God’s New Normal

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Been thinking about what it means to be successful as a church. When people ask, “Is your church growing?” what do I measure to answer that question? My pride and flesh wants to point to an astounding numbers of baptisms, more small groups, greater attendance on Sundays, excess of funds, blah, blah, blah.

But inside I know that God looks on the heart. That is how He ‘measured’ David and found him qualified to be King. Mmmm, so it’s the heart that needs measuring. Ok, so that’s how I measure my personal growth. But how do we know if our church is growing?

Any way, in all my reading and surfing I came across this post by Reggie McNeal on the Leadership Network site:

“Go ahead. Stare at the nativity set this Christmas. Remember a leader who was content with the scorecard of obedience to mission. Quit hushing that quiet voice in you that calls to question the scorecard that enslaves rather than fulfills. Have the courage to agree with God for a new normal. Trust that his “well done” will be the only assessment that every completely satisfies. Allow this reality to relax your anxious and ambitious spirit. Maybe then the “peace on earth” that every soul craves can come home to you.”

Read his complete post here.

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LIFE AFTER HOME begins long before they leave

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I attended the Life After Home event with Dr. Tim Clydesdale over at Grace Point on Sunday night. It was really good. As I walked out afterward someone asked what stood out to me. Immediately I knew what it was. Didn’t have to think about it. Didn’t have to choose between my top two. The thing that stood out to me was that the best thing to do to help kids make wise and good choices, choices to pursue to Jesus when there is no one around making them do that — the best thing was . . .

for parents to live out their faith at home day in and day out as the kids are growing up.

Think about that. I think many parents think we have to make our kids go to camp, read the bible, pray, go, do, go and do. But the real burden lies on us as parents.

What are we doing? Is it in alignment with our words and the message of the Gospel? When Clydesdale said that I went into deep self-reflective mode! What have I been doing? What do I need to be doing? What do I have to stop doing? How are my actions and attitudes matching the message of Jesus? When my boys look at me, what do they see?

Finally, how much of what we are doing is spoon feeding our kids instead of teaching them to feed themselves? How do they begin to make their faith their own, instead of living in the shadow of my faith? How do we encourage them to actively engage in a walk of faith instead of going through the motions of accommodating my faith and wishes for them?

Bette and I are trying. Many parents I know are trying. But the rate that kids are walking away makes me think much of what we are doing is not working.

Parents, we are only stewards of the souls of our kids. One day we’ll give account for what we have done or not done to disciple them. I fear much of the burden will fall not on what we told them, but on how we lived in front of them.

If you want to hear the discussion for the “Live After Home” event click here.

Will we die before we change?

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    “This needs to be a conversation about who we are, and if the average Christian in our churches would be willing to do anything, personally, in the cause of evangelism?

    We have become a denomination whose leaders talk about evangelism, but whose people actually want little to nothing to do with it.

    Our decline is because of who we want to be and how we want things to operate. We want the culture to adjust to us. We want our families to be saved. We don’t want to cross any barriers and we don’t want to have do something we decided the pastor is paid to do.

    Get ready for many, many years of this. I think most churches will die before they will change this pattern.”

These comments are from a blog that I read from time to time. (Check out internetmonk.com if you want to read the complete post.) He writes in the context of the Southern Baptist Denomination. But I think it is entirely appropriate to insert “Crossing Community Church” or the name of any other church where the quote says “We have become a denomination . . .”

Are we a church that is willing to move from the concerns of our overly burdened life and begin to think about the type of changes in our personal life as well as our church life to see us do something about the needs of the world around us?

Our decline is because of who we want to be and how we want things to operate. We want the culture to adjust to us. We want our families to be saved. We don’t want to cross any barriers and we don’t want to have do something we decided the pastor is paid to do.

Who do we want to be? A church of 100’s with a name for all our outstanding programs and professional paid staff? Do we really think that we will influence culture in such a way that our government will pass laws that favor us and our belief system? Is the salvation of our families the goal of all this?

WHAT BARRIERS WILL WE CROSS TO SEE OUR LIVES COUNT FOR JESUS?

Will the average church person engage in a discussion that addresses “who we are” as a church? If not, why not?

Charlie’s Story

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“Charlie” is a man in our church. I encourage you to leave a comment telling “Charlie” how his story impacts you. May God use this story to free many from the trap of sin. If you need help please contact me directly at my CCC email address. We’ll find the help you need.

I am a recovering sex addict. That you might more fully understand the grace and love of our God, I reveal my life to you.

I have been imprisoned for most of my adult life, as you will come to see.

At the age of 3, your dad is essentially “God” in your infantile way of thinking. My dad’s words and actions told me deep down inside that I did not have a right to exist. As a child you cannot process this. You just respond to it in any way you can. I was virtually stripped of any sense of worth from my earliest days. In my case, I set out on what would become a life-long mission to prove I did have worth and I did have a right to exist in the world.

Through childhood and adolescence, I was constantly trying to prove myself to my father. I developed a work ethic. While other kids joined the scouts or a sports team I stayed at home to work and prove I was a ‘man.’ I would never have anything to do with girls because they were not ‘manly.’ I became relationally stunted, shy and withdrawn. All this time I worked with my dad he never missed a chance to strip me of my self-worth.

The problems really began at puberty. I could not have normal relationships with girls. I actually hated any closeness with my own mother for fear it indicated weakness. Yet I still had all the normal feelings and desires for the opposite sex with no acceptable way to express them. Like many teens, I learned everything about sex from all the wrong sources and without a good balance, I began to have a secret life of which I was very ashamed.

It wasn’t until I left home for college that I began to date and develop normal healthy relationships and attitudes. But by that time my secret life was entrenched.

After college I married and started a family. The secret life continued. Eventually our marriage began to fail. I became vulnerable to attractions from outside the marriage. I became an adulterer. Now I had three lives: my failing marriage, my adulteress affair and my secret life. Sex had become an elixir I could not resist and the secret life began to take on new aspects. I had reached a point where every waking moment of my life was consumed with sex. At first I was making up lies. Soon, I was making up lies to cover up the lies. Before I knew it, I was so deep in lies I was losing touch with reality.

Meanwhile, my wife began to attend a new church out of desperation. I could see divorce on the horizon and I wasn’t going to let my child be taken away by some creepy Christian cult. So I began to attend to protect my interests. One day, after about a year of hearing God’s word, the police knocked on my door. I realized what a mess my life was. I accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior of my life.

That first year was a turnabout for me. I implemented several godly disciplines to bring my sexual desires under control. I became a servant in the church and it became my family. Our marriage began to heal.

But after a period, when our church went through some difficult events, I became disillusioned with church, but strengthened in my faith, and pretty much out there alone. Slowly, the old ways began to creep back into my life. I was walking a tight wire and I knew it.

One day, I found myself very tempted to act out in the old ways. I cried out to God telling Him I never wanted to go back. I asked him to either kill me or take me out of it some other way. All that night I sweated and prayed. The next day I lay in the ashes at His feet. I had come to accept that the disciplines I had used were of my own strength. There was nothing within this flesh, absolutely nothing I could ever do that would enable me to conquer the lust. I told God only He understood the processes that go on in me and around me. He knew these things I could not sense as they were happening. He knew the chemicals that were being released within my brain knocked out my inhibitions due to outside triggers I wasn’t even aware of. I prayed to Him, “Father, I give up. I give myself over to you completely. Only you know what is going on inside me and nothing in my own knowledge and strength can beat this. So from now on I am putting myself in your hands. I am going to pray a simple prayer – for you to help me in the way you see I that I need, from one moment to the next.”

God began to work immediately. It was a slow process. At first I only resisted temptations for one or two days before a failure. But I noticed that it was not a matter of resisting temptation. Instead, I became immune to temptation. I became acutely aware of physiological sensations and external triggers. When I sensed them I immediately told God and He would take over. Before I knew it, a couple of days became weeks, then months. Then one night as I lay in bed thanking God for His help that day I realized I could not even recall the last time I had slipped back in to lustful actions. Suddenly for the first time since puberty, I realized I was experiencing the freedom Jesus offers us. It was no longer an intellectual thing. It was real.

I’m 64 years old. I spent most of my life since puberty in prison. Not behind walls and bars. But always looking over my shoulder. Always fearful of backsliding, being exposed, destroying my marriage, hurting my wife and family. Repeating that vicious cycle of temptation, helplessly giving in, getting the “cheap fix” then hating myself for my own weakness and for betraying my Lord, asking for forgiveness knowing I would do it again the next day. And the next day would come and with it another shameful cycle.

But that cycle is now over and gone by the grace and love of the one real God. Telling my story is my chance to give glory to God. I am compelled to share with you the wonderful work God had done. My sincere desire is that you would see for yourself that no matter what your sin or trap, there is indeed hope. This is not the kind of hope like “I hope I get a new bike for Christmas” not knowing if you will receive it. Instead, for those who believe in Christ “hope” is a certainty of things to come. So no matter how bad your sin, you can have hope. You can have freedom!

Sexual Addiction Resources

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90% of 8-16 year olds have viewed porn on-line.

33% of adult web sites are visited by women.

For every McDonalds there are 3 adult porn shop.

At 13.3 billion, the 2006 revenues of the sex and porn industry in the U.S. are bigger than the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball combined.

If these stats are real to you, if you are trapped in sexual sin and haven’t been able to free yourself, now is the time to seek help. Contact me at my CCC email address. We’ll work to find you the help you need. Look over these resources to see if any of them might address your need. There are so many more than these. Let me know if none of these meet your need.

xxxchurch.com — for those addicted to porn as well as family and friends. Testimonies and resources.

covenanteyes.com — internet software to help protect you from porn.

safefamilies.org — online workshops for safe internet usage for families is only one of the many helpful resources at this site.

blazinggrace.org — a site developed by a recovering sex addict. Stories, tools for recovery. Great page on stats re: the porn industry.

http://epm.org/links/linksList.php? — This list of web sites and ministries is developed by Randy Alcorn. There are hundreds of sites listed ranging from modest clothing options, post-abortion ministries, pro-life ministries to sexual addictions.

My Sunday rant!

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I didn’t plan on anything unusual happening in the service on Sunday. I wasn’t looking for an opportunity to make a statement. It just happened.

Somewhere in the middle of my sermon I became aware of several students giggling, laughing and carrying on. At one point I thought I heard the sound of a text message dinging on a cell phone but I can’t be for sure that was actually what I heard. A few minutes later I noticed the distraction still taking place.

Then it happened. Words starting coming from my mouth and I was saying things that weren’t in my message text.

I honestly don’t know all that I said. But I know what I wished I would have said. I wished I had said that our discussion that morning was the most important thing they could be considering — that the Gospel is of utmost significance above and beyond all things. I wished I had said that my deepest longing for each and every one of them was for them to know Jesus and have Him change their life. And that anything keeping them from understanding that has to be thrown aside and forsaken. I wished the words that came from my mouth had in some way communicated all that I wanted for them — all that Jesus wants for them, a rich, full life that has the capacity to handle any adversity, all the hardships; to live without guilt or shame through Him. To live with an eternal purpose!

Instead, I said to be quiet and pay attention. Not a statement that is wrong. It’s a good thing to be quiet and pay attention. But in this case it was an incomplete statement.

Proverbs 5: Prostitutes, fear & grace

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I have never used the services of a prostitute. I have been approached and encouraged to make a purchase. I was only 16 the first time. It scared me to death and embarrassed me to no end! I also had a memorable discussion with a young lady at the Trenton train station.

In both cases I declined their offers not because I was wise in a Proverbs 5 kind of way. I said no because it was “the wrong thing to do” and I was scared! Probably fear was the bigger of the two motivations.

But other men and unfortunately other pastors have said yes. Read well what I am saying, I am not a better man or a more holy pastor than those others. I am a more fearful man. I fear the damage it would do to my heart and walk with the Lord. I fear the hurt and pain it would inflict on my wife. I fear the shame of my sons learning I had done such a thing. I fear the broken trust that would be a result of such an action. Broken trust on the part of my wife, sons, closest friends, our church, with my Father in heaven.

As I read verses 12-14 I can feel the emotion of a man would have to groan the words, “I hated what was right. I did what I wanted. I have ruined everything.”

I don’t want to ever have to say those words. The only thing that will keep me from doing so is the grace and mercy of my Father. Left to myself, I will fail. Lord, sustain me. Protect me and those I love from myself!

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