“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.

BE CAREFUL WHO YOU LET IN

You may want to connect with all kinds of people and that’s fine. However, when it’s time to allow people in your life, be careful who you grant access to. Though you can’t always be sure, you can certainly know the signs.

– Choose someone who does not get quiet when you get blessed.
– Choose people that help complete you, not compete with you.
– Choose the ones that are the same, whether they are with you or with others.
– Choose someone that can disagree with you without getting mad at you.
– Choose people that will stand behind you and not stab you in the back.
– Don’t assume because they’re family, that it qualifies them as a great friend.
– Choose someone that can listen as good as they can talk.
– Choose people that will never negotiate their loyalty and love.

The ones on my list are few and far between. It will take several years to complete this, but the handful of friends you end up with over time, will be worth everything you invested to have them in your life.

A SEASON OF SILENCE

It doesn’t take long, as a follower of Christ, to learn that we walk by faith and not by sight. We start to understand the importance of believing in things we cannot see. We then add to that by reading the words, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1. Without a doubt, the Christian life is one of faith, where your belief in God must be greater than what you see.

After thinking about that today, I was reminded of another important scripture about faith.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17.

Not only does faith affect our vision, but it also affects our hearing. According to Paul, the way we receive faith is by hearing the Word of God and after hearing it, then our faith starts to grow. Now we walk with confidence, no matter how things appear, because of what we have heard. For me, that puts it all in proper perspective. If I’m having a problem with what I’m seeing, I may need to make sure of what I’m hearing. I don’t need to check my eyes, I need to test my hearing.

We spend so much time connecting faith to our vision, but I really don’t hear many people talking about faith affecting what we hear or maybe what we don’t hear. We hear the Word of God and it gives us faith and it’s in that faith that we learn to live by and walk by. Even though at times we can’t see it, we keep going because of what we’ve heard. Let me add one more thing to this. After we’ve heard the Word and we’re walking by faith, what about the times we ask a question but can’t hear the answer? For many of us, we’ve learned to walk by faith and not by sight, but what really starts to affect us is what we cannot hear. We seek for answers and it’s totally silent. We can handle not seeing, but now I’m not hearing anything either. In my opinion, there is nothing that will test your faith anymore than when you cannot hear the answer of what you’re asking.

Maybe you have been there or maybe you are currently there. Perhaps you are dealing with something and you’ve accepted the fact that you were walking by faith, but you don’t understand why there are no answers. Believe me, I know how you feel. I’ve gone through situations that I knew was a test of my faith and I could not see what was ahead of me, but I thought if I had some answers I could keep going and then….silence. I cannot see and now I’m not hearing anything. What do I do?

Well, the enemy would like for us to get mad at God and completely walk away from Him. However, there is one area that we must cling to in times like these. We have to rely on what we know. When we can’t see and we can’t hear, all we have left is what we know. We gather up all of the blessings in our lives and the countless times God has brought us through. We have to start thinking about where we’ve been and most of all where we are going. We have to make up in our minds, that we will not let the frustration of our current situation, jeopardize our future.

Are you dealing with silence? Are you not getting any answers? Do you wish God would just say something? I understand your exasperation, but let me encourage you today. There is a level in God that you can only get to when you’re not getting any answers and Heaven is silent. You could let your irritation determine your decision or you could choose to trust in God in a way you never have before. You could be honest with God and say, God, I cannot see clearly and I do not hear the sound of your voice…nevertheless, I will put my trust in what I have already heard in your Word and by faith I will continue on this journey.

No, that’s not easy to say, but you will join an incredible group of people that did exactly that. When Job couldn’t understand all that he was going through and he never received an answer from God, he plainly said: “THOUGH HE SLAY ME, YET WILL I TRUST HIM”. There are many others that have had to deal with the silence and answers to their questions. You are not alone.

Sometimes the level that God is wanting to take you can only be reached through a season of silence. I know it’s quiet, but it’s not over. Even if you don’t have answers, don’t stop praying. Just because God isn’t saying anything doesn’t mean He has walked away from you. Don’t let the silence cause you to forget what you already know.

SERVE BETTER

Have you ever sat down in a restaurant and the server walk up to your table and immediately you can tell they are not having a good day? You’re not greeted with a smile or really even welcomed whatsoever, just a basic question to get things started…”What do you want to drink?”. You instantly feel awkward, especially if you have friends with you and you planned to have a fun night. Everyone at the table gets quiet and you look at each other like, uh oh…this could be an interesting night. That one server puts a damper on the expectations of the entire evening.

When this happens to me, I try to think the best and wonder what the person may be going through. Did they get some bad news recently or something didn’t work out the way they wanted it to? It becomes a challenge for me to get them to be friendly before I leave. There have been times when the server finally lightened up and became much more pleasant to deal with. It’s a relief when that happens and you end up feeling better about your decision to come to that place and eat.

It’s my opinion however, that no matter what a person is dealing with, when you’re in a position to serve, you should do it with kindness. You have to learn to leave you problems at the door. When you serve, you set the mood  for the ones you are serving. The more they enjoy their experience, the more generous they will be and the more often they will return. If you serve like you’re bitter, it becomes very unpleasant for everyone.

I have the privilege of being a lead pastor and serving a lot of people and also teaching many of them how to lead through serving as well. One thing I’ve learned after 22 years of being a pastor, is the importance of serving with kindness. I can’t tell you the times I’ve walked out of my office and into the sanctuary, carrying burdens and problems. In fact, there have been times I didn’t even want to walk out. I didn’t feel like preaching, much less having to shake hands with people in the congregation. However, I’m not just the leader, I’m the server. I can’t just bring them what they ordered, I have to be careful how I present it, because they don’t have to accept it.

I try my best to teach the leaders in our church to serve better, not bitter. I encourage them to not bring their problems to the department where they are serving. No one wants to be served by someone bitter and truthfully, no one really wants to work with someone bitter either. That spirit will bring down the morale of the entire team. I want the people in our congregation to be generous and faithful, so we can spread the gospel and be a blessing to our city. From the greeter at the door to the praise singer on the stage…serve better, not bitter. From the teacher in the classroom to the sound engineer…serve better, not bitter. From the van driver to the camera operator…serve better, not bitter.

Let me encourage every pastor and church leader to not let what you’ve gone through affect how you serve people. You may be hurt and angry, but leave it at the door. I know it gets very difficult to lead through serving. Sometimes you’re serving people that love you and others that are talking about you, all at the same table. Whatever you do, don’t let ignorant people make you a bitter server. Wherever you serve, I’m praying for you today. I’m asking God to help you get your joy back and for you to start serving better, not bitter.

WE’RE BETTER TOGETHER

I find that the writings of Paul mirror and follow the words of Jesus. It’s obvious that Paul understood the importance of the saints of God being committed to loving one another. The more I read his letters to the churches, I can see that he felt like unity must not be an option. Paul devoted his life to preaching the Gospel and starting churches, and he knew that love and unity would cause them to endure. It doesn’t matter how great something begins, only love and unity will cause it to remain and continue.

I wish the body of Christ would get back to this message. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start throwing off on churches and ministerial organizations, I’m just saying that I feel like it’s imperative to preach it stronger and practice it with more passion. God’s people do love, but I think we could love more. We are united, but I think we could draw even closer together. Yes, I believe we should pray more, fast more and worship more, but there is a strength that comes with unity, that nothing else can compare.

The truth is, we will never love beyond our walls if we’re not loving the ones inside of our walls. We can’t unite with other churches, if our church isn’t united. If we criticize the people within our own church, then we will find fault and criticize people in other churches. We’ve allowed church growth to become church rivalry. It doesn’t matter what your monthly attendance is. If you’re preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, you are my team member, not my competition. We have to stop comparing and competing and start loving and uniting. One day we will all stand before God and give an account of what we accomplished for the Kingdom and also what we could have accomplished.

The bottom line is, it all begins within the local church. Being kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. That’s our mandate and it must become our mission. Be faithful to your church and to your church family. Don’t start church shopping or church hopping. No church is perfect, so instead of finding fault in your church, why not work hard to make it better. People don’t realize how it affects a church when just one family leaves. It confuses the children and causes wonder and speculation in the church. We need love and unity. Let’s pray together and stay together. Let’s fight the enemy, not each other. We can only make a difference together. I think Jesus’ message and Paul’s writings were telling us, “WE’RE BETTER TOGETHER”!!!

WHAT A FRIEND

One of my all time favorite hymns is, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”. It’s so incredible that we serve a God who is willing to be called our friend. The song goes on to say that we can take everything to Him in prayer. All of our needs, desires, dreams and petitions…we can take all of them to the Lord. He wants to help us with our burdens and give us strength when we are weak.

However, sometimes I feel like I bring more requests than anything else. I prayed to God this morning and said, Lord, I don’t want to spend so much time bringing you my needs, that I forget to thank you for my blessings. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we need Him to do that we forget what He’s already done for us. We have so many expectations for the future that we have failed to remember how we got to where we are.

I challenge you today to spend some time thinking about the goodness of God in your life. I know you have needs, but you also have blessings and if all you ever think about is what is needed, the past blessings may not be remembered. So, instead of saying, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”, why not thank Him for His blessings today and say, “What A Friend We’ve Had In Jesus”.

Psalms 103:2 NLT
Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me