I'm Hungry

But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ's sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ  and be completely united with him. I no longer have a righteousness of my own, the kind that is gained by obeying the Law. I now have the righteousness that is given through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life.
- Philippians 3:7-11 GNT

I wonder what happened to the hunger in God's people. I wonder when it changed. What happened that made us desire the things of the world more than Jesus? Christianity for many has become a way to get more stuff. Just apply faith to whatever you desire and you'll get it. If you want more, you can get more. Don't get me wrong, I know God blesses His people, but when did Jesus become the pathway to possessions instead of the prize we would trade everything for? When did Jesus stop being our goal? When did knowing Him, sitting at His feet, hearing His voice or seeing His face become less important than having an easy and trouble-free life?

I believe that a fresh move of the Spirit is about to break free among God's people, and it's being birthed in those who are tired of seeing Christianity as an avenue to Earthly prosperity. Yes, they are weary of a God who exists only to provide them with more wealth and a stress-free life. They've had what the world has to offer and they've found it empty and meaningless. People everywhere are hungry for something real. People are hungry for Jesus. Our hunger drives us to break out of old habits and religious rules. It drives us to trade our time and money, our desires and dreams for a moment at His feet. 

Hold on! It's going to be a wild ride. The religious institutions are being shaken and much of the dead weight has got to go. Pastors like me better be ready. Don't try to control it lest we find ourselves attempting to put the move of God in a familiar religious box. We cannot put new wine into an old wine skin. It will be different, messy, sloppy, beyond our control, powerful, real, beautiful, difficult at times, it will cost us our lives, but it will be worth it all just to know Him. Our goal is Jesus. We hunger for Him. He is our obsession. He is all we want. We want Jesus.

Leaving the COMFORT ZONE - by Joseph Avery

The comfort zone is a place where we get stuck; where our roots are ground deep; where we do and say just enough to stay where we are, who we are, and what we are.

Our futures crumble beneath the rot. We say things like, "Not today". That turns into "Next year" and it eventually becomes the thing that never happened. We live in our comforts, some of us will even die there. 

Our marriages are in trouble because the comfort zone says we’ve loved each other enough and marriage is too much work. Our finances barely get us through because we found a job that’s easy and paying bills isn’t fun.

The church is in “jeopardy” because the pews got comfy and we started sleeping on God. The faith of the public is a fading ember because we decided to give up on the work of Christ. The comfort zone traps us and keeps us hidden from God's glory. The comfort zone tells you pity is easier than prayer. 

Today ask yourself, what if Jesus stayed in his comfort zone? What if he was never born in a manger and instead stayed seated the right hand of God? What if he never carried the cross because the comfort zone said he didn’t have to? What if he never rose on the third day because it was easier that way? What if Jesus left the weight of my sin on me?  I am so glad Jesus left the biggest of comfort zones in heaven. He did what he knew he must do not what was easy, and he bought eternity for us all.

Don’t get stuck. Don’t let the devil imprison you in the comfort zone. God has more for you but you can’t receive what's next if you’re not willing to let go of what you’ve got. Maybe you’ve got to lose the job you have now to get the finances you’ve been praying for. Maybe you had to go through rough patch in your marriage to build trust. Maybe God's waiting on you to say that confident prayer to heal you. 

Who knows what God has in store for you but I can tell you none of it is in the comfort zone.

-Joseph Avery

Phenomenal Philemon - by Brian McMurrey

What is your favorite Bible verse? Scripture? Book? Did anyone say Philemon? No? When is the last time you read Philemon? Have you ever read Philemon? Philemon is sandwiched between Titus and Hebrews, and it just contains 1 chapter with 25 versus. It’s a book in the Bible that you may or may not ever turn to unless you are reading the Bible all the way through and just happen to run across it. That’s how me and my family ran across it recently. We do nightly Bible studies, reading through the Bible book by book in order. We just finished Titus and ran across Philemon. Every night, we read a chapter then spend 30 plus minutes talking about what we just read. I must confess, after we read Philemon, there was a moment of silence, trying to understand what we just read. My 1st question for us to think about was, “What do we need to learn here?” followed by, “Why do you think Philemon is even in the Bible?” We had to think about it. Our daughter broke the ice with her own question wondering how to pronounce “Onesimus.” So we did some digging into who he is, what’s his relationship to Paul and Philemon. By the way, who is Philemon? This lead us to going to a couple of different commentaries, going back and forth from the commentaries to the Bible. Things started to make sense. We identified the people, how they were connected and what Paul was writing about. Once we were putting more and more pieces of the puzzle together, the lessons began to take shape and make sense. Actually, there are some wonderful lessons and themes that we picked up on that night, such as: 

·    How Christians should conduct themselves when relationships are strained
·    Unity

·    Interceding for another

·    How at this point Paul is “aged” and in prison yet still communicating and ministering to churches and individuals, sharing God’s grace through Jesus Christ

·    How we should be forgiving as Christ forgives us

·    The model for Christian friendship

And trust me, there is more to this wonderful book. You may have noticed I have not explained the book of Philemon nor answered my own questions. That is very much on purpose. I want YOU to read it like we did and learn from it based on what the Holy Spirit would reveal to you. Is it still relevant to us today? You betcha! I love discovering new themes and lessons in the Bible that I may not have discovered on previous read-throughs. Philemon is Phenomenal! 

by Brian McMurrey

Fight The Resistance - by Joseph Avery

Resistance - It’s something we all face at some point in our life. We try to do our best but inevitably the world tries to hold you down. Maybe you didn’t get the promotion you worked for or maybe things didn’t pan out for you in the way you’d hoped. These moments can make us feel like we aren’t good enough; like we should just give up. These feelings are natural and aren’t something you should be ashamed of but they are avoidable. The bible says in 2nd chronicles 15:7 “be strong and do not lose courage, for there is a reward for your work.” This scripture is telling you that if you just push through and keep fighting the lord will provide. Our God is watching you, cheering you on and telling you to keep up the hard work. Don’t let the negativity of the world make you forgot that God has plans for you. Jeremiah 29:11 says “for I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for well-being and not for trouble, to give you a future and a hope.” God is trying to tell you to fight back, keep up the hard work because he has good plans for you. The struggle you face now is not His plan for you. He says not for trouble but for a good future and hope. So see past the struggle in your life because God is waiting on the other side of resistance ready to bless you.

Unleash the Beast - giving young people a significant stake in the church

"Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests." Proverbs 14:4

Within our communities, our homes and churches lies a powerful beast. This beast has the ability to make a mess, break things, and leave you with numerous problems. However, this beast also has the ability to catapult your church to another level. This beast has passion, energy, ideas, and creativity. The beast I speak of is youth. You know... those kids, teenagers and young adults that are everywhere. You know... those people that we've been talking about for decades. We've been talking about how we need more of them and we need them to be more involved. We keep saying, "Where are they?", "Why isn't it like it used to be?". 

Maybe it's because we've chained up that beast called youth. We've kept them in limited roles with no real ability to shape the culture of our churches. We've been afraid of letting go so that they can take hold. We're afraid they will make a mess and we'll get stuck cleaning up behind them. Or maybe we're afraid that they might take our place and we won't be needed anymore. 

They will definitely cause problems but if you want a growing and healthy church then active, growing, engaged, and involved young people are essential. So it's time to unleash the beast in your church. Here are some ways to unleash the power of youth in your church:

1) Stop protecting the church from your youth.
Yes, they are novices. Yes, they will mess up. They will be silly when they should be serious. They won't always get the doctrine exactly right. They will say things they shouldn't and you will have to go behind them and clean up the mess. That doesn't mean that your job is to protect the church from the young. It's natural that they make mistakes. It's part of how we as humans learn.

2) Give them real responsibility.
They can tell when you've given them real responsibility instead of a token place to serve. They can tell when you're giving them something to do just so they'll feel like they're a part. Let them shape the culture of the church. Let them pick music. Let them pick the paint colors. Let them make a service order. Let them weigh in on the budget. You're the final decider but give them a real stake in how your church functions and they will take ownership of it.  

3) Let them be themselves. 
I know Christian rap music might not be your thing and the idea of a dimly lit sanctuary reminds you of the bar across the street. I know that everyone used to wear a suit or dress and ear rings were for girls only, but times have changed. The word is the same but the world has changed. Don't insist that your youth worship exactly like you did when you were young. Let them be themselves. That's the only way anyone can truly live for and worship God. 

4) Give them room to make mistakes.
I am so thankful for the opportunities given to me by my Pastor when I was young. He allowed me to try. He gave me chances even when others were telling him to stop wasting service time on those kids. He knew that I would make mistakes. He knew that I wasn't the best or most experienced person for the job, but he gave young people a chance to spread their wings and try. He wasn't afraid of our mistakes. He was afraid of our gifts and talent rotting in the pews.  

5) Don't micromanage everything
I know it's our job as leaders to oversee and guide our young people, but if you're not careful you will find yourself imposing your own personal ideas on them robbing them of their own God-given creativity and passion. No one gets excited about doing your thing, your way, with their name on it. 

6) Get ready! They may be better than you. 
You've worked hard and honed your abilities. You've reached a level of professionalism and respect. Now here comes someone younger who is making a splash and you don't want to be replaced. Trust me, no one is trying to replace you. There is endless room at the table in the Kingdom of God. One person's success means success for us all. We should be happy when we see young people discovering their calling We should be happy when they start to excel. It means we have done one of our most important jobs. It means we have played a part in their growth and success. Refuse to be jealous. Don't limit them because they are getting too much attention. Unleash them and prepare yourself. They might be better at certain aspects of ministry than you. That's not a knock on you. We all have talents and gifts, and they come from the will of God. Celebrate with them.

7) Be their number one fan
Correct them, guide them but most importantly, cheer for them. Let them know when they do something great. Defend them. Let them see how great they can be by the way you treat them and how you believe in them. Look beyond where they are today and see who they will become. Brag about them publicly. If you get behind them they will get behind you. You won't lose your influence or position to them. In fact, they will elevate you. Their talents and hard work will lift your ministry to new levels. 

Maybe, you've been looking for a man or woman of God; someone to help your church move forward; someone experienced and talented; someone polished; a safe bet. We often want a man or woman but God has sent us kids, teenagers and young adults. It's our job to give them the experience they need. It's our job to help them hone their talents and discover their calling. Within our homes, our communities and our churches are powerful creatures who can help lift our churches to the next level. Don't be afraid to unleash the beast.

Just Like A Red Solo Cup

I know many people who have the misguided notion that Christians, especially Christian leaders, live above the rest of us. I can assure you that Ministers, Pastors and Christian leaders are all just people. In fact, we all make mistakes and are prone to sin, fail and otherwise blow it. Plain and simple. 

God doesn't use people because they have reached some invisible level of goodness. He doesn't call people to ministry or service because they have earned His favor or respect. God is not keeping track of your mistakes, He will use you in spite of your mistakes.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

Here's how it works - God is the excellent treasure and you and I are the Earthen vessels. We are like Red Solo Cups full of the life giving power of almighty God. A Red Solo Cup is not fancy, not strong, not expensive but it gets the job done. After all, it's really not about the cup it's about what's in the cup. 

You and I may not seem like much on the outside. We have weaknesses and we will make mistakes but God uses imperfect people to do His perfect work. Even with all of our faults and failures we carry the power of God's Holy Spirit inside of us, to be poured out over the world as He sees fit.

So don't be critical of Christian leaders who make mistakes, and don't count out someone who has failed (including yourself), God doesn't.

Is the church on the verge of failure?

There is much talk about the decline of the church today. You hear it everywhere especially among
Christians leaders. It sounds something like this - "The church is out of touch and losing it's influence. We better straighten up and do a better job or we will fail". I must disagree!

 Jesus said, "...and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it." Matthew 16:18

First, Jesus said He would build the church. I know we play a role. I understand that we must follow and obey, but to think that we are going to mess up the plan of God is to say that the work is really up to us. It's not. It is the work of Jesus. He is the Perfect One working through the imperfect church. 

Second, Jesus said it was His church. Here's a revelation - It's not your church. Jesus is responsible for the church. You didn't create it, you don't sustain it and you won't be the one that completes its work. The church belongs to Jesus Christ. 

Third, Jesus said even the gates of hell would not overcome the church. There's your prophetic results from the ultimate prophet.  The church cannot fail because Jesus said it would succeed. Individuals may fail. Local congregations may fail but the church of Jesus Christ will prevail.  The results are not up to you and I, they are up to Jesus. 

The church may look out of sorts from time to time, we may get complacent or lazy, but The Holy Spirit that resides within the church will take this imperfect, fallible group of people and change the world. How do I know? Because Jesus said so.