Feb 9, 2016

You Should Wear A Tie To Church!?!?!?!

I caused quite a stir this past Sunday. I showed up dressed so different that a few people hardly recognized me. I wore a tie this week. 

To set the record straight this is not the first time I have tied up for church. In my previous pastorate in Oklahoma, I served in a much more traditional church. At that church  I wore a suit and tie every week. At my current pastorate in Pasadena, we are very casual church. As a Pastor I have always attempted to dress to match the culture of my church. 

I have seen both sides of the casual/traditional church dress debate. I love that a casual church opens its doors so any person can come as they are. I have seen in the traditional church how the way you dress can become an obstacle for non believers. 

So, why did I wear a tie? 

I believe that the way you dress at church will affect the way you approach God when you are there. Here are 6 ideas to chew on in regards to putting on your Sunday best. 

The way you dress prepares your heart for worship. 

When I go out to eat with my wife, I can tell you it becomes a special occasion when  I dress up for her. My attitude and attention are different when I choose to dress up for a special occasion. 

When I come to church dressed down my encounter with God in worship becomes a normal commonplace experience. I never want worship to be normal. I want my attitude and attention to be pointed upward to make worship with my church the most important part of my week. 

The way you dress establishes (for teachers and pastors) the authority of your message.

The simple truth is people who dress well are taken seriously. When you dress poorly you loose credibility. When you are teaching and preaching the Word of God do you really want people to doubt your credibility? 

The way you dress builds the environment for corporate worship. 

If the whole of a church enters casually then the whole of your church will worship casually. When the whole of the church comes ready to meet the king it will be reflected in their worship.

The way you dress will either draw attention to you or to God. 

There is a temptation in dressing up and dressing down of doing it disruptively. When you dress immodestly people will be looking at your business and not towards worship. If you make dressing a competition, who are you trying to impress? 

The way you dress should be relevant to the  church you attend. 

I have said that we need to dress up for worship. I have not said we need to wear suits, ties or ball gowns. For a farmer dressing up might be putting on his best pair of jeans. In my community, few wear suits. That is not our Sunday best. In Pasadena it may be a golf shirt and jeans.

The way you dress communicates to outsiders the value of your faith. 

I wouldn’t trust a banker wearing sweatpants with my money. I wouldn’t trust a doctor in cargo shorts and flip flops with my health. Why? Their clothes speak to the value of their work. What we wear to worship communicates how much we value worship.  

The way you dress doesn’t matter as much as who you are inside. 

So after spending a whole blog talking about looking your best for Sunday morning let me conclude by telling you that God cares far more about your heart than he does your clothes.  You can dress up as much as you want, but if your heart is not right all your work is in vain. 

For me, putting on a set of dress slacks and button down shirt helps to get my attitude focused on meeting Jesus. That said, in church every one is welcome. If you have on flip flops and shorts you are welcome. If you wear a sports jersey and sagging pants you are welcome. I’m going to dress up simply because it helps me to worship. I’m not going to judge what you wear. 

Do you agree with me? Do you disagree with me? I would love your thoughts. 

Feb 2, 2016

How To Build Community In Your Church

If there is one thing baptist believe in it is  the sacred potluck. You know the meal, the hodgepodge conglomeration of butter soaked goodness. Have you ever wondered what purpose this artery clogging meal for?

Church socials are a wonderful opportunity for both outsiders and insiders to build relationships through. They exist to create an informal time to spend time with each other outside of the structure of Bible study and worship.  More often than not though, we fall into a few ruts that make socials seem like a waste of time. Here are 3 ways to make your next church social into an intentional event at your church. 

  • Invite your friends who don’t go to church. For many people the fear of church is coming to a place where they don’t know anybody. The church Super Bowl party, chili cook off, ladies tea or golf trip is a perfect place to introduce them to your church. It provides an informal place for them to get to know other people in your church.  

  • Find the newcomers to your church and sit with them. The greatest struggle of new members in any church is building relationships. Most churches have friendship circles that date back years. It is difficult to merge into a body where so many deep relationships exist. If a new family does not build meaningful relationships in your church, they won’t be there long. Use the time at a social to build relationships with new friends. 

  • Sit with people that you don’t know.  We all fall into a rut. In any church whether big, small, young or old, everyone has “their seat”. At socials we all tend to spend time with those whom we already know (and normally sit in the same spot we have always sat). One of the great gifts of genuine church fellowship is that God has placed people in his church from every walk of life. There is nothing better than getting to know another person’s story for the first time. You can’t experience that fellowship unless you step outside your comfort zone. 

If you are intentional, the next church social could be a great opportunity to grow, build fellowship and enrich your church. You have to choose to make the most of the opportunities given. 

Excuse me now, there’s only one piece of pecan pie left and it has my name on it. 

Feb 1, 2016

3 Obstacles of Evangelism

As I read through Scripture, I am captivated by the contagiousness of the Gospel. With very little organization, God's Gospel spread and people were won to faith. Today, churches spend billions of dollars on state of the art worship centers, programs, and outreach training with dwindling results. American Christians have lost their zeal and passion for evangelism.

I have watched this trend in my years as pastor and have struggled with why my church members lacked passion for seeing people turn to Christ. Here are a few obstacles that I have seen... 

  •  Many believers don’t know non believers. We have adopted an idea that true godliness means only spending time with Christians. Our culture war has further isolated us as nonbelievers have become enemies to be defeated, not people to be loved. Because of this, we have retreated into our buildings, giving up any opportunity to spread the Gospel.
  • Some believers invalidate their words though their actions.  The greatest witness any person can have is a life lived in surrender to Jesus. Many people today are lackng hope in our broken world. When your life is no different than theirs, why would they want what you have?  
  • Some don’t share because faith is not a first passion. We as people tend to talk about what we care about. We talk about sports, kids, illness, and jobs easily. Why? We do so because those are the major passions of our lives. Our silence on faith outside the church building points to its lack of influence in our lives. When your faith takes first importance in your life it becomes a natural topic of conversation. 

The mission of God should become the mission of every believer. The passion of God should become the passion of every believer. What is keeping you from sharing your faith. Will you tell somebody about what God has done in your life today? 

Jan 5, 2016

My Introverted Hair Stylist

I could feel the tension the moment I walked in to get my hair cut. Two hairdressers stood cutting and there wasn’t a similarity between them. 

On one side stood the cheerful extravert. She chatted with her customers on any subject from jobs to legos.  As each new customer walked in the door they were greeted by her boisterous welcome. 

On the other side stood the extravert’s opposite. She talked enough with each customer to know the haircut they wanted but not much more. Where the extravert was clean cut, the introvert had multiple detailed tats and at least 4 different facial piercings. 

Sitting in the waiting area you could see each customer lean forward as the extravert came calling and cower back as the introvert appeared.

After waiting for about 30 minutes my turn came. The introvert walked forward and said “Wes” in a voice just loud enough that I could hear. As I was walking past the station of the extravert she passively criticized the introvert. I could feel the tension. 

In my seat, my hair stylist asked me what I wanted and then went about cutting my hair. There was no empty chatter, no discussion of work, hobbies or kids. She simply cut my hair. I am pretty good at reading people and I could tell on this visit that no small talk was happening.

As the haircut concluded I stopped, looked my stylist in the eyes (through the mirror) and said thank you. She looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. 

My stylist took me to the register to finish my visit. Standing behind the cash register, out of the blue, the stylist looked at me and said “My name is Elizabeth”. I looked back at her and said, “It’s good to meet you Elizabeth. Thank you for the haircut, you did a good job.” 

A genuine smile covered her face from ear to ear. 

As I was driving home this odd encounter got me thinking. I did not see Elizabeth give her name, nor smile once at any customer that preceded me. 

I wonder how many customers treated her poorly because of her image, how many people just moved through because she was quiet. 

This past week I challenged our church to open their eyes to see the people and needs of our community. I challenged our church to show the love of Jesus to people who weren’t expecting it. 

I wonder how many Elizabeths we write off or pass by on a regular basis. 

I didn’t get the chance to share the gospel with words yesterday, but I hope I showed the love of Christ through my actions. This morning I prayed for Elizabeth and in a month I will go back to the tension filled discount hair shop, ask for Elizabeth to show the love of Christ to and possibly start a conversation with. 

Jan 1, 2016

My Heart, Mind and Body in 2016

Happy New Year!!!!!!!

2015 is gone with its high points and its low moments. For me (and the rest of America) the new year brings about a time to reflect and contemplate our lives. Perhaps it is standing on the scale for the first time since the Thanksgiving/ Christmas / New Years binge that is the rallying point, but none the less, we are resolute that 2016 WILL be a better year. ( Just like 2015, 2014, 2013...) 

Last night my girls asked me about resolutions. My oldest asked me what I was going to do. I had not thought much of resolutions to tell you the truth, but the question spurred me to take the sleep deprived hours of New Years Eve to come to an answer. Last night after being prompted by my  daughter I challenged my family to come up with 3 resolutions: one for your heart, your mind and your body. 

Here are my resolutions for 2015:

My heart: I resolve to learn about, practice and become a man of prayer. 
For me prayer has been a spiritual discipline but it has always been a struggle. I pray because I am supposed to. This year I hope to discover the joy and meaning of a prayer life. I hope that prayer becomes more than just going through the motions, but it becomes a time to dwell with God. 

My mind: I resolve to become an avid reader. 
Reading for me is not easy. I am Dyslexic or is it Cixelsyd? I read to study for sermons and scripture, but I am not an avid reader. This past year my sweet daughter has read 40 pages a day. Shamefully I am being out read by my 9 year old daughter. I know the only way for reading to become natural in my life is to... READ. My goal for 2016 is to read at least one chapter a day of a non fiction book. 

My body: I resolve to bring discipline to my eating habits. 
My mantra for the last 4 years has been I run/ bike/ do Ironmans so that I can eat. I love food and prefer it in massive quantities. I am by no means overweight, but I want to display the same discipline towards my food that I do towards my workouts, quiet time and life. I am not committing to lose weight, eat pees or become triangle shaped. My goal is 2015 is to be intentional in what and how much I put in my body. 

What are your goals for 2016? What will you do to make sure that you will grow as a person this coming year?

Dec 28, 2015

Living Through Your Rearview Mirror

About a year ago I discovered a new app for my phone called timehop. The premise is simple, it collects all of you Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts on that day for every year previous that you have been online. I love it. 

After I wake up, study, pray and drink a gallon of coffee, I take off to memory lane to relive my life through the pictures of days gone bye. I will admit, I have a habit of romanticizing the past. I gloss over the struggles and pain. When I look back my past is through rose colored glasses. For me, there is no better day than yesterday or the day before that. 

This week at church we talked about the struggle we all have of living in the past. Most of us either define our selves through our past failures or victories. I guess your view of the past differs based on whether you are a half full or half empty person. 

God doesn’t want us to be people of the past. He wants us to be people of faith living in Him today. 

As I have talked with believers one thing I have encountered over and over is this idea that the best days are already past. In their lives their closest days with Jesus are a memory. In our country the good ole days have passed away.  In church the glory years have retired. 

The people of faith have come to view life through the river view mirror. 

As we begin a new year in our church, in our lives and in this world, perhaps we need a simple message for Jesus…“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” 

Look forward. 

God is faithful, he is not done with you, with your church, with this country or with this world. God is going to work. The question for you is whether you will be apart of his great plan or miss it because you are stuck living through your rearview mirror. 

God is going to do something awesome in 2016. Will you be apart of it?

Nov 17, 2015

Isis, Refugees, Starbucks And You

It doesn’t matter how hard I concentrate or how many times I watch, I can never figure out where the ball is in the shell game. You know the game, right? The swindler shows you a ball under a cup or shell, moves the shells around and then has you guess where it is. I can with certainty tell which shell it should be under, except it isn’t an honest game. The swindler always moves your attention away from the ball so that you miss the true placement. 

Satan has been playing the shell game with the modern church. With great intensity we have tried to keep our eye on the ball, but the devil’s hand distracts our eyes away. With great certainty we believe that our eyes are focused on following God but we have been duped to desire secondary things. 

Every week its a new subject. Starbucks cups, Merry Christmas greetings , christian statues, gay rights, black lives matters and most recently refugees grab our attention. Like trained soldiers we all take our posts. The left begins to yell and scream about how intolerant the right is. The right tells the left that they are ruining a once great country. Like Pavlov’s dog we react predictably every single week. I know, I get  sucked in just like you. 

Did you keep your eye on the ball?

As the shell game continues to move our certainty grows stronger and stronger. We are certain that if we don’t stand up against the Starbucks Cup, keep the Ten Commandment at the city courthouse and force that poor underpaid girl at Macy’s to say Merry Christmas then America will cease to be a Christian nation. We are certain that if we do not yell (or post in all caps) right back at the black lives matter then our country will fall apart. We are scared that if we do not forward every article about Isis and frankly lump all Muslims in with them then we will see mass murders in our streets. Just for safety we need to forward that creepy picture of Jesus. 

We have been fooled. The shells are up and the ball is gone. With great passion we lost the passion of God. 

Many people say that America is no longer a christian nation. I think they are right.The grand swindler has moved our passion to see our common man as an enemy. How many baristas were turned off to Jesus because we demanded our Merry Christmas? The American culture war has duped christians into thinking that people who disagree with them are people to be defeated.  America ceased to be a christian nation when Christians stopped acting like Christ. 

The only way to win the shell game is to refuse to play it. 

God never called us to win a culture war. Disagree? Please find it in the Bible. God’s call was never to see our fellow man as an enemy. Our call is to love our enemies. It is to pray for those who hate us. Our call is not to see men a causes to defeat but instead people for whom Jesus died. We don’t dumb down what we believe, but we also don’t use our beliefs as a battering ram. 

The only way for us to beat the game is to build relationships with muslims, illegal immigrants, members of black lives matter, homosexuals, transexuals and atheists. We build relationships with people we disagree with so as to show them the love of Jesus Christ. When we show them love, it may not come back in return. If we loved others to be loved in return, it wouldn’t be love anyways. 

We can be apart of God’s big plan to change the world. Here is the rub. God’s plan doesn’t include making enemies out of sinners. God’s plan is loving people who hate you enough that you would lay down your life for them. That's what Jesus did.