How You Say What You Believe Matters

Supreme CourtWith the recent decision of the Supreme Court (i.e. Same Sex Marriage) plus the 24/7 social media hashtags and statements that are attached I believe we must be able to say what we believe with the right attitude and tone.  Our beliefs, if not declared correctly, can anger, frustrate and even confuse those who are listening.

I have my deeply held core beliefs – they are based on God’s Word.  I know that I don’t always get it right, but I work very hard to live my life as a reflection of the Bible.  I believe God’s Word is the final authority on all matters (2 Timothy 4:2).  I believe that every person is a sinner who needs Jesus (Romans 3:23).  I believe the only way to Heaven is through accepting Christ into our hearts (Romans 10:13).  I believe God wants to extend healing into our lives (Isaiah 53:1-5).  I believe that one day Jesus will return and take His Church home to Heaven (1 Thess. 4:16-17). I believe that the power of the Holy Spirit equips, enables and empowers us to live the overcoming life (Acts 1:8).  I believe God desires to bless His children (Philip. 4:19).   I believe that God loves every person that has ever existed (John 3:16).  And yes I do believe in the Biblical view of Marriage – one man and one woman (Matt. 19:4-6). There are so many more, but I hope you get the idea.  These beliefs are rooted in Scripture.  They are not rooted in hatred or bigotry, but a strong belief in the Holy Bible.

You see, there is a difference between opinion or belief.  An opinion lacks sufficient evidence, but a belief is based on something real.  Because I believe God’s Word is real I base my decisions, hopes, dreams and convictions on it.  It is real to me.  It has changed my life.  So I allow what Scripture to shape my beliefs.  As a Christian, the Bible has to be my guide.  Its that simple.

Here are some guidelines for sharing your beliefs:

  1. Know what you believe and why you believe it.  Make sure that before you share you have studied, developed and grown to know not just what, but why.  Too many Christians will state their belief and not be able to tell where it comes from, what Scripture did you use to come to that conclusion or who else did you read.
  2. Love with your words.  Even if you are going to disagree with someone never demean, trivialize or demoralize their position, opinion or belief.  Respect everyone.  Even when you disagree on deeply held convictions.  Love does matter.  I choose to love everyone – even those I disagree with.
  3. Never knee jerk.  Don’t spout off in anger or frustration.  So many people have vented on social media about their beliefs without thought as to how others would feel or react.  You will never be able to articulate your beliefs in 140 characters on social media.  Be careful.
  4. Develop relationships.  The closer you are to people the more likely they will listen to what you have to say (and visa versa).  All caps statements, yelling and nasty text messages will never help us understand each other.  I am thankful to have friends from all walks of life.
  5. Don’t focus on AN issue, focus on THE issue.  The issue is that all humanity needs Jesus and my mission is to draw people to Jesus, not repel them from Jesus.  My ambition in life is to share the hope that Jesus brings.
  6. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean that hate you.  I am not sure where this philosophy developed, but some believe “in order to accept me you have to accept everything I believe.”  That simply is not true.  I have a friend that is a Muslim.  I don’t believe what he believes but we are still friends.
  7. Conversations are better than casualties.  I would rather have a talk with someone and share my beliefs with them as opposed to only making public statements.  It has to be a combination.  I love sitting in my office with people of opposing beliefs and engaging a conversation.  There are less casualties that way.

So many pastors/leaders/Christians addressed the Supreme Court decision within moments.  I chose not to.  Not because I don’t have my beliefs, but because I wanted to make sure my response my loving, appropriate, Scriptural and respectful.  People are looking for leaders not infomercials.  Sound bytes don’t help anyone.

I am not freaked out by the decision of the Supreme Court – I disagree, but I am not screaming, “The sky is falling.”  God was not sitting on his throne declaring, “Oh man, I did not see that coming,” after the decision was made.  Nothing takes God by surprise.  So I will always trust His plan and purpose.

A scripture that I put my entire ministry on: “Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life” (1 Timothy 6:3).  My job as a pastor/leader/friend is to help people live a godly life.  Every person is on their own journey and growing at their own pace – and that means I have to be patient in the process in sharing truth.

So share your beliefs.  I will always respect them.  But make sure that you share them in a godly, kind, caring and loving way.  I may respectfully disagree, but I will never disagree to respect all.

Inconvenient Ministry

Luke 9:57-62: “On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said. Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.” Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.” Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!” Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.” Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

You can easily read this passage and think, “Man, Jesus is really cold.” But what he was trying to teach is that “following Jesus” will not be convenient … It will disrupt your schedules, change your vacations, cause you to lose sleep … and it will be tough, hard work.  3 people who wanted to follow Jesus, but did not understand the inconvenience of life with Jesus.

Lessons 1 – Ministry isn’t always convenient.

Your sweetest spot can be found in the most inconvenient situations.  One of the ministry mantras I have had for nearly 20 years is “at the end of the long days and late nights did anyone hear about Jesus.”  Life with Jesus is never convenient but it is always worth it.

Lesson 2 – Ministry is about priorities.

Many people love the “rock star vibe” of ministry but they don’t want the “hard work lifestyle” of ministry.  Every leader knows that ministry has to be prioritized.  We can’t do everything.  So we have to make our list of priorities.  If you don’t have priorities you will do a lot of things poorly.

Lesson 3 – Ministry is not always glamorous.

I still do things that I don’t necessarily want to do, but they must get done.  Serving behind the scenes is as important as serving in the limelight.  In fact, I believe it is more important.  I learned this principle playing sports: “Practice prepares you for performance.”  The truth is practicing is not the fun part – performing or playing in front of an audience is.  But more of what we do for Christ is behind the scenes.

Lesson 4 – Ministry is about us changing our lives.

You see, Jesus did not change his direction – he asked us to change ours.  One of the keys to leadership is to make people feel uncomfortable and inconvenient. You can become stagnant if you are comfortable.  Every day we have to make the “right” changes in our lives so we can experience the right outcomes.

Pray and think about:

  1. How inconvenient is ministry?
  2. Is it worth it?
  3. Am I only doing comfortable ministry?

Pause.

I think that one of the healthiest things to do is to hit the pause button on life – to simply stop what you are doing, realign, reflect and recalibrate!  It is critical in ministry to come up for air.  In fact, even Jesus did.  Matthew 14:23 tells us that Jesus “went up on the mountainside by himself to pray.”  Jesus moved away from the crowds to prepare himself, pray and pause.  If Jesus needed a break, then so do we!

Changing your position (where you are) often changes your perspective (where you can be)!

1.  Teaching Pause
There are times in ministry, as a pastor, that you should pause from preaching.  This is challenging for me because I love to speak.  But just because you love something that does not mean you should do it without taking a break.  Professional athletes don’t perform year round – their bodies could not handle it.  And pastors should not preach year around – their emotions cannot handle it.  Take 2 weeks off.  Invite guest speakers. Pause.

2.  Weekly Pause
This one is hard for me.  But God knew the pressure of life would intensify so he gave us a prescriptive – “Keep the sabbath day holy” = no work.  Each week we all need time to breathe and take a break.  As a pastor since 1995 I can tell you how vital this is to our personal spiritual, emotional, relational and physical health.  I try and enjoy my day off with my family … try!

3.  Family Vacations
I did not grow up with family vacations.  From time to time we would go on a local camping trip, but nothing really major.  Mary has taught me to love vacation and to take that time and invest in my family.  In fact, that’s what I am doing now … pausing … so my wife and kids can know that they are still my priority.  We have been having a blast!  From Disney to Monster Trucks to Alligators to Aquariums to beaches …

Bishop Road Trip 2015

I have a confession to make.  I am not superhuman.  I need a breather and need it often – and I really needed it.  One of the greatest things that I can do for Church Unleashed is STOP doing ministry and ENJOY my family.

Healthy churches are always led by healthy leaders.”  Healthy leaders will know when hit the PAUSE button.  I did.

Double for Your Trouble.

How many of you like promises? I do. But I only like the ones people keep.  So let me give you a promise from God to you:  “Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours” (Isaiah 61:7).

There are a lot of people who go around feeling bad about themselves, hanging their heads and walking in defeat when God promises to not just remove the shame, but give you twice as much honor.  In other words, God is going to give you double for your trouble.  Not only does God promise restored honor … but restored resources too.

How many of you would love to live with double?  You see, I believe that God is in the restoration business, not the sanitation business.  He restores, rebuilds, remakes and remolds our lives to be better.  When he gives you the restoration you need he has another promise; everlasting JOY will be yours.  Depression, discouragement and defeat are gone because God has given you a double dose of joy.  And Scripture says that joy “comes from the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

So I am ready for some restoration. I am ready for my double. I am ready for my healing. I am ready for my miracle.  Here’s a restoration declaration:

Today, I declare … that God is good … the enemy is a liar … I am convinced … God will restore … my joy … my passion … my finances … my health … my family … I will not lack … I will not doubt … I will not fear … because this is my year … I declare … double for my trouble … In Jesus name, Amen.

Never forget God’s promise to you: “Double for your trouble.”

Developing A Spirit of Excellence.

Over the last several days our family has been vacationing at Disney (yet again) and we have seen it once again … excellence.  They have worked hard over the years to develop excellence in their cast members, renovations, attractions and performances.  I have discovered that excellence does not take place over night … it takes place over time.

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
Walt Disney

Daniel stood out from the crowd.  And Scripture gives one amazing reason why: “Daniel was preferred above the presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him” (Daniel 6:3).  Daniel did everything with excellence – he went above and beyond.  Too often, people want the benefits of excellence without the hard work required for excellence.

Principles of Excellence:

  1. Excellence starts in the unseen.  Excellence is a habit that is best seen in our private spaces.  What are we doing when no one can see?  How hard do we work on things no one will ever say ‘thank you’?  You see, most people only try and excel in the visible, but the true test if excellence is are you working hard on things that are unseen.  Notice, what is says about Daniel – “an excellent spirit with in him” – he had a spirit of excellence that overflowed in every area of his life.
  2. Excellence continues in the small.  Too often people only what to excel in the big stuff of life.  When I get that job I will … If they give me this promotion then I … No, excellence in the small is rewarded with greater.  The Bible says, “”If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities” (Luke 16:10).
  3. Excellence is revealed in the visible.  God is looking for people of excellence and when you do things to the best of your ability God will reward you with greater things. People will see you excel and celebrate it.  But excellence does not start in the visible … it starts in the small and unseen.  Excel in what matters.  Be passionate about those things that you care about, but in the process be excellent.

You see, I believe we should show up for work on time – thats excellence.  I believe we should give our best even when its not our calling – that’s excellence.  Even those things that no one will see – let’s bring our A game, our best.  Here’s why – “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23).

Everything we do should be done with EXCELLENCE and that starts in the heart!

You Are God’s Champion.

There is a story in the Bible about a man named Jephthah. Jephthah has an interesting life.  Scripture says, “Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute” (Judges 11:1).  Jephthah had a label … a tag … he was the son who was born out of an affair. His dad ran off with a prostitute and got her pregnant.  Jephthah’s half brothers made fun of him … criticized him … Jephthah tried to run from his label.

But something happened that changed everything.  His city was about to be attacked by the enemy and the town leaders realize they need this great warrior, who is the son of a prostitute.  Jephthah ends up defeating the enemy. He is now the leader over all God’s people.  You see, I have discovered that those who discount you one day, may end of needing you another day.  You may not have the tag “child of a prostitute” but there are other things that have been spoken over our lives, about us and to us.

In order to develop the heart of a champion you have to first understand WHO you are.  Notice that Jephthah was called a GREAT WARRIOR.  Church, you have so much potential on the inside of you … don’t hold it in … let it out.  It doesn’t matter what others have said about you it only matters what God has declared over you.  God declares over you today that future will be greater than your past … he shouts out that you are talented, gifted and anointed for a purpose.

You must know who you are, but you also must know WHOSE you are!  You are God’s child. Pray this right now, “I am God’s child … I am destined to win … designed to excel … and anointed to serve.”  You are the CHURCH UNLEASHED!!!

You are God’s choice … you are God’s favorite … you are God’s child … You are God’s Champion created to do incredible things for Him.

Unexpected Promotion.

I have learned one major lesson over the last 15 years of ministry – “You don’t have to find God’s favor, it will find you.”  Listen to what Psalm 23:6 declares, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”  His favor, mercy, love and promotion will find us where we are.

And the only thing that we need to do in the process is remain faithful to God – because God favors the faithful.  You see, when you are faithful to your wife – your marriage will have God’s favor.  When you are a faithful parent – your children will experience God’s blessings.  When you are faithful in your job – God will give you the promotion you need.

Many times promotion comes when we are not looking for it.  That means we always have to be ready for an unexpected promotion.

Moses did not plan his whole life to lead God’s people out of slavery … it was an unexpected promotion.

Mary did not decide she would be the mother of Jesus … no, she was called to it … unexpected promotion.

In the middle of what you are going through … facing difficulty or challenge … always be prepared there could be an unexpected door or opportunity that is thrown open for you!  Live ready because favor is about to find you!