Mar 24, 2011

5 Ways to Use Twitter for Ministry

        Twitter is a great tool for finding out what is happening right now, but did you know that it can help you in ministry? I am not suggesting that leaders need to jump on every fad and technological wonder that comes along. We do not have to be hip, trendy, or have our finger on the pulse to bring Christ's love to a modern world. As long as people are in sin the Gospel will be relevant. With that being said here are 5 ways that Twitter can benefit your ministry.

        1. Speak into people's lives
         John Maxwell has said, "Leadership is influence." Think about that statement. Abraham, Moses, and Jesus were never crowned earthly kings or elected to public office, yet they lead and people followed. Maybe you tried Twitter out and you had 30 or even 100 followers.  One cannot assume that saying insightful things will automatically lead to a massive following, yet if no one is following we are not leading.
        I use a free service called Tweepi. In Tweepi I can follow the followers of people who are saying things similar to me. For me that is people who speak on leadership, youth ministry, and evangelism. Their followers already have a passion for the things I am passionate about. They are likely to follow me as well. I also use Social Oomph to follow back those that follow me and send a heartfelt generic message to new followers.
        What are you waiting for? Expand your following.

        2. Be Mentored
        Do you have someone whose walk and ministry you admire, but do not personally know them?Twitter is a great way to glean from the wisdom, strategies, and encouragement that they have to offer. It also helps us to see the larger than life Christian personalities as real transparent people.

        3. Reach the Hurting
        Jesus spent a great deal of his time on Earth with those that were hurting. Did you know that the search bar in Twitter is not just for finding people? You can search any word or phrase and it will find every recent Tweet with that word or phrase in it. Talk about a missionary opportunity. You can be as specific as you want. Who is using the following phrases right now?--I hate my life, I am hopeless, No one likes me. There are many hopeless and helpless people on Twitter that you can reply to without even following. Wow! What a difference a few purposeful internet evangelists could make.

        4. Be Social but not Unguarded 
        It seems that in a lot of ways Facebook has become the modern Christian's gossip tool of choice. This all takes place under the guise of concern and prayer requests. Twitter is a micro-blogging service. There is a sharing of information, but not too much information. For instance, users only share a brief bio and Tweets are limited to 140 characters (120 if you want anyone to retweet what you have to say). You can Tweet from your phone or computer without having to get too sucked into the time consuming and at times matchmaking, home-wrecking world of popular social networks (a tip for Facebook: give your spouse your password or share an account).

        5. Get Prayer Quick
        Whether it is for a service or in the wake of a recent death, Twitter can get the prayer ball rolling. A lot of churches have a prayer phone tree. Imagine one that goes around the world. I was recently about to speak at an event when I Tweeted that I needed prayer and was preaching at 2pm. I immediately had a reply on my phone of a man in the U.K. wanting to know what time that would be in the his time zone. I am bad at math so I told him 30 minutes from now. There is also a husband and wife in California that actively pray for my Student Ministry in North Carolina. I have never met them, but they are part of the Body of Christ.

        There are many other reasons to add Twitter to your ministry repertoire, but I hope this list helps you think through your online strategy.

Mar 23, 2011

Who Do You Follow?

Grave of Dr. Jerry Falwell
        There are people in the faith that I have always wanted to be like. I know what you are thinking--We should only want to be like Jesus. This is true to a certain extent, but since I have not yet arrived at being totally Christ-like, I will make a Biblical case for emulating those farther down the path.

        Paul said in 1 Cor. 11:1 And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. I cannot yet say this, but it is my goal to one day be able to humbly say this to growing believers. 

        When Elijah was about to be taken up he spoke with Elisha. 2 Kings 2:9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?" "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit," Elisha replied.

        Jesus even told his followers that they would do greater things than Him (John 14:12). I believe that part of leadership is creating strong followers. We should be excited when those who come after us do even greater things. 

        This past week I was in Virginia. My wife and I went to Jerry Falwell's grave. I understand that he is not there, but this man was my pastor, and I owe a great deal of my faith heritage to things I learned from him. I do not want to emulate the political part of his life, but his love for his family and ability to dream big were priceless. 

        Jerry Falwell was a man of great faith who believed God for the impossible time and time again. It was the vision God gave him that enabled him to build the largest Christian university on the planet. He also left a legacy of three children who are actively serving God. So many do great things in the "ministry" while their family turns away. What a tragedy. I accepted Christ through the youth group in the church he founded. I am also a part of his legacy. 
        James 1:5 tells us to ask for wisdom. I believe that God wants us to seek Him for growth in all areas of spiritual development. Right there at Jerry Falwell's grave I asked God to give me a portion of his strength and vision. I didn't ask for a double portion because I believe the mantle of leadership was passed onto his son Jonathan. I am not at a point where I could handle a double portion, but a small helping would be welcome. Baby Steps. 

        I want to have great vision. I want it to be God's vision for me. And I want to work hard for what I can do and trust God for what only He can do until it comes to pass. I want my ministry to have a lasting impact, but only if my family is my primary ministry. I want to be able to tell my children to follow me as I follow Him. 

        There are many others that I would gladly emulate on my path to be more like Him. Here are a few: Craig Groeschel for his transparency, Francis Chan for his passion, The Prophet Elijah for his boldness, my friend Brad Newton for his joy, and my fellow youth pastor Daniel Dye for his Godly example as a husband and father.

        Along our faith journey we will meet many who are further down the path. We can learn a lot from these followers. We can follow them as they follow Him. Who would you want a double portion of? Who has inspired you in the faith? Who do you follow?

Mar 18, 2011

Love Wins by Rob Bell: A Book Review

         I have heard a lot of buzz about Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins". Most of it was in the days leading up to it. Please do not see this review as an endorsement of his book. I also do not want it to be a licence to criticize something that you have not read. I am a big fan of the benefit of the doubt, and I try to give it to everyone.
        When I read a tweet from popular reformer John Piper in response to Bell's promo video about his book I was disappointed. I was not disappointed in Bell, but in Piper. John Piper had not read the book but was able to make a judgement call nonetheless. The tweet: Farewell Rob Bell. That sounds a whole lot like  "Your dead to me", and very little like Jesus.
        Now on to the book. First of all a follower of Christ must believe that Jesus is the only way to God through His death and resurrection. They must repent of their sins, and trust in Christ alone to forgive and change them.
        This being said I believe Rob Bell is a believer. In the book he says that Jesus is the only way to God and he explains the personal decision to turn from his sins and follow Christ. Could it be that I am mistaken about his relationship with God? Yes. But then again, it is his relationship with God, and I am neither Rob Bell nor God.
        He explores various fringe strands of Christian theology that he calls Orthodox. I assure you these are not Orthodox views and many are Heterodox. Does this in an of itself matter. No. Orthodoxy is simply clinging to commonly held views, while Heterodoxy is challenging them. In this way I would be proud to be a heretic in some areas of theology.
        What theology is in the book? Bell argues that Heaven and Hell are real, but only as a state of mind. He claims that Heaven will be a perfected version of our current Earth and that Revelation for all intents and purposes has been mostly fulfilled. Is this ok? Perhaps not, but it does not deviate from the Gospel message--Yet.
        Can someone believe that Hell is not eternal and be a Christian? Yes, this blogger does.  Can one believe that Hell is not a literal fire and still be a Christian? That depends on whether you believe Billy Grahm is a Christian. There is even greater wiggle room when it comes to the end times. Pretribulational rapture is the dominant view today, but it was not before the Scofield Reference Bible pushed it as the only view. Can good Christians disagree about the small things and still follow Christ and share His Gospel with others? I believe the answer is yes.
        What about the non-negotionables in Bell's book. He says that (and I am paraphrasing) Jesus is the only way, but He has forgiven even those who do not trust in Him. He says that His death paid for everyone in the worlds sins whether they like it or not. He does not believe that sincere belief in Allah or other gods save anyone, but that they will be given multiple chances to come through Christ after death (this narrowly and dangerously keeps his line of thinking on the edge of the Christian camp).
        He believes there will be a time of pruning in which the goats will be made into sheep. He thanks C.S. Lewis for most of his theology. Before you throw Bell to the wolves you need to go back and read Lewis' Mere Christianity where he says that Budhists and the like can be saved by following that which is most Christlike in their belief system. In His book The Last Battle, Aslan counts things done in the service of the enemy as things done for him. Universalism is at the core of Lewis' writings that most Christian herald with the works of Wesley, Luther, and Calvin.
        All of Bell's ramblings about universal love by God ignore the responses of the Apostles to questions about being saved.  The Philippian jailor asked what he had to do to be saved and Paul told him that he must believe (Acts 16:16-34). The bottom line is found in John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." They will not see life. That is pretty clear to me. 
        All in all the book is pretty dangerous. In an attempt to make God seem to nice to really punish sin, Bell has given God a new meanstreak to consider. So my question to universalists everywhere is why? Why would Jesus let his disciples die in the ways that they did, telling them if they denied Him then He would deny them? Why would He do this when everyone would end up with God anyway? Why could they not just worship in private and keep to themselves? Why was it so important that they take His Gospel to the whole world at any cost? Because He is the only way, and the church is His vehicle to get His life saving message to the masses.
        This book may be dangerous and subversive, especially to a new believer. There is a lot of scripture in the book, but no context provided and in many places no references given. It is predominately speculation about what a good God should look like based on our human understanding. Bell creates a God that humans can completely understand, because he is cast in our image rather than we in his. Isn't this the same thing? No. Because we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12). We have sin in our nature and so we can not remake God in our image without distorting His greatness, justice, power, and love. 
        Love doesn't win. Love already won. Death and sin are conquered to all who believe.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Mar 13, 2011

Why Would God Allow the Tsunami in Japan?

        The earthquake and tsunami in Japan were terrible. How could God let such a thing happen? Was it is fault? Why wouldn't He prevent it? 

        All of these questions are looked at in the "Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People" video that I did in conjunction with Bonfire Crusades. Keep in mind that I am the youth pastor at The Bridge Church in Mooresville NC and not the First Church of the Nazarene that is shown on the video.

        Sorry Kindle users this one is a video.

Mar 11, 2011

The Call

         Did you know that 80% percent of believers have never shared the Gospel with anyone? Poles and statistics are not a perfect science you say? Correct, I am using the most optimistic of the statistics that have come out. Many have shown that it could be as high as 97%. Since I am an optimist and have a profound love for Christ's church, I am giving us the benefit of the doubt at 80%.
        So what about you? Are you going to step into eternity as a failure in the only mission that He ever gave us? Sure, we have a commandment: to love God and love others, but this is our mission.

        The sad part is that the Gospel is so simple. Jesus has done all of the pre-work and the Holy spirit will do all of the post-work. People only need to turn from sin (choosing their way over His) to Him.

        I want to ask you to do something right now. Picture a person that you truly care about who does not know Christ. Do you have someone in mind? Good. Now, stop reading for a moment and take the next 30 second to ask God to use you to reach them.


        Let's take the challenge one step further. Take out your phone and call them. Use me as an excuse. You could say something like, "I am reading a blog that asked me to think of a person that I care about who has not made a decision to follow Jesus and YOU were the FIRST person to pop into my head. Can I tell you what He has done in my life?" (Be sure to include; His death to beat sin, resurrection to beat death, our responsibility of repentance from what we've done and faith in what He did.) Ask you friend if he or she would like to make the same decision.

        Evangelism is nothing more than sharing His role in your story. We simply tell how we got from where we were to where we are now. Did you make the call? Did you have the courage? Please don't wait. Your friend is too important to waste time doing ANYTHING else. Once we get over the awkward stigma of sharing our faith it becomes a natural part of who we are.

        How did your phone call go? What was the response? Do not be upset if they say no. The point is that YOU were obedient to His Great Commission. Please comment on this blog about your experience in sharing the good news. Don't be one of the 80%.

Mar 10, 2011

A Creative Solution to the Protesting of Military Funerals

The Patriot Guard Riders

        The the true tragedy of "Freedom of Speech" is that soldiers who fought to maintain it, can have their funerals legally protested. The Westboro Baptist Church has been protesting our military heroes' funerals now for several years.

        WBC is neither Baptist nor a church in the true sense of either word. The church is supposed to be the active agent of Jesus Christ to bring His hope of redemption to all people. This is the same Jesus who told us to love and do good to our enemies.

Funeral Protester
        Most of us within the Body of Christ have complained and ranted about Westboro for showing hatred and masquerading under the guise of "Christian". We are torn between hating what they are doing and knowing that freedom of speech needs to stay in tact for freedom to remain in our land. Many of us complain while few have done anything about it.

        When I say done anything about it--I do not mean protest in return or lobby Congress for change. I mean create. Often we complain rather than create. Complaining always brews negativity while creating fosters optimism.

        The Patriot Guard Riders have opted to create. They have come up with something entirely new. Westboro and their cronies may stand in public places and spew their venom towards a soldier's family, but it will no longer be heard. The Patriot guard shows up by the hundreds to forms a barrier between the family and the haters. They block them out with their motorcycle engines, patriotic music, and a wall of large American flags. They have even been known to bring semi-trucks.

        These patriots have changed our world for the better in a nonviolent creative way. You may regularly find yourself complaining about things without offering concrete solutions. When this happens take the high road and choose to CREATE rather than complain.


Mar 5, 2011

Let There Be Darkness (Sneak-peek 2 of 2)

           Here is part two in a two excerpt post from chapter four of my book, Let There Be Darkness. It takes place in a world between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. We are not given any specific details of the creation of God's angels. The book takes the stance that they may have been human at one time. The following scene (from chapter 4) continues with the execution of Rikali. If you have not read part one you may do so HERE. (This is an unedited copy) 

     Skylarm arrived with Stumpy at the Mintock Chasm. Uriel and Abaddon were already there. Stumpy grinned as they walked up the hill to the ledge overlooking the chasm.
     “What are you smiling about? You are about to die.”
     “You’ll see”, Stumpy said still smiling.
     Skylarm took Stumpy by the arm and handed him over to Uriel.
     “Thank you. You may go.”
     He had never seen such defiance and had already decided to see the sentence carried out.
     “I will stay and report back to Michael when the deed is done, since this case is so out of the ordinary,” Skylarm said.
     “How so? Is it not his third death mark?”
     “No, have you not heard? He rejected God’s grace outright,” Skylarm said.
     “I don’t believe I have ever encountered a case like this, the verdict we received said it was a third offence.”
     Skylarm thought this was odd since the trial was less than an hour ago and to his knowledge he had the only paperwork with him, but he said nothing.
     Skylarm and Uriel caught up to Abaddon who had moved the prisoner closer to the chasm. His feet had been bound along with his mouth.
     “Why is he gagged Abaddon?” Uriel said.
     “He was blaspheming God, but that is to be expected in his case.”
     “Let’s get this over with. Rikali you have been found guilty for the crime of rape, received a death mark, and rejected God’s grace. You have been sentenced to death and death you shall receive,” Uriel said as he began to walk away. Skylarm had heard that he never watched the actual execution.
     Stumpy’s face was full of fear and he was red from screaming into his bonds to no avail. It was remarkable how quickly his pride had left him. Skylarm wondered how anyone could reject God and even blaspheme him until the end. Abaddon had been right; this was to be expected in Rikali’s case.
     He watched from a distance when a thought struck him. How did Abaddon know that this behavior would be expected? They had been under the impression that this was a third offence. And who told them this in the first place? He had come straight to the chasm from court. Why was Rikali so confident before? What had he meant by ‘You’ll see’? Suddenly he was very interested in the muffled screams coming from Stumpy. As he approached he could hear Abaddon talking.
     “You have outlived your usefulness. Did you really think that we would let you go?”
     Something wasn’t right.
     Abaddon lifted Rikali’s bulky frame off of the ground as if he were a doll as he looked at Skylarm.
     Stumpy was heaved over the edge. There was a cracking sound as his head struck a rock on one side of the chasm and then nothing.
     “Didn’t you hear me?” Skylarm said with a look of alarm.
     By this time Uriel was at his side.
     “Are you a judge?” Abaddon said.
     “No, but I…”
     “Then you have no authority to stop an execution and so you were ignored. Isn’t that the way of it?”
     Something wasn’t right and Skylarm did not know if he could trust either of these hulking men. He would not become belligerent this close to the chasm.
     “Yes, I merely wanted to make sure his wrist restraints were tight. They looked like they had loosened.”
     “I don’t think it matters now, but thank you for the concern,” Uriel said. In the future please refrain from yelling at the moment of execution. Abaddon could have fallen in with the guilty.”
     “Yes of course, forgive me,” Skylarm said as he dismissed himself. He could feel Abaddon’s eyes on his back as he walked down the hill.

Mar 3, 2011

Let There Be Darkness (Sneak-peek 1 of 2)

     As you may or may not know, I am writing a fiction book called Let There Be Darkness. It takes place in a world between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. We are not given any specific details of the creation of God's angels. The book takes the stance that they may have been human at one time. The following scene (from chapter 4) features a pre-angelic Michael as one of God's judges. (This is an unedited copy)
     Michael looked down from his chair at the man before him.     
     “Are you Rikali?”
     “Yes, your Excellency?”
     “Approach the chair.” This would be quick, cases such as this always are. “Rikali, you have received a death mark from this court in the name of God at the request of Constable Analos for the crime of rape. The penalty is death. If you seek the grace of God then you shall have it. God’s pardon only applies to the death mark, as there are local penalties in the case of rape. Should you decide to beg God’s grace you will undergo castration before being released. Do you understand the charges against you?”
     “I do.”
     “What would you ask of this court before God?”
     Stumpy held his head high and glared indignantly at the judge. “I will ask nothing of you, this court, or God himself for that matter.”
     Michael was in shock. He had executed people before for receiving a third death mark, but only twice and never for rejecting God’s grace. In fact he couldn’t think of a single time when any court had had any person willingly ignore grace.
     “Did you hear me judge?” Stumpy said now fully drunk with arrogance.
     “Yes I did, but may I ask why?”
     “Because God is a manipulative, infantile, overlord who wants to hear us beg and squirm. He will get no such pleasure from me.”
     “These things are not true. God loves us. Are you well Rikali?”
     “I am perfectly sane judge. Do your job and convict me.”
     Michael stood and cleared his throat. “Because you have rejected God’s grace you are to be bound and thrown to your death in the Mintock Chasm. The sentence will be carried out immediately.”
     Skylarm approached the guilty, bound his wrists, and led him away.
     Michael collapsed in his chair. With his head in his hands he muttered to a court attendant to send everyone in the waiting area away until tomorrow. He stared at the floor in disbelief.

Previous Sample of Let There Be Darkness

Mar 1, 2011

Muddy Paws and Man's REAL Best Friend

My Dog, 'Snips'
     I love my dog, but I can't stand the relentless digging that she does. She doesn't seem to understand my hatred of muddy paws, and seems to wonder why she cannot always come in the house.

     I thought I had tried everything. I put chicken wire underneath the gravel in her cage. She pulled it up. I strategically placed stepping stones over the areas where she most frequently digs. She dug giant holes underneath them.

     It wasn't until I began placing her own waste in the holes and covering it, that she finally began to get the picture. Dogs do not want to eat, sleep, or dig near there own waste. Digging is natural for her, and she would never stop if I did not intervene. I had to get her to the point where she hated digging, before she would stop.

    God wants us to stop digging. To stop reaching down into the filth of who we used to be. Muddy paws cannot come into His house. That is why the Holy Spirit is a constant reminder of where our digging leads. He reminds us of the stink we once had on us, with gentle and loving promptings. Digging was once natural for us, but now we are His. It is time to live like we belong in the house.

We may say that a dog is man's best friend, but if you have ever owned one you know that it is only temporary. God has truly earned the right to be our best friend for eternity. Romans 5:8 "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. "