As a pastor, I’ve noticed a lot of the following discussion…
Christian Trent says to Christian Ben–
“You sure talk and post alot about this election stuff, Ben. You clearly are idolizing politics above the Lord. You are more focused on a wordly empire than the Kindom of Heaven. You should repent.”
Then Christian Trent turns to Christian John and says–
“Hey John, did you see that Kyler Murray has thrown for 5000+ yards with 30+ TDs while rushing for 1000+ yards with 10+ TDs…all in his first 24 career starts? Man, I cant wait for Church to end, Im ready for football all afternoon!”
Whats my point?
Kingdom prioritizing should not be understood as a priority list from 1 – 10 with Jesus at the top. i.e. (In a linear priority of Jesus #1, your spouse #2, and your daughter #3…what happens to your priorities when, while reading your Bible and praying to Jesus, your daughter is injured and you must leave your Bible time with #1 Jesus to take your daighter #3 to the ER? In a linear priority list…You made priority #3 more important than #1…and if your spouse #2 stayed home, your #3 took priority of #2 as well.
So is there a better way to live? This all might be better understood and lived as what I call Circular Prioritizing…like a wheel of priorities with Jesus as the hub. (In this instance, its honoring to Jesus to stop your Bible Time to run your daughter to the ER as it is an act of worship to steward the things Jesus has given you.) And your act is honoring to your spouse too.
The goal is for Jesus to remain as your center AND live life stewarding and enjoying all good things around Him that He has blessed you with.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” Praying and never stopping is impossible to do in a linear priority scale, but it is easy to pray continually in a circular priority scale.
Jesus talked about Pharisees all the time, but that doesnt mean He idolized them or that He had his Kingdom priorities out of order. Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 Jesus teaching on this would be best understood and lived when it is not taught from a linear perspective…and is best understood and lived circularly with Jesus as THE center.
The Apostle Paul, under the teaching of Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, wrote in Romans 12:21, “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”
There’s a lot of talk lately about doing good through compliance, respect, courtesy, and obedience to the Gov, and respect for our fellow citizens. This fact is a good thing. There is and has been a tremendous amount of compliance from Churches and Christians over the past 6 months. One would think this would be respected and appreciated by non believers and government officials. One might think it would win them over. Time will tell.
My gut…not always accurate…tells me the opposite is happening. The rest of this post is simply my opinion. As I often say, and already repeat in this post…Time Tells All things. My personal gut tells me that the American Church…which does have more freedom than any other Church group around the world. (America is very good in that respect) So…it is an unarguable fact that we as the Church, that live in America, have done a lot of good, as Romans 12:21 states, through compliance and obedience to the Government’s wishes and laws. Is it too pushy of me to be concerned that the Church need be reminded of the other half of God’s mandate found in Romans 12:21? Conquer evil.
I’ve witnessed Christians across the USA, bend over backwards to do the compliance part. In America we have the God given freedom to use the law to do the other half of Scripture’s command too…to Conquer, using good.
The Law is Good. It can be used by the Christian to accomplish much.
Christianity in America will not retain freedom through compliance, passivity, and courtesy only. I am convinced there are some who would prefer we all simply lay our heads on the chopping block and allow the world to dominate us, end our lives, and send us into eternity. That was Jesus’s role. He came to earth for the propitiation sacrifice required to pay for our sin. Our mission while we are on earth, is not exactly the same as Jesus’s mission while He was here on earth. We are mandated to behave like Jesus, but we are not mandated to have the exact same mission as Jesus. Jesus’s mission was full submission to God and Man. He could not defy, as that would prevent him from dying. He came here to die. Along the way, He did a lot of good, that we also are to do…but His first part of coming to die…is His mission…and His alone. There is only one Lord and Savior, and we are not Him and our mission is different than His. So, I ask…where is the Christian and the Church that is honoring both sides of the command to Conquer and do Good?
Strength and defiance can be done while also honoring Scripture’s command of remaining good. The Bible tells us to obey the law of the land. America has been fortunate to have been founded on “We The People” are the law makers…and We The People are the Government of the land. Yes…even Christians living in America.
I copied an article today I found in the News….check it out below…
Pay special attention to the 2nd paragraph below…I capitalized it for easy reference. The full article can be found in The Christian Post Sunday Edition August 30, 2020.
The four-page letter posted on the front door of the church accused North Valley Baptist of “failing to prevent those attending, performing and speaking at North Valley Baptist’s services from singing.”
IN THE LETTER, COUNTY OFFICIALS REVEALED THEY HAD BEEN SENDING AGENTS INTO THE CHURCH TO SPY ON THE CONGREGATION DURING WORSHIP SERVICES.
“This activity is unlawful,” the notice stated. “The county understands that singing is an intimate and meaningful component of religious worship. However, public health experts have also determined that singing together in close proximity and without face coverings transmits virus particles further in the air than breathing or speaking quietly.” The county demanded that North Valley Baptist “immediately cease” their activities, warning that “failure to do so will result in enforcement action by the county.”
Imagine you were born in America and the year is 1900.
When you’re age 14, World War I begins and ends by the time you’re age 18… there are 22 million dead.
Soon after a global pandemic, the Spanish Flu, appears, infecting 500 Million–(1/3 of the world’s population) and killing 50 million people. And you’re alive at the age of 20 years old.
When you’re age 29 you survive the global economic crisis that started with the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange, causing inflation, unemployment and famine. This era also gets nicknamed the Dirty Thirties.
When you’re age 33 years old the nazis come into power.
When you’re age 39, World War II begins and ends when you’re age 45 years old with a 60 million dead. 6 Million dead Jewish People from the Holocaust.
When you’re age 52, the Korean War begins. When you’re age 64, the Vietnam War begins and ends when you’re age 75.
If you were fortunate enough to live to 2001, at the age of 101, you witnessed 3000 people die when the twin towers were destroyed by a terrorist attack.
Most Children born in the late 1900’s naturally think their grandparents have no idea how difficult life is. They naturally think their current era, and their world is falling apart more than ever.
Well…is our world falling apart more than ever? I answer no. I think there is more good happening than bad. The problem might be, we all have our iPhone’s out and use social media to overly populate the bad news views. Life is hard. Choose to focus on the millions of good that happens everyday.
In America Today we have all the comforts of a new world, even amid a new pandemic. What are your current complaints? Pause and imagine all the things we have that allow us to be described as fortunate. WiFi, Running Water, Electricity, Netflix, Insta, Coffee Shops on every corner, Sports, Great Schools, Equal Opportunity for Every American, Laptops, Cool Cars, iPhones, Air Conditioning, and Freedom. … keep the list going.
A small change in our perspective can generate entirely different outlooks. This change in perspective could change your outlook in nearly miraculous ways. We could be thankful that we are alive and thriving today. We could do everything we need to do to protect and help each other. Life is hard. It will remain difficult for the rest of our lives…for everybody. I pray we don’t actually think we have it worse than ever before. We don’t. It’s all about our perspective.
I end with a Holy Bible Scripture Verse found in Philippians 4:4-8.
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Imagine the power that is essential to achieve the first rotation with a locomotive that is sitting idle. Intense, dramatic, clanking steel, tons of fuel, teams of people, one goal in focus, plumes of smoke, unseen energy, and sheer grit. Creates movement!
I haven’t updated my experience at Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills(CCFH) in about a year. I’ve recently been asked by many people to share an update. This post is a brief update. (My brief may not be your brief!) 🙂
In February, 2017 I was given the task to take the drive mechanisms of CCFH and move it forward. At that moment the Church was simply at a standstill. Not right or wrong, good or bad, just factually still.
Someday I will write a full detail post of the hard-to-believe experiences I’ve had over the past two years that were necessary to get the rotation and movement going in this complex body of people called the Church. Today is not the blog to post the blood, sweat and tears stories that got us to get our first rotation of movement. Today is a blog to simply say that it is happening! Forward movement. Momentum. Action. Success. Perseverance paid off!
Today is simply a day to encourage you to persevere to momentum. You are facing something that is good and yet it is stuck. Whatever it is, use your head, heart, and gut…surrounded by wise counselors, prayer, and sheer grit to get your thing moving. It’ll test you like nothing else. It’ll make you want to quit…sometimes…every day…every 10 minutes. Depending on what you are facing…you may need to quit. If you need to quit…never quit on a bad day! But in all likelihood, you do not need to quit, you need dig in with grit and persevere with wisdom.
If you are in something stuck…the greatest reasons for the interrupted forward movement, are summed up in 2 C’s. Circumstances, and Critics.
Circumstances. This is usually difficult to mention because it tends to get personal towards the team who led in the past or whoever you are currently in a stuck situation with. But it shouldn’t be personal for the simple fact that times change. What used to be right and worked, doesn’t make it wrong today, it was right, back when it was applied. It’s just the wrong time now and is no longer working and moving. The best way to think about it is this…Nothing fails like success. In other words, when a challenge in life is met by great leadership that is right in their pursuit of accomplishing their goals…they have success! But, as in all things, the challenge changes, it moves to a higher level that the previous methods no longer meet. The old, one successful response no longer works–it fails; thus, nothing fails likes success. Every single one of us would do well to humbly admit this, and welcome the new challenge and new methods to meet those challenges.
When I arrived here at CCFH, I had previously been leading a Church that had more than 3000 people regularly attending our weekend services. I want to humbly and with gratitude inject, in Church world, that is like leading an NFL football team in football world. I came to CCFH and took on the leadership of a Church that had about 300 people regularly attending worship services. The average size Church in America is less than 100, so in sports terms, this new Church I took the lead with, was like leading a High School Football team. An NFL coach, stepping into a local High School Football program…when it comes to football knowledge…is a pretty easy shift. I knew what new things needed to be done to get CCFH moving once again. I also had wise counsel around me, Christ leading me, and the energy to do it. I’m grateful for my track record and experience, however it did not make this momentum shift any easier. Knowledge and getting knowledge done are very different things.
Whatever your circumstances are, depending on your past experience, and the energy level you have today, determines how you move forward. I warn you, DO NOT, try this on your own. You need to humbly allow others to invest in you and your decisions to get your cemented circumstances, free and moving! I’m writing this blog from a 20/20 hindsight perspective. Trust me…there were hundreds of days where I wanted to quit every 10 minutes and so many days where I thought I was going to fail. This feeling of failure was instigated continually by antagonistic critics. This is the second of the two C’s.
Critics. The other C word that will work tirelessly to keep you stuck. I could add yet another C word here… Control. Control is what the critic wants. In Church world, the biggest critic who wants control will do another C word. Cite. They continually cite the past. The “good ol days.”
First of all…There is no such thing as the good ol days. The good ol days simply means that something was working and momentum was happening and everybody except the negative Circumstances and Critics of the time enjoyed it. The good ol days are in the past. Everybody in your life knows that there is no influence that happens with the past. It is a memory to be cherished and that is that. Wisdom can be derived from it, but the past tends to be dangerous to the future. The past used to be right, but rarely is effective for today. (I could share countless examples of this, but I said I’d be brief)
Critics make critical errors when they verbally vomit their desire to control and use the past to cite their opinion. They are more committed to their view, than a you. A critic is right as they cite their past’s success. A critic is not wrong, they are stuck in the past and are perpetuating the stuck-ness of the current circumstances. They are guilty of prioritizing their view more than a you. In Church world, the YOU, must be Jesus and His desire. We all know that Jesus’s greatest desire is to reach the unreached person, and to represent Jesus’s very lifestyle. That is the you that must take priority over every persons view. (By view, I do not mean Biblical integrity…we can never compromise Biblical integrity for a you.) Most critics do not cite Biblical truth as their backbone for being a critic, they tend to cite history and their personal preferences. I personally believe that most critics love their views more than the You named Jesus. They won’t admit that, but their actions prove their priority of who’s views they choose. What do you do with your critics? Listen. Love. Be patient, but do not be pushed around as you stand your ground. Be like Jesus.
If something is stuck, the leadership’s views overrule you’s. If something is stuck, somebody is allowing a view that used to work, stay in place. The reason the leadership allows this, are the influence of the C’s + 1. Circumstances and Critics + low Energy levels = fruitlessness. Critics and downward trending Consequences are giant energy extractors. The longer someone leads and is confronted by the never ending critic and circumstances, the more worn down they become. Add years of this, and an aging leadership’s energy levels are depleted to a point where recovery simply takes too long for the organization to keep moving. Momentum stopped. When momentum stops, the energy that is essential to get that locomotive rolling again is just too great. When the leadership is tired and their views naturally overtake the you’s, the commodity gets stuck. The best solution is to bring in new and freshly energized leadership. If your marriage is stuck, or something smaller than an organization, then the new leadership you bring in, must be in the form of counselors, mentors, and accountability partners or straight up intervention groups.
This critical decision of bringing in the new, takes guts, and I hold all who make it, in high regard. My heart aches for the new person who takes the new roll of leadership of an organization of any kind…especially a Church. The new leadership views that are administered into a momentum-less organization are going to take a beating from the C’s. However, if the new leadership will persevere to momentum, it will succeed. Painfully.
I’m seeing it happen before my eyes. Over the past two years I seriously considered that I had lost my ability to lead well. I seriously thought that I had lost my touch. But, that is just was the C’s were saying. I kept my ears and eyes on the You of all you’s. Jesus. I surrounded myself with teammates who had the energy and expertise and the grit to persevere to momentum. It is working.
I believe with everything in me, that CCFH will someday be a Church that creates such momentum, that more than a 1000 people will call CCFH their home Church every weekend. In this size of town, that would be remarkable. Just last weekend, we experienced 20 brand new people in our Church. We don’t market or advertise…on purpose. These new people were invited. The laughter, joy, new growth, and just sheer fun is making all the C’s worth it. Discipleship is reignited, evangelism is strong, growth is on. Momentum!
The momentum has begun. We are just now in the second and third wheel rotation of the locomotive regaining momentum at CCFH. The fuel reserves are stockpiled, the leadership team is in place, and the momentum is starting to take on its own power. Once a locomotive starts moving… don’t do anything stupid to stop the momentum. Let it keep moving and just guide it from the steering wheel! Here’s what is good news…once momentum starts moving and success is being repeated…the C’s begin to diminish. They never go away…they just lose a ton of power against a locomotive that is moving. Its easy to rob a train when its stopped!
You too can get momentum going in whatever you are facing that is stuck. Check your energy levels. Know you’re circumstances. Know your critics. Surround yourself with wise advisors. Use your grit! It’s worth it. If I can personally assist you with anything, please contact me. I’ll do my best to help you, and if I cannot, I’ll connect you with someone who can.
If you are interested in the CCFH story. Stay tuned. The momentum is just getting started! I can’t wait for the next update. You know the sound of the steam locomotive that is ch-k-ch-k-ch-k-ingalong at a fast pace? If you imagine it, you’ll “hear” it in your head right now. That’s our aim. That’s your aim in every area of life. It doesn’t come easy, but if it is worth doing, it will never ever be easy. Grit on, my friend. You can do it. We got this!
I read many things everyday. I recently came across the following true story. I forwarded it to myself to make sure to remind me to post this to my blog. I have no idea where I got it, who wrote it, and don’t know who to give the credit to. I really don’t care about all that. I only hope the following story will encourage us and teach us many things about this crazy life. Enjoy.
One spring morning many years ago, I had been prospecting for gold along Coho Creek on southeastern Alaska’s Kupreanof Island, and as I emerged from a forest of spruce and hemlock, I froze in my tracks. No more than 20 paces away in the bog was a huge Alaskan timber wolf—caught in one of Trapper George’s traps.
Old George had died the previous week of a heart attack, so the wolf was lucky I had happened along. Confused and frightened at my approach, the wolf backed away, straining at the trap chain. Then I noticed something else: It was a female, and her teats were full of milk. Somewhere there was a den of hungry pups waiting for their mother.
From her appearance, I guessed that she had been trapped only a few days. That meant her pups were probably still alive, surely no more than a few miles away. But I suspected that if I tried to release the wolf, she would turn aggressive and try to tear me to pieces.
So I decided to search for her pups instead and began to look for incoming tracks that might lead me to her den. Fortunately, there were still a few remaining patches of snow. After several moments, I spotted paw marks on a trail skirting the bog.
The tracks led a half mile through the forest, then up a rock-strewn slope. I finally spotted the den at the base of an enormous spruce. There wasn’t a sound inside. Wolf pups are shy and cautious, and I didn’t have much hope of luring them outside. But I had to try. So I began imitating the high-pitched squeak of a mother wolf calling her young. No response. A few moments later, after I tried another call, four tiny pups appeared.
They couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old. I extended my hands, and they tentatively suckled at my fingers. Perhaps hunger had helped overcome their natural fear. Then, one by one, I placed them in a burlap bag and headed back down the slope.
When the mother wolf spotted me, she stood erect. Possibly picking up the scent of her young, she let out a high-pitched, plaintive whine. I released the pups, and they raced to her. Within seconds, they were slurping at her belly.
What next? I wondered. The mother wolf was clearly suffering. Yet each time I moved in her direction, a menacing growl rumbled in her throat. With her young to protect, she was becoming belligerent. She needs nourishment, I thought. I have to find her something to eat.
I hiked toward Coho Creek and spotted the leg of a dead deer sticking out of a snowbank. I cut off a hindquarter, then returned the remains to nature’s icebox. Toting the venison haunch back to the wolf, I whispered in a soothing tone, “OK, Mother, your dinner is served. But only if you stop growling at me. C’mon, now. Easy.” I tossed chunks of venison in her direction. She sniffed them, then gobbled them up.
Cutting hemlock boughs, I fashioned a rough shelter for myself and was soon asleep nearby. At dawn, I was awakened by four fluffy bundles of fur sniffing at my face and hands. I glanced toward the agitated mother wolf. If I could only win her confidence, I thought. It was her only hope.
Over the next few days, I divided my time between prospecting and trying to win the wolf’s trust. I talked gently with her, threw her more venison, and played with the pups. Little by little, I kept edging closer—though I was careful to remain beyond the length of her chain. The big animal never took her dark eyes off me. “Come on, Mother,” I pleaded. “You want to go back to your friends on the mountain. Relax.”
At dusk on the fifth day, I delivered her daily fare of venison. “Here’s dinner,” I said softly as I approached. “C’mon, girl. Nothing to be afraid of.” Suddenly, the pups came bounding to me. At least I had their trust. But I was beginning to lose hope of ever winning over the mother. Then I thought I saw a slight wagging of her tail. I moved within the length of her chain. She remained motionless. My heart in my mouth, I sat down eight feet from her. One snap of her huge jaws and she could break my arm … or my neck. I wrapped my blanket around myself and slowly settled onto the cold ground. It was a long time before I fell asleep.
I awoke at dawn, stirred by the sound of the pups nursing. Gently, I leaned over and petted them. The mother wolf stiffened. “Good morning, friends,” I said tentatively. Then I slowly placed my hand on the wolf’s injured leg. She flinched but made no threatening move. This can’t be happening, I thought. Yet it was.
I could see that the trap’s steel jaws had imprisoned only two toes. They were swollen and lacerated, but she wouldn’t lose the paw—if I could free her.
“OK,” I said. “Just a little longer and we’ll have you out of there.” I applied pressure, the trap sprang open, and the wolf pulled free.
Whimpering, she loped about, favoring the injured paw. My experience in the wild suggested that the wolf would now gather her pups and vanish into the woods. But cautiously, she crept toward me. The pups nipped playfully at their mother as she stopped at my elbow. Slowly, she sniffed my hands and arms. Then the wolf began licking my fingers. I was astonished. This went against everything I’d ever heard about timber wolves. Yet, strangely, it all seemed so natural.
After a while, with her pups scurrying around her, the mother wolf was ready to leave and began to limp off toward the forest. Then she turned back to me.
“You want me to come with you, girl?” I asked. Curious, I packed my gear and set off.
Following Coho Creek for a few miles, we ascended Kupreanof Mountain until we reached an alpine meadow. There, lurking in the forested perimeter, was a wolf pack—I counted nine adults and, judging by their playful antics, four nearly full-grown pups. After a few minutes of greeting, the pack broke into howling. It was an eerie sound, ranging from low wails to high-pitched yodeling.
At dark, I set up camp. By the light of my fire and a glistening moon, I could see furtive wolf shapes dodging in and out of the shadows, eyes shining. I had no fear. They were merely curious. So was I.
I awoke at first light. It was time to leave the wolf to her pack. She watched as I assembled my gear and started walking across the meadow.
Reaching the far side, I looked back. The mother and her pups were sitting where I had left them, watching me. I don’t know why, but I waved. At the same time, the mother wolf sent a long, mournful howl into the crisp air.
Four years later, after serving in World War II, I returned to Coho Creek. It was the fall of 1945. After the horrors of the war, it was good to be back among the soaring spruce and breathing the familiar, bracing air of the Alaskan bush. Then I saw, hanging in the red cedar where I had placed it four years before, the now-rusted steel trap that had ensnared the mother wolf. The sight of it gave me a strange feeling, and something made me climb Kupreanof Mountain to the meadow where I had last seen her. There, standing on a lofty ledge, I gave out a long, low wolf call—something I had done many times before.
An echo came back across the distance. Again I called. And again the echo reverberated, this time followed by a wolf call from a ridge about a half mile away.
Then, far off, I saw a dark shape moving slowly in my direction. As it crossed the meadow, I could see it was a timber wolf. A chill spread through my whole body. I knew at once that familiar shape, even after four years. “Hello, old girl,” I called gently. The wolf edged closer, ears erect, body tense, and stopped a few yards off, her bushy tail wagging slightly.
Moments later, the wolf was gone. I left Kupreanof Island a short time after that, and I never saw the animal again. But the memory she left with me—vivid, haunting, a little eerie—will always be there, a reminder that there are things in nature that exist outside the laws and understanding of man.
During that brief instant in time, this injured animal and I had somehow penetrated each other’s worlds, bridging barriers that were never meant to be bridged. There is no explaining experiences like this. We can only accept them and—because they’re tinged with an air of mystery and strangeness—perhaps treasure them all the more. — End of story.
If a man can conquer his “racism” towards a wolf, we as mankind can practice many of the same principles to conquer our “racism” of each other, all the while realizing it’s not nearly as dangerous. –Trent