What I am about to write is very real and very dangerous. Approaching this topic is something that we must raise awareness in a day of advancing technology and easier access to sinful activity. I want to build this platform with a verse: ”For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ‘ Ephesians 6:12
Please make sure you read this verse more than once. Like, right now, take a second and read it at least two more times real carefully. Now, let’s break this principle down. We need to begin by examining the fatality of the context. Thayer defines the word “wrestle” in the following manner: “a contest between two in which each endeavors to throw the other, and which is decided when the victor is able to press and hold down his opponent, namely, hold him down with his hand upon his neck.” To the Christians in the church of Ephesus meant that loser of the Greek wrestling match had his eyes gouged out resulting in complete blindness the rest of his days. Please understand that the wrestling match with these spiritual opponents could possibly have fatal results. Based on the language of this word we are dealing in terms of WWF; we are dealing with life or death. That is serious! Now, let’s look at our opponent. Our opponent is not in human form. It is in a spiritual form. Principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness and spiritual wickedness are none other than Satan and his demons. Right now you may be thinking I am over emphasizing things, but please know Paul nor I am over emphasizing the seriousness of who we are up against. Satan has one goal: to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). Our opponent is dangerous and extremely destructive. There is no mercy or grace in his objective goal. Him and his demonic influencers are who we are up against. Please do not underestimate the opponent. We will never win alone, we need Christ, we need the Blood of Jesus, we need the Word of God, and we need the power of God. I think it is also important that we pay close attention to where the opponent is located. The verse calls it “high places”. If you were to correspond this to Ephesians 2:2 we Satan referenced as the prince of the power of the air. Knowing his location sure helps know when we are heading into his area of expertise. The description of our opponent is like listening to wrestling match that is won before it even gets started. Like, in this one corner stand little ole me, human, and unconfident. In the other corner stands the prince of the air, the ruler of darkness, and the most wicked of the wicked. You see, I feel defeated already. I truly believe knowing his area of operation and how he works gives us the edge. Of course, coming to the realization that standing in our corner is the all time, undisputed, undefeated, Savior of the entire world! If there was an space in this article to rejoice it is right now…If we are saved, God has got our back. I challenge you to continue reading Ephesians 6 and you will learn the tools God gives us to win the wrestling match.
Why I Need the Church
Psalm 122:1 “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
The question was posed as to why people feel like they do not need the church. Of course you can imagine the array of comments from such a question. Some had valid suggestions, and some are just making excuses. I am sure people could spend all day listing the reasons they do not need the church. I would like to give you my list of why I cannot live without the church.
- I need God’s Word: I am the pastor, but I faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). I have read countless books, I have a Masters from Liberty University, but I have to say that the greatest lessons I have learned was under the preaching of God’s Word. God uses his men to teach us God’s Word. Without instruction from God’s Word my life will get real frustrating.
- I need the fellowship: Iron sharpens Iron. I have to live in this world throughout the entire week. I have to deal with all kinds of issues, hear all kinds of language, and minister to many levels of evil. God’s people offer the encouragement I need that keeps me going. I realize that people are not perfect, but that is what makes Church so helpful. It is the fellowship with other believers that help me keep fighting the fight of faith.
- I need my small group: I do not have enough space to discuss how important this group of people are to me. They encourage, they pray for me, they love me, and we are able to share our problems with each other. This brief 45 minutes together is like a shot in the arm that keeps me going throughout my week. I actually feel sorry for those that do not experience my small group.
- I need to sing: I did not say that I can sing. However; I need to sing. Whether contemporary or traditional…I just need to spend a few moments singing to the Lord. You say, that I can sing at home…and you’re right, but I cannot sing with other believers. There is nothing like praising God together with other believers.
- I need the altar: Why? Because the altar will alter our lives. The greatest things that have ever happened to me have happened on the altar within the church house. I trusted Christ on the altar, I surrender to preach on the altar, and I married the love of my life on the altar. It is a life altering experience when you put your all on the altar of God.
I could most likely go on…but here are some of favorites. I was writing this and noticed that it is the people that keeps repeating itself. I get it…people call the church corrupt and full of hypocrites. However; is there not a hint of those things in all of us. Bottom line I needs to come together with God’s people on a weekly basis. I actually feel sorry for people who do not have a good church home to help the grow, keep the encouraged, and challenge them to be better.
Heartbreaking Statistics, and Heartfelt Solutions
Over the years I have noticed that it has become increasingly harder to reach people with the gospel. I read a statistic the other day that said 9 our every 10 churches are either declining or growing at a pace that is slower than the growth of their communities. I have read several statistics that say that over 70% of young people between the age of 18-25 years of age are leaving the church and they are not returning. I ask the question as to why this is happening. One of my small group members spoke up and said “people just do not think they need it anymore.” This statement got me to thinking. I have come to realize that our society operates in such a manner that it no longer needs church anymore. Who is to blame for this? Technology? Maybe. Government? Probably some. Previous Generations? It is possible. However; it is my belief that these statistics are a direct indictment on the church itself. Especially, the church in America.
Let me give you some Biblical insights to why I believe we have encountered such heartbreaking statistics.
- Evangelizing the World: Matthew 5:13 “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost his savor wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out , and to be trodden under foot of men.” Matthew 5:14 says “ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” God wants us to be salt and light. We are to share the gospel, proclaim the Gospel, and not be ashamed of the gospel. Over the years we have lost our salt and hid our light. In order for salt and light to be productive we have to make contact. There will be no impact without contact. Salt creates thirst, and light eliminates darkness. We must ask ourselves the question: Are we proclaiming the Gospel by allowing our lives to impact the lives of others. Just think if every church member decided to be a proclaimer of the gospel. I believe we could win our nation back.
- Edifying the Saints: Ephesians 4:11-12 “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelist; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” Our God-given gift is not for personal gain, or self promotion. Our gifts our to build one another up. I guess this is one of the things that bother me the most. The Christian army is so good at tearing one another down rather than building each other up. I believe this is one of the main reasons people are not getting anything from the Church today. People within the church are not leaving encouraged, equipped, or edified. They are leaving discouraged, ignorant, and torn down. We have people using pulpits and platforms to push an agenda when we should building up the body and bride of Christ. I think it is essential to create an atmosphere that builds one another up rather than tear each other down. By the way…when we complain about our church within our community we are not only hindering the progress of the local church we are impacting the Kingdom. Therefore, we are not building up the body of Christ.
- Exalting the Lord: I heard it said like this: “our sole purpose on this earth is to do everything in our power to make God look good.” I Corinthians 10:31 “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” I believe this is the most important of them all. I believe we are losing our influence because we are failing to make God look good.
We are reflectors of God’s light, and representatives of God’s glory. We have to shine…we have to build up…and we must make God look good. Are we truly fulfilling our purpose?
I have a confession to make. I really struggle when people do not like me. I have a hard time when people do not like the decisions I make. The more I try to lead others through their journey with Christ the more difficult it becomes to please people. We live in a world of constant complaining. The reality is that we just cannot please everyone. I told someone one time that if I were to bleed out in the street for the life of another, then someone would complain about the direction the blood flowed. It has gotten so bad that people complain about success, especially if success is not achieved the way they envisioned it. I have come to a conclusion: there is absolutely no way we are going to please everyone.
I guess it should not shock me anymore when people complain. The hardest part about people complaining is that they very rarely complain to your face. Most of the time we hear of the complaining through the channel of others. It makes perfect sense does it not? The way to solve problems is to discuss the problems with people that have no clue how to fix the problem. That is a genius idea! Nevertheless, we have folks that go through the wrong channels knowing that their complaint will eventually get heard. Here are some principles that can help us handle the people pleasing mentality:
- We are to please God not people. Galatians 1:10 “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” This is a very important mentality. Our goal must never be the applause of people but the approval of God. The decisions we must make must be with done with God in mind and not the preference of others.
- Be content with your best. It is one thing to do something half hearted. However; if what you are doing is with the best intentions, your best efforts, and all your strength then be okay with that. I wonder if people really think the decisions I make are because I am hoping for failure. If at the end of the day you can honestly say that I did the best I could with God’s best interest at heart, then sleep with contentment.
- Keep a Kingdom mentality. Colossians 3:1-2 “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitters on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Keep our minds on the prize. This is not about me, and it sure is not about others. It is about Jesus. We must maintain a Kingdom mentality. Stay meek, humble, and be long-suffering. Our goal must never be about self gain or social promotion. Our goal must be to operate with God’s Kingdom in mind.
I would love to do things that made everybody happy. However; at the end of the day we have to do the right thing, the right way, and with the right intentions. I urge you to avoid trying to please people because chances are you will not be pleasing God.
Ever feel like no matter how you try or how hard you work it just seems as though you can’t do anything right? Are there times when it feels like your efforts are in vain? Does it seem that everything you touch just goes completely backwards? It has even come to a point that even success is not sufficient anymore. I would like to offer some principles to apply when things start to go in the wrong direction.
- Every experience is a learning experience. We must come to a place where we accept the failures and success as learning experiences. I have come to realize that it is harder to learn from success than it is failure. Personally, I have a tendency not to listen as well during moments of success. However; through the disappointments, discouragements, and difficulties that I find my greatest lessons are being taught. When we fail to learn through our success, God will humble us through failure. Notice what Paul says in Philippians 4:11 “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Regardless of the experience Paul says “I have learned”. What are we learning when nothing seems to be going right?
- Struggle brings strength. We live in a world that does not want to experience any struggle. However; the key to gaining strength is to experience struggle. It may sound cliche but there is a lot of truth to the phrase “no pain no gain”. The let downs, the disappointments, and difficulties are God’s way making us stronger. When it feels like we can’t get things right we need to remember that it is through the struggle that God allows us to experience his grace. Look at what God says during our weakest of moments. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9. God wants to display his strength through our struggle. The struggle gives God an opportunity to show us how strong he is.
- God can use all our situations. I wish we had enough to believe this. God can take the good or the bad and make it work together for his good and his glory. However; we tend to get caught up in our mental state of failure that we lose focus of what God is capable of doing through with our current situation. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” The key is in the knowing. It requires a faith relationship, it requires a love relationship, and it calls a purpose driven relationship with God. Just know that God can work this for his good. Trust him with it.
Maybe you have been feeling this way lately. I would like to challenge you to post some verses that have help you mentally maneuver through these experiences.
‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. ‘ Philippians 4:13
This is an awesome verse. This verse has been taken out of context over the past few years. This verse appears a lot in the sports world. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate these men and women using their platform to point people toward God’s word. This verse does not empower a person to score the winning basket, throw the winning touchdown, or hit the walk-off homer to win the game. Please understand, that this is an empowering verse but not in the context that it used today. Let examine this verse in its context and learn how it can be used throughout our lives.
- The Scope of Our Abilities: “I can do all things…” We have a tendency to zone in on our physical abilities. However; this verse has more to do with the emotional and spiritual abilities than our physical abilities. Paul is writing this letter while in prison so his physical abilities are limited. If you were to look at the previous two verse Paul is teaching us that he can emotionally, spiritually, and physically handle the ebbs and flows of life. He has been down, and he has been up. He can handle the victories and he can handle the defeat. Here is the overall principle: Once I learn how to “be” then I learn what I can “do”. I can overcome trials, I can overcome disappointments, I can overcome discouragements, and I can prevail in my weakest of moments.
- The Source of our Abilities: “all things through Christ…” Without Christ we can do nothing. I will also say that without Christ we are nothing. We will always be limited when operating through our own strengths. However; we will live a life of unlimited ability when we draw strength from Christ. Right now you are probably looking at a situation, or issue and saying to yourself “I can’t do this”…I will say you are right, you can’t at least not alone. Your strength comes from the Lord. We must stay plugged in to our power supply.
- The Significance of Our Abilities: God gives us strength. The word “strengtheneth” is not necessarily a past kind of word, but rather a continual kind of word. It is not that Christ has strengthened me, but rather he is continually strengthening me. Why is this verse so significant? Because we will never fully no what we are capable of doing through Christ until we actually try. Have you ever heard the saying “that person does not know their own strength”? Well, I believe God shakes his head every day at us and says “if they would only realize what they are capable of doing if only they will actually have enough faith to do it.”
I want to challenge you to step on faith and see what you are capable of doing through the strength of Christ. You will find that God has the ability to stretch us far beyond our expectations, dreams, or imagination. God has not failed yet and do not foreshadow failure in the near future.
‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: ‘ 1 Peter 5:8
Many times we create enemies that are were never purposed to be our enemy. When we read this verse we see our enemy is both identified and defined. Our enemy is the devil. He is our adversary. He is described as a roaring lion and his agenda is to destroy. I believe it is God’s intention to remind me and those reading this that we must not allow our real enemy to create false enemies. I think we often allow the devil to divert us in thinking our enemy is related to a person or relationship rather than actually identifying the actual enemy.
One of the great tactics of Satan is to cause confusion and divert attention away from him and place it on someone or something else. For example, we look at certain people and view them as the enemy, but we fail to look at the source of the opposition. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people that can push buttons, create conflict, and cause division. However; we need to realize that it is a work of Satan using a person, situation, or circumstance to destroy, discourage or create doubt. We must be sober, and we must be vigilant. Let me phrase it like this:
- My coworkers are not my enemy, my enemy is the devil.
- My boss is not my enemy, my enemy is the devil.
- My siblings are not my enemies, my enemy is the devil.
- My spouse is not my enemy, my enemy is the devil.
- My parents are not my enemy, my enemy is the devil.
- My children are not my enemy, my enemy is the devil.
God gives us instructions for our enemy: He says to be sober and vigilant. We have to operate with temperance and patience. We have to maintain the right perspective. We are to be vigilant. Vigilant Christians are able to avoid allowing the real enemy divert their attention. Vigilant Christians are undistracted Christians.
God gives us the intentions of the enemy: He is roaring and devouring adversary. His intention will be to destroy. He will divert you, distract you and then devour you. If we are not careful we will fall prey to the tactics of the enemy.
‘Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. ‘ Philippians 4:6
How is it that we categorize major and minor and decisions? What makes us decide which decisions we make are major and which decisions we make are minor? I believe that this verse shows us that there are no major decision or minor decision, there are only decisions. God commands us through this verse not to overlook anything. He teaches us that we must bring all things before him through prayer and supplication. Feel convicted yet? I sure do! Why? because I have a tendency to pray about the big things and then try to do the little things in my own strength. God does not categorize the big and little, but he wants us to bring everything to his attention. Dealing with decisions are difficult, worrisome, and stressful. This verse gives each us some principles to follow when dealing with decisions.
- The decisions we make always dictate a new direction. Regardless of how small the turn it always effects our direction. Whether I turn 2 degrees, 30 degrees, or 180 degrees, the turn changes my direction. Therefore, even the smallest of turns has an impact on the direction. We need to realize that regardless of the decisions we make it always dictates a new direction in our lives.
- The most simplistic of decisions will have the greatest of consequences. I was given a very good illustration with this principle: The devil did not have to cause man to decide to kill, or commit adultery. All the devil had to do was cause man to decide to disobey God in the Garden of Eden. What seemed so small turned into something so disastrous. Think about like this: Nobody ever woke up one day and said I want to be a drunk or drug addict with my life. Where did it start? It did not start with a decision to make addiction a major part of their lives. It started with a decision to hang around with the wrong people. Most people never consider the fact that their life they living was based on what they thought was a small, insignificant decision but ended up having massive consequences. My decision to spend time with family, my decision to play with my kids, my decision to kiss my spouse before leaving the house may seem so simplistic but it can have some major consequences.
- Consider God. God wants to help us. We must consider him in all things. When we fail to bring God into our decisions we are going to give birth to anxiety and stress. God wants to be held in the backdrop of all our decisions. God does not categorize them, but God wants to control them. He wants us to bring every decision into his presence. He wants pray about everything.
The ability to apply the principles has a beautiful promise that follows. Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” If we want the peace of God to rule our lives then we must avoid categorizing our decisions and consider God in everything. It will remove anxiety and produce peace.
Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
It is not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me but it is parts of the Bible that I do understand that bother me. This is one of those verses for me. It is a verse that challenges me and convicts me each time I read it. While this verse is challenging and convicting it is also encouraging. Let me share with you some thoughts as to why I love this piece of scripture.
- Resist Contentment – Paul says he has not yet apprehended. In other words, Paul is trying to tell us that he has not yet arrived. His ultimate desire from verse 10 is that he could know Christ. However, he acknowledges the fact that he still has room to grow. Think for a minute…If Paul (the writer of the majority of the New Testament) has not arrived then I know we still have work to do in our relationship with Christ.
- Forget the Past – Paul has to forget those things which are behind him. The key to getting to a deeper level with Christ means we have to forget past failures and we have to forget past victories. Past failures can cause us to feel inadequate. Past victories can cause contentment. We have to quit looking back if we want to move forward.
- Jesus must be the Goal – Paul made Jesus his goal. If we are going to go deeper with Christ then we have to make him our goal. Much of the time we make faulty goals that cause us to miss Christ by a million miles. We have a tendency to create comparison that are inadequate. We must quit comparing ourselves to other people, other families, other marriages and start comparing ourselves to Jesus.
Paul teaches us that in order to know Christ we have follow these three principles. Remove the distractions and put ourselves in a position to grow to a new level with Christ.
I LOVE MY CHURCH!!!
I got to do something that I do not normally do. I actually sat with my family during a church service. Due to the death of my wife’s aunt, we have had to travel to south Alabama and have church with my wife’s parents. Heritage Baptist Church located in Opelika, Alabama is pastored by Brother Thad Endicott. It is an amazing church with a tremendous pastor. Getting to sit in Church this morning was a blessing. I was fed, exhorted, and encouraged. It is an awesome church experience. They are an amazing church family!
You might me wondering why I titled this “I Love my Church!” Well, it is because as I sat through this service my mind would periodically race to my church family at Mt. Pleasant. I was thinking about my small group and the discussion we get to experience. I was thinking about the time we spend praying together as a church family. I was thinking about the smiling faces of those believers that are always there. I really missed preaching. Don’t get me wrong, I loved getting to sit and listen to Brother Thad. Great preachers make me want to preach and it was an incredible message.
Today, was just a reminder that I really love what I do. I love the people I pastor, and I love the calling God has placed on my life. I want to tell my Mt. Pleasant Family that I love each of you. If you get a chance to read this then post one thing that you love about your church family.