I have a “lead foot”. Okay, I’m not as bad as I used to be (although some friends and family may argue that). When I was a twenty-something, I would receive speeding tickets at a rate of two-to-three times a year. I tend to believe that I had fans among the SC Highway Patrol and they merely wanted my autograph!
There’s something about speeding in a vehicle with a steel frame. It’s deceptive! Your mind subconsciously changes the laws of nature. You start believing you’re somehow invincible, when in reality you open yourself up to more danger. Percentage-wise, you become less and less likely to survive a crash the faster you go. Not only that, but when you speed you don’t notice a speed limit, an exit sign, or the large deer with glowing eyes on the side of the road.
Now there are times we can go fast. Nothing wrong with it at all when the time calls for it! (We have places to go, people to see, afterall…) But it should be reserved for those designated areas of higher speed, barring an emergency. I would like to think it’s the Holy Spirit that leads us to know when/where/how to go about fast.
Wait a minute, what am I really talking about today? Well, since you’re reading this, you may know that I’m a pastor. I’m one of those preachers that lead a local church. Every now and then I’ll write about “church stuff” that may/may not interest you.
Recently, news came out that Elevation Church, based out of Charlotte, NC, had planted volunteers in their worship services to walk forward during the invitation for water baptism. This creates movement and conceivably “encourages” worshipers that might be on-the-fence about getting baptized or are uncomfortable in getting out of their seat. Such a method is seen as manipulation and brings into question just how far a church is willing to go (in the negative sense) to see more of an altar response.
Read more about this mess here:
So what’s the big deal? For us Christians, being baptized (submerged into water and raised back up) is an important step in our spiritual journey. The act itself doesn’t give us salvation, but rather declares it! This is our announcement to the world that Jesus has saved us from eternal death and has given us new, fresh start! We are no longer the person we were before. It’s a celebration of life change!
Needless to say, the practice of water baptism is special, if not sacred. It should be handled with sensitivity, care, and encouragement. What Elevation is being accused of doing in partially fabricating a response from the crowds, essentially robs the innocence and authenticity of that moment in the eyes of both Christians and non-believers.
I’ll be on the record for saying that I’m not particularly crazy about the news media. Some things that they report on pastors and churches is witch-hunting at its worst, or just bad journalism at the very least. At the same time, there’s something to be said about God using outsiders to correct His children (it happened to the Israelites quite a bit, actually). This can be seen as a good thing if Elevation can learn from this moment and become healthier than ever before! (and they were pretty strong already)
Let me add that there is nothing wrong with “spontaneous baptisms” (they present the baptism opportunity on-the-spot to anyone there) like the ones Elevation practices. When John the Baptist was calling people to repent of their sins and be baptized, there was not much of an “interview process”. It was an in-the-moment, get-up-out-of-your-seat, call to repentance (seeking forgiveness and restoration from God).
Matthew 3 tells us:
3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
…. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
We must leave room for the Holy Spirit to move and for people to respond. To turn it into a drawn-out process might be nice for record keeping or to satisfy demands of thoroughness and accountability, but it isn’t necessarily Biblical. (Biblical and “man-made” good practices aren’t always enemies either)
So, I don’t want to “pile on” Pastor Furtick and Elevation Church in writing this blog post today. I sincerely use this as a way to send prayerful support to Elevation as they have done awesome things in the Charlotte area. Steven Furtick is a great, talented, and bold pastor who gives much to his church and the city of Charlotte. I also know many folks involved at various levels in the church and they are all genuine and wonderful brothers/sisters in the Christian faith.
But at some point, you must recognize that “a means to an end” (speeding at all times) does have its limit. A basic rule of thumb to go by for ministry methods is, “If this got out to the general public, how would it be perceived?” Now some might say in Elevation’s defense, since this is church ministry related that there are different rules. God understands and the world doesn’t, right?
Or, hey… cops get to fly all over the roads at high rates of speed? Why can’t I?
This is simply about being above reproach. There are just some limits to our methods of ministry that at a certain point go beyond good taste. But taste is subjective, right? In some ways yes, absolutely. In other ways, no. But really the word we should use here is “discernment”. It’s a church-y word for “wisdom” or “understanding”. Basically, being able to know the what to do or say and the timing and setting for it.
As a church planter, I believe that methods (how we present worship opportunities and the Gospel of Jesus Christ) are, for the most part, fair game. We often play it too safe in the church world, worried more about offending church members than the people on the outside that we’re trying to reach. In this case with Elevation and the baptism invitation “plants”, it becomes offensive to both. That’s not good!
There are many ministries that haven’t changed anything about their order of service, worship style, or their outreaches in years. Such churches are like the slow grandma going 40 mph in the fast lane on a 70mph interstate. It’s annoying to drivers, and when churches do this it might be frustrating to our God who has given us the ability and freedom to speed at this given time.
The old lady plodding along at 40 mph in a Buick on an interstate is just as much of a hazard as the hot-shot in a Porsche going 90 mph. So let’s not be too quick to jump on Pastor Furtick, when many of us don’t have an ounce of boldness in our ministry blood. Fear of offending the flock (i.e. deacons and big money donors) is just as bad as questionably presenting baptism opportunities.
There was an excellent quote at Significant Church Network’s National Conference last month from one my ministry heroes, Dr. Mark Rutland:
“If you turn methodology into theology, you’re in big trouble!”
This goes both ways. Too many are stuck in the past, believing that their ways are the only tried and true Biblical methods of ministry. On the other side of the coin you’ll have those that have the “reach them at any cost” which in-and-of-itself isn’t a bad thought, until the method becomes a roadblock or turn-off to those we’re trying to reach.
The Apostle Paul speaks to this in 2 Corinthians 6:3
“We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry”
When we prioritize methodology (going too fast or too slow) over the message of Jesus Christ, then we end up missing the point of implementing methods in the first place (seeing more people come into a relationship with God). And if we miss the point, others that are without God will pay the price. Do we really want that on our conscience?
There’s nothing more graceful than automotive racing. Sorry, I grew up in South Carolina! As a kid, I frequented NASCAR races locally near my hometown of Hartsville. Darlington, Rockingham (R.I.P.), Charlotte… I was there often twice a year at each track with my dad to watch stock car racing. I love the sensation of speed and it’s truly a rush to watch (and feel) cars go 200 mph right in front of your face! But these are trained professionals behind the wheel on a course that is designed to handle high speeds, even when they crash!
A fan, such as myself, can’t just jump into one of these cars and start racing around the track. I would have to train and acclimate myself to that kind of speed and driving skill demands. In other words, I would hope to know my limits! Starting off I’d probably be a lot like that old granny in the Buick, slowly creeping around the track just hoping just to blow a tire. As I grew more comfortable in the environment and confident my abilities, I would gradually go faster as the situation called for it.
And yes, you can go “too fast” in NASCAR… there’s these little things called “turns” that force you put the brakes on. Otherwise, you’re going to end up on ESPN Sportscenter (as part of the “not-so-top-10″).
As Christians and leaders, we must discern best practices and when we’re fast approaching that line of going too far. There is no shame in wanting to see hundreds of people respond to the message of Jesus and all of the great moments that accompany it. However, let us serve passionately without anything that might cause others to question the things of God! Take the time to examine your methods (both personally and ministry-wise) and weed out the things that smell a bit funny. Do it because it matters!
Jesus says in John 4:24
“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Lastly, all this talk of baptisms serves as a reminder of the opportunity that The Living Church has this weekend (Sunday, February 23rd). We have several individuals that have come forward and wish to declare they now belong to Christ!
If you want in on this, contact our church office at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-843-TLC
Our baptisms aren’t very formal, quiet, or clean… they take place in the Black Creek section of Kalmia Gardens here in Hartsville! Church members and supporters line up along a wooden walkway, looking below at a loading dock on the water.
There they will excitedly cheer on those who have decided to follow Jesus! This is always a great time for a church that does things a little different. Come on out and join us!
One of my “resolutions” for 2014? More blog posts!
Thanks to everyone who checked out ChrisHoneycutt.com in 2013!
Here’s a neat stat: Country with the third most visitors to my blog? Russia! Пусть Бог благословит вас
Here’s the 2013 annual report:
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.
As a church planter, I rejoice in seeing new life-giving churches getting started in areas of need around the country. Speaking of which, TLC is fast approaching four years of ministry here in Hartsville! We’ve been able to reach many in this city who otherwise might have never given “church” (and more importantly, Jesus) a chance.
But something I see more and more of these days is that my generation of pastors are striking out on their own, forming launch teams, and planting churches instead of being put in the mix of leadership for existing churches. This dearth of talent will soon show up, if it hasn’t done so already. It’s very much part of a larger conversation of missed opportunities and a lost generation, perhaps too big to tackle in one blog post.
I don’t always talk about “real life” on here. I avoid weighty personal stuff because in my self-doubt I think that…
1. It makes me sound conceited,
2. No one cares, or
3. It just doesn’t pertain to what’s really important.
But what my experience in ministry shows is a testament to this problem of why young adults are checking out of church, or at the very least their grandparents’ church. Maybe more specifically why young pastors aren’t getting fed into “the system” and instead becoming entrepreneurs.
After being called to pastoral ministry at the age of 20, I attended Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida from 2002-2005 to receive my ministerial training. The drive from South Carolina was pretty much a straight shot, driving down I-95 before heading west on I-4. There’s a huge church building that sits on the east side of I-4 just north of Orlando. I used to stare at it (as safely as possible while driving in traffic) thinking of maybe how someday I might get to pastor such a church.
That monolith of a campus belonged to Calvary Assembly, which had thousands of members at one point in their history. The church sanctuary seats 5,500, but today there are only 650 members in attendance.
Just recently there were rampant rumors that they were selling their facilities to a local hospital system. Church leaders vehemently deny the gossip, but it was loud enough to warrant news stories from the media about it. Calvary Assembly was once the biggest church in town, so it’s kind of a big deal.
In the vein of some evangelical “Trivial Pursuit” piece of useless information, this was the same church that Scott Stapp (lead singer of the band Creed) grew up in, for better or for worse. Calvary also hosted a ministry conference in 2003 that had the first public showing of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” (complete with an on-stage interview with Mr. Gibson himself). I was there as a volunteer and was excited to be part of the event. That all said, Calvary had a very influential presence in central Florida.
That’s why I’m saddened to see them get to this point. They were one of the first “megachurches” and a great model for others to follow. Now it’s seemingly a shadow of its former self. What happened?
As with any situation, there’s plenty of factors that could be blamed. I can only make an educated guess!
For the longest time, facilities and the mortgage debt incurred to build them, was a burden and consumed the focus of Calvary Assembly for nearly two decades. My college president, Dr. Mark Rutland, pastored Calvary during the early 1990′s and helped steer them out of that debt. It was eventually paid off, complete with a ceremonial “mortgage burning”.
However, the trap that many churches fall into is the issue of investment. In their case, paying off a huge mortgage, putting on ministry conferences, and having the best Sunday morning (and Sunday evening) experience possible. In other words, the focus is placed on their past (debt) and the present (preserving the status quo), rather than their future. What does the future look like?
The future isn’t in another building project or the next revival, it’s in the people that are often put on the backburner or outright thrown away (never bothered to be reached in the first place). This includes children, teenagers, young adults, and the unchurched, all who have no real deep-rooted preferences or hang-ups that older believers might have. Because they weren’t on a committee, haven’t tithed, or weren’t there when the church first started, they are relegated to the second page of church budgets and “vision plans”, often only receiving surface level attention.
I cannot conclusively say that this is was/is the case with Calvary, but it sure seems to be the case with many longstanding churches. In fact, there are thousands of them in America that have more funds going towards cemetery upkeep, than their youth ministry! They quite literally have more invested in death than in life! We’re now starting to see the fruit of such a costly error.
Some churches are closing their doors today and many more are on the way if something isn’t done about the culture of preserving the past (what worked then) and hanging onto the present (what works now, rather than innovating). Creativity and originality can be found in the next generation, if we just give them the time of day!
Those church planters I mentioned before? This is one result from a severe lack of purpose and resources placed into the next generation of leaders. ”Succession plans” are a rarity in churches. Transitions from the old to the new are usually fumbled, rather than done with purpose and love. For some reason, we have a hard time handing over the baton. This is where I speak from a place of healed hurt.
You see, there was a time (decades ago) when a pastor graduated from a Bible college or a seminary and they were practically given churches right upon graduation. Not “youth” or “associate” pastor positions, but “senior pastor”… the head honcho! Now, these weren’t always the largest or healthiest churches, but at least they were given an opportunity. My ministry hero Billy Graham was pastoring a church while he was in college!
But around the time I came into seeking a full-time ministry position, I didn’t exactly fit the mold. The mold was a married young man with experience and education, rather than having passion, the calling, the skills, or a display of commitment. Not to toot my own horn much, but I had one of the best resumes coming out of college. This got me tons of interviews for youth ministry positions (narrowed only to youth ministry itself in most cases, which is another issue for another day).
It would almost always come down to me and a married candidate. Guess which one these “pastoral search committees” chose? (here’s a clue: it wasn’t me) I hated that seemingly because I hadn’t yet found a wife, that I felt like a second-class citizen when compared to my peers.
I wasn’t the only one this form of discrimination was applied to either. Other single classmates and friends seeking positions quickly became humorously familiar with the Apostle Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 7 for the unmarried Christian “not to marry”, having more time to reach others for Christ! (I never had the guts to use that in an interview, of course.)
Then there was the district office I was in. Something I still don’t understand is the lack of effort made in connecting with young ministerial candidates like myself at the time. I ended up having to reach out to them myself in hopes of a hand-up (not a hand-out), rather than the other way around. In other career fields, you have recruiters, job fairs, etc. No such thing in church ministry!
I would have been satisfied had I just been recommended by the superintendent for interviews, much less outright given opportunities (“placed” in a church, like the old days). Alas, they weren’t much help to me during that time.
When I finally was offered a ministry position, it wasn’t exactly what I thought I’d be doing and the pay wasn’t what I expected, but that was okay! I did my best to work hard and appreciate what I had been given! To this day, I’m thankful for that church for taking a chance on me, as did the other churches that followed. It helped build me up to where I am now!
This is why when hiring for our church, I can put things in perspective because I remember when I was just looking for that first break. With every candidate I look at their heart first and foremost. What’s their passion? Where do they feel called? Have they demonstrated a lifestyle of honesty and commitment? Do their gifts match their responsibilities?
If they come on staff but any of these areas are out-of-whack, then I have a future problem on my hands! These are also areas that they have direct control over, as opposed to if they’re married, what their home life was like growing up, or where they’re from. We’re in the business of healing, not discrimination after all!
Another factor with young adults, from my experience anyways, is letting them know that they matter. Their input is valued and is vital to the church’s success! This is key in today’s culture where everything is instant access and gratification. That has fed the mentality of undeserved promotion or attention in the job market today. Yes, this spoiled attitude must be kept in check, but at the same time we should use their eagerness for acceptance and opportunity to our advantage.
I wasn’t ever asked during my first few years of ministry about what I thought about anything else outside of my particular area of responsibility. Worship music, outreaches, sermon series, small groups, etc. were all off the table. All of those things were for much “wiser” and “experienced” individuals that had been around for 20+ years, even though I had some recent experience in such areas. I was relegated to being the hired hand that ministered to teenagers. I would have loved to have offered my two cents on many of the programs and facets of those churches during my years as just another staff member.
With TLC, we have something called “creative team” which is part staff meeting, part vision casting, part calendar scheduling. But it’s also a way for our staff to offer their thoughts on how we can better serve the church and our community. Having different sets of eyes really helps in being truly fresh and dynamic, impacting those that might be outside our narrow, personal view.
Even though I consider myself “young” at the ripe age of 31, I don’t exactly look like it (thanks to my aforementioned youth ministry days). I promise, I used to have hair! But I have come to the realization that I’m now ten years out of that way of life and I might not know the “language” or the “heartbeat” of this current generation. That’s how fast our culture can change! With that said, I’ve put a team of young leaders together that may know youth, college students, and young professionals better than I do. I not only value their input, but I have given them ownership of that ministry.
This has birthed something we’re calling, “ethos”. It is our new college/young adults ministry that kicks off on Thursday, October 3rd at 7pm. I encourage you to check out its Facebook page for more info!
Keeping with today’s theme, is this Sunday’s message, “Recycle” which will conclude our “Go Green!” series. We’ll be talking about how so many people are ignored and treated cheaply (sometimes by even us, the church) when all they’re looking for is some hope for a better life. The church’s role should be “recycling” the “trash” (people discarded by society) through God’s love and restorative power and letting these new creations to then invest in others in need of a chance.
Sometimes it’s the “trash” that are the missing pieces for future success! We do harm to the Holy Spirit when we ignore the people He sends our way!
A passage that fits what I’m talking about well can be found in Mark 2, when Jesus says,
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus said these words, yet we far too often look past them and cater to the ones already healed! What kind of “hospital” keeps healthy patients sitting comfortably in beds, when those in need of care are right outside?
I’ve learned painful lessons in ministry that I hope to continue to employ now and in the future of our church. When I forget that only people matter in this life (because they are the only things that come with an eternity attached) then I’m getting away from who Jesus is. I pray that the Living Church will always evolve to reach every generation better, not beholden to the past (no matter how successful it was), all while honoring God, and holding to His Word. Truth must remain the same, but methods should always be up for debate.
We must invest in the future. We must recycle the trash. We must care for the sick. We must act now, before it’s too late!
This Sunday we will be finishing up our “Public Works” series with “The Building”.
This is a culmination of what we’ve been talking about the past few weeks in the sense of “what is all this (our faith, the church, our lives) about?”. While it’s difficult to try and address all aspects of this broad, but essential question, it can be done simply when shaping our mind around some key words.
“Church”, “purpose”, “Kingdom”, “investment”… are terms that are often used far past their initial effectiveness or intended meaning.
For the sake of time, let’s just start with defining one thing:
The church is people… not a building.
I’ll be saying this ad naseum ’til the day I die, but the fact remains that the Bible defines the church as a collective body of people. This is where our church’s name, “The Living Church” derives from.
Some verses to back this up…
I Corinthians 3:16:
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the house of God, and that the Spirit of God lives among you in His house?”
“We who believe are carefully joined together with Christ as parts of a beautiful, constantly growing temple for God.
1 Corinthians 12:12:
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”
Even though the Bible clearly demonstrates that the idea of “church” is the believers and not the four walls they’re in, we still far too often refer to “church” as a place, a time, or a physical structure. This mentality can rob the church of its power! We’re placing the strength in a location rather than the Holy Spirit operating within the followers of Christ.
Basically, instead of using the preposition of “to” before “church” we need to be using “with”. When we take hold of this truth, we realize that all of the time, money, prayers, and general effort should be focused on building people up. This means:
- Discipleship (teaching the essentials of our faith and helping people grow to be more like Jesus),
- Outreach (blessing our community, feeding the poor, reaching those without a church family), and
- Worship (making the most of our opportunities to glorify God and to deepen our expression and knowledge of who God is).
Church facilities and auxiliary programs (often existing out of tradition, rather than relevance/purpose) are secondary and should never be first in our hearts (or our budgets). The reason why we should work towards building people up is because physical structures come and go.
Lately I’ve been fascinated with “urban exploring” where bold and daring trespassers venture into old hospitals, theme parks, church buildings, and other places that were once bustling with families, customers, etc. When a facility has suffered under poor management or when the economy has a dry spell, even the nicest of structures can fall victim to decay.
Consider the cautionary tale of Crystal Cathedral. The church started out humbly as Garden Grove Community Church in Garden Grove, California (a stone’s throw away from Disneyland). Lead by Pastor Robert Schuller, they met at a local drive-in theater (think Sonic with a big movie screen) for several years before moving into a sanctuary of their own in 1961.
It was twenty years later when they finished construction of what became the “Crystal Cathedral”, a massive church building designed by architect Philip Johnson at a cost of $18 million dollars (!). “Garden Grove Community Church” changed their name to “Crystal Cathedral” upon completion. Perhaps this move indicated not only a shift in name marketability and recognition, but a shift in focus as well.
Besides being known for this feat of church architecture, they broadcasted a weekly TV program, The Hour of Power. Unfortunately, this only added onto the snowball of distraction that would later become an avalanche of failure, destroying nearly everything they worked for. If you didn’t know already, putting on a high quality television broadcast takes a lot of work. With that work, accompanies the need of a lot of money to produce it.
All of a sudden, your budget is possibly more concerned with lights and cameras than outreach projects! The culture of “maintenance” is a death wish for any ministry! We can become consumed with putting on a “show” than actually doing what we’re called to here on this earth (bring people into a redemptive relationship with God).
In 2010, the church filed for bankruptcy and sold the property off to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. Interestingly enough, “Crystal Cathedral” had to humble itself and the congregation moved to a former Catholic church facility that was much smaller in size. Just like in 1980, this move came with a name change… “Crystal Cathedral” is now “Shepherd’s Grove”.
Without getting too high and mighty, I fully realize this can happen to any church, of any size, that loses its focus. I pray that Shepherd’s Grove will be able center in on their original purpose of effectively reaching the people of Orange County for Jesus!
As we go about our daily lives, let us realize that building on earthly ground will eventually fall away. Time will bring rot and rust to whatever structure that stands today. However, the things we build on Holy ground will stand for eternity!
Jesus makes this point in Matthew 7:
“24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
To further clarify, the “rock” here is symbolic of God and His Kingdom (the eternal kind, rather than earthly). “Holy ground” is unseen “soil” currently or soon-to-be occupied by God, often found in the form of people and their potential of being Kingdom-builders.
Simply put, invest your life into others (through your time, money, and prayers) with a mindset shaped by God’s heart for seeing people saved from eternal separation from Him. Wherever you’re at, be a part of a church that focuses on encouraging, teaching, and reaching people for Christ! Remember, we must point to Jesus and the life He offers because they’re so much more beautiful than any tower, sanctuary, or skyscraper built by man! God’s handiwork is much more creative, ambitious, and powerful than our own.
Join TLC this Sunday at 11:00 am for “The Building”. Would love to have you worship and grow with us!
It saddens me when people can’t put their ego aside. I’ve mentioned the word “pride” throughout this series on marriage due to the fact it is utterly destructive to relationships of all kinds (with God, spouses, family, friends, or otherwise). It sets the individual up for failure later on because they eventually run out of people to blame!
“Pride” is a Christianese term of putting one’s self before/above others (especially God) and refusing to accept accountability. In other words, it’s the very essence of sin (rebellion against God) because it places us somewhere we ought not to be.
I like how the NLV expresses the Apostle Paul’s admonishment of pride in Romans 12:3…
“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
Many of the early Christians were bragging on their abilities, knowledge, or holiness when this is certainly not the purpose of God’s grace and our salvation through Christ. Such a self-righteous attitude is dangerous territory as it can lead to further sin (believing you’re “not as bad as the other guy”).
There’s truth to the adage of “pride comes before the fall”, as it comes directly from God’s Word in Proverbs 16:
“18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
19 It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly
Than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
There was a reason why Jesus addressed the Pharisees’ indignant questions and attacks, because pride is the enemy of righteousness (God’s character) and their religious scented hypocrisy served as the perfect platform for communicating truth in love. It’s the exact opposite nature of who we’re supposed to be (humble, forgiving, and working towards peace). Our unwillingness to see beyond our ignorant, twisted, and self-serving perspective serves as our outright refusal to accept God’s love, wisdom, and correction. What good can come from that?
I wish this post was narrow in its scope (like simply in the context of marriage), but there’s so many situations in the world right now that call for people to repent, yet no one cares to make the jump.
- Our government shies away from accountability.
- Western society fosters a culture of undeserved praise.
- Sports stars offer half-hearted attempts at humilty in a win, while refusing to accept criticism in a loss.
- And of course, marriages crumble because one party, or both, absolves themselves of any responsibility for failure.
I’m as guilty as anyone. I have to ask God for forgiveness more than I’d like to admit, simply because I don’t want people to see my mistakes or wounds. When I find myself in a silly argument with my wife, I often find myself looking back at it afterwards and admitting to myself that I made a mountain out of a mole hill, or worse… I couldn’t admit fault or the fact that I was wrong. (Yes, even pastors get it wrong every now and then!)
If any of this hits close to home, maybe you too need to seek God’s forgiveness and then work to restore the damage done in your various relationships.
For that to happen, something may have to die. (A.S.A.P.)
The marriage vow of “Til Death Do Us Part” is fitting here because it conveys the fact a union between husband and wife is intended to be unbreakable. The problem is, when trouble comes (sometimes as a result of our selfishness) we are quick to break it.
Where does this come from? This mentality is conditioned by the world and is not of God. The notion of “looking elsewhere” shows that pride is still alive and well in you because you refuse to look inward. The enemy wants you to run away as far as you can from your issues. Quite obviously, this only means that you’ll repeat the same mistakes as before because the past ones haven’t been dealt with (and this is just what he wants).
Pride must die a painful death (so that it never returns) in order that you fully embrace the abundant life found in Jesus Christ! (as mentioned last week in John 10:10). There is no other path to salvation, hope, joy, and peace! Your pride will try to say otherwise though.
So let’s do something about it. What are you doing to uphold your marriage? To heal those you have wounded? Have you put too much weight towards your own desires? When was the last time you “looked in a mirror”? You may not like what you see…
Join us this Sunday at 11:00 am as we finish “The Vow” message series with “Til Death Do Us Part”.
This past week my wife and I went on vacation for our five year anniversary. It was a refreshing time! I truly believe that all married couples need to invest in each other by having time to relax and just focus on the relationship. It’s just one way to “keep love alive”.
And “How Do You Keep Love Alive?” isn’t just the title of a Ryan Adams song. It is a real question that many people ask, at the very least, to themselves when things aren’t going the way they thought it would. Unfortunately, “love” may not be obviously present because it’s often been placed elsewhere! (quite possibly not in the way you may think). And so, the despair I find in struggling marriages is a heartbreaking result of many factors but one cause…
The enemy wishes to destroy your life and marriage by distraction.
If he can get you consumed with the mundane, then the special gifts from God have little room to flourish. These distractions are a direct result of feeding our personal pride (puffing our ego up) which takes us away from fulfilling covenants (with God and/or with a spouse).
How big are distractions? I literally had to put my phone on silent the majority of our trip. Even then, it was hard to escape the barrage of emails, calls, voicemails, and texts due to everything I’m involved in back home in Hartsville. (I thank the good folks from TLC for respecting this time away, however!)
Most of the time though, distractions aren’t so much annoyances as they are the things we think we enjoy. The reason most marriages suffer is because we’ve believed the lie that “fun”, “happiness”, and “achievement” (all as defined by the world, not by God) is somehow greater than authentic love, sacrifice, and honor. Such a lie is the poison found in the arrows of distraction.
If people only realized what this world has to offer is fleeting! That the promises of God are for good and are lovingly attached to eternity! They are so much more than the lies of the one who wishes to destroy us! The enemy wants to use our failures as a way to spit in the face of The Lord!
Let’s look at what Jesus said in John 10:10,
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Healthy, Christ-centered relationships are better because the focus is not on us, but on Him! The point here being that God is much stronger than us, therefore the foundation is on solid ground. So, when it’s not focused in the right place, that’s the window of opportunity for the enemy to come in and use our pride to his advantage. And we don’t even see it coming! (although all the warning signs are there)
There’s more… come out this Sunday for “To Love & Cherish”, part five of our current message series, “The Vow”. 11:00 am at 149 E. Carolina Ave. in downtown Hartsville, SC.
Heather and I are heading out later this week for our five year anniversary trip down to the Florida Keys. It’s gonna be great! It’ll be a time of refreshment and something I’ve looked forward to for a while now.
I was going to post more about it all, but I remembered a blog post from 2009 that summed up my thoughts on the value of “getting away”. This was just a few months after TLC was launched and a vacation at the time was much needed!
While the post might have had a smidgen of “attitude”, the heart of it was the fact that we should share in each other’s blessings, not begrudge or belittle them. And be sure of this… my upcoming trip with my wife is indeed a blessing!
Anyways, I’ll see y’all in 10 days (or so). Enjoy this post in the meantime: http://chrishoneycutt.com/2009/12/08/foriamnotashamed/
For I am not ashamed (of enjoying my life)!
Walt Disney World – “The Happiest Place on Earth”
My wife and I decided to take a few days to ourselves down at Disney World during the week of Christmas. We rarely have gotten away with “just the two of us” the past few months, so we felt the need to take a trip when we could.
We’re excited about it, as we loved the time spent there last December. It was during that vacation where I actually got the vision for the The Living Church! Sometimes “getting away” is spiritually beneficial too!
Yet, after we booked the trip for this month, I was hesitant about “tweeting” about it (posting on the social networking websites Twitter and Facebook, for the uninformed) because of the reactions people have to it. Isn’t that sad? More than once recently I have felt apprehensive with writing about the other cool things I’m up to as well.
Unfortunately, it has been my experience when I update my Facebook status from a golf course, or from a restaurant with my wife, that others seem to have a “must be nice” attitude. Such things are in reality, rare treats (my golf habit just isn’t worth feeding more than once every two weeks) but to observers/acquaintances/friends, they only seem to pay attention to these “good times” rather than my usual day-to-day stuff (which isn’t nearly as fun to post about).
The bottom line here is this is an old fashioned, Biblical definition of envy. “Jealousy” is another word for it. The slang translation might be called “hatin’ “, but I could be wrong.
Now I consider myself to be a pretty modest guy, all-in-all. I don’t have a complete wardrobe full of the nicest clothes. I drive a beat-up Honda Civic with 140,000 miles on it. I have simple pleasures (coffee, food and football). I get $10 haircuts every few weeks (and it’s only $10 because I like to tip a little extra at the local barbershop). On top of all of that, being a church planter doesn’t pay a whole lot!
So yeah, when I’m doing something I enjoy… I like to share it for all the internet world to see and rejoice with me! I take pride in knowing I can live my life without regrets, fear, or condemnation, because I am truly blessed! I know that I serve a great God above who knows me personally and loves me more than I’ll ever be able to comprehend!
But despite this, I’ve been disappointed time-after-time by comments made by others (who are mostly supposed happy-and-healthy Christians). Comments that may seem to be in jest, but at the heart of it carries the feeling of something worse.
One time when I got to golf for the first time in months and posted about it, I had a Facebook “friend” make the remarks “Do you ever work?!” (which is what us ministers hear more often than we deserve) and “Must be nice to just take an afternoon off anytime you want!” Of course, he isn’t a close friend and wouldn’t have a clue about my schedule if you asked him.
Some have commented on how I “sure like to eat out a lot”, when in reality it’s a few times a week at most, and that’s due in part to: 1. Being on the road a good bit and 2. My wife’s work schedule. And trust me, we’re not eating out at 4-star steakhouses!
Aside from my shallow attempt at justification, what I’m trying to get at is this: People see the good in other’s lives and because their lives are so boring, tied-up with stress, and without joy, they have to make you feel like some spoiled jerk. What they might not know, is that I’m not “bragging” about these things in and of themselves, so much as I am expressing how awesome God has richly blessed my life, not to mention how much I enjoy living it!
Now, I don’t intend on taking this any deeper because it can become a novel on our flawed human nature. This attitude we often carry about us certainly is not of God, but of the enemy! Take notice that what is listed at #10 in the Ten Commandments:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17)
It wasn’t just about marital infidelity (which is also covered in the seventh commandment), but the wanting of other’s possessions and blessings for yourself. Let’s compare that to the fruits of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Big difference in both meaning and practice between the two! Just as big is the gap separating these opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum where the two feelings come from.
Simply put: When we let the Holy Spirit direct our lives, we aren’t jealous of others, but rejoicing with them in their “good times”! But when we let our flesh (our “bad side”) direct us, we are annoyed, put off, even angry at their “happy lives”!
This is such an important lesson to remember especially during this Christmas season! The Christmas Story and it’s main character, Ebeneezer Scrooge, gives us the perfect example of someone being disturbed at the sight of other’s “Christmas spirit”. It was only when he was shown the mistakes he made by being selfish and glum for all those many years did he turn his life around, essentially becoming a new person entirely!
- Be thankful for what you have, but also for what your Christian brothers and sisters receive… for it is the same God that blesses them that blesses you!
- Enjoy your life! Make no apologies for being happy! And be sure to point up to God to show the “haters” where your joy comes from!
- Are you glad for others when good stuff happens to them? Or are you upset about it? Check your heart constantly!
Oh and by the way, I can’t wait for my trip to Disney World in less than two weeks with my lovely wife Heather! We’re going to have a fun time! Going to eat out at some nice places too. Don’t think I’ll be able to get some golf in though. (Can’t have everything, I guess!)
Have a problem with any of that? Deal with it…