I’m so pumped for this series that starts this Sunday, August 5, at Canton Christian Church! If you live in the Canton area, we would love for you to join us.
I’m so pumped for this series that starts this Sunday, August 5, at Canton Christian Church! If you live in the Canton area, we would love for you to join us.
God did it again. I really shouldn’t be surprised, but He never ceases to amaze me. This past week was a little rough. It came at a time that I had purposefully taken some time away to reconnect and refresh my relationship with God. When I came back from that time, it just seemed like there was just some things working against me to get me down.
I was feeling a little discouraged in my ministry. Nothing big. But a few small things were popping up here and there and I let that distract me from all of the good things that were happening. Then, on top of all of that, NW Oklahoma caught on fire. It hasn’t really hit the Canton area, at least not yet. But there is devastation to the west of us. People losing homes, fields, farms, entire herds, and even a couple of lives, with no real end in sight unless we get some rain.
All of this just led to even more discouragement. That’s what I felt when I woke up this morning (Sunday). I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I just felt down. So I spent a lot of time asking God to help my attitude and to be able to preach with conviction. I didn’t want to let a little discouragement to cause me to just go through the motions, which I tend to do every now and then.
As our service ended this morning, and people were leaving, I finally understood why I had been feeling the way I was feeling. The enemy didn’t want me on my game today. He wanted me to just go through the motions or to phone it in. I had noticed while I was preaching that a couple of teens were in the back and seemed pretty emotional. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on, but I quickly found out.
They were both feeling the call to give their lives to Jesus and surrender to Him in baptism. After the service was over, I was able to talk with them about why they wanted to be baptized and to get things ready for tonight. They didn’t even want to wait until next Sunday. So as I write this, our baptistry is getting filled, and during our adult evening service tonight, we will have two new sisters in Christ and they surrender their lives to Christ through the act of baptism. (This won’t be published until Monday morning, so celebrate with us after the fact!)
That’s God’s perfect time again. That’s God reminding me that this is why I have given my life to serving Him. Watching these two girls come to an understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done for them makes all of the down times worth it. There is nothing better this side of heaven than getting to be a part of someone giving their life to Jesus. All the struggle, all the discouragement, all the restless nights are made worth it when we get to be a part of someone finally understanding that Jesus is the only thing that is worth anything in this life.
As I was talking with these two this morning, I congratulated them and then reminded them that this was the best decision that they were ever going to make in their entire lives. And that is all the encouragement I need to carry on in this calling of ministry that I have in my life. Even a Crosseyed Jesus Freak needs that reminder occasionally, so if you’re reading this and feeling discouraged in your walk with Jesus or in your ministry, take heart. There is a reason we do what we do. We have a Savior that loves us and died on the cross for us. That is the only chance that anyone has, so share Him with any and all who will listen! It’s all worth it in the end!
I love Paul’s letter to the Romans. I find myself going back to it over and over again in my personal quiet times. There is just something about it that resonates with me. Recently, as I was reading, a thought stuck out to me, and I realized it is exactly why I do what I do. Before I get lost in that, let’s look at the section of Romans that I was reading through. Paul is making his plea for his fellow Israelites to come to faith in Christ. To be saved through the blood of Jesus. He wants to see them accept who Jesus is. Romans 10:11-13 reads;
11 For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, 12 since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (CSB)
Paul is telling us that there is no distinction between Jews and everyone else, which is great news for us. Salvation through Jesus Christ is open to all! And that was a hard lesson for those of Jewish backgrounds to accept. But Paul continues his argument, and it is the next few verses that really stuck out to me. Romans 10:14-17 reads;
14 How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. 16 But not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. (CSB)
That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I write here on Thoughts from a Crosseyed Jesus Freak. That’s why I teach Sunday school, Bible study on Sunday evenings, and youth group for the teens on Wednesday evenings. That’s why I preach!
This world needs Jesus. He is the only thing that can heal the brokenness of this world. Jesus is our only hope! And the world needs to hear about Him. Like Paul says, how can they call on Him if they haven’t believed? And how can they believe without hearing? And how can they hear without a preacher? God called me to preach His word. I didn’t choose this life. I accepted His call. And I don’t take that lightly.
There is nothing special about me. I’m an imperfect human being that tries his best to follow the call of God on his life. I’m not writing this post as a “look at me”. I’m writing this to remind us all that this world needs Jesus. He is our only hope. This world is broken and dying, and only in Jesus Christ, and His redemption of us on the cross, do we stand any chance.
So, if you are someone that Christ has called to preach His word, stand strong! And let me just say this. If you are a Christ follower, you have a story to tell. You might not be called to preach full time, but you can tell others about Jesus. You can show them that faith in Christ is the only way to navigate this world.
There is nothing special about the people who preach Christ. It is their message that is special. It is their message that is important. It is the gospel…the salvation offered to those that might give their lives to follow Jesus. That’s why I do what I do. Honestly, I could care less if anyone knows my name. It is my desire to step out of the way and let Jesus shine through me.
Every Sunday, those that lead our service where I serve gather to pray just before our worship service begins. It’s a practice that I started because I wanted us all to have our minds focused on God and glorifying Him. Part of my prayer is the same every time. “God, help us to lead well. Help us to step out of our own way, and let You shine through us. May it be your words that are heard this morning, and not ours. May everything we do this morning be for your glory”.
In other words, my prayer is always, “Help me to not make this about me. This is about You God, and You alone.” This world needs Jesus. There is no doubt about that to me. So, let me ask this. What are you doing to spread His word to those you come in contact with? Preachers, remember that it is not about us. It’s about pointing others to Him!
“He must become greater; I must become less.”
This quote is found in John 3:30, and is actually said by John the Baptist, referring to the person of Jesus Christ. I read this in my quiet time just recently, and it stood out. I was familiar with it before this, but for some reason it struck a chord with me in a great way this time.
John was the person that was sent ahead of Jesus to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. That is a very important job. It would be easy to think really highly of oneself when you are the one sent to proclaim that the Messiah is here. And people thought that John was either the Messiah or a great prophet of old. It would not have been hard for John to take some of that praise and the accolades that some were willing to give, and say, “I deserve this”.
But that is not what John did. In fact, he very straightforwardly stated that he was not the Messiah. In fact that happened in the same conversation where we see him saying “He must become greater; I must become less.”
It seems to be really easy these days to think more highly of yourself than you should. I know that’s a struggle of mine anyway. Preaching and teaching is something that I really enjoy, and God seems to have given me these things as strengths. And believe me, it would be really easy to start getting a little conceited about that.
What things are you really good at? Surely something comes to your mind when you read that question. But do you put those things in the proper place. That is where this conversation that the disciple John records about John the Baptist is so important for us. John the Baptist knew he had an important job, but the most important thing to him was showing Jesus for who He really was.
In other words, John the Baptist knew that the only thing that really mattered was Christ being exalted, even if that meant he was not as important as is human nature told him he was. And the same thing should be true for us. We should desire nothing above glorifying Christ. Use your gifts. Use them well. By all means. But do so not to exalt yourself, but to lift up Jesus Christ to others.
“HE MUST BECOME GREATER; I MUST BECOME LESS.”
May we all make that our goal in life.
Are we missing our mission? And by that I mean are we, as Christ followers, forgetting that our primary mission is to introduce others to Jesus? There is more to it than that as we grow, but if we try to make it as simple as we can, we should be living in such a way that we are able to share Jesus with other people.
Their acceptance or rejection of Jesus is then up to them. That’s not on us. But what is on us is sharing His love with all those that we can. As I look around our world today, however, I’m afraid that the answer to my first question is a resounding ‘YES’! We are missing our mission. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at some of Jesus’ last words, both before and after His crucifixion.
After washing His disciples’ feet and commanding them through His own actions to become servants, Jesus added what He called a “new command”. John records it this way in John 13:34-35:
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
People will know you are Christ followers by the way you love one another. That’s basically what Jesus is getting at here. Pretty simple. William Barclay, in his commentary on this passage added some good information. Jesus is calling His disciples to love each other as Christ has loved them. In other words, for us, it is a call to love those we come in contact with, especially other Christ followers, the way that Christ has loved us.
But how has Christ loved? Barclay added four ways that Christ has loved us; Selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly, and forgivingly. That’s how we are to love one another if we want to be known as His followers.
Then, on the mountainside after His resurrection, just before ascending to Heaven, Jesus leaves us with His final command. Matthew records it in chapter 28, and most of us know it as “The Great Commission”. These are His final words to His disciples, and it is a command that is passed to us as Christ followers. Verses 18-20 read:
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Sharing Christ with others, making disciples, and baptizing them into Christ. That’s our mission. It’s not complicated, although, I think we make it complicated. One note, baptizing others is something we are commanded, and we get caught up on that, however, we miss another essential part of this command. Making disciples. That means helping others grow in their relationship with Christ. Christ followers make other Christ followers.
But back to my first question. Are we hitting this mission? Maybe to some degree, but I have to admit, my heart aches as I continue to watch Christians rip each other apart because they interpret passages from the Bible differently than one another. I am a part of a few different minister and restoration movement pages on social media. Instead of encouraging one another, what I see more often is attack after attack.
I’m all for a good debate. Debate is healthy. But what I see all too often is the attitude of “I am right and there is no room for anyone to disagree with me. If you disagree with me you are completely WRONG, and therefore are less of a Christ follower than I”. And let me just say this: I am sick of it.
Disciples make other disciples
We are called to make disciples. You can’t make disciples if you are not a disciple yourself. Disciples make other disciples or Christ followers make other Christ followers. Remember what Jesus said in John 13. I’m paraphrasing, “Love one another as I have loved you. By your love they will know you are My disciple”. How did Jesus love us? Selflessly, sacrificially, understandingly, and forgivingly.
What I am seeing from other Christ followers is anything but loving one another. And I’m talking to both sides of the debate. Most recently it has been over the topic of “women in leadership”. I’m not going to get into the debate. I’ve got friends and respected minds on both sides of the issue. For my purpose today, however, where you land on this topic is not the important part. It’s how you choose to present your interpretation.
We should be better than the world around us!
We focus so much on our differences. We are saturated by that in out culture today. It’s not just in the Church. But we should be better than the world around us! None of us are going to have it all figured out correctly. And we’re never going to agree 100% with anyone. But just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean that you can just completely rip them apart either.
I’ll wrap up with this. Again, I’m talking to both sides of any debate, especially debates among Christ followers.
John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
We’ve been in Canton, OK for almost three weeks now. To say that it is a small town would almost be an understatement. When we decided to move here, I really believed that I would like it, but that it would take some time to adjust. I was a little off in my belief though.
I absolutely love it here. Living in a small town is different than most places I’ve been, but I feel right at home. It is amazing to me how this community is a true community. We watch out for one another. We speak to one another in town. It really seems that people genuinely care for one another.
Let me tell you about a couple of our experiences so far. There is a grocery store here in town, which means we don’t have to drive 30 miles to the nearest Walmart all the time. Kelley and I went shopping the other day to get some groceries. We were getting enough that we needed a buggy. When we got up to the checkout, there was a high school age girl working. She checked us out and then did something that completely blew my mind. She didn’t even ask. She picked up all our grocery bags and started out the door with them. The only question she asked was where we were parked.
I had never had that happen before. Most stores will help you take your things out if you ask, but this was different. I’ve been in a few other times to get a few things, and when I tell them that I can take my things out myself, they almost insist on doing it for you.
Yesterday was probably the most eventful day that we’ve had since the move. We had our normal church activities in the morning, went to lunch with a couple from the church, and then was back at the church by 2 for a retirement reception for the previous minister here. This was open to the entire community, not just those that attend church with us. And this community did not disappoint. For two solid hours people came and went, congratulating Steve and Betty, and welcoming Kelley and I to the community. And it didn’t matter if they went to church here or not, they were genuinely excited to meet us and welcome us.
Here’s my point. This is what true Christian community should look like. If you are a Christ follower, then we are all on the same team. It doesn’t matter if you go to the Christian Church, the Baptist Church, or whatever church. One of my favorite statements about the Restoration Movement is “We are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only.” We are all in this together, and in a small town in Oklahoma, I’m starting to see that actually play out. Is it perfect? No, because we are human and we will never reach perfection this side of Heaven. But when a Christian Church minister and a First Baptist Church minister can sit down with their spouses around a dinner table and talk for hours, I think we’re headed in the right direction.
You may have noticed that I have been unusually silent on Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak. Life has been a little hectic to say the least over the last couple of months. With all the craziness, however, one thing has remained perfectly clear. God’s plan and timing so perfect, especially when we don’t understand exactly what is going on.
At the beginning of July, I was informed that my job in Carlsbad would be ending at the end of the month. Around the same time that that happened, I was contacted by two different churches asking me to come visit with them for potential preaching positions. We worked out the details to travel to these two church beginning in August and began fervently praying that God would open the doors to where He had in store for us next.
Well, God never disappoints. I knew that in my head, but I also knew that His timing is not always when we want things. I was preparing myself for the possibility that I would not step directly into another ministry position right away. But this time, God had different plans.
These past couple of months have been an whirlwind of emotion as we have said goodbye to friends and the town that we have called home for the last three years, and as we have moved to Canton, Oklahoma to begin preaching at Canton Christian Church. While I understand God’s faithfulness to us, I am absolutely blown away at how quickly He led us here to Canton. We arrived in town just under a week ago, and I preached this past Sunday to officially begin my ministry here.
I don’t know what you are going through. Times are tough and life has a way of throwing curve ball after curve ball at us. Don’t lose hope. God’s timing and plan is perfect. He has proven that to me over and over again. If you are going through something that you need prayer to help keep you focused on God, please reach out to me or someone else you trust. I would be honored to pray with and for you. Above all, never lose sight of the fact that God loves you! Life is never promised to be easy, but it is worth it when we follow Him with our whole lives.
As I get settled in here in Canton, I plan on trying to get back to regularly posting. I’ve missed writing the last couple of months as life has just been crazy. As my wife said after this past Sunday, “The best is yet to come!”
I wrote a bit of a teaser for it yesterday, but as promised, I want to tell you about Guadalupe Christian Camp’s upcoming “Defending the Faith Conference”. This is the first annual apologetics conference that the camp is going to be hosting on July 29-31, and I would absolutely love for you to join us. Let me get some housekeeping issues out of the way. If you are interested, make your plans now, because there are only a few days left for the early bird rate of $45 per person. After July 3, the price goes up to $55 per person. All you need to do to register is to contact David Shaw at email@example.com, letting him know how many will be joining your party. Then you pay when you get to the camp on Saturday.
So let me pose a question. “How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!” That’s exactly the question that we are going to be trying to walk through during the main sessions and the Q&A times throughout the event. And that is one of the most important and relevant questions that we as Christ followers need to answer in our own lives. We have to be ready to give a defense of our faith at a moments notice. That doesn’t mean that we have to have all the answers. That would be impossible. But we need to be prepared. In fact, Paul challenges Timothy with that specifically. In II Timothy 4:2-4, Paul writes the following to Timothy;
2 Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 3 For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. 4 They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Verses 3 and 4 sound like Paul was looking directly into our time. There is no absolute truth anymore, according to the society we live in. There are many ways to God, and the fact that Christianity claims to be the only way to God is insensitive…or at least that’s what the world around us is screaming at the top of its lungs. All paths lead to God. Well, if you are a Christ follower, then you know that that is not what Jesus taught. Jesus made a very bold claim in John 14:6-7. He said;
6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Like I said, that is a bold claim. But Jesus backed that claim up by going to the cross and God raising Him from the dead. We have to stand firm. We have to be bold. We know the truth: Jesus is the only way to God. But we have to speak that truth in love. That’s what we are going to be discussing in this inaugural event held at Guadalupe Christian Camp. I, along with three other area preachers, will be presenting on a variety of different topics. Stephen B, a Christian comedian will also be there on Saturday night presenting his comedy routine. This promises to be a great weekend, and we would love to have you join us. The camp is located at 56 Christian Camp Road, Carlsbad, NM 88220, about an hour outside of Carlsbad.
Let’s come together, and answer the question. “How do you stand up for truth in a world gone mad?!”
I’ve been absent for a little while. My apologies for that. But I was working a week of church camp last week at Guadalupe Christian Camp for Jr. and Sr. High students. While I had access to internet there, I felt my time was more valuable investing in the week there instead of trying to write for “Thoughts From a Crosseyed Jesus Freak”. I mean, I had to write a sermon while I was there anyway, so I didn’t take anymore time for this.
It was a great week. We had 38 teenagers and quite a few adults from West Texas and Southeast New Mexico that attended the week, and I do believe that lives were changed. We had a speaker from Illinois that blew it out of the water, as well as a Christian band from El Paso that was just as interested in investing in the lives of the teens there as they were about playing music for the evening sessions.
We got to get away from our normal hectic schedules and spend time with fellow Christ followers, up on a mountain, away from distractions. Although it was a scorching hot week, we were able to enjoy God’s creation together in a few different ways as well. One of those was spending time at Sitting Bull Falls, hiking and swimming one afternoon (the temperature gauge in the van I drove read 108 degrees when we parked at the falls). On Friday morning, we went on the annual hike to the ridge that has quickly become one of my favorite places that I have seen in person on this earth.
As tired as I have been since returning, the physical exhaustion has been well worth it. I came back mentally, emotionally, and spiritually refreshed. That’s something that I’ve needed for a long time. I got to spend time with other ministers, discussing our churches and what things we need prayer and support in. Just bouncing ideas off of others is so beneficial. I got to have some good laughs with the other adults there as well.
One thing happened on two separate nights, however, that may top any camp experience I have ever had. Well, not really because I received my call into ministry at a week of camp, but this was awesome anyway…just not on the exact same level. On Thursday night, we were having a camp fire/smores night, and a couple of the band members were there playing acoustic guitars. The night was coming to an end, and I jokingly asked the lead band member if he knew “Jesus Freak” and explained my website. They didn’t know the song by memory, but looked up the chords and started playing. That is when a bunch of the other adults and I started singing our lungs out to an impromptu jam session of “Jesus Freak”. It was incredible.
Then, the next night at worship was supposed to be more of a concert style worship with the band. Wally told me early that night that he was going to call me from the sound booth to come up to the stage to help him with something, but that it was for the kids. I asked what, but he wouldn’t tell me. When he finally called me up, he handed me a mic and said they were going to play “Jesus Freak”. I got the other guy at camp with a Jesus Freak tattoo to join me on stage, handed him the mic, because I don’t sing into mics, and we got to sing on stage to a live version of “Jesus Freak”. As you could imagine, this Crosseyed Jesus Freak was flying high after that.
It just reminds me of where our focus should be though. Where does your passion lay? This world tries to distract us, but if I’m going to claim to be a Crosseyed Jesus Freak, I need to be focused on Jesus 100% of the time…or at least as much of that time as I can be. We have to be strong in our faith. That’s why this event that I want to tell you about is so important. Guadalupe Christian Camp is getting ready to host its First Annual “Defending the Faith Conference” at the end of July. Check back here tomorrow for an article about that, but if you are in southeast New Mexico or west Texas, consider joining us for this conference.
As you know if you read my articles regularly, I often find stories about sports or athletes that relate to elements of our Christian walk. I’m a huge sports fan, so these stories just seem to stick out to me.
This week, the U.S. Open golf tournament is set to be played at Erin Hills Golf Course in Erin, WI. Actually as I type these words, the tournament is already under way. The U.S. Open, for those of you not familiar with golf, is one of the four annual tournaments that are classified as “Majors”. These are the toughest tournaments of the year, with usually the toughest golf course set ups that truly test the skills of professional golfers that are good enough to earn their way in to them.
Majors have the most prize money and the most prestige for those that are fortunate enough to win them. To win a major tournament is to set yourself apart from the rest of the golfing world. That’s why the story that broke officially this morning is so special. Phil Mickelson, otherwise known as “Lefty” because he plays left-handed, has won multiple majors over his 25-year professional career. He’s won three of the four majors at least once. But he’s never won the U.S. Open. He’s come close, earning second place six times, but he’s never been able to win it.
He’s been playing professional golf for 25 years, which means that he is getting close to the end of his competitive prime, and will not necessarily have too many more chances to win this elusive tournament. Yet, Phil officially withdrew from the tournament this morning before play started. Why? It wasn’t an injury. It was so that he could attend his daughter’s high school graduation in San Diego, CA. He waited until the last minute to withdraw, because there was a chance he could make it to his tee time if there was a weather delay, but once it was clear that there would be no delay, he withdrew.
Phil chose family over the chance to finally win the U.S. Open, not knowing how many more chances he will have at this tournament going forward. And I applaud him for that! I think it is incredible that he would make this choice. He had been talking about this for a couple of months, so it’s not necessarily a huge surprise. But then again, in the culture that we live in today, it’s refreshing to see someone choose his family over potential prestige and money.
Our society glamorizes work and “providing” for our family so much that it tells us that we should do anything and everything to get further ahead, for our family, even if that means taking valuable time away from our family. Or, society tells us that we need to take care of ourselves and then our family comes second, only after we have done what we need to do to get to the top.
We even find this in those in ministry sometimes. There is so much pressure to make sure you are taking care of the people of your church, visiting hospitals, showing up at every event, being on call 24/7 because you are doing what you have been called to do, that often the family suffers. I get it. We all should strive to make God first in our lives above anything else. Doing ministry is often equated to putting God first. But doing ministry as our job is not the same thing as keeping God first in our lives. Whether we are in vocational ministry or not, as Christ followers there needs to be a certain order of priorities in our lives. Something like this; God first, family second, career third.
That is what is so refreshing about Phil this week. Sure, most people that have commented on the story as it broke officially this morning are commending him for it. But honestly, there were some that were saying he made the wrong decision. I don’t know if Phil is a Christ follower. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him discuss his faith. So, I don’t know if he puts God first in his life. But he at least gets the family and career stuff in the right order.
We can learn a lot from Phil this week. Keep God first, absolutely. But after that, your family should come way before striving to grow in your career. Priorities matter. He will probably get another chance at the U.S. Open. He wouldn’t have gotten another chance to see and celebrate his daughter’s graduation. Props Phil! Well done.