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Halloween: It IS what it is.

Why would a church be part of, much less be a sponsor of a Halloween festival? That is a good, valid question. How about a little backstory?

Years ago (over a decade) in the baptist church I was part of they always did a fall festival. Most churches have one. The fall festival at this church was always held on the Saturday before Oct. 31st. The kids wore costumes (albeit Christian inspired ones), there was a cake walk, bobbing for apples and most importantly, BUNCHES OF CANDY!!! In other words, they had a halloween party for the church – they just didn’t do it on “the devil’s day”.

Whatever. You’re giving your people an alternative on another nite. Call it what you want – you had a halloween party. The sad part about this practice is that it is an inward gathering, designed to entertain the people who attend our church and normally has no reason that outsiders would attend which I think is a shame.

That’s the way my mind works – Everything we do usually finds me asking the question, “how can we use this to reach people with the Gospel? How can Jesus use this to open people’s eyes to the church?” I began questioning, “why are we doing a halloween party on a night other than October 31st? Why are we not taking advantage of the fact that multitudes of people are out on halloween night – why would we not bring them to our church?”

Now, I understand that by having halloween parties it appears that we are promoting Halloween, but let’s be honest: aren’t most of your people are quietly taking part anyway?¬†It is what it is. We can pretend it’s not there but it will not go away. With this in mind, for the sake of meeting with those who would normally not attend our church, why would we not take advantage of this date which is huge?

In the case of Vertical Church we weren’t looking to do anything for Halloween, however, our city recreation department came to us and asked us to be part of this event with them. They have seen other events we have thrown in our short life as a church and wanted our mark on it. Joining with our city for Halloween Fest gives us the opportunity to love on people outside of our walls, provide a safe alternative to trick or treating on the street and introduce who we are to people who may not even be aware of VC. It also gives us the opportunity to help our city, to do something well for the city we live in and love. A prayer of ours as a church has been Acts 2:47, “(they were)¬†praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

So yeah, I’m doing Halloween, and yes, my church is definitely promoting it big time on the web. Truth is, I hope you’ll be there too. If you are, I’ll be the one who WON’T BE worshiping the devil, but rather, publicly worshiping Jesus the Savior through my service to my community (1 Cor 10:31 – Acts 8:8)

Moral Failures in the Church

Moral_failure_711203386 I am so tired of seeing people fail – especially the leaders of God's Church. Moral failures among followers of Jesus makes me angry because it's just another black eye on the church, Jesus glorious Bride. Sexual immorality in the church is another blemish to something that God sees as precious and is meant to be beautiful.

The other day I heard the news of yet another Pastor failing in the area of sexual integrity. The only reason I actually share the link is that YOU REALLY NEED TO READ THIS sad post. I want you to see the hurt and humiliation. I want you to put yourself in this man's shoes. I challenge you to take a moment and imagine the hurt his family is feeling. This man pastored an amazing church where hundreds of people have found Jesus – I want you to imagine the extreme pain his church is experiencing.

I'm not calling down fire on this dude, rather I'm hurting for him. When I read this I felt as if this hit close to home and seriously teared up; I felt as though it happened to a good friend. Though I've never met him face-to-face he has helped Vertical Church tremendously and for that we will be forever greatful.

This didn't have to happen.

People of the church (especially the men of Vertical Church): Do not let yourself go down the slippery slope of sexual immorality. Moral failure doesn't begin with an affair – it begins with what you call harmless flirting. I BEG YOU TODAY: if you are toying in the area of flirting with the opposite sex, STOP NOW!!! If you have gone further, REPENT, get somebody in your life that can hold you accountable and run back to the place of safety under the hand and authority of God and His church.

Leaders of Vertical Church, please hear your Pastor: Do not put yourself in a position of temptation. Make sure to do everything within your power not to be alone with a person of the opposite sex who is not your spouse no matter what. I know it might be weird and might make you take a stand but protect yourself from all appearance of evil. Never forget the possibility that in a moment of weakness you could find yourself someplace you NEVER intended to go.

I close by sharing a scripture that is ever present in my mind and heart and I pray that you will carry it closely as well, 

[6] Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, [7] casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. [8] Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. [9] Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. [10] And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:6-10 ESV)

I share this out of love for you all. Let's finish strong and bring honor and glory to Jesus as the Bride of Christ, the Church.

What Happened to May?

So where did the month of May go???

May 2010 would have to by far be the quietest month of my blogging history. I started the month by stating, 

Honestly, I'm in a pretty busy season right now. I'm really not in a place where there has been much time to share on WholeHearted. I'm seeking the Lord, listening a lot, reading a lot and soaking up all that is around me right now. I've been making some changes in my schedule lately and have been making an attempt towards helping my mind to be less "busy" so that my heart can actually "be" with those I'm with. This is much harder than it would seem. Your prayers for me are so appreciated.

That pretty much summed up what happened to May for me. I have been trying really hard to focus on where my heart is, what God is up to in me and around me and just didn't feel the need to share it with the world. 

Another thing that I have been working on is reorganizing the way that I go about all the things that I do. Over the past year I have noticed that i'm not in my 20's anymore and that I actually do have limits (I am aware that you already knew this about me – I just didn't believe it about me – for some reason there are times that I actually feel invincible). It took me 6 of the 12 months to actually admit to "me" that maybe what I'm dealing with actually has something to do with being just a little older and a long term case of burning the candle at both ends. 


LeadingonEmpty.1
With all of this in mind I really have been thinking a lot about "the long haul" in ministry and knowing that I want to be able to give all for all of my days and there is indeed a way to make that happen. I'm really thankful for Wayne Cordiero's book, "Leading on Empty – Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion". Funny thing about the book was that I bought it and stared at it for MONTHS. Have you ever had a feeling about something where you just "knew" – that was me with this book. I knew I needed to start reading it but knew that it was going to teach me something that I would rather not learn. As much as I hated to admit it almost EVERYTHING he spoke about in the book related to the place that I have been for a while now. I am finally realizing that you can't be "on" 24/7. If I really want to make a difference in this generation I'm going to have to be healthy and passionate enough to make it for the long haul. Know this: I am trying to grow in this area.

After all, there is a family that I love more than anything on this earth who needs me (long term); there is the love of my life whom I expect to grow old with (long term); and there are tens of thousands of people in this region who need to meet Jesus and I am fully convinced that I have a major part to play in that – I better be making preparations now!

You Might Not See It

I returned from the Drive '10 Conference at North Point last night. As always I was blown away the excellence, the creativity, the fun (EVERYBODY who works there seems to love their job so much). The classes that I took were amazing and encouraging

Martyrscross
The above picture is probably what I will remember for the rest of my life.

It's a cross. The cross is placed in the Emperor's Entrance at the Coliseum in Rome. This place, best known as the center of death and brutality for the purpose of entertainment for hundreds of years, is not a place that you would expect to find a symbol that represents the Risen Savior.

How did a cross get put in the Emperor's Entrance? The Emperor didn't put it there. As a matter of fact it was placed there after the coliseum was no longer used as a memorial to all of the Christian martyrs who died there. 

What is so strange about it? I guess it's the fact that in the midst of the gladiatorial contest and the brutality that happened no one would have ever guessed this would be there. No one who died there would have ever thought that in the absence of a Roman Emperor the Symbol of Christ would stand in his place. The family of a slain slave or believer would believe it – No one who knew someone who died there would believe it – all they knew was that someone they loved was killed there for others entertainment. No one would believe that someday the Emperor would no longer rule… but in his absence there stands the cross. Who would have guessed?

No one.

Outside of the obvious things that the cross reminds me of it also reminds me of this truth: you never know what the future holds. We must look to the future; we must plan, dream and work hard but through the years there is something that I have come to understand: Most people are not leaders – Most people don't have vision. Most people don't have a plan for what will happen "to them" next week, much less a year or two from now. It's not a slur, it's just true. If everyone was meant to lead then who would follow.

Here's what I see: I see that our God will do great things. I see that our God wants to save thousands upon thousands of people in this region. You may think, "in little Lumberton?" and I say, "L-town is prime!!!!" You might not see it but who would have ever thought that there would be a cross in the Emperor's Entrance to the Roman Coliseum?

I see that God wants to raise up a generation who will not be satisfied with going to church but will be filled with His Spirit and decide to "Be" the church. And you may reply, "this generation isn't interested in spiritual things… they just want to…" I would say you have a hard time to see that They've just rejected church as they have experienced it – but they haven't yet met Jesus!!! And besides, who would have ever thought that there would be a cross in the Emperor's Entrance to the Roman Coliseum?

I see that God will raise up a life-changing, culture-building, other's driven, supernatural living organism called "the church" and this region will never be the same. "This isn't a big city… your dreams are too big – they aren't for here…" And I would reply, "Your God (and your mind) is too small – you don't see what I see". I see that my God DEEPLY LOVES the people who sleep in on Sunday morning, hung-over from the night before. The people who are as I used to be, btw… Do you love them? Do you see?

I believe this stuff so much that I SEE IT. How do I know?

Because there's a cross in the Emperor's Entrance to the Roman Coliseum. You might not see it  - are you even trying?

Everything

This thought has been on my heart for quite a while now. I received an email from a friend this morning which asked, "What is your everything"? It feels as if everything lately points to the desire of my heart for more of Him. My friend Bree, whom I know wants more of Jesus, this morning tweeted:

Breebreeharris Pondering on how 2 live a more disciplined life in so many ways. I suppose it just takes just "doing it"!Life seems hectic & out of control.  via UberTwitter

I want God to be my everything. 

God is not content to be part of my life – HE IS MY LIFE and as such wishes to consume my life with His (Heb 12:28-29). When my life gets to so busy and He's not my life everything is just "off" – and the worst part is that I am the reason, not Him. There isn't a part of my life that isn't open to Him (remember, He see's all anyway). When I thought of Bree's tweet it reminded me of Psalms 37:5, "Commit your way (everything) to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this".

God is not interested in the church part of my life – God is interested in my life – all of it.

Which is where things get tricky and sticky – it makes me ask questions and most importantly, take action: 

  • Is there a place in my life that I don't want Him? I have met people who honestly think that they can compartmentalize their lives in such a way that God wouldn't know that they are allowing things into their hearts. Take a moment and read Psalm 139. He knows. He wants to be my everything.
  • What part of my life doesn't bring Him honor? Realizing that we can't hide anything from God, Am I embarrassed that He knows some things about me? If God is going to take His place of "everything" in my life there should be some discomfort/conviction about the fact that I am trying to live 2 lives.
  • What part of my life isn't "everything" that He would desire it to be? In order for Him to be my everything this area has to be addressed. What will I do to change it? Am I willing to be uncomfortable or to give up something for His glory.

When I work through these questions they make me uncomfortable and they should. If these were easy changes to make I would've made them years ago. They are hard, deep rooted and will return quickly if not surrendered fully to Him. Religion doesn't solve these issues but rather disguises like fresh paint over a dirty, uncleaned wall. 

You know, it's not about what I know about God – it's what I do with what I know that makes the difference. I'm not looking for deeper religion, I just want to know Him (Phil 3:10) and do what He says…

…because HE's my everything. What part of your life isn't "everything" that Jesus would desire it to be?