A few years ago I was coaching my son Matthew in baseball and another player’s dad, Keith, began helping with the team.  We became friends and he invited me to go deep sea fishing with him.   I loved fishing in the ocean and said “YES” very quickly.

Keith was an un-churched guy and the friends that he invited were also not Christ-followers.  We met at 3:00 a.m. to begin our journey to slay as many Red Snapper and Grouper that we could that day.  Keith’s two friends and I jumped in his car and took off for the ocean.

It wasn’t long before it was obvious that my buddy had forgotten to tell his friends that there was a pastor in the car.  (Something that I found extremely hilarious, yet not even necessary.)

Everything that anyone said, these two guys laughed histerically and said all kinds of words that you’ll never hear unless you’re around a bunch of drunken sailors.  They weren’t just the standard 4 letter variety.  The language was very creative and rapid fire through the laughter, every couple of minutes.

I could tell that Keith had begun sweating as he drove.  He had invited his new friend, the pastor, and hadn’t thought of warning his friends.  I didn’t have much of a problem with it but I could tell that Keith was dying up front out of embarrassment.

Sometimes believers have expectations of everyone, including those who are far from God.  They get irritated if everyone they come in contact with doesn’t act like a Christian.   This pastor does have a problem with someone who calls themselves a mature follower of Jesus if they spew cursing and gossip constantly without remorse.   (James 3:10)  Those who have never claimed to walk closely with Jesus and new believers, however, get alot of grace from me.  The heart is what needs changing.  That’s the core problem.  The language is just the symptom.  If they get to know Jesus, nothing usually has to be said.  Jesus does the changing from the inside out.

As Keith kept sweating up front, I could tell that he was trying to figure out how to get them to stop cursing as much.  Finally, Keith said very loudly through their laughter, “Hey Eddie! I WANT TO COME TO YOUR CHURCH THE NEXT TIME YOU ARE PREACHING AT YOUR CHURCH BECAUSE THE NEXT TIME YOU PREACHING AT YOUR CHURCH, I WANT TO COME AND HEAR YOU PREACH…..  AT YOUR CHURCH!”

When he finished saying that, the two hyenas stopped in their tracks.  I wish I had a picture of their faces.  It was one of the most hilarious things that I’ve ever experienced.  It was like their momma caught them stealing from the cookie jar and they were naked during the theft.  They turned and looked at me in horror.  Funny stuff!

Jesus was a friend of sinners and Christ followers should be too.  Those who claim to follow Jesus should be intentional about making relationships with those who are far from God. (Matthew 9:10-12) That’s hard to do that from a holy huddle.  You sometimes have to step out of your comfort zone.  It takes being interested, really interested in the lives of others.

Caring for people means more than getting another notch on your Bible.  People know if you really love and accept them as they are.  We’re called to love people with no strings attached  and people can tell the difference.

In the case of my friend Keith, after many conversations, fishing trips, and baseball games, he rededicated his life to Christ, began coming to church, and was baptized.   He also began to warn his friends whenever I came over to hang out.  Lol  Something I wish he didn’t do!

Do you think it’s important to invest in people’s lives who aren’t part of the church crowd?  Is it ok to curse everywhere except around the pastor?  lol

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Don’t Even Think About It

January 13, 2012

Ever try to get backstage at a concert without a backstage pass?  It’s not easy.  There is usually a big guy named “Brutus” standing there.  Nobody gets past Brutus unless Brutus says it’s ok.  Brutus is the gatekeeper for backstage.  He opens the gate and he shuts it. One look at his biceps and you know that you don’t mess with Brutus.  He’s the gatekeeper.

You are the gatekeeper of your mind.  There isn’t much that can go there without you saying it’s ok.

What we allow to go into our minds can effect just about everything about us:

  • Our relationship with our spouse
  • Our health
  • Our relationship with God
  • Our attitude
  • How we feel
  • How long we live

As a Christ-Follower, we are told to set our minds on things above and not on earthly things.  (Colossians 3:2) 

Craig Groeschel recently taught in the “Better” series from LifeChurch.tv that there are 3 Keys to having a Better Day.  I believe they are key to setting your mind on things above.

1.    Constant Communication With God

The Bible tells us that we are to “pray without ceasing.”    As we go about our day, concentrate on seeing things though the eyes of God and the lens of Scripture.

Even if we have a quiet time in the morning, which is VERY important, sometimes we walk away from that time and forget what you learned from God during that time.

As you see people and experience situations, pray on the go as you drive, walk, and go about your day.  Stay in constant communication with Him about EVERYTHING that happens during the day.

2.    Instant Obedience to God  (Galatians 5:25)

As my daughter, Rebecca said in yesterday’s blog, it’s crazy to think about what we miss out on because we get distracted during the day.  If we stay in contact with Him, we will begin to see opportunities to serve Him.

Sometimes we may get an urge that we believe is from God.  Take a chance!  If you feel an urging to give someone $10, do it.  If you feel like you’re supposed to go and talk to a stranger, start a conversation.  If you think God wants you to go take a hamburger away from “Brutus,” you might want to pray a bit more about that one.  lol

Could the idea in your mind that you think may be God speaking to you ever be simply a case of bad pizza from the night before?  Yes, but you could also miss out on the leading of God if you don’t act.  If you think he may be leading you, take the risk!  You’ll get better at it as you walk with Him over time.

3.    Daily Desperation for God

If we begin to realize how desperately we need God on a daily basis,  we will draw closer to Him.

It’s easy to go about our daily life with the attitude of, “I’ve got this one God.  I’ll let you know if I need you.”  The Bible talks about how we should passionately desire God the way a thirsty deer longs for a drink.  Passionately pursue God every day and realize your need for a relationship with Him

Finally, when negative thoughts come in your mind, take them captive.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and WE TAKE CAPTIVE EVERY THOUGHT TO MAKE IT OBEDIENT TO CHRIST.”  2 Corinthians 10:5

Stopping negative thoughts at the door is the work of the gatekeeper too.  Work on putting the above 3 habits into your mind but reject anything negative that will bring you down.    Maybe you need to limit certain tv shows, contact with certain people, or maybe even your thoughts when you daydream.

When something negative tries to enter, don’t let it.  Tell the negative thought trying to get into the gate of your mind, “Don’t even think about it!”  

You are the one who decides what goes in. 

What’s one thing that distracts you from thinking the way God wants you to think on a daily basis?

 (This is a guest post by my daughter, Rebecca Poole.  I hope her words challenge you the     same way they challenge me.)
 -Eddie
 I’m learning a lot lately.

I used to think I didn’t have an “interesting” testimony. I was born, grew in the church, accepted Jesus at a very young age, went to some church camps, a couple of mission trips.  I’ve always been a “church kid,” but I am INCREDIBLY grateful for the gift of godly parents I was given.

I thought my story was boring, but how could my story be boring when the Author of life is writing it?  I have been living an identity crisis.

I have been learning how to have a constant, uninterrupted, completely in step life relationship with God. This is how we were created to live- in perfect, unending fellowship with God.  It is a gift that we don’t recognize.  If we don’t have this, its ALL because of us.  God has always and will always be there.  Our part is to acknowledge His presence.  

Its crazy to think of how much we miss out on because we get distracted.

My prayer is for an intense awareness of God’s nearness.

If we are walking with the Creator and Sustainer of the world, He speaks into our lives, directs us, and takes us places we could have never gone alone.  There is no greater adventure than that.

Whether you live in the deep jungles of sub-Saharan Africa, or in a small town in Tennessee, you have a divine purpose appointed for you.  

I don’t even want to think about all the opportunities I have missed because I wasn’t paying attention. Tragically, we let things such as drama, anger, or even busyness pull us away from God’s side and then hearing His voice becomes difficult.

I have come to the realization that for a great part of my life, dance was on the throne. It took three ACL tears, and many tears for my stubborn heart to come around. But if three ACL tears is what it took- then I will count each on as a blessing.

God uses all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

I am certain that God is still blessing my dancing for His glory. And I need to remember that THAT is why I have the gift.

Not for my own pride. Or for my self-identity.

For so long, my identity and value came from the fact that I WAS a dancer.

I see now how incredibly mistaken I was. My identity does not come from me identifying myself to the world as a “dancer”, but from the fact that I belong to the Creator and He loves me.

I am His creation.

Adopted into His family through Jesus.

My value does not come from whether I dance well or not, am inadequate, valued, ugly, pretty, smart, disciplined, selfish, or whatever. But from the fact that I was so loved that I was redeemed at a precious cost.

God is perpetually calling me back to Him, even though I dishonor and deny Him daily. THAT is the beauty of this love story. Even though incredibly unworthy, I am still pursued by a perfect God.

When He looks at me, He doesn’t see a flawed, inadequate, sinful human being. He sees me covered by the blood of Jesus- clean and holy.  And He loves me.

I pray that I will never listen to who the world, or even who I, myself say I am again.

It’s amazing to look back through my life and see where God was working, even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time.

As I said before, He has always been there, is with me now, and will always be.

When we realize who He is, and who He says we are, something amazing happens. I urge you to just sit for a while and read what the Bible says about your identity. I charge you to begin constant communication with God throughout the day. And lastly, I dare you to enter or continue in a walking relationship with God.

I used to think that I didn’t have much of a testimony, but now I see that the story the perfect Author is writing for me is even more than I could ever have imagined.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

“…Perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18

Because you are loved with perfect love, you don’t have to be afraid to go where love leads.  Take a walk with Him.

Someone asked me about recently whether I thought that God, according to the Bible, has an issue with tattoos.  Some look to Leviticus 19:28 for the answer.  Here’s what it says:

“‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.”

In that verse, God is warning the Israelites not to be like the pagans around them.  They were given lots of instructions on what to do and what not to do.  Verse 28, taken by itself certainly seems to call tattoos a sin if it is read out of context.

In the same chapter, however, the Israelites were also warned against cutting off the sides of their hair and the tips of their beards.  The Israelites were also instructed not to reap the edges of their land or to go over their fields for harvest a second time.  I don’t know any farmers that keep these practices and I haven’t seen many goofy looking Christ-Followers that only cut the middle of their hair.

In my opinion If we look at this chapter in context, these laws were for the Israelites as they were in danger of conforming to their pagan neighbor’s religions and attitudes.  I don’t believe it is prohibiting tattoos today.  If we believe that, we also have to change our grooming habits and grow a beard.

If you are considering getting a tat, one question to ask yourself is, “Why do I want a tattoo?”  If it is to relate to the world and become more like the world, I would look at Romans 12:2.  It says:

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

If you are a Christ-follower, are you considering a tat to be like the world?  That seems to be along the same lines and reasoning that the Israelites had for getting tats.  If that is your motives, then I think Romans 12:2 is the answer.  It is a sin to conform to be like the world.

Maybe the reason for the tat was to become a really cool art gallery or to tell a story.  Was it to draw attention to yourself?  I have to leave that between you and God.  Only you know why you got the tat.

Some Christ-followers have gotten tats to relate to the world to reach a certain group.  I think of 1 Corinthians 9:22 when I hear that reason:

“To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

I’ve seen crosses and other types of tats that were meant to start conversations or relate and reach other people with tats.  I have also known HEAVILY tatted people that I believe have hearts for God and are in God’s will.  The ink, in my opinion, is neutral.  What is the tat, what are the motives, and what is the situation seems to be the issue.

God looks at the heart underneath the ink.

In Romans 14, Paul talks about whether it was ok to eat meat that had been sacrificed by idols.  Some who had come out of the pagan lifestyle considered the eating the meat to be a sin.  Other Christ-Followers felt free to do that before God.  Paul says in this chapter that eating the meat was not a sin but if it caused some new believers to stumble, then he would never eat the meat again.  Paul said that it just wasn’t worth the casualty and confusion that it would cause the other people.

I don’t know what your environment, family, and Christ-Following friends are like, but in some circles tats could cause an issue, just like eating the sacrificed meat was with the group in Romans 14. (This could also mean that you don’t get a tattoo because you are honoring your parents and their wishes.)

Finally, even if your ink is something that isn’t honoring to God but you got it before you became a Christ-Follower, (or maybe you had a rebellious period but you have repented)  God is a forgiving God.  He forgives and perhaps you can use it to tell people of the changes that He has made in your life.

That’s my humble opinion of what the Scriptures say. Do you have a different interpretation of the Scripture?  I’d love to hear it.

Not A Fan

January 3, 2012

One of the most challenging books that I read this past year was “Not A Fan” by Kyle Idleman.  Many people in the United States agree with the Doobie Brothers that “Jesus is just alright.”  Most would even agree that they “believe” in Jesus.  Idleman proposes that Jesus has many “fans.”  The challenge is that Christ never wanted “fans” that simply believe.  He called for followers.

Here are some quotes from the book that I underlined & highlighted that hit close to home with me & a few comments from me in italics:

There is no way to follow Jesus without Him interfering with your life.

Most of us don’t mind making some minor changes in our lives but Jesus wants to turn our fives upside down.  Fans don’t mind a little touch up work, but Jesus wants a major renovation.

When we decide to “believe” in Jesus without making a commitment to follow, we are nothing more than fans.

In the Gospels, Jesus said, “Believe in me” about 5 times.  He said, “Follow me” about twenty times.

It’s not that a fan doesn’t want a relationship with Jesus.  They just want the relationship on their own terms. 

Luke 9:23:  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself daily, pick up his cross, and follow me.”

————————–

The satirical magazine, “The Door,” suggested that couples living together share these vows:

“I John, take you Mary, to be my cohabitant, to have sex with, and to share bills with.

I’ll be around while things are good, but I probably won’t be if things get tough. As the saying goes, ‘When the going gets tough, seek greener pastures.’ After all, the grass frequently IS greener on the other side of the fence.

If you should get a cold, I’ll run to the drugstore for some medicine-but if you get sick to the point where you take more than a day or two off work, don’t count on me.

And forsaking many others, I will be more or less faithful to you for as long as it feels good to me.

If you should ever catch me screwing around on you, remember it doesn’t necessarily mean that I no longer care for you. I will still probably want to share bed and bills with you.

So help me!”

Idleman suggests that fans are offering these kind of vows to Jesus.  “I’ll follow you as long as things are good and you hold up your end of the deal.  I’ll follow you as long as you don’t ask too much of me.”

If we’re serious about following Jesus, we aren’t just “trying God” to see if it will work out.  We don’t have a plan B if God doesn’t come through.  We are laying our life down and agreeing to follow Jesus, regardless of the consequences.

————————–

Fans want to follow Jesus on their own terms.  Barna surveyed a group in America that said that they “believe” in Jesus.  Of that group:

  • Only 23% also believed that sex outside of marriage was wrong
  • 13% agreed that getting drunk is a sin

Fans want to be included in the group that “believes” in Jesus, but they want to come to Him on their own terms.  Jesus never left open the option of selective commitment. 

Jesus makes it clear that following Him means taking up your cross and dying to yourself.

What are your thoughts about fan vs. follower?

God Will Blow Your Mind

January 2, 2012

God has blown my mind at times as I think back on my journey with Him.  There have been times when He has come through in unexpected ways.  On some occasions, I’ve asked Him to do something and He answered my prayer in a way that wasn’t what I asked but better than what I had in mind.

I remember once when I was in college, I was driving my car and God’s Spirit just filled the car.  I can’t describe how awesome it was and I don’t know why it happened.  In the process, He answered a prayer that I had prayed and it was one of those unexpected ways.  That experience was unexpected and not something that I can just “reproduce.”

God chooses when and where He will show up.  He’s GOD and He gets to choose that.  Not us.

There have been a few times when I’ve prayed and God didn’t show up, or so it seems.  The time that always sticks in my mind was when I was in student ministry.  One of my volunteer’s 16 month old son, Brandon, got very sick.  Brandon’s dad and I spent 3 nights in the hospital, asking God to heal Brandon.  Brandon died.  I didn’t understand it then and I still don’t understand why God didn’t heal Brandon.  How could that not be His will?

In dark times like when Brandon passed away, even though I didn’t know what in the world God was thinking, I’ve felt His presence.  In some ways, in those dark times I have felt God’s presence the strongest in my journey.  I don’t understand it but I’ve learned to trust Him when I don’t “get it.”

I share all of this to say this:  God wants our total commitment no matter what.  God wants us to go ALL IN.  If we really want to experience God in our lives, we can’t just try God out on a trial basis.  We can’t “try God” and if it doesn’t work, have “Oprah”  or something else as a Plan B.  Experiences with God come through total abandon to Him.

I read this week about the Knights of Templar.  An important part of Knighthood was to be a Christian.  When the Knight was baptized, however, he was baptized with his sword sticking out of the water.  It signified that his whole life belonged to God except for what happened on the battlefield.  It was like telling God, “You can have all of me except don’t try to stick your nose in on what I do to my enemies, God.  You’re not welcome in that part of my life.”

Again, if we want to experience God in unexpected ways and have Him blow our minds, He expects total commitment, no matter what.  When we are totally committed to Him is when He shows up most often.  That’s when we experience His presence and see His fingerprints in the most powerful ways.

In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine.  You are the branches.  If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.  Apart from me you can do  NOTHING.”

If you are following Jesus, I encourage you to do whatever it means in your life to be ALL IN.  Do something about that secret sin that no one knows about.  Forgive your neighbor that hurt you.  Stop being selfish and begin helping the poor.  Whatever He is telling you, do it now!  If we want to experience God in a BIG way, maybe we need to make some BIG changes in our lives.  Stop putting it off.

Connect with Him in a 100% way and you’ll begin to experience Him in ways that will blow your mind!

Has God ever blown your mind?  How?