Anger is a two sided coin. On one side, there is righteous or holy anger. The other side of the coin is sinful and destructive anger. As Christ Followers, it is imperative that we understand the anger issue. Anger isn’t always sinful, but it always has the potential to be sinful.
“In your anger do not sin” Ephesians 4:26 is a verse that makes it pretty clear that we can be angry without sin. In fact, we should absolutely be angry about the things that anger God. Yep, that’s right…..God gets angry too. However, He isn’t like us…..His anger is always sinless and perfect. Our anger becomes righteous anger only when it lines up with God. Injustice, sin, dishonesty and devaluing life all anger our God, so we should absolutely get angry about these things. The point is that in that anger we are forbidden to sin. We have a choice. Out of control anger always ends up controlling us.
We see a stunning example of unrighteous and destructive anger in the Biblical book of Genesis. Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Able. These brothers both offered sacrifices to God, but only Able’s was accepted by Him. This angered Cain immensely, and God lovingly warned him that his anger would destroy him if he didn’t get on top of it. Genesis 4:6-7 gives us this warning. God’s command to Cain was to rule over his sinful anger! You and I MUST get control of our anger. We must do something about it. Cain refused, and it led him to murder his own brother.
Unresolved anger sets up in our heart like a stagnant body of water. It begins to breed the bacteria and insects of bitterness, wrath and malice. It becomes destructive to the angry person and those around him. Don’t let this happen to you. Avoid the trap that Cain stepped into. Your relationships with others and with God will be better off when you deal with the roots of your anger and get the water of your heart moving again. This is a work that only God can ultimately do in our hearts. We must, by the power of the Holy Spirit, begin to get on top of our anger, before it gets on top of us.
God asked Cain a penetrating question; “Why are you angry?” It’s a question all of us must answer in order to begin the healing and transforming process in our hearts. Why are we angry? What the REAL reason? I challenge you today to look in your heart and truly answer that question. Once you’ve identified the infested pond of water, bust open the dam and get it moving. Deal with it. Resolve it. Get God involved by asking Him to help you. It’s this process that Cain refused but we must embrace.
This past weekend, COTES (Church on the Eastern Shore) became 3Circle Church. We changed the name of our church. Why would we do that? Our church is growing, healthy, and vibrant. We have experienced one of the strongest summers I’ve ever been a part of during my ministry. We did not experience the normal dip in attendance or financial contributions. So why change? Why take that risk and make that hard decision?
Simply put, we made the decision because we absolutely knew it needed to be done. Our church has an amazing 13 year history. Just over 10 years ago, two great pastors merged 2 passionate congregations and a great story began to be written. They didn’t just start a new church on the Eastern Shore, they started a different church. The vision was to reach people far from God. Under strong leadership and a unique vision, the church literally exploded. Chapter after chapter was written as people came to Christ and began to follow Him. I am grateful to the leaders who came before me as they worked, sacrificed, and led.
The name, however, was always a bit of tough spot. People would confuse the church with other Eastern Shore churches, and they would ask which church on the eastern shore it was since there are many. The church then abbreviated the name to COTES. This was great for those already in the church, but for anyone outside it became problematic and confusing. What is “COTES?” 3 years ago, the problem came to a definitive moment when the church decided to start multisite campuses. There is no “eastern shore” in Thomasville, AL where we have a campus! Also, the global impact of the church had grown tremendously. So the wrestling match took on even more urgency.
A year ago, I had the honor to become the new lead pastor at COTES. We have enjoyed a year of tremendous growth both deep and wide at our church. I preached a series in the spring called “3 Circles” based on Acts 1:8. It was out of this series that our team began to see the possibility for a new name. Through much prayer the elders of our church decided that indeed God was leading us to become 3Circle Church. We didn’t look for a cool name. We weren’t interested in a relevant name. We wanted a name that truly represented our identity, our mission, and our vision.
3Circle truly is who we are as a church. In Acts 1:8, Jesus gave us a mission to take the Gospel and make disciples beginning local (Jerusalem), next regional (Judea/Samaria), and finally all over the world (global). We have anchored ourselves to the mission of Jesus. He gave us a 3Circle mission and we are a 3Circle church! We desire to lead people to reach up (worship), reach in (grow), and reach out (share) in all 3 circles.
Our 3Circle name represents not only our mission but also our theology, Christology, governance, doctrine of man, and more. Keep checking in with my blog as I break this down. I’m excited about this next chapter of our church. We didn’t close the book of COTES, we simply began a new chapter called 3Circle. The story that was started 13 years ago did not end, it is continuing!! Join us in writing this next chapter.
In retrospect, I wish I would’ve spent more time studying God’s Word.
In retrospect, I wish I would’ve prayed more and worried less.
In retrospect, I wish I would’ve been a good friend rather than trying to find one.
In retrospect, I wish I would’ve eaten more veggies and less burgers.
In retrospect, I wish I would’ve resisted hitting the snooze button so often.
In retrospect, I wish I would’ve listened more and talked less.
In retrospect, I wish I gave more grace and less judgement.
In retrospect, I wish I looked after other’s interests more than my own.
In retrospect, I wish I would’ve taken more risks than always playing it safe.
In retrospect. What is you’re list? What is your “in retrospect”?
The book of Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s “in retrospect.” It’s a man at the end of his life writing his
book in retrospect. In it, there is both regret and hope. Realism and faith.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
Live your life knowing that at some point you will look back on it in retrospect.
The end of the current NBA season is upon us, and this is the time of year I actually pay attention to what’s going on. I grew up absolutely loving basketball. My grandfather had played throughout school, and since he was my hero, I wanted to mimic him. I eventually became hooked, and by the 7th grade the sport of the hardwood floor had supplanted the red dirt diamond as my favorite sport. It helped that a guy named Michael Jordan had burst onto the scene as a global phenomenom. Me and my buddies watched his games, wore his jersey, and begged for a pair of his “Air Jordans.” Alas, after his retirement, I have lost much of my passion for the ole orange ball. But, I do enjoy the semi-finals and finals. As I watched last nights Pacers win to tie the series with the Heat, I made an observation I’d like to share.
Lebron James is his generation’s Jordan. He is a ridiculously gifted athlete, and also a ferocious competitor. Clearly, Lebron is the star and leader of the Miami Heat, even though his teammates are superstars in there own rights. The fact remains, he is just that much better. At the end of the game, a game that Lebron arguably had single handedly kept Miami in, he fouled out and was sent to the bench. The game was tied up, with just a few short minutes left to play. All of Lebron’s talent, charisma, and competitiveness couldn’t help his team one bit. He was done, out of the game. So what happened? The Heat fell apart in his absence. They missed shots, couldn’t rebound, couldn’t defend, and superstar Wade was called for traveling!! Total choke on the part of the Heat. It was as if Lebron was the only fuel the Heat engine could use. They lost the game.
I’m reminded by this situation that we all need a team. Whether it’s your family, your staff, or your circle of friends, you need a team!! Well, that is, if you want to accomplish anything of significance. Jesus, the greatest leader of all time, built a team. The early church was led by a team. All great churches and ministries are led by great teams. Lebron needed his team to step up. His individual accomplishments mean little if the TEAM loses. And they lost. If you’re a leader, then build a team. Train them, love them, and serve them. When you build a great team, chances are together you will get some numbers in the win column. And, the journey will be so much more fun than if you go at it alone.
Spring is my favorite time of the year. I happen to live in one of the most beautiful areas to enjoy this particular season. Here on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Southern Alabama, the azaleas are blooming and jasmine can be both seen and smelled. Pecan trees are exploding with green leaves and the mighty oaks are offering shade for picnics and walks. The sunsets on the Bay are brilliant and breathtaking. Sadly, all of this beauty often get’s overlooked. We simply miss the show.
Creation is God’s show that we get to watch and enjoy. Theologians often call nature God’s “general revelation.” This means God generally reveals Himself to us through the amazing work of His creation. The songs the birds are singing, the breezes coming off of the Bay, and those gently swaying oak trees are all shouting and whispering that there is a Holy and loving God behind it all. God wants us to know Him and make Him known, and the wonders and beauty of creation are part of the language He uses to speak to us.
The first six verses of Psalm 19 testify to the revelation of God through His creation:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat (Psalm 19:1-6).”
Now, to be clear, the creation is NOT God. It is His handiwork. So, as we care for His creation and enjoy His creation, we can worship Him in a powerful way. No one on the planet should appreciate our surroundings more than those who call themselves by the Name of the One who created it all. Christians should be known for both our caretaking of the Earth and our exploration and enjoyment of it.
The problem is that our busy and technology driven lives have a disastrous side effect. We end up missing the show! We watch TV’s and computer screens rather than taking a walk and getting outside. We breathe in air-conditioned environments rather than jasmine saturated breezes. Our kids bury their faces in video games rather than bury their toes in the sand. I’m not against modern advancements, but I’m convinced they don’t compare to God’s handiwork.
So, during this beautiful season, don’t miss the show. Get outside and take a walk. Load your family up and have a picnic. Skip rocks on a bay, river, or creek. Find a beach and play in the sand. And while you’re enjoying the wonders and magic of creation, be sure to thank the Creator. After all, He put the show together for His glory but also for you to enjoy.
Words are powerful little things. They can bring great joy and deep despair. They can arouse powerful emotions and urge us to action. A simple combination of letters forms what can be a power packed form of communication. We live in a world where words are thrown around in an endless universe of communication, information, and language. Often, we forget the power of our words. I hope this is a reminder to watch, shape, and better use your words.
The scriptures have much to say about our words. Proverbs 13:3 states “He who guards his mouth keeps his life, but he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Yep, that’s pretty powerful. It is clear that we should be extremely careful in how we choose to use our words. This verse teaches that our words can become harmful and destructive to ourselves. We need to be careful that what we say doesn’t get us into a mess. Careless speech is an icy highway of words that can quickly cause spiraling destruction in your relationships and profession.
Our words can also have a huge impact on others. Proverbs 15:4 states “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger”. How many fights and conflicts could we all have avoided if we would have used our words more carefully? What you say and how you say it matters more than you could ever imagine. In light of this truth, we should all take much more care to choose our words wisely.
Proverbs 18:21 makes it clear that “the tongue has the power of life and death”. When you and I speak, do our words give life or death? The next time you have interaction with someone or about someone, ask this question: Is what I’m about to say life or death giving? This is a powerful question that can serve as a filter to catch your words before they do great damage.
Also notice that your words can have incredible positive impact. The scriptures teach us the “right word and the right time is like medicine”. This is so true! We all have had someone say kind and encouraging words to us at the right time and they were truly healing. I encourage you today to take an inventory of the way you use your words. You choose to do great damage or great good. The “words” are in your court.
This week we have been reminded once again that our world is not a safe one, and that there is a very real presence of evil in our midst. As the horrific images of the Boston tragedy came across all our tv, computer, and phone screens the reality of life on Earth crept in on millions of hearts and minds. I’m not going to attempt to answer all the questions in a quick blog post, because I simply don’t have all of the answers. I do want to offer a few thoughts that I hope will be both truthful and comforting.
First, we need Jesus. Events like the Boston tragedy are harsh reminders of the fallen nature and depravity of humanity. From the moment sin entered the picture in the Biblical book of Genesis, our world and our natures have been twisted and corrupted. We are born with a nature that is bent away from our loving God and towards evil and sin. Sometimes this nature can result in massive violence and destructive behavior as we have recently witnessed. The truth is, we need a savior. Apart from the saving and redeeming work of Christ, we are enemies of God and will act on our fallen nature.
Secondly, we should all remember that life is so very fragile. The victims at the Boston Marathon got up that morning and headed out to have a beautiful and memorable experience. As they laced up their running shoes and walked to the starting point, they had no idea that their lives would change forever in a matter of a few short hours. The fact is that we just don’t know what’s going to happen in our lives from one day to the next. We must live in a manner that reflects our knowledge of the fragility and the gift of life. Don’t take a minute for granted. Live fully, because there’s no guarantee that you’ll be living at all tomorrow.
Lastly, we can take shelter in the truth that although we have very little control over the events in our lives, we serve a God who is in complete control. He promises that He works ALL things together for His Glory and the good of those who follow Him. No matter what is going on in our crazy and fallen world, we have hope in our God. He has a plan. He is in control. He is not caught by surprise. It is in the darkness of events like those in Boston that the blinding light of the Gospel of Jesus shines so very bright. Yes this world is fallen and evil, but there is hope and redemption at the foot of the cross of Jesus. We need Jesus.
This week, the church that I have the honor of pastoring, COTES, will collectively invite thousands of people to come and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with us. I, along with our staff, have been urging our people to invite their coworkers, family, and friends to one of our many weekend services. It has been one of the main points of focus for our church over the past month. One may wonder why this is so important? Shouldn’t we just clean the buildings, prepare the service, open the Bible and preach to whoever decides to come on their own? Should we be making all this effort to get people to the church this weekend, or any weekend for that matter? I believe the Bible gives us a strong foundation for inviting everyone we can to our churches, especially on Easter.
In Luke chapter 14, Jesus tells us the parable of the great banquet. In this brilliantly vivid story, told in a way only Jesus could tell it, a master prepares an amazing and large banquet and feast. He instructs his servant to go and invite people to it, but everyone he invites turns him down with weak excuses. He then angrily instructs the servant to go everywhere possible and invite everyone he can find to the banquet. The language is strong, as the servant is told in Luke 14:23 to “urge” people to come. Why does the master say to so passionately make this invite? In the same verse he says to invite “so that my house will be full.” God wants His house to be FULL!!!
If you attend my church or another, either way you should be passionately and actively inviting everyone you can in any way you can to come to the house of God with you this weekend. We know that people are more willing to attend a church during Easter than any other time of the year. Why would we not invite? Why would we be so lazy to simply hope people will show up to our churches without actually doing the work of inviting? The “build it and they’ll come” mentality has taken the modern church down a road of decline and stagnation. Our buildings become nothing but museums and monuments if the Gospel isn’t being proclaimed to both saved and unsaved people within their walls. I hope COTES is jam packed this weekend with people. Hurting people, saved people, lost people, rich people, poor people, sick people….lot’s of people!!! Why? Because God wants His house full, and so should we.
So, in closing, I challenge you to spend the next few days making invites. Use your cell phone, your computer, and most of all you influence to make the “ask.” Will it be hard? Yes! Will it be uncomforable? You better believe it! Will you regret it? Never. So, invite my friends. There’s no feast like the one Jesus serves. There’s no banquet that comes close to the one that has the Gospel as the centerpiece. May our tables be set and His houses be full!!
It’s all about Jesus. This is a very powerful statement that can usually be heard in pulpits and worship gatherings all over the world. I wonder, however, if we truly understand the depth and implications of this very true statement. I believe if we can wrap our minds more fully around this truth, it will be very helpful to every area of our spiritual lives.
First, the Bible and the Gospel are completely wrapped around the person of Jesus. Genesis to Revelation points to the Son of God. The Old Testament points forward to Him. The Gospels tell the accounts of His time on Earth. The rest of the New Testament points back at Him, while Revelation unveils a glorious future with Him. So, the Bible is all about Jesus.
The Gospel is the message of Jesus which is good news. The Bible describes this mighty Gospel in many ways, but I love how 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 sums it up as the “message of reconciliation.” In Jesus, God reconciled us to Himself. Jesus made things right. He evened the scales. The truth and reality of this message means that through faith in Jesus, we are made right with God. So, the Gospel is all about Jesus.
All of creation…..the Earth and the universe….it’s all about Jesus.
The Bible tells us that all things were created by Him and for Him, and that He holds all things together! During His earthly ministry Jesus said that if people didn’t worship Him the rocks would cry out their praises!! So, all of creation is about Jesus.
I could go on and on, but I want to make clear that even our mission is all about Jesus. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gave his followers a massive mission. They would take His Gospel all over the globe beginning in their local area, but expanding to the region and ultimately the world. This mission was overwhelming to say the least. That’s why Jesus didn’t tell them to go on the mission first. He actually began by reminding them of WHO He was. “All authority” had been given to Him.
Jesus made it clear that even our mission is completely wrapped around Him. We can do what He has called us to do because He is who He says He is!! So, take heart today my friends. If you feel inadequate or unworthy and you don’t think you measure up, don’t worry. It was never about you anyway. It’s all about Jesus.
I’ve always been a fan of intelligent, quick, and tasteful humor. I grew up watching Saturday Night Live when guys like Adam Sandler and Chris Farley roamed its famed stage. While shows like this can be very funny and often offer unique perspectives on current events, the results can be dangerous. I really believe our culture has created several generations of people who find it hard to take anything seriously. We have increasingly become a culture of cynics.
The problem with unhealthy cynicism is that it can lead to an empty life. Cynicism can make you criticize everything and embrace nothing. Unfortunately this has quickly become the state of my generation and those behind me. Sincerity is an assumed mirage in the desert of our fake and artificial culture. Leaders of all stripes are automatically distrusted and considered dishonest and shallow. When something looks great there must be something wrong behind the curtain. This has developed an atmosphere of general dissatisfaction in many of our lives. If we don’t embrace anything, then we’re not fully committed to anything, which leads to life far below the standard I believe we were created to experience.
Cynicism and criticism often are two unruly brothers that like to run together. The cynic will most often voice his issues in biting criticism. Now, let me be clear: cynicism and criticism are not always bad. We should not be naïve or careless. The important question to ask is whether you are someone who offers healthy and constructive criticism or have you become a critic.
Do you find something wrong with everything? Do you always look for the negative instead of the positive? Do you offer as much praise and affirmation as you do criticism? These are important things that could help you decide if you’ve crossed that line. Cynicism can be dangerous, and we really need to guard against allowing it to become what we are all about. If you find something wrong with everything, the problem might be looking back at you in the mirror.