WHAT’S IN YOU?

24 Jun

John 14:30 records the words of Jesus when He said to His disciples, “I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of this world comes, and he has nothing in Me.”  Jesus made this statement as He was sharing some of His last words with His disciples before fulfilling His mission through giving His life on the cross for mankind.  In essence what Jesus was saying was that Satan had not been able to penetrate His soul with anything that would keep Him from fulfilling that mission.  There was no doubt, fear, sin, or any other foothold that the enemy could use to thwart the purpose of God on Jesus’ life.

This statement reveals such an important thing for us to reflect on as we endeavor to live our lives on mission for God.  This scripture has served as a reference for what the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me about myself as well as our congregation for the past couple of weeks.  And it comes at such a significant time as we are dealing with the tragedy of the Charleston shooting that took the lives of 9 brothers and sisters in Christ while they attended a Bible Study at Emanuel AME Church.  When confronted with crises, what is in us will always be revealed.  We have seen where love and forgiveness is overcoming evil, where light is driving out the darkness.

Ephesians 4:27 instructs us to give no place for the devil in our lives.  Because the reality is any of us could become the product of unresolved issues in our lives.  We need to allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate our lives with truth, revealing those things that we have not allowed Him to heal, correct, or deliver us from, and invite Him to fill those places with His presence.  Then and only then can we say like Jesus, though the enemy may come he finds nothing in me.

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Game Changers

17 Jun

This past Sunday I started a new sermon series at Freedom Life Church entitled Game Changers.  In this series I am outlining the characteristics we must develop in our lives as we seek to become change agents in our City.  As a former High School Basketball coach, I often times use coaching concepts in developing leaders, as well as with sermon illustrations.  And I am still a big fan of the game.  Tonight as I was watching the interviews following the Golden State Warriors’ victory in the NBA finals, I heard something that stood out to me.  Upon receiving the NBA finals MVP trophy, Andre Iguodala made a profound statement about one of his teammates.  He said, “when I grow up I want to be like Stephen Curry, a God fearing man…”  As usual the interviewer immediately diverted the attention, and tried to change the subject (talking about Jesus on such a large stage is intimidating to much of the media).  But in that quick moment I heard one of the characteristics of a true game changer.

A true game changer knows that he has a source that is greater than himself.  With a personal relationship with Christ, every game changer can tap into a resource of endless power and wisdom, to elevate their performance and be the change we want to see in the world.  The key to unlocking the source of God’s presence starts with the “fear of the Lord”. This is not a statement of being afraid of God, but rather having a reverence for, or honor of His presence in our lives.  It’s this honor that positions us for winning in life.  As James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Real Talk in the Church

26 Jan

This coming Sunday I will be kicking off a new sermon series entitled Realationships, real talk about relationships.  Growing up in the church I quickly learned that many of the issues that were talked about in non church settings were too taboo to talk about in the church.  Unfortunately this mindset created an unhealthy disconnect from society making the church irrelevant to those who lived most of their lives outside of it’s four walls.  Topics such as sex, extramarital affairs, and homosexuality were deemed inappropriate to be discussed from the pulpit, so preachers shied away from addressing the issues that were really affecting peoples lives.

Many pastors would only address those issues in a counseling setting behind closed doors.  The problem with that approach is that most people are not willing to allow a pastor to speak into their lives in a counseling setting without that pastor first gaining their trust through the pulpit.  To further widen the disconnect I’m speaking of, most individuals would feel that discussing those issues with the pastor would open them up to judgement and harsh criticism.  This is why I don’t shy away from such topics at Freedom Life Church.  I believe that if people are dealing with these issues in their lives, God’s Word has a lot to say about it.  And the church should be the safest place for people to come and find solutions to life’s most difficult issues.  At Freedom Life we strive to create a culture where people can talk about their issues in a judgement free zone.  We truly believe Jesus is the Hope of the world, regardless of what you’ve been through or what you have done.  That’s as real as it gets for me!

LIVING LIFE WITH MARGIN

8 Oct

As a leader, like most leaders, I love a great one liner.  Particularly those one liners that really make you think, unlike most of the cliches that we hear from America’s pulpits on Sunday mornings.  I’m talking about the kind of one liners that you can shape core values in life around.  One that I recently heard that’s stuck with me is, “live a life of margin, so that you can live a life on mission.”  This statement has impacted me so much that we are incorporating it into the teaching of Freedom Life’s core values on Generosity.

I know that many of us have made the statement, if I only had more money, time, or other resource, I would be able to do more for God’s Kingdom.  In making this statement we are making a confession of how little margin we live with in life, and how it limits our ability to take advantage of God sized opportunities when they come our way.  Creating margin in our finances, and time management can go a long way to fulfilling our destinies.  As I reflect on this statement I find myself asking, what can I give up to save a little more money each month?  Or, how can I better manage my time to pursue other opportunities?  To answer these questions I must take a close look at my priorities, and evaluate the areas that I can control in my life.  A great resource that I have recently picked up to help me in this area is Andy Stanley’s book, How To Be Rich.  In this book, Andy teaches on what it means to live a life of generosity, starting with what you have rather than waiting until you have what you think you need to live a life on mission.  In order to create margin in your life you have to understand that it’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do with what you have that makes the difference.

Stewardship

11 Sep

     Stewardship, it’s about more than just money.  It’s about Life.  It’s about all of the decisions we make, and how we manage all of the resources of our lives.  Resources such as money, time, relationships, information, health, property and even the environment.   Resources that may be in our possession or sometimes in the possession of others.   It’s about getting the most out of life through careful planning and management of those resources.  It originated as the compounding of two words that when translated meant house guardian.  The purpose of a guardian is to protect possession and life.  John 10:10 tells us that Satan, the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, But I came that they may have life and have life more abundantly.   So in essence Stewardship is the guardian that protects you from the thief and secures the abundant life that God has for you.  Poor stewardship makes you vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy.  But good stewardship secures the abundant life that God has created for you.  Stewardship, it’s about more than just money.  It’s about life!

Spiritual Fathering and The Kingdom of God

6 Jun

    February 16th, 1997 is a day I will never forget.  It’s the day that my father Earl Johnson passed away unexpectedly.  He went in the hospital on Friday with what was thought to be a bad case of the flu, and by Sunday evening he was gone at the age of 42, as the result of an infected gall bladder.  I was 17 years old and a senior in high school.  That was a day that my life was changed forever. 

     My father was a Pastor for more than 15 years, as well as my basketball coach in recreational leagues growing up.  He was always there for me guiding me and shaping me into the man that I was becoming, and I thought he would always be there to answer any questions I might have or solve any problems that might arise as I experienced life’s challenges.  But as I quickly discovered that would not be the case.  However before his passing my father instilled in me a knowledge of God’s Word, and a faith that has carried me many years into my adult life.  

     In the absence of my father I found myself hungry for someone that could fulfill that role of shepherding my heart the way that my biological father did growing up.  Little did I know that God was using the loss I had experienced to process within me a desire for a Spiritual Father, as well as a desire to be a Spiritual Father to others.  The Bible teaches us that THE FATHER GOD sent His Son JESUS, to be the redeeming agent of many sons.  Luke 3:38 tells us that Adam was known as the son of God in the beginning.  So in essence Jesus came that he might redeem Adam, His lost brother, as well as many others, and restore us to sonship in the Kingdom of God.  And it is important for us to understand that sonship is not gender specific.  The use of that term simply speaks to the nature of our relationship to The Father as bearing His image.   

     Romans 8:19 tells us that “creation eagerly awaits the manifestation of the sons of God”.  There cannot be a manifestation of sons without the presence of Godly fathers.  Never before have we lived in a generation of absent fathers as we live in today.  And we wonder why there is so much chaos in the world.  Could it be that all of the calamity and bad news we hear about is nothing more than creation’s cry for the sons of God to manifest and put the world back in order according to the mandate originally given to Adam?  I am fully aware that God the Father is our heavenly father, in the absence of earthly fathers, and that ultimately the redeeming work of Christ is the ultimate restorer of order.  But I am also keenly aware that God is very serious about the ministry of reconciliation He has given to us (2 Corinthians 5:18) as a part of that work.  For such is the Kingdom of God at work in the world today.  So my question is not Where is God in the midst of all of the craziness, but rather my question becomes; where are the Spiritual Fathers?

Changing Church Culture

5 Apr

    I heard a quote today that said, “culture always trumps vision.”  In other words the culture of an organization will always determine the success or failure of implementing that organization’s vision.  You can have all the vision in the world, but if the culture of your organization or church does not create an environment for that vision to prosper than, your work is in vain.  I think this is what Solomon experienced when he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes.  This is one of the driving factors behind burnout in Church leadership.  So many leaders are pregnant with a vision, but are trying to deliver that vision in an environment that is not safe for delivery. 

     I thank God that He is giving us the type of leaders at Freedom Life Church that understand how to serve and protect the vision God has given us.  I have spent many years of ministry trying to implement a vision in churches that do not have a culture that’s able to deliver that vision and raise it to maturity. But as we launched Freedom Life Church last weekend, we saw our vision come to life.  I saw parking lot attendants escorting new families to check their children in to Freedom Kids, and ushers seating people on the front row after all the other rows were full.  It was evident in the praise team members that arrived two hours before service to prepare an atmosphere for God’s Presence to move, and in the Elders that prayed with those that made a decision to accept Christ.  It was a culture of producers, rather than a culture of consumers.  It was a culture that caused leaders to search for solutions rather than point out problems.  It was a culture that’s contagious and life giving.  It is the culture of Freedom Life Church.