went on a screen with a number associated with it that I have access to at all time. I am able to track where my dad is in the surgery and determine when it is time to get ready to go into recovery with him.

What about our churches? When we sign our kids into KidMin, do we even sign them in? I know a lot has changed recently with child safety in churches, but in the past when I would go to different churches when I was on business trips I would go in and see parents just dropping children off at a classroom. No check-in system. No way to track their child.

Even today, many churches minimally give the child and parent a sticker to wear. But what happens if there is problem? It is at this point that most churches and KidMin leaders would say, “But I know which kids are in my class, it rarely changes.”

Right.

So you are creating a system that opposes growth in the ministry.

1 Timothy 1:15 – The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

I know, ouch. That is painful to hear, but any system we create or put in place needs to be scalable to future growth. If we cannot scale a system upward, then it isn’t worth having as to grow would involve a lot more money, time, and energy to install.

As I dropped my dad off after check-in, he did what all children do at KidMin. He said, “I don’t wanna go.” We hugged and he went off with the KidMin, er, I mean the nurse. I was able to track anything happening with my dad either on my phone via an app or on a screen that was in the waiting room.

If there is a problem, the nurses come and get me based on the number they gave us at the beginning.

Now, what about our services?

I am a big believer that if you are going to be in a ministry in the church, whether paid or volunteer, you need to be putting everything you have into that ministry to make it successful. If we go in with a mind set that we are simply going to “do the job and then go home” then you may as well step down from ministry.

Again, ouch. There will be days that we wake up on the wrong side of the bed or there may be a lot going on in a season of our lives that wear us down, but our ministry should never suffer for it.

Just like Paul, I am going to ask you to imitate me. I am in Pennsylvania today, Friday, for my dad’s surgery. Tomorrow afternoon I will be heading back to Maryland for an event at our church Saturday night and then, unless there is a major issue with my dad, in church on Sunday morning.

Galatians 5:14 – For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Yes, I realize I get paid to do that. But I don’t do ministry for the paycheck. I am making less than I usually have in the past 20 years of my life, so the money is not the motivator. I do it with the hope that the event we are doing will motivate our church to even more excellence and that on Sunday I can introduce myself to someone new that never attended our church before. It is about trying to have a heart that God would want.

So what I am going to say about our services will run counter to what many people in our churches believe.

I’ve never been scared to upset an apple cart, or turn over a table in the temple.

When my dad went back to get his hernia operated on, everything about his experience was to make sure the service was focused on him so that he was comfortable enough to be healed and not have any anxiety or fear.

How often are newcomers to our churches fearful?

It is probably more often than you think.

Fear of church comes from various places. They are fearful that church environment will be too different than their normal lives. They are fearful of being judged if they wear the wrong clothing, don’t shave, let an f-word slip, have to step outside to smoke, or something else. They are fearful that they will not be accepted because they aren’t part of the clique.

Philippians 3:7-9 – But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

How can we alleviate fear in our churches so that we can reach more people in our communities?

We need to look like our communities.

Now this is where purists will maintain that we need to be in the world but not of the world and if we are doing things that make us look like our communities then we are too much of the world.

I disagree.

If your community is used to watching TV, making sure you have a significant video presence on the screens will keep the community members engaged.

If your community is listening to rock music, then why does your worship sound like folk music? If your community is listening to country music, why does your worship sound like rock music?

If your community is military, then why do we not have more events for military families?

If your community is a lot of blue-collar workers, why does the church have a distinct white-collar feel?

If the community has a lot of African-American people in it, why is congregation mostly white? If the community is mostly white, why is the congregation mostly Africa-American?

You see what I am getting at?

If our churches look more like our communities that we serve then we don’t need to jump through hoops to attract them.

The problems come when the people currently in the church don’t want to see change.

But, Fred, that is how we have always done things and we will upset this family over here if we start changing.

I understand that.

And I understand that Jesus left the 99 to go save the one.

We are not Jesus.

Paul became all things to all people so that he might save some.

We are more closely like Paul.

Don’t be scared to change the worship. Don’t be scared to change the demographic. Don’t be scared to change the focus of the church to reach the people in your community.

My church was given the vision by my Senior Pastor to reach at least 10% of the 60,000 in a ten-mile radius of our church. If we stay the same way we are right now, 5 years down the line we will look the exact same as we do today with about the same number of people in our congregation.

How can we get there?

I want to echo something I heard from Thom Rainer a couple weeks ago:

  • Spend 5 hours a week working outside your church. Don’t work from home, but work from a local restaurant or coffee shop.
  • Go to a restaurant in between services on Sunday and look at the people sitting in the restaurant, those are the people that are skipping your, or most likely any, church on Sunday.

We need to become the hospital for sinners that we so emphatically like to claim we are.

Unfortunately we have way too many similarities to a resort that caters only to paying members than a hospital that takes and heals those who can’t heal themselves.

The service aspect is the exact same between a resort and a hospital, the difference, however, is what means the growth or decline of the church.

Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

You are Free

Ok, I need to air some dirty laundry here. I have something I need to admit to you all.

I, not so secretly, love Christian rock from the 1980s and 90s.

Yes, the music sounds very similar to secular bands like Depeche Mode, Motley Crue, or Run DMC. Sometimes the theological message of the songs is, well, way off base. And many times those artists weren’t even really Christians, they were simply cashing in on the latest craze.

But bands like Daniel Amos (hands down my absolute favorite band of all time), Adam Again, the 77s, Mad at the World, 20/Twenty, Crumbacher, Rage of Angels, Common Bond, the Altar Boys, Bride, Code of Ethics, D-boy, the Dynamic Twins, Farrell and Farrell, Jacob’s Trouble, Jerusalem, Leviticus, One Bad Pig, and yes, even Petra are all still on my playlists to this day.

I don’t even listen to Hillsong or Bethel or any of those top 20 Christian artists today.

So why do I bring all this up?

In 2017, one of my favorite Christian bands from that era reunited to record an album.

Roger and Randy Rose, otherwise known as Mad at the World, put out a new album in 2017 entitled Hope. The album goes back to their earlier sounds of being very Depeche Mode-esque. They cover a lot of songs that deal with leaving behind our oppressions, addictions, and hang-ups in life.

The underlying theme of the album is that we have hope in a Savior, Jesus Christ.

One of the songs really struck me tonight.

It is called You are Free.

One of the key points in this song is that once we accept Christ, we are free. Jesus died for all the sins that we have ever done or will ever do, once and for all.

But Satan continues to tell us lies, claiming that we will never be free. The problem is that we believe those lies.

Roger Rose sings in this song the words of Isaiah are repeated as a benediction of sorts as he quotes Luke 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Isaiah (quoted by Luke, quoted by Roger) uses the word free twice in this series of verses. It is the exact same word used twice which literally translates to “deliverance.”

So what are we delivered from?

Many would say sin.

But that isn’t entirely true.

Even the most well-meaning Christians still sin.

No, what we are delivered from is the power of sin.

Sin can no longer control our appetites. It can no longer keep us slave.

But I know so many people who are living as if they were never delivered. Some of them are close to me. Some are just people that God has placed on my heart without knowing who they are or the details of their oppression.

To the person who is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol or pornography, there is deliverance in Christ and accountability found in community.

To the person who is struggling at work, fighting for their job daily, God has freed you of the concern over other people’s views. You are not a slave to them, you are free in Christ. Seek first the kingdom of God and then you will find all you seek.

To the person who has been fired from their job, God has given you a freedom to pursue Him. Seek Him during this transition and understand that God will take care of you. The Creator of the universe adorns the sparrows and they don’t have any needs that God has not met.

To the person who is dying of a deadly disease, know that now is the time to finish well. Take this time to celebrate the blessings God has given you in your family and friends. Make your legacy a desire to see God’s Name proclaimed for years as yours diminishes through the years.

To those who have sinned and have been found out, know that the truth is freeing. It may lead to short term pain and significant change, but eventually God will show you the way that leads to heaven as you mature and learn how to live as Christ desires.

To those who have sinned and are doing well at hiding that sin, you also need to know that the truth will set you free. The more you fight repentance that more energy it takes from you and the more you drift from God. Once you repent and come clean, you will find that freedom waits for you. It is your choice.

To person who just feels like he or she can’t go on and wants to take their life, know that freedom comes in living. If you give in to the sin of suicide, you will never know the person God has created you to be. You are beautiful. You are not a mistake. You are a beloved child of God and there is a community of believers who love you and want you to know that.

To those who have been hurt by others or called stupid or fat or bad, know that those words can only define you if you allow them to. God created in you someone special. God created you to be you, no matter the circumstance. Don’t allow people define your purpose, allow God to define it.

To the single parent who is trying everything just to provide a decent life for their children, know that God sees your sacrifice, and, while you might feel like life is a constant closing door, your children will understand your sacrifice and they will rise up to call you blessed.

To the divorced parent who doesn’t have custody of the children, simply be there for them as much as you can. Allow them to see all your bumps and bruises and teach them where to follow in your footsteps and where not to.

To those who are alone, take this opportunity to find your purpose in Christ. You are never alone, God has promised not leave you nor forsake you.

To everyone else that I have left out, God has a purpose and a plan for you. You simply need to know that and follow that.

You are free.

Accept the freedom that comes in Christ.

Don’t believe Satan’s lies.

Believe your freedom and live a life that exemplifies it.

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.

Which Disciple are you Most Like, part 8: Simon and Thomas

This week I want to talk about Simon and Thomas. The more I study the disciples, the more I realize the mysteries that surround them and the more questions I can’t wait to have answered when I get to meet Christ face to face.

Simon:

The fact that I listed him here means you now know as much about Simon as I do. There is very little in the Bible about Simon. He did have 2 nicknames, Zelotes and Canaanite. All we can gather from those two names is that Simon was part of the Zealot party and was a Canaanite. He is mentioned only a few times in the Bible and only as part of a list, never with any back story.

But I would like to speak a little about Zelotes, or Zealot. The Zealots were a fanatical party that significantly opposed Rome. They were not fond of Jewish Roman sympathizers, which makes Simon working together with Matthew, a Jewish Roman sympathizer, so interesting. This shows that Jesus chooses people from all walks of life, wherever they are.

One other strange thing about the Zealots is that they typically sided with the Pharisees, whom Jesus typically was at odds with. Zealots had a history of passion. They were passionate about upholding the commandments in the Torah, especially those which dealt with idolatry.

One of the most famous groups of Zealots were the Sicarii. They were a violent group of Zealots that tried to expel the Roman government and any sympathizers. There is no indication that Simon was a member of the Sicarii, but if he indeed was a Zealot, he would have had a very passionate and legalistic view of the commandments

Other than that, we know nothing. There is also very little tradition about him. The only tradition holds that he preached in Egypt and was martyred there.

Thomas:

Thomas is the last of the original twelve that I will discuss. Everyone knows Thomas as “Doubting Thomas” because of doubting whether it was really Christ in front of him. He is really known as Thomas Didymus.

Thomas was pessimistic yet loyal. In John 11:16 we see Thomas say,

John 11:16 – Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

There are only 3 real references to Thomas in the gospels. The first comes when Jesus was traveling out of town and Thomas joined Him. Next we see Thomas in the upper room where he asked Jesus how to get to the place where Jesus is going to prepare for us. This is where Jesus says the very popular phrase,

John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Of course, we know that by God’s grace we have access to the eternal, Almighty God.

Thomas’ final appearance is seen after Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus joined the disciples (minus Thomas) in the upper room. Later they told Thomas what they saw and Thomas didn’t believe them. A week later, as the believers were hiding in the upper room again, that Jesus appeared and proved Himself to Thomas.

Tradition offers that Thomas went to Persia and died a martyr.

What Thomas teaches us is that as we struggle with seeing God in our daily walk in life, God will show up in our lives to show us He is there.

So which disciple are you most like? I find that I associate best with Philip. Philip was able to reason, as he was the one who figured out how much it would cost to feed the 5,000. I also associate with Philip in that he would go into groups of people that would most likely be written off and share Jesus with them. In his day, it was the Gentile crowd. I enjoy seeing Christ shared in groups of people who would never hear about Him.

So how about you?

Leave a comment and tell me what you chose.

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