Monday, January 31, 2011

"Taking It Personally"

The Word of God speaks to and about you. This might seem like an odd reminder.

Not at all. What if I told you that far too many believers, perhaps even most, do not perceive the Scriptures as being directed toward themselves personally? And I'm speaking of course about the ones who actually crack open the bible on a regular basis.

The source of spiritual weakness within the Church is directly related to the lack of Scriptural understanding. 

Luke 9:1-2 (AMP) - "THEN JESUS called together the Twelve [apostles] and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases, (2) And He sent them out to announce and preach the kingdom of God and to bring healing."

Do you think Jesus is talking to you in this passage? Do you think this is the reasonable expectation of Jesus for all believers today?

Some, maybe even most will say "No, this was meant for the original twelve apostles only."

Well...then how do we explain these next verses?

Luke 10:1 (AMP) - "NOW AFTER this the Lord chose and appointed seventy others and sent them out ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to come (visit).  

Vs. 9  - "And heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come close to you."

Vs. 19 - "Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you."

Only for those seventy disciples?

Why in the world would we think that? How are we to believe that the Kingdom of Heaven has perpetuated itself all of these centuries without the charge Jesus gave His first disciples continuing through the ages? How is the Word of God personal to us if it doesn't include us? How does the Church even survive if we are not taking the Words of Jesus personally and seriously?

Matthew 10:7-8 (AMP) - "And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand! (8) Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely (without pay) you have received, freely (without charge) give."

 If we are not fulfilling this then the Kingdom of Heaven does not advance! It is not "at hand" but distant and far away.

No longer could we say with conviction, and with the original intent of Jesus,"Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  It just becomes part of the rest of the repetition muttered countless times without meaning or understanding. Religion pure and simple.

I live in these passages. I live in them and I act them out. No one leaves my church without the opportunity to be saved, sanctified, healed, and delivered. We see people healed and delivered almost every single week. We have seen many come to Jesus week after week.

Has this been your experience? It should be. It should be because it is the gospel. If we are going to call ourselves true disciples of Jesus Christ then we should be carrying out His charge in the authority He has given us.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Friday, January 28, 2011

"What Is The Obstacle You Can't Get Past?"

It looms large. It overshadows everything in your life. Even when you're not thinking about it you're thinking about it. It's there when you go to sleep and it's waiting for you when you wake up.

It's the one dominant issue amidst all of your other issues.

It's a mountain. It's Goliath. It has to be removed. 

I could write a laundry list of what that mountain is for many people.  I don't want to go down the path of money woes, relationship difficulties, addictions, chronic illness, etc. Those are all very real, but I have to say, if you're pretty far down the road in serving Jesus and haven't conquered that stuff yet, then there might be greater issues that you need to deal with first.

I'm talking about the struggles of the wilderness. The awakening from the slumber of the religious status quo and seeing for the first time that everything has been for the most part...well...just plain wrong. It's a dry and uncomfortable place to be. 

The problem, the actual "mountain" is not what you've been "operating" in for perhaps years, but what to do about it.

That's the MOUNTAIN, and it's really big.

I've confronted the mountain so let me give you a bit of advice from one who has tried every failed method.

You cannot: climb over it, go through it, go around it. You cannot decorate it and make it look nice, you cannot live with it. It never becomes comfortable. If it is not conquered, it will conquer you. Eventually it will fall on you and bury you.

Jesus addressed it thoroughly.

Mark 11:23 (AMP) - "Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him."

What do you think He was talking about on the heels of cursing a fig tree which represented the spiritual failure of Israel?  He looked for fruit on a tree that was barren. It was useless.

The barren fig tree was as useless as a believer who is stuck in the shadow of the mountain of gospel ineffectiveness.

There is only one way. It must be uprooted. It must go away. It must be removed. 

Only when we can get out from under dry religious exercise and begin to react and respond to the gospel according to the authority that Jesus has given us, will we ever truly BE the Church of Kingdom Authority.

If your mountain is looming over you today, it is time to respond. How long are you willing to live in its shadow while Kingdom living seems to become more distant?

Are you the believer who has the signs following you? Or are you doomed to be one who will always be chasing the signs?

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Thursday, January 27, 2011

‎"When Does A Church Stop Being A Church?"

I can draw this out or I can make it short and sweet.

The short answer is, "When the importance of program replaces the importance of people."

But I never do anything short and sweet, so I'll expand and expound a bit. lol!

I've been on both sides of this over my years pastoring. I've only been the senior pastor of one church in my whole life, but I've been here for sixteen years. I believe in growing where planted.

Believe me, when I was new at this I tried every scheme that came down the pike that the church growth gurus were selling. Books, tapes, video series, events, speakers, methods, etc.  Basically they all achieved one common end: they failed in the long run.

I got wise pretty quick and decided to just have church. If the people didn't support a program, then we did away with the program. One thing that is constant and we can't do away with is people. Another is Jesus and His Word.

Jesus, the Word, and people. How very New Testament.

Today if you ask someone what makes a church they will more than likely tell you "a great children's program". Or a "nursery for the little ones". Or, a "slammin' teen group". Some will prefer a senior adult ministry of some sort, or perhaps a program to feed and clothe the poor. Others would never put up with anything but the best music program with the largest choir.

Don't get me wrong, none of those things are bad, in fact they can be rather helpful.

They just don't adequately define what "Church" is. If you think it does then I feel sorry for you.

I feel sorry because often many churches who boast of these programs are allowing hundreds of people to come and go each week without ever giving them the opportunity to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Program has replaced the gospel. Who's Church is it anyway? And Who is building it?

Matthew 16:18 (AMP) - "...I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it].

Church, in the true sense of the word (ekklesia), is a ministry to the soul and spirit of man. Physical comforts and freedom from minor annoyances are not the top priority. The condition of man's soul and spirit are.

Yet, people will opt for not having to sit next to their own children in church over being a part of a gospel experience of seeing souls saved, healed, and delivered. Oh yes, indeed they will. 

They will be convinced that after years and years of attending a church that catered to every physical whim they had, from fresh coffee before service, to plenty of handicap spots in the parking lot, to never having to lay eyes on their kids during service, that their "Church" experience was a real blessing. 

Yet...they never laid hands on a sick person to be healed. In fact they may never have seen a sick person healed. They have never seen a miracle unfold in the midst of a church service simply because God decided to move upon them. They never led a person to Christ because they never heard it preached or seen a person saved in church.  They have never seen a person delivered from drugs or alcohol right before their eyes. They will tell you, "I presume the pastor takes care of those things."

That hypothetical (yet we know it is also very real) church stopped being a church the minute they decided to stop taking the focus off the unsaved, sick, and infirm, and placing it on the external comforts.

A church stops being a church when the pastor and people literally cannot remember the last time a person was gloriously saved, sanctified, healed, and delivered, but they can tell you how many came to the potluck and what was served.

All the time heaven surrounds us with great expectation of somehow and someday allowing God and His angels access to what we call "church" and relinquishing control to the revival Spirit that is at the very threshhold. 

Oh, that we would just get out of our own way. Wouldn't it be great to just "have church"?

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"The Biblical Order Of Things"

Prideful people pay a price. They may do well by outward appearances for a bit, but generally they are not well liked, have few real friends (if any), and die lonely and bitter people. What they did manage to amass in this life is essentially "stuff" and stuff doesn't translate into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Got pride?

Proverbs 16:18 (AMP) - "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Pride will take you down. I didn't invent the saying. God says it. It will take you down. All the way down.

Pride is thinking that you and everything you own or touch is better than anyone else.

You think you are the best. You think your kids are the best looking. You think your car is the fastest. You think your home is the most decorative. You even think your church has the most "goin' on". You drip pride from every pour of your body and it drips onto everything you own. Your own children and relatives and friends start acting just like you. It starts to self perpetuate and grow like a wild weed with tentacles that infect everything around you and none of it positively.

God doesn't like it.

"But pastor, what's wrong with being proud of one's achievements?"

What's wrong? I'll tell you. They are not "YOUR" achievements.

You, and everything about you, right down to the smile on your childs face, is God's achievement in and through you.

When you do not give glory and recognition to God for what He has done it usurps authority and recognition from Him.

You are claiming credit for something that was done for you out of love and claiming you did it yourself.

You are plagiarizing your own life. You are a fake. A liar. An imposter.

You lack the humility that God requires in all of us. You have upset the biblical order of things.

How do you right the ship you may ask?

James 4:10 - "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."

See? It can be fixed!

Break a knee and bow to your Creator.

We call that getting before God.

Be a loyal subject and stop taking credit for what your King has done.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Are You Cool With Letting God Handle It?"

No one likes to be offended. The longer you live the better the chance you will be.

Offenses come from the most unlikley sources. Often people do not even realize how much they are offending you.

There are the purposeful offenders, and then there are those who just can't help it. Their very lives are offensive and operate out of ignorance.

The believer is expected to handle it with grace. That means we leave it to God. 

While we may never know all of the circumstances, and what people are going through, we are the least capable to defend ourselves. We usually only see the onslaught and not the reasons behind the onslaught.

God notes it all. 

I'm good with it. I have learned not to be offended so easily and to not take things so personally. The Church sometimes is viewed as being insulated from such issues. Not so. In fact, some of the worst I have seen has come from within it's sacred walls. God is not unfamiliar. God is aware. God says leave it to Him.

Romans 12:19 (AMP) - "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God's] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord."

I can do that. It takes some training of the mind however. The human response must be brought captive under the born-again spirit and we must do it God's way. Willfully and without grudge.

If there are grudges. If there is unforgiveness. If there is enmity...

...then you haven't let God handle it.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Monday, January 24, 2011

"I Am A Misfit"

There are the "fits" and the "misfits". Of course this could be applied to many facets of society, but I am speaking about the believer in Christ and their relationship with the world.

I used to fit this world like a glove. Of course I didn't fit in with all areas and cultures, but I fit in with my little corner of the world and the people who were like minded.

Now I don't fit anymore. I am a misfit.

Pauls was a misfit.

Galatians 1:10 (AMP) - "Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ (the Messiah)."

 "If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Jesus Christ."

Yeah, that.

Somewhere along the line I embraced Paul's message from Romans 12:2, and his admonition to no longer be conformerd to this world, but instead becoming transformed in my thinking according to my newly born again spirit.

I have to think according to who I am, and I am no longer attached at the hip to this world.

I am...a misfit.

All true believers are misfits. There is just something that God has put in us (The Holy Spirit) that chafes when we are confronted by the old standard and ways of doing things that are an affront to God.

I revel in being a misfit. I tells me God is working in me.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Things I Never Have To Ask My Wife"

Mark 10:6-9 (AMP) - "(6) But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. (7) For this reason a man shall leave [behind] his father and his mother and be joined to his wife and cleave closely to her permanently,(8) And the two shall become one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one flesh. (9) What therefore God has united (joined together), let not man separate or divide."

Sanctity. Purity. Holiness. Trust.  Just a few words that describe the unity of a man and woman in Jesus Christ.

I have seen both sides of this. I have seen successes and I have seen heartbreaking failures.

I was contemplating the other day the things I hear some couples say to each other (or about each other) and I realized that I have never had to ask my wife a single one of them.

Here's a sample:

"Are you lying to me?"  Not only have I never had to ask the question, but it has literally NEVER even crossed my mind as a possibility. Ever.

"Where were you all of this time?"  It's not that I need to know where she is every minute, but it just seems that she always lets me know. This is because of her kindness and concern to not cause me undue concern. It's just what people who love each other do. We have hardly ever been away from each other for more than a 24 hour period in 25 years.

"Do you love me?"  I don't need to extract that info to feed my ego or validate our relationship. I just KNOW that she does. For the record however, we tell each other every day.

I really could go on a bit more, but in 25 years of marriage, and almost as long in the ministry counseling others, these are the questions that I see crop up in troubled marriages. They have never cropped up in ours.

There is one reason and one reason only. We are not super partners. We have had our spats and disagreements.

It's Jesus. We give Him the credit. On our own and apart from Him who knows where we would have ended up?

I could say more, but how much more needs to be?

Jesus never fails. He won't fail you, and He won't fail the marriage. 

Marriage takes three and out of the three there are two who really need to believe this.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"The Splendid Horror Of The Cross Along The Way"

There is THE way to redemption and the cross of Christ is positioned prominently so that all must deal with it.

If we are starting out at "Point A", which would be our total and complete lostness and separation from God, and we are moving to "Part B", which is our final destination of either redemption or perdition, we must deal with the Cross.

It is along the Way. It's the Cross along the Way. It's the Cross of the Way. 

It's not a pleasant sight. It's violent. Heinous. Bloody. Torturous.

I call it "The Splendid Horror".

It's all the things that a person on the journey must confront and acknowledge if they are going to make the choice that all of manking has been given to make.

We are going to deal with Jesus willfully in the present, or He will deal with us at the end. When it is too late.

Paul used to persecute the Way of the Cross. Then He was confronted with it and had to decide.

Just like me. Just like you.

Galatians 6:14 (AMP) - "But far be it from me to glory [in anything or anyone] except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) through Whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!"

That's what I have chosen. Just sayin'.

I didn't go around it. I didn't climb over it. I didn't take the other path.

I stopped and stared. I looked. I marveled. I broke. 

Now I glory. It's all that matters. I have been changed. I have allowed all my former passions and sinfulness to be nailed to the Cross with Jesus. The world and all it's temptations. My entire relationship to the world, and it to me, all crucified.

You really have to stop and look. You can't scoot by and think the more sterile environment of the Empty Tomb will suffice. There is nothing before the Cross, and there would be nothing if not for the Cross.

You have to stop. You have to confront. You have to look at it and then decide if it's redemption or perdition.

I have seen the darting eyes. The uncomfortable twitching and shifting. It's humbling to think that Someone would do that for you. Especially God. 

But He did. And He will not let you get to where you are headed without dealing with it. It has a way of tinkering with your comfort zone.

Yes, be horrified by it. But then understand its purpose.

Colossians 1:20 (AMP) - "And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross."

 Peace by the Blood of the Lamb. Not the blood of men.

The Cross is our reconciliation to God. There is no redemption without it.

Deal with it. Take off the shades. Look at it squarely in all of its splendid horror.

Look at it and be transformed.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Prepare, Obey, Be Holy."

The believer in Christ should be action minded. We should look at the situation around us with a sober mind, all the while knowing that Christ is revealed and is revealing heaven to us.

1 Peter 1:13 (ESV) - "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

When we trap ourselves in the negative former mindset we will never see a way out of it. We will always be looking "for" revival, but never living "in" revival. We will always see ourselves as the sinner and not the saved.

1 Peter 1:14 (ESV) - "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance."

This verse says it all. Peter knew a little bit about being trapped by his own ignorance. He never had a clue until the Holy Spirit burned it into him in the Upper Room.

The blank and vacant faces staring back at the preacher on Sunday morning often sum it up. 

The former ignorance sometimes is not so "former". Sometimes it is very presently in the now. It's also not very passionate. It's dull and listless. Quite unbecoming.

If we are going to be obedient children then we will be preparing our minds and not just trying to get through life.

Geting through life is not living. It is just waiting to die.

1 Peter 1:15-16 (ESV) - "(15) ...but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (16) since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

 Not should, but SHALL. Not becoming, but BE.

If you are waiting around to become more holy, it's not going to happen. You can't get more holy than the imparted righteousness you have in the indwelling Christ and Holy Spirit. You are either holy or you are not.

If you are a born-again, Spirit-filled believer than you ARE holy! 

Be what you actually are.

It doesn't mean that you are a robot. Paul as well as Peter has made it clear that we need to conform our minds to what has been done in our spirit. This is why these verses all work together.

The conformed mind to the will of God is a prepared mind. A prepared mind makes it possible to be obedient to God. An obedient child to God is a holy child by every understanding of what God has called us to be.

Start looking at yourself in the same way God looks at you. Stop living in your past. 

You are no longer anything like you used to be. Start living as the person God says you are.

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><

Monday, January 17, 2011

"So What's Not To Get About Getting?"

A straightforward statement from the bible. It couldn't be any more clear.

Yet, there is a great struggle surrounding the appropriation of the below verse and others like it.

John 15:7 (AMP) - "If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you."

"Ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you."

It's not like this verse stands alone.

Matthew 7:7 (AMP) - "Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you."

"Pastor, I've done that. It doesn't work."

Romans 8:32 (AMP) - "He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?"

 "I don't really think He means "all things"."

1 John 5:14 (AMP) - "And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him: [we are sure] that if we ask anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us."

 "I guess I just don't have the confidence I need."

What's going on here? What's the problem?

What's not to get about getting?

John says you get Part B after applying Part A ("if you live in Me").

Some folks want to bypass Vital Union for Instant Gratification.

We get from the Giver. If we bypass the Giver to get to the gift there will be nothing but emptiness waiting for us.

Emptiness. Disappointment. Discouragement.

Sugar Daddy Jesus is a figment of a rogue mind.

The transformed mind is in subjection to the born-again spirit which always leads us in Truth and Reality.

"If you live in Me" means we must live in Him. If we live in Him we have access to the riches of heaven and are co-heirs with Jesus to everything He is entitled to.

So...what's not to get?

Keepin' it Real,

Pastor Kevin <><