Monthly Archives: August 2012

Faith Ops – Video Games as Ministry

GAMER. Just the mere mention of the word, conjures up images of lethargic teens glued to a couch while barking taunts into a headset. They are a curious sect to many; surviving on a diet of Cheetos and Mountain Dew while hibernating in the dark lair known as their parent’s basement. Then throw in a couple incidents where troubled-teens mention a video game because their not man enough to admit their responsible for their own actions, and you’ve got society labeling gamers as boys living ‘on the edge,’ who are one Red Bull away from marching into a high school with a handgun and re-enacting the exploits of their pixelated heroes. While this may seem a bit too cliché, unfortunately this is the ‘stereotype’ that mainstream America believes the life of a gamer is all about.

“Put down that silly controller, get outside, go play baseball, or hop on your bike and go out for a ride with your friends.” Yes, the argument could be made that these activities are not only a million times healthier, but also socially engaging as well. Likewise, video games today have become so realistic that their graphic images do seem to warrant parental guidance. However, this is not the premise for which this article is being written. As a gamer myself, I grew up with the introduction of the first video game ‘Pong’ and have seen the evolution of video game entertainment transform over the years. Looking back it still amazes me that gaming has evolved from a ball and two paddles, to now having the ability to control an entire universe of digitized soldiers while lounging on my couch in the confines of my home.

Stereotypes aside, today the video game industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Yet, while much of society believes that gamers are nothing more than a bunch of socially awkward teenage boys, statistically this could not be farther from the truth. As the Entertainment Software Association confirms, “As of 2011, the average age for a video game player is 37, a number slowly increasing as people who were children playing the first arcade, console, and home computer games continue playing now on current systems. The gender distribution of gamers is also reaching equilibrium, according to a 2011 study showing that 58% of gamers are male and 42% female” (The ESA). This being said, the stereotypical gamer really is not whom society determines them to be.

If you are a parent, I concede the point that video games have become far too violent. Violent behavior, vengeance, and aggression are often looked upon as a reward rather than a negative in today’s modern video games. And as a pastor I have struggled with the thought if I should be playing these types of games; so much that at one point about a year ago I was seriously contemplating getting rid of my game system all together. Then late one night while playing my favorite game series ‘Call of Duty’ an Xbox Live message popped up on my screen. To my surprise the message said, “Do you know Jesus?” Immediately I quit my game and contacted the sender of the message, Daniel Beck who goes by the gamertag BornAgain2001. Over the course of the next few months a camaraderie and mentorship began to take shape between us. Daniel began to share with me a calling that God had placed in his heart years ago.

“As men of God, we are identified by many titles: son, father, husband, Christ Follower. But identify yourself as a ‘gamer’ and instantly you’re looked upon as a ‘trouble maker’ or ‘unmotivated freethinker’ who is not truly following Christ,” Daniel said. “Yes, games can be negative. But turning away from evil does not mean that we are called to ignore that it exists in the world,” he concluded. As scripture asserts, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). And this was the motivation behind Daniel taking a leap of faith and founding the Christian Gamer Community called “The 116 Boyz.”

Founded in June of 2012, The 116 Boyz fashioned there name after Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:16). The group exists so that Christian male gamers of all ages can enjoy online gaming while incorporating biblical principles and fellowship within the gaming community. This ministry covers all game spectrums and all game consoles to include Xbox, PlayStation, Wii, and PC Gamers. While on the surface, it may appear that gaming is their reason for existence. When a member takes on the coveted role as a 116 Boyz Disciple, they affirm to be Salt and Light to an ever-dimming world. As Daniel says, “We exist to lead those who are lost to Christ; and also to pour our lives into believers who seek a place of community and fellowship with other Christian believers. While we love our gaming, at the end of the day when we lay our controllers down, it’s not about who is the best player; but who has made the most impact of ministering into the lives of online gamers for Jesus Christ!”

While Christian Gamers is not a new idea, The 116 Boyz do try and set themselves apart amongst other Christian gaming organizations. Like other gaming ministries, they conduct weekly Bible studies online and provide inspirational messages of hope and guidance on their website. However, Daniel was determined that The 116 Boyz was not to be just another gaming ministry. To be part of The 116 Boyz, members must adhere to a very strict code of conduct. A code that expects all members to reach out and minister to gamers each time they log-on to multiplayer type games. Additionally, “Followers of Christ come to us at many different points in their spiritual walk. Life sometimes deals us a hand we don’t know how to play. Therefore, I am thankful that we have an ordained on-call pastor available 24-hours a day for counseling and spiritual guidance. I believe this is what really sets our community of gamers apart,” Daniel said.

Since it’s inception, The 116 Boyz have multiplied to over 150 members in just 2-months! Needless to say, if you spend anytime on ‘Call of Duty’ multiplier games, you’re likely to come across a 116 Boy a time or two. With gamertags like Gods Gladiator, x iPastor x, and Jesus Possessed, it becomes a little easier to identify whom it’s members are. But the really standout attribute is found by those who are defeated during ‘Call of Duty’ multiplayer missions. When a person is slain in the game, the other opponent’s Call Sign Tag is displayed. 116 Boyz take advantage of this feature and use the clan tag option to display scriptures (seen below). With the current number of members playing ‘Call of Duty’ the Word of God is being flashed to Xbox live opponents at a staggering rate per hour. And as most people are aware, this can be a very powerful ministry tool as history has proven. During the 2009 College National Championship game, Tim Tebow wore John 3:16 on his eye black; the result, “John 3:16” was searched for on Google more than 90 million times.

One great thing about the 116 Boyz ministry is that it provides parents with a piece of mind about whom their children are friends with online. There’s no doubt that today’s online community can be a doorway that leads down a road of rejection, hostility, and impropriety. For normal youth this is bad enough, but for Christian gamers it can be detrimental to one’s spiritual walk. As 13-year old Kyler Moses, who goes by the gamertag KylerM1999 said, “Before the 116 Boyz, my parents disliked that I was involved with a Call of Duty Clan. The clan swore and verbally attacked other gamers. This is not what men of God are supposed to do. Now my parents love that I am involved with brothers who share my beliefs and make it a point to lift me up so that I remain faithful to what God calls me to do with my life.”

There are many critics that would argue that due to the nature of these games, Christians should not be playing them. Like anything, I believe the most important thing to ask yourself is why you are playing them and what’s the condition of your heart? I have personally witnessed 16-gamers in an online room about to start playing a ‘Modern Warfare 3’ match and hear, “Does anyone have any prayer requests?” And then there was the night when that simple casting of your nets question, “Do you know Jesus?” led a 28-year old man in London, England to Christ. So to say that all gamers, and games for that matter are inherently evil would be callous and unwarranted.

After reading this, maybe you’re still not convinced that gaming can be a real and authentic means of ministry. But as 1 Peter 2:5 says, “You are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.” Just because gaming or any other activity isn’t for you, doesn’t mean that those who choose to participate aren’t making a huge impact for God’s kingdom. In today’s society, it’s very easy to become a spectator for Christ’s ministry and not one of His disciples. How often do we spend time on the sidelines of life acting more like an armchair quarterback saying, “I would never do it like that.” Yet, no matter if it’s sports, dance, or yes gaming, we all should seek to find our niche and participate; for everyone of us is a stone for which God to use. I’d like to close with a quote from one of our great former Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt who once said: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out where the strong stumbled or how the doer could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is in the arena, his face marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and falls short again and again: There is no effort without error.” In the end, the one that claims the victory is the one who gets out there and does something. It’s the one who is determined to live by the motto, “leave no man behind.” And it is the one that when others are running away from conflict; is seen running into the conflict. It is the Christian Gamer’s ‘Medal of Honor.’ A medal earned on the ‘Battlefield,’ and for members of the 116 Boyz, it is our ‘Call of Duty.’

If you are interested in becoming a member of The 116 Boyz, please visit http://116boyz.com for more information.

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…

Pastor Steve

Works Cited:
“Essential Facts About the Video Game Industry.” The ESA. Web. August 24, 2012.

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I'm a Pastor… And I Carry a Gun

On any given Sunday, many pastoral leaders around the country begin there day in similar fashion. Eat a hardy breakfast… check. Spend alone time in prayer… check. Grab their Bible… check. And load one high-velocity round into their semi-automatic handgun…. check. Sadly, this has become a very real scenario for many of us who have accepted the call into ministry. While pastors who arm themselves have become a very controversial subject, there’s no denying that the alarming rise in church shootings have led members of clergy to reevaluate if the Word of God is really the only protection they need to be carrying.

Before I begin, let me state where I personally stand on this issue. I am an ordained minister that believes that the primary weapons for spiritual warfare is the Bible and prayer. However, I also believe that God’s Word not only condones self-defense, but also mandates the protection of one’s family (Exodus 22:2; Luke 22:6). While most of my time in ministry may not be spent at the helm of a pulpit, writing for my own website and three international news organizations has led me to obtain a very large web presence. With that comes hails of praise and thankfulness; but also those people that Jesus warned about, “You will be hated by everyone because of my name” (Matthew 10:22). There have been many times where disagreeing with my views on faith have escalated past the point of mere theological indifference. And the chance of someone harming my family or myself has become a very real threat. Therefore, not only do I have a concealed weapons permit, but I carry a gun on me at all times. While some may disagree with my view on this issue, let me state that I openly declare, I am a pastor… And I carry a gun.

In 2007, I was a member of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. On December 9th of that year, a gunman entered the church and quickly turned this house of worship into the devils own personal playground. Just after the second service had let out, a gunman identified as Matthew Murray age 24, entered the church and opened fire. In the wake of the shooting, four people were injured, and two sisters Rachel and Stephanie Works were senselessly killed. Thankfully the nightmare ended when a church security volunteer, shot and wounded the gunman who then turned his gun on himself. Having this incident occur so close to home in my former church, I know all too well that the threat of violence against clergy members is very real. In fact, as the statics show, Deadly Force Incidents at Faith-Based Organizations in the United States is climbing at an alarming rate. Since January 2009 until present, there have been 568 incidents of violence on church grounds or ministries. Of those incidents, 398 people were killed (Chinn).

While attacks in church buildings in particular have awakened the attention of many Christians, there are still many that hold to the belief that those called to ministry should not bear arms. It is not my intent to write this article to debate these two opposing views. However, it is my intent to show why I firmly believe that the right to bear arms in not only a constitutional right, but also a biblically accepted mandate. A mandate that many parishioners may not be aware that pastoral leaders are secretly embracing. In fact, there are very few pastoral leaders that I personally know that don’t carry a concealed weapon today.

If you are one that disagrees with ministry leaders carrying weapons I would like to turn my focus directly to you. As Christians, the use of force in the preservation of life is a biblical doctrine. As the prophet Ezra wrote, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14). Other scriptural passages include Proverbs 24:10-12; Exodus 22:2; and John 15:13–14. Now I’m not saying that all pastors should just go out and buy a firearm without being trained. As scripture details, those whom took up arms were often shown as being skilled to do so. “Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss” (Judges 20:16). These scriptures where not provided by God as a means to authorize harming others; but illustrate that we do have a right and obligation to defend life, liberty, and property in the midst of a fallen world and an ever declining government.

With respect to those that state, “Well Jesus never carried a weapon.” You’re right, Jesus never carried a weapon but His disciples did. Let me turn your attention to Luke Chapter 22 where Jesus Himself said, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). In those days, a sword was the most lethal weapon that a person could carry on them as opposed to a firearm today. Remember also one of Jesus’ most widely used assertions today, “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). There are two very important things to take from this statement. First, when Jesus told Peter to “Put your sword back in its place,” where was “its place?” It was at Peter’s side, which was concealed under his cloak somewhere. Secondly, Jesus’s makes the statement, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Interestingly enough, Jesus did not rebuke Peter for having a weapon. His words were representative of only using a weapon as means of defense, and never as means of cold-blooded murder. In fact, there is no question that Jesus knew that His disciples where “packing” so to speak. At the Last Supper, Jesus’ disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” Jesus replied (Luke 22:38).

One of Jesus’ favorite metaphors that He liked to use was about the role of a shepherd; for a shepherd has many roles. He provides food, correction, support, leadership, comfort, and yes protection to the flock. In fact, the word pastor means shepherd, “a person who tends to God’s flock.” This is a responsibility of every church leader today. While sheep are cute and fluffy, they have one huge disadvantage; sheep have almost no means of defense without the aide of the shepherd. While they may be able to run away, they really can’t kick, bite or scratch their way out of harms way. This makes them easy prey. Therefore, sheep need protection, and the protection of the shepherd is where they find it. However, in the role of protector, I believe that scripture clearly shows that it IS NOT the role of a pastor to carry a weapon as means of providing personal security to the flock. As Luke wrote in the Book of Acts, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:28-30).” I believe this to be a very important passage to the true role of pastoral leaders. As protectors, pastors are called to provide spiritual protection of the flock and keep them from going astray and defend them against the savage wolves who may try and ravage them. With this in mind, I do believe that it is a pastor’s obligation to insure proper security is in place by security teams within the church. As the Apostle Paul exhorts in his farewell speech to the church at Ephesus, leaders must “Be on guard” for themselves and “for all the flock” (Acts 20:28).

Still, there are many critics today that believe that if a pastor, or security teams have to carry a gun then there is a lack of faith that God will protect him, his family, or members of the congregation. Is it a lack of faith? Absolutely not. Just because it’s a church building, are people really any safer inside than those outside of a church? As someone who has endured a church shooting and witnessed the aftermath of such horror, we need to come to the realization that churches are no longer off limits. Some say that it is a house of worship, and there is no place for weapons of death in such a place. To those critics I would say, you’re right. But unfortunately, those looking to harm others don’t see it that way.

As an ordained man of God I wholeheartedly follow the sixth commandment, “Thou shall not murder.” To murder is defined as, “The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.” When a person, in this case a pastor, chooses to carry a weapon in self-defense it is not being done with the intent to commit murder. I for one hold to the biblical command to take reasonable precautions for the self-defense of my family and my personal safety. Yes, my primary weapon of choice will always be the Bible, prayer, and faith; but as a follower of Christ I must also remain vigilant with the knowledge that, “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come” (Mark 7:21). We live in a fallen world and the Bible warns that in the last days we will live in “perilous times” because of the increase in evil character of man and people who actively “resist the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-9).

In closing, I would love to say that working in full-time ministry is all about joy and happiness where the love of God flows through everyone; and to be honest, most of the time it is. But unfortunately as many ministry leaders recognize, there is a very dark-side to ministry as well. A side where the forces of evil are very real and Satan really does use flesh and blood people to carry forth horrific acts of evil that can only be thwarted with physical protection. There are some that stand on the defense of, “How could anyone shoot a child of God?” Look, I hope that if I ever have to draw my weapon in self-defense it will be merely enough to show them my weapon and deter them from acting in violence. But one must also remember that if the time arises, it will not be a child of God whom you are likely to be defending yourself from. Rather those, whom are consumed by evil that do not have the love of Christ flowing within them; in fact, it may be someone so fueled with hatred towards Christians that they derive great pleasure from the suffering or death of others. In the event I, another pastor, or a Christian for that matter must pull our weapons in defense of ourselves, our families, or other believers, we would not be shooting a child of God. Instead, we may be the one God chose to protect a child of God by being properly trained and fully equipped to use lethal force to save a life. While some may still disagree with my and other pastoral leaders views around the world, there is no denying that in scripture Jesus is found telling His disciples to carry swords as they prepare to go out and evangelize. Therefore, if Jesus’ disciples carried swords… then shouldn’t a pastor carry a gun?

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…

Pastor Steve

Works Cited:
Chinn, Charles “Security!? In a Church” http://www.carlchinn.com. 2009-2012. Web. August 17, 2012.

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Fish Out!

Webster’s Dictionary defines the term “Fish Out” as: Depleting a body of water by overly fishing. As followers of Christ, Jesus instructed us to, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17-18). Yet, we look around today and there are many ponds, lakes, and oceans still overflowing with fish waiting to be caught. Is there a problem with our fishing gear, or is it that we’re simply not being shown how to fish correctly?

It is said that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime. The idea behind fishing is to know the fish you are looking for and attract them with bait that they’re unable to resist. As technology has advanced in the sport of fishing, shiny spinners and flashy bait that swims on their own have seemed to take the focus off the fact that a plain old worm on a hook with a weight and bobber still catches more fish. That’s the mindset today in the American church. More focus seems to be going into distracting light shows, pyrotechnics, and rock-concert stage antics, all in an effort to lead people to Christ. However, these churches are left with a troubling anomaly. Do they focus more on those they’re trying to reach or do they focus on those they’re trying to keep? This is the decision all churches are faced with; “Do we want to be fishers of men or just keepers of the aquarium?”

People today have been enticed by the trappings of this world. In truth, we spend more time looking at our iPhones, than focusing our eyes upon God. Why? Because we’ve become a culture with an incestuous need for entertainment and self-indulgence. With this, have come churches more concerned with catering to the personal preferences of the few, rather than pursuing the salvation of the many. More time seems to go into becoming the “Next Big Thing” in ministry, than our obligation to preaching the objective truth of God’s Word. The result, a room full of “Lukewarm Christians” looking for entertainment, while occupying the seats of people that really need to be sitting there and getting saved. You may be saying to yourself, “Why can’t the church have both types of people?” The truth is you actually can. By shifting the attention to the people the church wants to reach, the people you want to keep will end up staying; and then those believers that come and go like the ocean tide will find a church somewhere else to drift to and fro.

In the Bible, while Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee He came upon two men, Simon Peter and Andrew. These men were casting their nets into the water, for they were fisherman. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:17-18). While I realize the fishing that Simon Peter and Andrew were doing involved nets and not a pole and reel, let’s break that mold and talk about fishing in today’s terms. The basic idea behind fishing is simple. It’s knowing what bait attracts fish and then cast it out in hopes of fish taking the bait. Along with this comes learning the area in which to fish, the depth of the water, and what type of equipment is best to use. While these are the basic principles for catching fish, in the context of Christ’s word, how do we apply these principles to become fishers of men?

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles. –Doug Larson. Just as a fisherman carefully selects his equipment for his battle between fish and man, we too need to be choosey in the equipment we select to be fishers of men. It starts by being ready for the fishing excursion before we ever leave the house. Choosing to put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) is one of the best ways to insure we have the proper equipment and are ready for whatever lies ahead. Particularly important are the Sword of the Spirit; which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), and the Shield of Faith; useful in deflecting the fiery arrows of demonic forces who don’t want men saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:16). Unless we equip ourselves with these two pieces of equipment, fishing for men’s souls will become virtually impossible.

Don’t tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish. –Mark Twain. While having the right equipment is important to our fishing excursion, we must also become aquatinted with the fish we’re trying to lure in. Unless we study and become knowledgeable about the people around us and their condition, we will never “reel in” these fish on our own; no matter how good of a fisherman you claim to be. Rather we will become fatigued from unsuccessful attempts. Because, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Just like fish, he drives them farther into the depths where the light of the gospel becomes harder to penetrate. Yet, while the deeper Satan tries to drive them, our Heavenly Father already knows which “fish” are already His. Thus, He uses some of us as His best anglers to penetrate the darkness, and bring light to a forever-dimming world.

Never throw a long line when a short one will serve your purpose. –Richard Penn. While shiny spinners and flashy bait has seemed to become the desired choice of many anglers, we must never fall to modern day consumerism. For the plain old worm on a hook still catches more fish; and so does the only effective bait—the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel has the transforming power to change lives, deliver those from darkness into light, and triumph over every obstacle bringing us to eternal joy. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). It is the power by which no other message, no other “bait” can reel in the fish of God. The same message that Jesus spoke to Simon Peter and Andrew that is still spoken today; and the message of any successful angler fishing the waters for Christ. With heavenly authority, we cast out our nets while declaring, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Unfortunately today, the vast majority of churches aren’t willing to teach people how to fish. At times it appears that more concern goes into building the congregation (the fish), rather than building up its members (the fisherman). An atmosphere of no accountability or true church family exists. People begin to enjoy the freedom of being part of the crowd; yet don’t reap the benefits of being a member of the church. In the end, what is found is continuous turnover because while the church says they want to reach people, in reality they’re more focused on preservation rather than expansion.

Yet, even with the greatest knowledge of how to fish, many times we’re simply left scratching our heads because we don’t know where to begin fishing. But thankfully, we serve a God who does, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.” So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish” (John 21:6). We must patiently wait on the Lord like we would when sitting on the shore waiting for those fish to bite. Have our lines ready to cast out, and He will guide our steps to the place where fish are frantically biting. Of course, there will be times where God leads us to fish in areas that may not seem acceptable to us. It is in these moments that we must make a decision. Are we going to follow Jesus like He told Simon Peter and Andrew, or are we going to go fish on our own and come up empty (John 21:3)? It’s your choice; will you become true fishers of men? Or be left telling one of those big fish stories about “The one that got away…”

In closing, when Jesus proclaimed, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” notice He made this statement in future tense. Like you, Jesus saw the potential in their lives before that potential was ever revealed. Many of us live in doubt of our true capabilities and talents provided by God. The fact is, even though you may doubt your abilities, Jesus has already equipped you (Acts 1:8). So grab your nets and head for the largest body of water you can possibly find. Place your faith in Jesus to show you where to fish and go for it! Don’t settle for catching a few little fish in a pond. Run to the oceans and keep casting your net, hand over fist, until you can proudly proclaim… Fish Out!

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…

Pastor Steve

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Flee for Your Life!

Listen to me like you’ve never listened to anything else before. The warnings found in the Bible are upon us, “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

We have become a generation that believes in God, but does not fear Him. A generation that has created a fragmented version of who God really is; accompanied by a watered-down version of the Gospel, living by the mantra, “I believe in God, but I’ll do whatever I feel like doing.” This generation wants enough of God to keep them out of hell, but just enough of God to get into heaven. They have created a “god” little “g” that believes they are serving Him, but requires no real change in how they live their lives. And why is this? Because they believe in God, but they do not fear Him.

I’m sure many of you have come across these types of believers; someone who believes in God, yet live life like He doesn’t exist. It’s called, “Cafeteria Christianity.” They’ve taken God from an almighty and powerful God big “G” and reduced Him down to this cute little guy that fits into their pocket. It’s like walking down a cafeteria line and saying, “I’ll take a helping of grace and forgiveness please, but you can keep those requirements of obedience and servanthood.” Sound far-fetched? If you are a devout follower of Christ you will immediately agree that what I’m speaking about is not only true; but running rampant in the American church today. And if you are one of these misled Christians that believe this way, let me tell you, you don’t know God. If you are living your life with no real fear of God, it’s because you truly don’t know Him.

In our society today, so many people claim a belief in God, yet how bad is it when the Bible shows that even the demons are smart enough to fear Him, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror” (James 2:19). Our country has slowly moved from a nation founded upon a biblical worldview to one that has created a generation of “Cultural Christians.” These false converts believe in God but practice a Christianity that requires no real change or obedience. As Christ Himself said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command”  (John 14:15). These are the words that these believers profess they follow; yet their actions say, “I love Christ, as long as I can do whatever I please.”

I used to be one of those lukewarm Christians that shrugged off prophesy being fulfilled and the “We’re living in the last days” comments. But as I’ve come to study and really seek God, he has shown me that we truly are living in the last days. And there is nothing else that is more vital today than laying our lives down for the purposes of God. I shake my head in disbelief as I watch how the Body of Christ has been reduced to nothing more than a Sunday school picnic. But hear me… God is not inviting us to eat Martha’s potato salad or beat Uncle Dave in a sack race. We are in a war… a spiritual war. Not a war about opposing views of Christ or conflicting views of theology. But a war for the souls of mankind; in fact, for many of you, this is a war for your life.

My mind is forever seared by the images and stories of Christian missionaries and leaders who have been martyred for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Story after story of men being murdered, women raped, and children tortured throughout the world, all because someone feels so much hatred for our beloved savior. And in some cases, many of them willfully placing themselves in harms way, because they felt it was their sense of duty. Each time I read about these horrific tragedies it brings me crashing to my knees and crying out to God, “Please God, never let my sense of duty be any less for the purposes of glorying Your Kingdom.”

We live in a perilous climate of false doctrine and deceptive theology. Where those now, “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Universal apostasy has overtaken this earth and false prophets now stand on the pulpit proclaiming a watered down gospel that teaches the doctrines of man, and not God. Where Christians who stand up for biblical morality once where revered, now are persecuted and hated as Christ Himself warned, “You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers” (Matthew 24:9).

Body of Christ… the times in which Jesus warned us about is upon us. We have political leaders sitting in power that not only contradict our biblical beliefs, but also are now taking to the streets and professing that those involved in immoral lifestyles should “forcefully push for equality.” They stand with arrogance and proclaim Christianity, all while spewing out twisted scriptural passages and false theology. And while these cultural Christians are attempting to rewrite God’s law, a small army is beginning to rally once again in this great nation. Mighty men and woman of God who are standing up and declaring, “enough is enough!”

Enough sitting by as we feel God’s heart breaking over immoral practices that are attempting to fall under the guise of a civil right. Enough of allowing millions of abortions take place while being shielded by an agenda that speaks of pro-choice; yet thinks nothing of the choice that the innocent child should have. Enough flooding of television and media outlets with messages condoning pre-marital sex and experimentation with free-love. And enough with treating God’s name as a party joke or a blasphemous acronym. If you really want to know what OMG stands for, rest assured; God’s Word promises a day that we will all “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). And at that moment, I’m sure all that anyone will be able to say is “Oh… My… God…”

The Lord says, “But you, O man of God, flee these things and…pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). Beloved church Flee!

Flee from churches where men and not Christ is glorified. Where gospels are preached that only focus on self-gratification, prosperity, and wealth. Flee from those using the name of God to pick your pockets for their own personal gain… Flee!

Flee from churches where no Bible can be found. Where there is no cost in their theology… no repentance from Sin. Flee! They’re not preaching the truth… Flee from churches that do not mention the blood of the cross, where you’re not convicted from your sins. If you can step into the House of the Lord having sin in your life and you still feel comfortable. Run away from it… Flee, it’s unclean!

Flee from churches that are not centered upon prayer, having no reliance on the Holy Spirit. Where more focus goes into big stages, light shows and pyrotechnics in an effort to entertain you like a rock-concert, than where it should be and that’s worshipping the Lord. Flee!

Flee from pulpits filled with men preaching their own political agenda, and not God’s. Preaching ungodly spasmodic movements, and endless empty prophesying. Men more concerned with getting a laugh on the pulpit, than leading their flock back to the foot of the cross. Beloved church Flee!

The Bible is not trivial, but man makes it trivial. God is not trivial, but man makes Him trivial. And His commandments are not trivial, yet man still tries to make it trivial. We as Christ’s followers are bound by an obligation to the objective truth of God’s Word; otherwise how do we dare stand for our Father in Heaven and call ourselves Christians? It’s time for the true Body of Christ to stand up and take our Gospel back. We need to take to the streets and proclaim the truth, no matter the cost. Where is the outcry? Where is the indignation that God’s truth is being trampled upon and twisted to fulfill man’s desires and not Gods? Have we as a community of believers really become more concerned with being labeled “hypocrites” or “out of step with modern principles,” in an effort to avoid conflict? Today I stand and say, NO MORE!

I want to be among those who are standing up and not running away from the conflict, but running into the conflict saying “Flee for your life.” The days of sitting around and just talking about taking action is over. Church, today is the day we begin to take back our great nation. And that begins by fleeing into the streets and declaring His infallible Word to be truth. Get up now and flee… run like you have never run before proclaiming “Flee for your life.” Because in the end, this really is… about your life.

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time..

Pastor Steve

Categories: The Church | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Forgiving Yourself: Is Your Past Controlling Your Future?

“I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13). As a pastor, I have seen the same look on the faces of people almost everyday of my spiritual walk. You know the one, that look that someone carries when it seems like they have something to prove. It’s a contradictory look of sorts; for they hear about God’s forgiveness, but they just can’t come to grips with accepting it. For forgiveness to them is still viewed as something that has to be earned, not freely received. It’s a look I know all too well, for I wore it upon my face most of my adult life; walking mile after mile in those same pair of shoes.

Many of us have made such poor choices in our lives that we actually allow the regret from these decisions to now rule over us. Essentially, we are allowing choices from our past to now control our future. While some of life’s decisions are soon forgotten; some of them have such lasting impact that they change the way we see people, how we view ourselves, and ultimately messes with our emotions; sometimes throughout our entire lives. In a sense, these poor choices keep us in a state of confinement in our own private prison. Maybe, you used to be an exotic dancer, had an abortion because you were to young, got divorced, feel like you weren’t the best parent, or even sold and engaged in drugs. The list of sins are so numerous and diverse for a reason; Satan wants nothing more than to make you feel like you’re not worthy of God’s grace. The fact is, Satan knows of your full potential as God does. So to combat this, he tries to keep you in a state of never-ending doubt and insecurity.

Perhaps the main reason we are still living in this prison of resentment is because we allow Satan to keep us bound by one of his most powerful restraints; guilt. Guilt keeps us in a constant state of feeling dirty, powerless, unworthy, and eventually steals away the glory and faith that we should be placing in our Savior Jesus Christ. It’s like on one hand, you believe in freedom, yet the resentment still keeps you so bound up that you don’t know how to choose. And why is this? Because we’ve created a fragmented version of the person we believe that we should be; moreover, a person that God won’t love unless…

Admittedly, you and I are lying, deceiving, thieves who unquestionably deserve to inherit the lake of fire. But when we turn to God and allow Him to come into our lives and work through us, our future is forever changed. Let me assure you, true followers of Christ don’t care about your past, and neither does God. Remember He created you, just like He created me. Therefore if anyone knows we’re not perfect it’s Him. But for some reason we are so afraid of losing control and allowing God to find out what we’ve done that we just won’t let go. News flash! He-Already-knows. He knows you made some mistakes, but who hasn’t? If you could, I’m quite sure you would do things differently. But then again, sometimes going through pain is the only way many of us will ever learn. Have you ever wondered why things both good and bad happen to people? It’s because God create each if us differently? And this is because He wants to use each one of us to accomplish something distinctive. Ironically, we as Christ followers spend more time anguishing over wanting a “do-over” in our lives that we fail to realize that through Christ’s death, He in fact has already provided that to us.

No matter what your past holds, you can never fall so far away that you can’t get back. It’s never too late and nothing is so bad that you can’t change who you are. That’s why Paul was so adamant that we know God’s view on love. God’s love for us is so unshakeable that Paul wrote in his letters, love, “keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:5-6). When we are truthful with ourselves and let go of our past, our Heavenly Father rejoices for He knows that we have placed our faith in Him. Our own perceptions determine our actions, and choosing to let go of your past will have a direct impact on how you perform in the future.

God is a God of grace and forgiveness. Look at the life of King David. In the Old Testament, David’s life is detailed regarding his sin with Bathsheba, his defiance before the Lord, and his conspiracy to have Bathsheba’s husband murdered. Yet, what we can learn from this is that while David’s transgressions are never simply swept under the rug, we can see how God’s grace is abundantly provided to David in future references. In the New Testament, David is referred to fifty-nine times; yet, his past transgressions of murder and conspiracy are never mentioned. Why? Because while David’s indiscretions and poor choices are recorded in the Old Testament, through Christ’s blood in the New Testament, God’s forgiveness for our sins are forever.

If we allow it, there will be no end to the obstacles that our past places in front of us. Satan has a vested interest in keeping us from fulfilling of our dreams. Did you know that one of the primary reasons people never accomplish their dreams is because they allow their pasts to stop them? As you sit here reading this, I want you to ask yourself this question, “Will my past mold me, or will my future mold me?” The Bible does not say that we must be happy about the poor choices that we have made; yet, it does say that we are no longer controlled by sin’s power for we are born anew! The Bible says that when God forgives us, He “remembers our sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). So let me encourage you. It’s time to let the consuming fire of God come in and burn away the troubles of your past. Let the ashes fall wherever they may. Now is the time to come back from wherever you have been and kneel at the foot of the cross and at the feet of Jesus. For at the foot of the cross, you can change who you are.

This does not mean that our omniscient Father in Heaven forgets our past because He forgives us. Rather, He makes the decision not to dwell upon our sin. In our daily lives, when our former sins come to mind, we have a choice. We can choose to dwell upon them (which leads to guilt and resentment), or we can choose to draw our eyes to Heaven and the God who forgave us and praise Him for it. Dwelling on our past is only beneficial when it reminds us of the magnitude of God’s forgiveness for our sins; thus making it easier for us to forgive others, “And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:33).

One of my favorite sayings is, “Don’t allow your past to become a crutch; but use it as a ladder to help elevate your future.” It’s time to finally let go of your past; “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). No matter how bad you believe your past is, know that God is not done with you. The only thing that is stopping you from having that fulfilled life in Christ is YOU. Now is the time to let go, let God, and claim your Victory!

Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…

Pastor Steve

Categories: Forgiveness | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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