“WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”

To lead means precisely that; you lead, guide, direct, and point. You take someone or several where they can’t get to without your directing them. What an incredible responsibility and load for a leader to carry. If you think about it, a leader can only take you in one of two directions. Forward or backward. The leader can either move you ahead or turn you around and take you back in the direction of where you’ve already been. To make the ones you lead better, the leader has to direct them forward. Real Increase is in progress, not digression. Even though moving people ahead can sometimes be uncomfortable, it’s imperative.

I think it’s also essential when an individual or a group chooses a leader; they need someone that will take them where they haven’t been. It can be devastating for a company, church, or any organization to appoint a leader that takes them in the direction of their past. The past should only be a reminder, not a destination. You need someone that can see and lead you beyond the point you are currently. A leader needs to hear your desires and have a plan to get you there. And I can promise you, that place is somewhere you’ve never been or seen.

So, leaders, if you’re going to lead, then move them forward. If you need a leader, make sure the one you choose is looking ahead of you, not behind you.

“STUCK BETWEEN CONVICTION AND EDUCATION”

I had a conversation with a young lady that recently graduated and is a therapist. She has such a strong passion for this field and has a heart to help hurting people. She has spent several years in school, furthering her education and qualifications to fulfill her burden for this type of work. I applaud her and others that work in such a needed area in our world. She asked me about something the other day that I felt like I should write about. She had a situation come up where she found herself caught between her education and her conviction. As her pastor, she contacted me, wanting to know if she was being displeasing to God by some of the things she wasn’t able to say as a therapist. I knew I couldn’t ask too many details because of confidentiality, but I understood the situation and why she would be worried. She said, as a Christian, I knew what I believed and what this person should hear, but as a therapist, I wasn’t able to say it. She asked, will God judge me for that?

The person she was helping had been mistreated because of a lifestyle decision they made many years ago. I understood where she was coming from, and I assured her that no matter if we disagree with someone’s lifestyle choices, no one should be mistreated or abused. I also told her that our responsibility to those who don’t know Jesus is to love and not judge. So many are bound by things, and they need freedom, not someone blaming for why they’re imprisoned. I also think some judgmental Christians, (I know that’s an oxymoron), have caused compassionate Christians to have a bad name. Compassion doesn’t mean compromise. The last thing I told her was, you never know the impact you can make on this person by showing them, love. Romans 5:5 tells us; Now hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. There is an incredible love of God that comes from people that are filled with the Holy Spirit. There is a difference.

I wanted to write about this because I know others are in similar conditions. Maybe some that are wanting to go into a particular field, but are afraid they can’t stand on what they believe. The advice I gave this young lady, I believe, can fit with others that might be struggling with some of the same things. I think it would also be good if we had some open communication on this subject. We need Christians working with hurting people, no matter what choices they have made. If you’re stuck between education and conviction, feel free to comment at the end of this blog, or ask a question. I am praying for you, and we need more people like you to make a difference in this world. I know the enemy would love to stop you from allowing God to be a part of any equation in people’s lives. But you know that only in the name of Jesus can chains of sin be broken. I know you can’t jeopardize your job, so I am praying for you to be able to let your light shine in the midst of these challenges.

Here is a list of the advice I gave on this subject. You are more than welcome to add to it.

1. Be caring because no one deserves to be mistreated for lifestyle decisions that I might not agree with.

2. Our responsibility to those who don’t know Jesus is to love and not judge.

3. Being compassionate doesn’t mean you’re compromising.

4. You never know the impact you can make on someone’s life when you show the love of God.

“HERE’S WHAT YOU FORGOT”

So, you remember that mistake in your past. You can’t seem to get it out of your mind. Maybe you remember a particular storm that almost cost you everything. Perhaps you even remember a broken heart from someone you thought would never hurt you. Honestly, when you start going down that road, your memory can be your worst enemy. You don’t want it there, you’ve asked for it to leave, but for some reason, nothing will cause it to get out.

As bad as some things are in your past that you’re remembering, here’s what you forgot. In spite of your mess-up, God never gave up on you. His grace was greater than your failure…you might have forgotten that. Yes, you suffered a heart-break, but no one has ever loved you more than Jesus. You remember who walked away, but you might have forgotten who stayed. I know that the storm was terrible, and the details make you cringe even now, but guess what? YOU MADE IT! You remember being in it, but you might have forgotten that you’re out. Even if things are still challenging, you could be failing to remember who’s holding your hand.

So, if you’re going to remember the sorrow, don’t forget the joy. If you’re going to think about the hurt, don’t forget the healing.

He was there in your error and didn’t forsake you. He covered you with His love while you mourned from grief. Here’s what you forgot; He was there, He’ll always be there, and He is here now.

“IN YOUR FACE MARRIAGE TALK”

It only takes one glance or a response to an inappropriate comment or text. One-click of the mouse and you’re trapped. That curious website and that friend request is nothing more than a tool of the enemy to start breaking down your marriage, brick by brick. Oh, we’re just cutting up with each other. He’s like a brother to me. I could never think of her that way. Do you know how many counseling sessions I’ve had with married couples where I’ve heard this junk? With the attack on our families, I think it’s time to have some IN YOUR FACE MARRIAGE TALK. Guys, get your ego in check. Ladies, don’t entertain those risky comments.

If you’re struggling in your marriage, I can promise you; there is help. You have to want it and ask for it. I see men and women with degrees in all kinds of education, and significant investment into self-help subjects. I know men that can take a vehicle apart and put it back together. Some build and can create and repair any structure. How does this happen? It takes time and practice. So, husbands, how much time have you put into building your marriage? If it’s breaking apart, how hard will you work to put it back together?

Many women can manage and lead anything from a department to an organization. They can market, sell, and advise. Many have a vision for taking a room or a home, and completely redoing it and making it better than it ever was. How? Investing time in what they love and making sure a project is completed. So, wives, your vision for your marriage. How do you see it, or do you even have a glimpse of where it’s at currently? If you can organize your business, why not structure your home. You wouldn’t leave a room unpainted, so why walk away from a marriage that hasn’t been fulfilled.

I know this is a big topic for a three or four paragraph blog, but I feel so passionate, and burdened for our families that I want to do everything I can to help inspire them. You will work for years, and one day retire. In your lifetime, you might even change jobs or careers. But when you find someone to spend your life with, there is no retirement plan on your love and life together. Don’t start looking to change spouses; keep working on improving you. Do everything you can, and if it falls apart, you will want to walk away knowing you gave it everything you had: your love, your time, and without a doubt,  your all.

IT’S ABOUT US”

Everything that God created, in the beginning, He did so for His will to be done, and to establish a foundation. At the end of it, He formed a man, and from him, He created a woman. There is no denying what God made, and what God intended. I truly believe when we get back to that foundation, it will make a difference in the world. I don’t think married couples realize the incredible power they have. I also don’t think they understand how big of a target they are for the enemy. This is why the enemy attacks our marriages so hard. It won’t necessarily be a bomb that goes off, but little by little, he will do his best to bring down a husband and wife. Increased arguments, disagreeing more and more, spending less time together; these are just a few things that the enemy uses to tear away at a marriage.

The Bible teaches us that when a husband and wife are married, the two become one. Do you understand what that means? I’ll make it perfectly clear. It’s no longer about you as an individual; it’s about what you are now in the eyes of God. Your decisions now effect both of you, not just yourself. You have to conquer selfishness and personal agendas. You’re a team, not a one-person show. If you consistently build one another up, you’d be surprised at the effect it would have in your family, your church, your work, and yes, our world.

As a pastor, I’m pleading with you to do whatever you can to strengthen your marriage. Ask God to help you to be the kind of spouse you need to be.

*Read a good book on marriage.
*Be faithful to church.
*Be intentional about communicating.
*Get your butt home from work.
*Make the house look nice.
*Schedule a date night.
*Create a romantic playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music.
*Refuse to walk away from each other.

Look at your spouse and declare; “IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. IT’S ABOUT US!”

“POSITION OR POSSESSION”

If you hold a position in your church, ask yourself this question.

WHY DO I DO WHAT I DO?

I find many times that people become more possessive of what they do rather than being passionate about why they’re doing it. Having a title doesn’t mean it’s your domain and you should treat it as a blessing, not your kingdom. When your agenda is larger than your burden, you’re in it for the wrong reason. It is a privilege to lead and you should treat those who have chosen to follow you with great respect and love. You’re not doing the church any favors by hanging on to a position because you need the glory of a title, in fact, you could be hurting it. The church can only grow when we have leaders who understand the blessing in leading and the responsibility of unity within the body. Whatever you do for God must be bigger than you and not about you.

IN TUNE

Day 6

“IN TUNE”

Written by: Denny Livingston

As our 21-day journey continues, I couldn’t help but remember something I saw my dad do for many years. My dad was an amazing minister and musician, but he was also a piano technician and restorer. He could take an old beat up piano and make it look brand new in just a few weeks. Not only could he make it look new, but he could make it sound new. When dad would bring a broken piano into his shop and set it up, you would stand and wonder how this instrument could ever look and sound new again. You might even try and play it, but there would be no way you could make out what you were playing because it would be so out of tune.

You see, when an instrument is out of tune, the melody of a song cannot be established. Also, you’re not able to build harmony parts because harmony is based on melody. In fact, if just one note is either sharp or flat, it throws everything off, even if the other notes are on pitch. Some people might hear how bad it sounds and give up, but not my dad. An out of tune piano is where my dad’s greatest work would begin.

Dad would use a device called a strobe-tuner. He would set it on top of the piano, plug it into the wall and start the tuning process. The standard musical pitch is set at a frequency of 440 hertz. A strobe-tuner is set at that pitch and can detect when a note is not at the correct level. Dad would go string by string on a piano and find out if it was too low or too high. He would then start adjusting the string with an instrument called a tuning hammer. Dad would say, “Now you can’t move the string up too fast or the string might break. Just move it a little at a time and after a while, it will get there.” He was right, because, in a matter of 45 minutes or so, the out of tune piano would sound great and new again.

After thinking about the tuning process, it reminded me of why we are on this 21-day journey. Just like a piano, we are an instrument that over time can get out of tune. It’s nothing we planned on doing, it just happens. We can so easily find ourselves out of tune with God and off pitch from His Will. Just a slight move can cause us to be flat or sharp. God’s Will for our lives is set at 440 hertz and at times we need tuning to get back to that level.

Prayer, fasting and God’s Word are the tuning devices God uses to help us get back to where we should be. When we start to communicate with Him in prayer, He reveals how far we’ve drifted from the level where we once were. Fasting causes us to focus on God and not ourselves. As we overcome physical hunger, our appetite for spiritual things begins to increase, helping us return to a place of perfect harmony with God. The Word of God is like a two-edged sword, cutting out the things in our lives that have caused us to become out of tune.

Be encouraged on day 6, for little by little, we are getting back in tune with God’s Will and His voice. It won’t happen all at once, but over the next 21 days, we are being renewed in the Spirit of the Lord. You will start to feel a difference when you stand in the presence of God. You’re moving closer to Him, which means you’re moving further away from the things that have caused you to slip off pitch. Soon our melody will return and the sounds of sweet harmony will come forth. Dear Lord, help me to be sensitive to your Spirit by being in tune with your voice.

Psalm 51:12 (NKJV)
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

21 DAYS OF RHYTHM, RESTORATION AND RELEASE (Day 2)

DAY 2

“RHYTHM”

As you get ready to kneel before the Lord this morning, I want you to focus on one word. Rhythm.

Here is the definition of rhythm:

A strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound.

Day 2 is about understanding rhythm. It’s about getting into a repeated pattern of prayer. You see, once something becomes a rhythm, it just automatically happens. The problem occurs when our prayer life is out of rhythm and we have no set pattern whatsoever. Before you know it, you’ve gone an entire day and haven’t communicated with God. In my opinion, whatever the priority is in your life, should become a pattern in your life.

This is why Daniel was such an amazing prophet of God and example to everyone. Daniel not only prayed, but he had a pattern of prayer. Three times a day he would kneel before the Lord and communicate with Him. This is how Daniel was able to rise about so many adversities in his life.

– He endured the pressures of living under a pagan government through the rhythm of prayer.
– When his co-workers conspired against him, he overcame with the rhythm of prayer.
– After being thrown into a den of lions, he makes it out alive through the rhythm of prayer.
– He was able to prophesy God’s Word because he heard God’s voice through the rhythm of prayer.

Make up your mind today, that you’re not just going to pray, but you are going to reach a new level in God through the rhythm of prayer.

Daniel 6:10

When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done. His house had windows in the upstairs that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.

“AN ENEMY HAS DONE THIS”

I started the year off having my church read “The Circle Maker”. After that, we watched the movie “War Room” and then started the “War Room” Bible study series in our men’s and women’s groups. I guess some people think a pastor just randomly chooses certain subjects to teach and preach on. As always, not everybody read the book and not every family came to watch the movie. Not all men or women have come to the Bible study once a month in our groups. However, I knew in my spirit that our church would go to battle this year and that’s exactly what has happened. I am completely heartbroken at some of the things that the enemy has been able to do in the lives of some. Sin and the sowing of discord has tried to get a foot hold in our church and even though some have fallen prey to it, the ones that understood the battle plan are standing with us and remaining strong.

I know we’re not the only church under attack, in fact, I am completely aware that we are living in the last days and we are seeing the scriptures revealed in the lives of many people. It’s happening to people and they don’t even realize it. We have a wonderful church and a strong team of workers, but we know we’re in a battle. I’m asking you to pray for us as we continue to fight. Also, if your church is going through a battle, please let me know who you are, so we can pray specifically for you too. We are the body of Christ and when one suffers, we should all feel the pain.

I’m reminded of when Jesus taught His disciples about the wheat and the tares.

Matthew 13:24-30 (NKJV)
24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;
25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.
27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’
29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

So many things stand out to me in this parable, but notice how the servants came to the owner questioning him about what was growing in the field. In their confusion and lack of understanding, they asked if it was his fault that this was happening. I love the reply of the owner…”AN ENEMY HAS DONE THIS”. Sometimes, as a pastor, that’s all you are able to say. You know in your heart, you had nothing to do with what is coming up and you are confident of the seed you have sown, so for anyone who asks, you have to let them know, “AN ENEMY HAS DONE THIS”. You never know who is going to blame you or the enemy, but don’t ever let them convince you, that it’s your fault.

Then, many of the servants wanted to defend the owner and protect the field by pulling up the tares. However, the owner used wisdom and told them to let the wheat and tares grow together for a season, but when the season is over, only what goes to the barn will be used. The preacher in me is going crazy right now, but I’m just going to let you take it from here. You know how this applies to you, so we must stay encouraged and remain faithful, because the season is going to change. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy is coming in the morning!!!

We are God’s church, built on the rock and the gates of hell, SHALL NOT, CANNOT AND WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT!!!

THE PURSUIT

We’ve all heard the statement, “FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS” and I believe that with all of my heart. Chase what you wish for and pursue your passion. Whatever your gifts or talents are, they will be at their best when you are doing something that you love with all your heart. Imagine what life will be like when you are doing what you’ve always dreamed of. As you begin your pursuit, let me encourage you on your journey.

Obviously you have to chart your course. Nobody gets anywhere unless they know where they’re going and then map out a plan. That’s what you have to figure out. You must have a plan to get from point A to point B. Your dream will only begin to become a reality when you start charting your course. You can’t just want to be there, you have to know how to get there. It may take you some time, but every minute of planning you do is another step on your journey.

One last thing. Don’t let the pursuit of your dream become greater than your pursuit of God. If you reach your goal, but lose your relationship with God in the process, what have you really gained? Some people feel like they can put God on a shelf while they chase their dreams and once they arrive, then they will take Him back. I’m afraid too many people forget where their gift came from. They walk away from the one who gave the ability to do what they are doing.

You may be successful without God, but you will never be blessed. His blessings affect things that you can never do. When His blessings are on your life, He will not only bless you, but He will also bless the ones that bless you and curse the ones that curse you. You can’t get that on your own. You can build your own latter to climb or you can trust in God and watch Him elevate you to places you’ve never imagined. If you put God in front of your dream, then He’s guiding every step you take. However, if you put your dream in front of God, then what you want is guiding your steps and you are much more vulnerable to losing your relationship with God.

My advise to you is in the words that Jesus said in Matthew 6:33.

But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.