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Archive for April, 2012

Sunday Nite (April 29)

I love my Jesus. I love my church.

We had an epic day at Vertical. Everything about today reminded me WHY we started the kind of church that we did – to help people who don’t like church meet Jesus Christ. I praise Him for entrusting us with this blessing – may we always bring Him glory in our words AND actions. Here’s what’s on my heart tonight:

  • Powerful morning as we entered the house for Week 3 of Uncensored Truth about Eternity. There was an energy in the house that I have to believe was related to amount of prayer that went into this morning’s service. So thankful for the people who pray for our services, pray over our facilities and do all they can to make sure that there is a palpable presence of the Holy Spirit on that theater. We are engaged in a spiritual process week by week – it’s supernatural – may we never take that for granted.
  • Today’s message was titled, “Uncensored Truth about Hell”. I believe that today’s message was the hardest that I have EVER had to preach. I believe I gave the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I walked into this service determined to help my people understand what the bible teaches about hell. I didn’t mince words, at times it was very tense and I didn’t enjoy sharing it. We cannot talk about eternal life in heaven without sharing the reality of a literal, eternal hell. The most unloving thing that we could do is not deliver this tough message.
  • Hell is not imagery or mythical. It’s a literal place and I bet you didn’t know that Jesus spoke about it more than He did about heaven.
  • It breaks my heart to know that I have stood before many caskets of people, knowing that their soul has gone on and that some of those people did not go into the presence of Jesus but that instead they found themselves in hell.
  • What about people who have never heard the Gospel, will they go to hell? Yes. But may we never forget (1 Timothy 2:4 ESV) [God] who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Also, we are reminded that our God “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). I have heard countless stories from countries that are closed to the Gospel where people who have NEVER heard the Gospel or about Jesus have a dream about the Messiah, about Jesus, wake up, repent and are saved and begin to preach. These people don’t even have bibles but they’re telling people about the Savior. They end up running into a Christian, whether native or missionary who fills them in on this Jesus they’ve been preaching, baptize them, give them a bible.  God is perfectly able to bypass the “normal” channels to accomplish his purposes. Salvation is only through Jesus but The message of Jesus goes out so many ways… missionaries, technologies, internet, publishing, an angel can show up, God can show up. Our God is THE Righteous Judge – I trust Him fully with this.
  • Remember, Jesus died on the cross FOR us, not so that He had reason to punish us.
  • People DID walk out of the 11am service. I don’t know if they were offended, sick, no idea.That doesn’t please me in any way… however, I am encouraged that they heard what I truly believe what Jesus and the bible teach about the horrors of hell. I prayerfully trust that God will use this teaching in these people’s lives.
  • Sometimes the truth hurts. Better to be hurt by the truth than caught off guard because of our own ignorance about that truth.
  • The questions that people inboxed me after the service were priceless – this is why I do what I do.
  • I answered the question, “What happens to those who commit suicide?” Lots of people struggled with my answer because so many have taught what I believe to be error in reference to the scriptures on this subject. I believe that we are saved by grace through faith and that nothing can take us out of His hands once we TRULY believe.
  • Last week I asked Vertical on facebook to inbox me any questions they had about heaven and hell. Most of the questions that we used this morning came directly from that. You guys asked some awesome (and challenging) questions. Next week we will complete the series with the heaven Q&A you all asked so keep them coming. Inbox me your questions.
  • I would encourage you to check out the message on our website or on the Vertical App.
  • One of my guys (David Collins) posted on facebook after the service: “My pastor and friend poured out this morning on the reality of hell, but I left knowing how much he loves people.” I can ask for nothing more.
  • The service was just incredible. Jon, Justin, Robby and Vertical Worship just brought a smoking set. My man Brad Davis (a longtime friend) filled in on drums this morning all the way from Myrtle Beach. Dude was KILLER!!! So impressed (and jealous as a drummer). For real though, very proud of how far Brad has come as a drummer as I haven’t heard him play in 20 years. It was worth the wait. He was joined by Christoph on bass and Karla-Beth on vocals.
  • Songs: Exalted One (Elevation), Our King Has Come (Elevation), Forever Changed (Eddie Kirkland/North Point), Hosanna (Hillsong).
  • One of our biggest days numerically ever at VC! Hope they come back after what they heard (grin). Here are a few pics by Bree.
  • Saturday our VTeams met at Camp Grace for an appreciation party. We were led in worship by our friends “Revision 1″, split into teams for an Amazing Race type challenge (my team lost – yes, I am bitter) and ate some wonderful food. Thanks to John Paul and his team for making this night so special for all of us. VERTICAL VTEAMS: WE LOVE YOU ALL – YOU ARE VERTICAL.
  • CANNOT WAIT FOR OUR NEXT SERIES THAT WE TEASED TODAY, “MAN vs. WOMAN” (May 20). With so many fighting IN their relationships, we’re gonna talk about how to fight FOR your marriage and relationships. This will be a series for everyone – not just married people. It’s gonna be killer – you’ve never heard such frank and honest church about marriage and relationships in the church.
  • YES, we will definitely be talking about sex as well.

I love you all – thank you for the opportunity to do life with you all.

Don’t Add the Taco Bar

4 years ago I began to get discouraged because I sensed God changing me. As He worked on me I noticed my focus changing and I became concerned about reaching people that we were having no success reaching. The more He changed my desire the more frustrated I would become. I began to want something that at the time I wasn’t in position to make happen. God was changing my heart and I honestly thought He wanted me to live out that change in my church.

So the changes came.

Some were great for the church and some were not as beloved. It was frustrating because I KNEW these were good changes. I also knew that God was doing a work in my heart. What I didn’t understand was that God was doing a work of preparation, grooming me for my future while I was becoming frustrated in my NOW. I am still totally convinced that what I did wasn’t wrong; a lot of people gave their lives to Jesus during that time; it just wasn’t a good fit for the situation that I was in and some people just didn’t “get” the vision.

I talk to a lot of Pastors (and lay leaders) who are frustrated that they can’t seem to steer the church they lead in the direction that they feel like God is leading them. Because of my personal experiences I find myself thinking  “Maybe God isn’t trying to change your church. Maybe God is trying to change you.”

Want a Taco with that Frosty?

In the late 80′s Wendy’s used to have the all-you-can-eat taco bar? Frosty’s, chili and chicken sandwiches are awesome – taco’s and noodles with meat sauce, not so much. It was also during this season that Burger King experimented being a sit down restaurant at night. In my local BK they would make you sit down after you ordered and a waiter would bring your food to your table. Chances are you don’t remember either of these instances because they both failed… they were trying to be something they weren’t and it didn’t work out.

Churches often think that a music change, a visual update or a younger Pastor will change their situation but truth is, before you have true change in a church God must bring true change to people’s hearts. Don’t add the taco bar (or the contemporary service at 8:30 am – the people we should be trying to reach usually don’t visit churches at 8:30 am).

If you are in a church and find yourself being challenged by God (not to mention frustrated in your situation) I would advise you lead your church leadership to find out who they are – be the best at doing that kind of church that you can possibly be. You can bring new life to a service without changing the whole church.

I always make these suggestions to churches that want to improve their services:

  • Put more coordination into place.
    Pick songs that actually go with sermons/topics rather than just picking popular or congregational favorites.
  • Services are better when they flow.
    Dead time can kill the flow of the service. If you have a special does the singer wait to be introduced then get up from the seat and walk to the platform while everyone in the church watches? You’re wasting time and making the service awkward. Tell the singer when to come and have them in place for the introduction if you do this sort of thing. You will be amazed at how much better service flow is. If you practice this with all transitions your service will improve!
  • Improve the quality of the total morning experience.
    First impressions do not begin with the call to worship (or whatever you may call your first song). First impressions begin the moment people drive into your parking lot. Putting friendly people in the parking lot as greeters can improve people’s impression of your overall service. Teach people to expect visitors and to truly be welcoming when they arrive and to take people where they need to go rather than point.
  • Strive to be better.
    Jesus deserves our best and more! When we take the quality of services up people can actually be excited enough to invite someone. Don’t we all want that?

In the end you may still find that you need to leave. You may discover that this much of this work was in preparation for the next. If that’s the case, rejoice!!  You’re a work in progress and God’s church is better because you were a part of it. But whatever you do don’t add the taco bar – it’s not who you are. Be who you are.

How Long Must I Wait?

As a follower of Jesus have you ever wondered why you have the struggles that you have? The things of life that drag you down… why do they continue to come? Your greatest challenges… why do they not end?

God has a reason for your challenges.

[7] Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. [8] You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

I challenge you to be patient in God’s work in you. You didn’t get like you are overnight and your change won’t happen overnight. Let your heart be steady in the Lord, solid and strong. I warn you, just like it says above in v.8, we never know when we will stand before the Lord.

God has a reason. He has a reason for our challenges in life, He has a reason for His church, He has a reason for your life. God has a reason for all of the things that you are learning here and it’s not to make you into a “good person”. I believe that it goes back to helping us to move from being learners to becoming leaders. Just like James says in the above scripture, he must learn to wait on God like a farmer waits for his crops to mature to the harvest time.

What are you dealing or struggling with? Take it to the Lord in prayer – ask Him what it is you are to learn in that situation.

And wait.

God has a reason – I dare you to follow it through, no matter how hard it will be, until you begin to see what He wants you to see.

Your Jesus Phase

When I was 19 years old I had what I call “a Jesus phase”.

I began going to church weekly with Keyna. Growing up I had never regularly been to a bible preaching church other than a couple of visits with friends as a kid – I never listened or learned anything. But this time, it was different, I was listening. I had never heard the things that this Pastor taught from the bible and it was affecting me. Week after week I found myself there, asking questions in my heart, asking God to show me if He was real.

It all came to a head for me – I believed what I was hearing and was ready to give my heart to Jesus. I even told one of my best friends, we called him “Suicide”, that I was going to become a Christian and that I thought God wanted to use my musical talents to reach people like us. That was even before I met Jesus.

I didn’t do it. I went back out, joined a band and walked away from what I knew was happening in my heart. That’s why I call it my “Jesus phase”. I often wish I hadn’t walked.

So many young people experience it. They go to camp. “I want to give everything to Jesus – this time it’s different – I’m gonna make a difference in my school for Jesus!” Then they get home and go back to what they always knew – they had a Jesus phase.

Recently on a Sunday morning I walked into the auditorium late and grabbed a seat on the end of a row. What I saw when I looked down the row pumped me up – I saw a bunch of young guys all in their early 20′s. They weren’t with their parents, they were with each other. Wearing jeans and t-shirts, they had piercings and tats and the reason they were with us is that they WANTED to be there. I think about those guys all the time. I don’t see most of them weekly.

I hope they don’t just have a Jesus phase.

Jesus Himself was often followed by large numbers of people. We see instances where he is teaching in homes that were packed out with people. We see times when He taught outside to thousands. But at the end of His life most everyone had left him – those people didn’t stand up for Him when it counted, when the going got tough. They weren’t changed – they had a Jesus phase.

Some of you find yourself in a new place – you are growing spiritually and pressing in toward Jesus. Here’s the honest truth: you WILL be tempted to give up on Jesus when things get tough – you will be tempted to allow your belief in Jesus become a phase. I challenge you – hang in there – let your phase become your faith. That’s what was missing in my life. I wanted to meet Jesus but didn’t follow Him with my life. I had the desire, i needed the faith. It took me years to come back. I often think how many times I could have died during this period. Died without Jesus knowing that my phase never became my faith. Don’t let that happen to you.

God is doing a work in so many of you and I want you to know I am praying for you – I BELIEVE IN YOU. Don’t let what God’s doing in your life become your phase – I am praying that it becomes your faith.

Sunday Nite (April 22)

We have had a tremendous day! I am very tired so this one will be short. Here’s what’s on my mind tonight:

  • Today was week two of “Uncensored Truth about Eternity”. Today we gave a theology (study of God) of heaven.
  • Donnie brought today’s message, “Heaven is where you wanna be”. Great, great stuff. Today’s goal was to define 1) What is heaven? 2) What will it be like? 3) What makes heaven so special?
  • Donnie quoted CS Lewis who said this about a consuming affection for heaven: “Throughout history those Christians who did the most for this present world were those who thought the most about the next one….. It is since Christians have largely ceased thinking of the world to come that they have become ineffective in changing this world.”
  • We will not be angels but instead  we will rule over them (1 Corinth.6:2-3)
  • We will not marry (will not need that special companionship and we will not need to procreate)(Matthew 22:23-30)
  • We will eat and drink(Matthew 26:26-28) WOO HOO!!!!
  • HEAVEN IS GONNA BE AWESOME!!! “Lord, set my heart and mind on heaven, where Jesus is, and not on the things of this world.” Grant it, Lord Jesus.
  • Great crowds today. Not the prettiest of days, a little rain but overall no biggie. I was happy with our numbers. Not satisfied, but happy (grin).
  • I left Vertical at 9:50 to make my way towards Laurinburg to preach at Grace Baptist, a church plant. Some of our Vertical family has family at Grace which is where the connection comes in. Great church, great facility, great people.
  • I loved meeting so many people – I pray that they heard my heart to encourage yet challenge from the word of God. It was encouraging to see so many young people serving at church! May the next generation be challenged and changed.
  • Musically, they had a lot of young people in their band and did some great songs. They literally had a double bass drum set!!! I can honestly say I’ve never seen a double bass kit in a church – not that it’s bad or anything, just a first for me. The drummer didn’t give us a double kick pattern in any songs – was kinda waiting for the thrash section of the service (grin).
  • As I said, enjoyed my time but you know there’s no place like home. CANNOT WAIT for week 3 of Uncensored Truth. Next weekend’s message may be the most difficult message that I have EVER preached. EVER!!!
  • I did have the opportunity to hear our music this morning before I left. BANGIN!!!! The band introduced “Kingdom Come” this morning – absolutely LOVE that tune!!! And of course they brought back “All Things New” – just incredible.
  • Shout out to Vertical Worship today – they were absolutely excellent!
  • We closed the day with our VTeam leader meeting. It is always great to see and hear what God is doing in our midst from our leaders. I love the people God has given us to do church with. God has been so good!

We have some really exciting things on the horizon at Vertical Church! You will definitely be able to “SEE” what I’m talking about very soon. I love you all.