Thursday, October 24, 2013

Steve Furtick, Elevation...Snake in Pulpit? or Much given Much expected?

If you have been paying attention to the Charlotte news lately, Steve Furtick and Elevation church has been in the headlines.  If you haven't read about it, check out the Charlotte Observer then come back and what I say will make better sense.

Basically questions are coming out due to the building of a new 1.7 million dollar house in Weddington NC.  The house is that of Steve Furtick or Pastor Steve.  Many of you know I'm a fan of John Wesley and appreciate his humility and his ability to give it all away.  I wish pastor Steven had been a little more humble with his choices but it's kind of a mixed bag here..... I'm not really having a problem with his house or his church.

 Elevation is a start up church born from Southern Baptist Convention roots.  Furtick's rate of pay was decided by a panel that studied other mega churches and developed a pay rate in accordance with what other mega church preachers make.  Steve Furtick also claims that most of his income comes from his books sells and advances for future books.
Let's do a little math here...
If a senior pastor in a SBC church with lets say 1000 members has a salary of 80k per year ( according to the compensations survey I just saw, I'm a little light on my figures...buts let's go with this for argument sake).  Let's figure Elevation church has 14000 plus in worship each week ($320k per week from attendees....16.6m a year), that's over 14x's the 1000 member church..... 80x14=1.120million a year....that's healthy!  But wait, let's say he only accepts 750k yearly from the church.....  What are the usual figures for  a loan amount to purchase a new home? is it still 3x annual salary?  what's 3x750? 2,250,000!  so Furtick is with in his means according to the averages others have set for borrowed amounts for new homes.....hmm.  Where is the main church located?  Blakeny?  Now what types of homes are built in Weddington? they are very similar to those in Blakeny.   Many homes in the Weddington NC area are large, million dollar homes.  The Bachlorette was filmed in a home down that way, so that puts some perspective on the neighborhood.

Another thing to look at, he is an admitted friend of some of the Carolina Panthers...... If he is ministering to High Profile types, what type of home do we think he should do that in?  If he is entertaining a Steve Jobs type, trying to introduce him to Jesus why not put him in a mansion to do it?  If Steve Furtick was trying to reach some of these folk and using my house to do it, he wouldn't get a second look or a chance to share the Gospel.  I know wealth should not be an issue when sharing the Good News, but get real! If you are ministering to someone that lives the high flying lifestyle you've got to have some things in common.

Here are some other things to consider:
1) If he is working for the Lord, this church will continue to grow....If it's all a hoax it will wither on the vine
2) This church puts on a major production every week, but here is the difference.... it's real.  The relationship building and introductions to Jesus are real.
3) Over a 2 week period in 2013 Elevation church DID Baptize almost 4000 people in the name of Jesus..... 4000/14000= .2857 or .29 or 29%  How many churches Baptized a number of folks that equal 29% of their congregation?  Perspective time....a 1000 member church would have to Baptize 290 people to reach that number!
4) I did find where Elevation has donated Millions locally and provided several hours of service....the source was on Wikipedia, so I'm not going to quote anything off that site....

I know some of you are saying "I can't believe this small town Methodist is even defending this mega-church and it's preacher"...... Well, I am to an extent.  I have a couple of good personal reasons to do so....  One, I have a friend that I had been farming or witnessing to for a while..... Elevation got the harvest.  My friend was Baptized and is now involved in Bible study.  I see a new man!
Second,  I have heard folks try to break down and bad talk the Grahams for years over the amounts of money they take home from their work in the ministry.  I can't help but remember that to those much is given, also much is expected....... I wanted to ask a man at the Will Graham Crusade a few years ago just how many show boxes has his church sent out, or how many disasters has his church responded to?  But I kept calm and let him belly ache in jealousy.
Third,  Elevation is preaching a Gospel message that is helping folks find Christ.  This is not a prosperity gospel, but a Blood of Christ Gospel.  And the crowds they are serving are the exact ones that other churches are wondering why that age group is leaving the church.

These are completely and solely my thoughts and perspective on Elevation church.  With this also comes the warnings I gave my friend:

Do Not Worship Elevation church.  Many times when a church is growing so fast and its parishioners are so fresh from the world, it is easy to confuse what Jesus has done with the new feeling you received at that church.  Remember this relationship is real and is more that just a feel good emotion.

If any of you reading are wondering about Elevation, Go!  Visit the church.  Don't sit back and be quick to judge it simply because it is different and fast growing.  It can be cult like just because of the passion that the members have.  Pray for these folks!  Pray for Steve and Elevation, and all that are involved.
It's just ironic how we expect our Pastors and our Teachers to live in poverty but intrust them with the most important things...... Do we tell Doctors or Lawyers what size house to build?  What business is it of ours?  If it's by legal means then I can't have a say in his house.  Let's wait and see what work God does in this ministry before we condemn it.

Y'all thank you for reading this and keep in mind, if this church isn't bringing glory to God it will perish.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Aint No Half Steppin'....not Heatwave or Big Daddy Kane..... I'm talking about trying to be like my Jesus!

This is probably one of the hardest Blogs I've thought about.  I know it's something that someone needs to read because of the spiritual difficulties I have been having since I've started planning it out.  Satan does not want me to get this one out, but my Lord has me covered! 
Please pray before reading any further........

Martin Richard.

Is that name familiar?  It should be, it's been all over the media the past week or so.  Martin was the 8 year old killed at the Boston Marathon.  For many this is an awakening that we can't protect our kids all the time.  As bad as we want to keep our kids safe, truth is we can only do so much and then it's up to free will.  (no I'm not talking about that sect of Baptists either)

This has me thinking and wrestling with the what ifs and what should I's. 

Matthew 19: 13-15

Let the Children Come to Me
13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away. 
Jesus said LET THE CHILDREN COME TO ME!!!!!  As a Christ follower that has made a decision that This is soooo very real,  I have to introduce my children to my Savior!  I may not be able to protect them from all the evil in the world, but I can introduce them to a Loving, Just, King that provides Salvation for the undeserving and world scarred.  As a Dad my most important job is not providing everything my kids want.  As a Dad my most important job is not to make sure they make travel ball teams or attend every Scout meeting or make sure they have the most fashionable clothes.  My Job as a Dad is to teach my children as much as I can about Jesus Christ!  I have to help build the foundation that (if they are like me) the will leave and return to later to build upon.  The greatest thing I can do is teach my children Who to turn to for forgiveness of ALL of their sins.  I have got to do my very best to pass along The Great Hope, Jesus Christ to my children.  
If you have read my blog before, you know I don't sugar coat it...... and I can't do that now.  The greatest injustice we can do for our children is to NOT introduce them to Jesus and not teach them about His greatness and teach them about the Life that ONLY He offers.  Jesus offers everlasting life to everyone that is willing to accept Him as the Lord and Savior of their life.  
My wife and I have been working with our children since day one...... the reason?  because Christ is real and is The biggest deal in our lives and we want to pass that along to our kids.  We have family and extended family that reiterate this same belief to our kids...... At some point the kiddos will grow up and have to make the same decision we all do, but if we are not teaching them the Truth, who will?  The World?  MTV?  Public School?  The Courts?  Lawyers?  You can not allow someone else to be the main influence on your childs faith journey.  Start early and be true.  Live your life the best you can to emulate Christ......That last part would fit into the "do not hinder them" part, because if you aren't accepting it as True neither will they!
In closing please remember that with all the bells and whistles of this world distracting us from what we are really here for, None of the material things in life really matter.  They are nice to have but they will all return to dirt! 
Isaiah 40:8 reminds us
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
God Bless you all,  Please pray for me and my family as we battle this world (with God's provision) and we will do the same for you.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fools!!!! Jokes on me!

Well today I stopped by a Bible bookstore to check on a book.  While I was there I simply mentioned a ministry that I'm involved with a couple times a year.  I told the associate about this ministry and that I was just wondering if they had an inexpensive, pocket sized New Testament.  After answering a few questions from the associate he walked over to talk to his manager.  Considering the ministry's budget is what ever I can scrape up I wanted to see what he could offer......Well he came back and asked if a full Bible that was compact yet not pocket sized would be okay for free.......Did you pick up on that last word?  FREE!!!!  I considered the price tag and exactly the amount of cash I had in my pocket, and decided his (or His) offer was better than what I asked for. 
The gesture was clearly also a message of "Yes, this should be added to this ministry".  I left there after a while with 46 very nice NKJV Bibles in tow. 

I got to witness some other ways that God blesses us today but I can't really talk about those.  The Bibles I can talk about freely.  I've learned that when you get involved with a ministry, and God is pleased, you get much more than you ask for.  Last time we went out on this "mission" God provided and abundance of Bojangles Biscuits and Coffee for the ministry.  We had a very modest budget but God put it on a  young mans heart to provide as much as he could for us.  Now while just inquiring about some cheap New Testaments, He provided a way to give more.

God is Good y'all!!!!

I hope you had a God moment today too!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Power of Prayer

This will be short but sweet.
Charles Spurgeon talked about a "Boiler Room".  This Boiler Room is not the typical that provides heat for the church to keep our bodies warm, but to provide heat for the church to keep our Spirit on FIRE!  The readers digest version of this story go like this.....During one of Spurgeons sermons it was claimed to be miraculous to have over 3000 people attend a particular church service.  When told this, Spurgeon replied "the miracle was in the 200 people in the basement praying for this service".

What a blessing it is to be able to pray for each other.  What a blessing it is to have someone else trust you so much that they ask you to pray for them.  What a blessing it is to pray for your church and get to watch what happens as God responds.  I have been greatly blessed to have gotten in on a prayer group through my church.  It's all treated as confidential information but how awesome is it to pray for people that you know and love?  Some people share their issues and request for prayer, some leave their concerns but do so anonymously, while others leave unspoken prayers to be lifted up.  I am absolutely blessed to get to pray for these friends, neighbors, and often family.  As I prayed through the email this morning I knew I had to share this.  Someone of you that is reading this needs to be involved in this type of ministry.  If your church has a prayer ministry, approach the pastor and volunteer.  If they don't have one as why not and how have we made it this long without one!  or better yet, start one..... You only need confidentiality and a loving heart.  Remember if you're praying for the needs of others in your church, they may not want their needs to be common knowledge.

If you don't have a prayer list or know of anyone that needs prayer, pray for me.  I am always willing to pray and more than willing to accept an offer of prayer from anyone that is willing to pray.

Father God
Thank You for allowing us to talk directly to You
Thank You for allowing us to care enough for each other that we bring many concerns to You
Thank You for allowing us to sometimes see the fruits of this labor of love
Thank You for Loving us


Monday, March 18, 2013

How can a Loving God send someone to Hell?

A question that has worked it's way through the ages.....  Anyone that has been involved in a college ministry has probably heard this at some point.  If you have ever tried to share just a tid bit of the Gospel to a non-believer, you may have heard this.   " I just can't believe in a God that is supposed to be so Loving but yet condemns people to Hell....."  and there are obviously other variations of the same phrase.  How do we answer a statement like this?  Carefully!  If you get too "Apologetic" in your response, the conversation can get heated quickly.  If you're too wishy washy, you look like you don't know why you believe. 
My response has been something along these lines.  It's not God that wants to send people to Hell.  He is responding to the desires of the Human heart.  As a Loving God, He wants us to seek a relationship with Him and provides a means to do so.  We as a free willed human can either pull God close or we can push Him away.  In either action God will honor our desires.  So it is not God sending a person to Hell, it's that person doing it to themselves......God is just honoring their desire to be away from Him. 

Revelation 3:20 (ESV)
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

God is not pushy in trying to develop a relationship with us but He is consistent.   God doesn't force anything on us.  We can either enter into a relationship with Him or we can push Him away.  Jesus will continue to knock on the door of our hearts......but it's up to us to invite Him in.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sweating the Small Stuff.....Counting Blessings

We are often told "Don't sweat the small stuff"..... well so many blessings come With the small stuff.  In fact there are just so many small blessings that we receive every day that we ( or at least I) find them easy to overlook, or just don't recognize them as a blessing.  My shower time in the morning usually becomes morning prayer time as well.  It usually starts off with a cold blast of water followed by a warming....then a nice hot, steamy shower.....That's usually when it starts, "Thank you Lord for this warm water..." I move from there and just remember so many of the "Small Stuff"  that has or is blessing me.  One of the biggest blessings that tends to be overlooked is our location.  Here, we are in the United States of America, a place that we can still worship and serve our God freely.  I know many things are getting closer to being persecution but that shouldn't stop us from doing what we know we need to do.  Many times I thank God for the mug of Coffee when it's exceptionally good on the ride to work.  When we flip the switch and lights come on, when the refrigerator is still working, when we can use indoor plumbing......would you believe that there are places in NC that still don't have those accommodations?  Just like having a computer I can use to write this Blog.....BLESSING!!!  The birds singing, the sun shining, a briskness in the air, friends, family, and a Loving God.....

Thank You God for the many many Blessings You have found to provide us with
Thank You for things we often overlook or just don't recognize as a blessing because it has become such a part of our everyday life that it's just "normal"
Thank You for Your everlasting Love

Go out today and count your blessings.....and yes, do sweat the small stuff!  ;)


Monday, February 25, 2013

Wow... It's Monday.

Some Mondays are harder to navigate than others, and this one is seeming a little rough from the start.

I have decided to share two songs this morning.  The first one is to gain focus, just to get my thoughts pointed in the right direction.

The second is to help me get ready to face the world, and all the junk it can throw at me.

I hope this day is a blessing to you and that you bless someone along this journey today!


Friday, February 22, 2013

Yeah, it has been....Oh what a "Long Strange Trip it's Been".

This morning I'm taking a moment to think about the past, present, future, and how it has all come together.
In this journey we have so many encounters with God that it's hard to recognize sometimes.  When bad things are happening in our lives, God is helping us through.  When good things are happening, God is right there with us in the celebration.  Is He always happy with us? Nope!  but He always Loves us. 

The following video will be heart touching and emotional.  Many of you have seen it before, but it's worth replaying as we review our lives and celebrate what God has done with us, a mere piece of Clay......

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Unashamed Love....

Children will make up imaginary friends and won't pretend that people that are there aren't.  Adults have developed the ability to ignore people that do exist and pretend they aren't even there.

That is a very rough quote from Under The Overpass by Mike Yankowski.  This book has several example of kids not ignoring the homeless.  Simply put, kids take things at face value.  Kids for some reason look at so much as right or wrong, they don't pick up on white lies or grey areas....It either is or it isn't.  Imagine an executive sitting in a business meeting and boldly claiming something that is clearly pushing "the" envelope as being wrong.  Just think of all the dealings you have everyday and how many times do the "grey" areas pop up during a negotiation?  Does the phrase,..."let your yes be yes, and your no be no...." sound familiar?  When the Disciples tried to send the children away, Jesus told them to bring the children to Him.  Why?  because they would take Him for who He is and would not flounder.  Children would take Jesus at His word, with a pure heart.  Adults, well.... would question and be skeptical.  This actually brings me to a point of why it's so very important to read and study the Bible, and to pray often.  This allows the relationship with our Jesus to grow, and allows Jesus to reveal Himself though others.  It is important to have a working "BS meter" or have a "gut instinct", but you can not trust them IF you have not trained them....

I can't help but think about what it means to have " a childlike faith" and how that relates to a simple life.  What difference would we make if we didn't respond to "blue" jokes? What if we just didn't get the adult humor?  What if we called something wrong if it wasn't right?  What if someone asked you to be on a committee and you simply answered no?  We can do all of this with out being rude or mean.  What if, like a child, we completely trusted Jesus?  What if I trusted Jesus the way my children trust yeah.

Renew our childlike faith
help us to follow as You lead us
and not falter in our intentions
Father, grow our discernment
that we can quickly distinguish what is from You and what is from the world
and we allow our no to be no and our yes to be yes
Use us God to bring You glory
 In Jesus name,

Matthew 18:1-6 (concentration on 3&4)

Who Is the Greatest?
1  At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"   2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless      you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lessons we learn through teaching our children

Matthew 6:9-12

9 Pray then like this:
   "Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
     as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

We are currently teaching our children the "Lords Prayer".  M&L are 3 years old but it's never too early to learn how to pray, and this prayer is the example that Jesus gave us.  What better prayer to help them learn?  We've been praying with them prior to now with several rhyming prayers and teaching them how to just talk with God in prayer while keeping the highest respect for God.  Being respectful can sometimes be tough for 3 year olds, but I think God understands and smiles sometimes at their childlike giggles.  
So far we have gotten them to repeat the prayer a few words at a time.  It's funny how you question your knowledge of the words when you break it down a few words at a time.  Also we pray the version that we learned in church service and not what we read in scripture.... I guess the Lord's Prayer we say in services is arranged to flow off the tongue a little smoother.  And it's also funny that it's the King James English we use....for Thine is the Kingdom.....just think I have a hard enough time just getting my "southern drawl" right!  

All this is written to say,  Pray "The Lord's Prayer" and do so intentionally and slowly, thinking about each thing you say.  I have been, I guess meditating would be closest to appropriate although not like that of eastern religions, on each line item in this prayer....most recently I got hung up on "Our Daily Bread".   The request for daily provisions and not lifetime provisions or extravagant means really put it to me, and add to it the small group study of "Under The Overpass" it's moving!

Have a great day today as you think about Him and His prayer.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Good Friday Morning!  I love Fridays!  and the Good Friday part was a greeting, not the announcement of "GOOD FRIDAY"...... it's still just a couple days after Ash Wednesday.

This morning I have two songs echoing through my heart and my head.  I will be thinking about these two and how they complement each other.  The first is the Doxology
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

a very simple, elegant, praise hymn written by Thomas Ken way back in the day.

The second song is by David Crowder, "How He Loves " I hope these two songs give you plenty to reflect on.  One is from Us to God, the other is God to Us.........funny how building a relationship works that way!

Thank You for loving me, the unlovable.
I am unworthy, yet You have made provisions for me to enter Your kingdom,
You've made the greatest sacrifices for a tarnished sinner known as me,
You have put Your arms around me and called me Your own.
Thank You,  may I praise You all the days of my life
AMEN! (feeling a little Pentecostal this morning!)


Thursday, February 14, 2013

So the World is so confusing? Here's some clarity!

John 14:6  Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

 For some reason I have been keeping this as a draft and haven't finished or published it until now.  Did it begin a Blog that was Apologetic in nature?  Was it something a leader in The Church said that got my attention?  I'm not sure.  I do know this Scripture has followed me for several months and I've seen it EVERY time I have written on this site.  

Today, the morning after many of you attended Ash Wednesday services, I have decided to focus on this one Scripture.   First, read the following discussion Jesus was having with His disciples in what we know as John 14:1-14

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life
1"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father"? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
12"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

If you noticed in verse 5 Thomas asked "How can we know the way?".  Verse 6 is so much more than just a reply to what Thomas asked,  It is a reply to us all.   
So many times we have asked (in one way or another) "Jesus, why should I follow you, who exactly are you?".  

Jesus clearly answers many questions in that one statement..... I am not going to write all the options here.  I want you to study this verse today and really think and pray on it.  

6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

I often read it like Jesus and I are having this conversation and He is speaking directly to me..... I hear Him clarify it as each statement  having "I AM" in it.  "I AM the way,  I AM the Truth, I AM the life"......

I hope this tidbit will bless you abundantly today as you re-read the verse and pray on it.  Let this be a verse you think about all day.  I would love to hear where this leads you today in your thoughts and possibly your actions.  Leave a comment!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lent...not just for the Belly Button any more!!!

This is my first post of the 2013 Lenten season.  I have given up on Face Book except for a few scriptural postings and updates to a small group study I am involved with for Lent.  The reason I am giving up on Face Book is to take time to focus more my relationship with God.  There is so much junk on Face Book and I find myself getting distracted.  I get on just to wish a few folks "Happy Birthday" then next thing I know I've got 1 million likes and a free puppy......and it's time to go to bed.
This first post will be a Reading for Reflection that was taken from a book that compiled many of such readings. 

*  Ministry is service in the name of the Lord.  It is bringing the good news to the poor, proclaiming liberty to the captives and new sight to the blind, setting the downtrodden free and announcing the Lord's year of favor (Luke 4:18).  Spirituality is attention to the life of the spirit in us; it is going out to the desert or up to the mountain to pray; it is standing before the Lord with open heart and open mind; it is crying out, "Abba, Father"; it is contemplating the unspeakable beauty of our loving God.
               We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality, service from prayer.  Our demon says: "We are too busy to pray; we have too many needs to attend to, too many people to respond to, too many wounds to heal.  Prayer is a luxury, something to do during a free hour, a day away from work or on a retreat.  The few who are exclusively concerned with prayer--such as Trappists, Poor Clares, and some isolated hermits--are really not involved in ministry.  They are set free for single-minded contemplation and leave Christian service to others."  But to think this way is harmful for ministers as well as for contemplatives.  Service and prayer can never be separated; they are related to each other as the Yin and Yang of the Japanese Circle.

~from The Living Reminder by Henri J.M. Nouwen

I hope you find this reading a blessing that will bring you closer into a relationship with God.

Luke 4:18,19
18"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
     to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."