boyradd

Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

Archive for the tag “Come to Christ”

No Strippers or Gang Bangers Welcome

Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

I love the church that God has placed me in.

For those of you trying to find me, you can typically see me at the 11 AM service at Chesapeake Christian Fellowship on any given Sunday. I also lead the young adult ministry, United, every Wednesday at 7 PM as well as am a member in a couple other ministries.

CCF is a mega-church ready, medium-sized church. We have enough seating for at least 750 per service but serve approximately 800-900 during non-holiday weeks. During the holidays, I’ve seen it so packed that the Fire Marshall threatened to report us. I have seen funerals there where hundreds of people would stand in line to see the body. Our music on any given Sunday would rival a Hillsong concert and the message would rival any TED speech.

But none of that is why I love CCF.

The reason I love CCF is because of the diversity among the congregation.

Yes, we are a very conservative, literal Bible believing church.

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

But that is not all that attend there.

The congregation is made up of the sinners, the broken, the weary, the accused, the guilty, the homeless, the rich, the unloved, the popular, and the overall dregs of society.

There are stories that have been shared during people’s testimonies that would make you wonder what kind of church we run that would allow them into it.

I have attended churches that would never allow anyone in there that would upset their view of what church should look like.

Those are the churches that are dead or dying.

Those are the churches that cause Christianity to have a negative view in this world.

Those are the churches that are showing few or zero conversions yearly.

Those churches are nothing like my church. We are 20 years old (I have been going there since 2002, so for about 12 years now). We have hit plateaus, and we are currently hitting one now, but God has blessed us with such strong men and women of God that we will prevail through this because of who God is. The community views CCF in a very positive light. While not everyone can be pleased all the time, when community organizations like assisted living homes and low income housing authorities are calling you up to minister to their people groups, you have got to be shining Christ in some way. And CCF has shown amazing fruit. There are not too many weeks that go by where someone doesn’t come down front to give their life to Christ.

Acts 2:41 – So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

But CCF is an anomaly (for those of you who like Lecrae, check out his new album Anomaly. It is AMAZING!).

You see CCF truly understands what it means to love the sinner but hate the sin.

Tolerance, to biblical standard, is practiced fairly well at CCF. That definition of tolerance is NOT the world’s definition. We will NOT water down the Gospel. We will not twist Scripture to fit what our view is of it. We use Scripture to mold us into God’s desire for our lives.

Re-read that last statement.

Scripture should change us. WE SHOULD NOT CHANGE SCRIPTURE.

Sometimes that change is uncomfortable. If you are a stripper, we would love to have you come to us. You DO NOT have to clean up your act before you do. All we want you to do is show up and get a Gospel message and perhaps meet some amazing Christ-centered people who will walk alongside you in your journey.

Now, if you decide that you are going to make a decision for Christ, then….we will NOT tell you that because of your lifestyle God will not accept you. That simply isn’t the case.

What we will do is explain to you that this Christian life is a journey and that because of your new found love for Christ, you will find yourself compelled to change your lifestyle. And then we will be there, ready for the day when you tell us that you want to change. We will be there to walk this life with you.

Luke 15:1-2 – Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Same thing with gang bangers. Can you imagine what the average church would do if someone from a very aggressive gang, known for drug dealings and mafia-style killings, were to walk into the church wearing their gang colors?

I can only imagine that the congregation would be on edge. The pastors would be looking sideways at them and the head trustee would shadow them the entire service. Not very inviting, eh?

But fortunately, at CCF, we have people who have come out of the gangs. Our church is made up of people wearing colors, whether they are football team colors or street colors. It is made up of people from all walks of life, in all manners of dress. Some have tattoos and piercings all over their bodies and others, like me, have none of that (although I am getting very close to getting a cross tattooed on my wrist).

Christ, when he was on earth, sat with and ate with sinners. He hung with the degenerate. He understood them better than he understood the religious elite. Jesus was much more comfortable in the streets engaging the woman at the well than He was hanging out at the synagogue.

If Jesus were here today, right now, we would most likely find Him hanging out at the shelter down the street from our house. We would probably find Him in the hospital, praying with the people waiting for test results. We would find Him in the assisted living facilities and mental health hospitals working with those who may not even comprehend language. We would find Him on the street corner, standing between two people as the drug deal is going down or the transaction is happening between the prostitute and her John.

And then the religious elite would most likely come by and crucify Him, thinking that He is doing something wrong for being open to all walks of life.

Hebrews 6:4-6 – It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Our churches need to perform the behaviors that Christ modeled. The churches need to be a beacon of light for Christ, not simply a big, warm, sweet interior glowing that goes no farther than the 50 or so that fit the rules of your little club.

Church is about Christ.

But it is about Christ reaching the sinner.

And the sinner noticing Christ through the body of the church.

And making a decision to follow Him because of the desire of the body to embrace them.

And then growing in maturity together as they walk alongside each other and sit at the foot of Jesus simply studying about Him, loving on Him, and seeking His face.

That is when ALL strippers AND gang bangers WILL BE welcome.

Isaiah 55:1 – Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Boundaries

We as Christians, and I am just as guilty of this, are great at building barriers.

We as Christians, and I am just as guilty of this, are terrible at setting boundaries.

The Bible starts with God teaching Adam and Eve about ownership.  Look at Genesis 1:28, for example:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

If we are created in God’s image, would it not stand to reason that we are created to take responsibility for certain things?  Taking ownership of something means that we need to know what is and what is not our “job.”  It takes sincere wisdom to discern that.  

For many Christians, the desire to do the right thing, or even steer clear of conflict, means taking on extra issues that God never intended for you.  If there is any confusion in the responsibility and ownership in life then there is a problem with boundaries. 

Think about it.  Homeowners set lines around their property to designate what is their responsibility and what is not.  Just like the property lines around your house, you need to ensure there are mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries in place in your life. 

Christians are terrible at setting boundaries.  As I said, I, too, struggle with it.  Do any of these questions sound familiar when you are debating on what to take ownership of?

·         How can I still be a loving person if I set a limit?

·         What would be considered a legitimate boundary?

·         What if I make someone angry by my boundary?

·         How do I tell someone no?

·         Why do I feel guilty when I set a boundary?

·         Aren’t boundaries selfish?

We as Christians feel guilty if we assert ourselves, feeling as if we are not doing what God has told us.  We have heard the biblical misconceptions and assume that being assertive is not Christian behavior.

When people sign up for assertiveness training, one of the goals is to encourage people to express their convictions honestly with each other.  This does not mean putting the other person down, but it does mean approaching with empathy and compassion but stating what your responsibility and conviction is.

Ephesians 4:15 – Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

In Ephesians 4:15 Paul calls for Christians to be assertive.

Another aim of assertiveness training is to “own your life.”  How can we “own” something that is not ours?  This clearly goes against the Bible, right?

Not when looked at in a Biblical light.

1 Corinthians 9:19 – Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

Paul plainly states that, because of his freedom in Christ, he has chosen to dedicate his life to others.  Because of his freedom, he can make the choice to sacrifice his life for others.

Jesus, Himself, had a very strong sense of identity.  Whether he was washing the disciples’ feet in John 13:4-5 or preaching about turning the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount, it is clear that we must have control over our own lives as Christians.

Matthew 5:38-42 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Many Christians, including myself, have taken this Scripture to mean we should be a doormat.  But that is far from the truth.  In this Scripture He is telling us about double compliance.  In double compliance, when we are treated wrongly and used, because of our desire to take control of the unjust situation and the fact that we know the Holy Spirit is in control, we are to do double the amount.

When looking at it in this way, we are being called to take control of an unjust situation.  This is profoundly assertive to what Christ taught.  When doing this, you have made the choice to assert your responsibility.  It also does two other things:  First, it shows the other person that I will not let them manipulate me and second, it shames them for taking advantage of me in the first place.

What is freeing here is that if turning the other cheek has no redemptive value or my performing the action will cause harm to someone that I am not expected to respond in that way.  For example, in the Russian Revolution, I believe that the Mennonite men who stood by and watched as their women and children were raped and killed by the soldiers completely misunderstood the intent of turning the other cheek.  We as Christians cannot sit idly by and let injustice rule because we feel we should turn the other cheek.

Also, Jesus gave the command of turning the other cheek to His disciples, not to everyone he met.  The disciples were at a point in their spiritual growth where denying their own self is the right choice to be made.  The disciples had already asserted their spiritual self and were ready for the self-denial that accompanies being a disciple of Christ.  Immature Christians and those who are young in the faith may not be ready for that part of their walk.

Proverbs 17:15 – He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.

I also believe that there are limits to what Jesus would expect from us in self-denial.  He tells us to go the second mile, not a third or a fourth or more.  Many Christians continue (and I have found myself in this boat many times) feel that they are to simply be rolled over in order to fulfill the requirements of meekness.  It goes along with the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  If we allow ourselves to continually be taken advantage of without ensuring that the other person is being evangelized or ministered to then we run the risk of allowing injustice to happen freely, when we are called to stop injustice in the world.

As I write this, I realize my own personal issues with boundaries.  Some of which I correcting in the very near future in my career status.  Others I will need to work on over time such as with my kids, my ex-wife, my girlfriend, and even church needs.  It is a constant growing journey that we take.  But it is only because of Jesus on the cross that we can take that journey at all.

It is only because He came to earth as a child in a manger that we have a Savior who can bring us closer to righteousness by crediting His righteousness on us.  This is the amazing part, people.  Christ came to earth a child and grew to be a man.  As a man, we credited Him with all of our sin so that He could credit us with His righteousness.  He became sin (did NOT become a sinner though!) so that we may be righteous.

If you get nothing else this Christmas season get this.  Christ came to save YOU.  you.  Say softly to yourself, “Christ came for me.”  It personalizes it, doesn’t it?

All this talk of boundaries is simply talk and trying to improve each of our own Christian walks.  But it isn’t until you take that step toward Christ and say, “God, come into my life.  I am sorry for the way I have sinned against You and I believe that You are the only One who can take that sin away from me.  I trust you with my life, Lord Jesus.  Forgive me.”

If you prayed that for the first time, please send me a note.  Praying that for the first time will mean that this Christmas will be THE best Christmas ever for you because now you finally understand what it is about.

I pray you peace and love throughout Christmas.

Isaiah 53:5 – But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

Look Forward to the Future

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

So today I graduate Liberty Theological Seminary with a Masters of Arts in Religion.  The focus is on church planting and evangelism.  Ever since the day I was born, God has had a plan for my life.  Ever since my divorce, I have been quiet enough in my spiritual walk to hear what that plan is.

I’ve been a Christian since the age of 12.  April 25th, 1982 to be exact.  I’m not one of those folks who believe that you must know the exact moment that you were saved by grace, but for me, that is how it was.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was a special moment of having my pastor and my dad both in the room with me.

Fast forward from that a few years and the fire of revival in my soul was doused by the excitement of the world.  From that point until my divorce, I ran at a thousand miles an hour trying to climb the corporate ladder and be the family with the wife, 2 kids, dogs, and a big house on a lot of land.

James 4:13-16 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

Unfortunately, I realized that when I arrived at that point, there were simply bigger hills to climb.  The corporate positions and the money they awarded were not satisfying.  The big house with lots of land was not satisfying.  And in the end, my wife thought that all my time away from home trying to build my career and make enough money to support our lifestyle wasn’t satisfying.  I pretty much lost it all.

I gave almost everything to my now ex-wife.  I moved into a small rental house with nothing.  Taking almost 2 weeks off work, I spent the entire time on my face in tears.  When I was too tired to cry, I would sleep.  When I awoke, I would cry.  That went on for almost a week.  I fasted and prayed.  But then the last three days of my hibernation is when I finally got it.

You see, the first seven days were all about myself.  My misery.  My pain.  My.  My.  My.  But the last three days were in pure silence.  I still cried, yes, but these were tears that realized Jesus’ sacrifice for me.  I still slept, but it was so soundly that I had opportunity to dream.  The silence I sat in while fasting for those final three days led to me being able to hear God speak.

The Bible spoke to me.

Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

I know what you are thinking.  Fred, you have just been through a stressful time, you have been fasting for over a week and now you are hearing talking Bibles.

No.

The message in the Scripture I was reading hit me hard.  And for the first time in my life, the Bible was clear.

We all hear the stories of the Bible about the prophets, the flood, the Creation, the Revelation, Paul, Silas, Timothy, Peter, and especially Jesus and they just roll through us as we rehash them in our memories.  But it is only when God becomes real to us that those stories are truly understandable.

After hibernating for almost 2 weeks, I came out of the house refreshed.  The future looked awesome with Christ by my side.  Finally on the same team.  Excited!

Luke 12:32 – “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

I enrolled in seminary and started to get a degree.  Almost immediately things changed at church.  Going from substitute teaching some Wednesday night classes to becoming a trustee then last year becoming an elder.  I met an amazing Christian woman.  It is so easy to see God’s hand at work in my relationship to her.  Talk about a once in a billion chance of finding each other!  Crazy story!

And back in August I started planting the seeds for removing myself from the corporate world and going into business for myself, using the free time to grow ministries.  With my current job, I am unable to spend the time needed to build anything because I travel all the time.  Working a 9-5 from a home office will give me the flexibility I need to do God’s work in the community in which I live.

As of yesterday, the funding was approved for the business.

1 John 3:22 – And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

I have learned something amazing over the past few short years.  When we give our lives completely over to Christ, then we begin to see an amazing change inside of us.  It is a change that should cause us to question our worldly pursuits.  It is a change that will bring about great joy for anyone who is willing to follow Christ.  It is a change that is beautiful.  Not always easy, but beautiful.

God never leaves us nor forsakes us.  It is us who do the forsaking and leaving.  But when we come back home to Christ, the life that follows will be one where God is in control and we will be content in the power of the Holy Spirit, the grace of Christ, and the mercy of the Father.

I read an article today that said, “Christ isn’t looking for a girlfriend, we are His bride.”  When one is in a marriage, they are completely committed to that person.  Everything must become one in a marriage:  hearts, finances, possessions, friends…everything.  As I move forward into bringing everything in my life under the umbrella of God’s control, I find that, while this is a little scary, God has this in control.

So again I am asking my readers for prayer.  Not prayer for worldly success.  If I stay focused on God throughout this then success is guaranteed.  And I’m not talking success in business or making a name for myself.  I’m talking success in the Kingdom.  That more people will come to Christ.  That they will see Christ’s work and the power of the Holy Spirit in my life and realize that God IS in control.

When the people of God live as if God is first in their lives, other people come to know Christ.

Matthew 6:10 – Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

That is success.

I pray that I make enough money to support my family, but I mostly pray that lives will be changed to know Christ.

So as I look forward to the future I know that God is in control.

And as you look forward to the future, whether you are riding high on success or lurking in the pit of hell, know that God has overcome this world.  He can give you the peace throughout any time in your life.  He can bring you through your despair.  He can bless your success.  He can make all things possible.

Just stay focused on Him.

And if you aren’t yet in a relationship with Him, why wait?  Now is the time.  Call out to Him.  Simply pray to Him that you are tired of your life of sin.  That you realize you need Him in your life.  That you want to know the love He has for you.

He loves you.

He always has.

It is the purpose for Christmas.

He came to die…

FOR YOU.

He chased us in our sin so that we would not give up the relationship.

Reach out to Him.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness

If you want to know more about what Christmas truly is and how it impacts YOUR future, I want to give you some Bible verses to read through.

I am going to challenge you to read these aloud and then, to yourself or someone you know, explain them as to what you believe in your mind those verses mean.  If you get stuck, reach out to a pastor or you can reach out to me.

Here are the verses:

                Romans 3:23

                Romans 6:23

                John 3:3

                John 14:6

                Romans 10:9-11

                2 Corinthians 5:15

                Revelation 3:20

Read them.  Memorize them.  Share them.

That is the meaning of Christmas.  That is what it means to look forward to the future.

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

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