Monday, February 29, 2016

Why I hate Religion, but love Jesus!

Just a simple fact - in your face - video that stirred my heart.  Don't get mad - just consider the message:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

5 Truths About Empowering People to Change the World

In the Bourne series, the assassins (who are the central characters) are referred to by their controlling agency merely as “assets.” Sometimes I fear that within Christian ministry, we fall into the terrible habit of treating people as assets — instruments to help us get ministry done successfully rather than people with souls.

One of the values I remind myself of often is that people are not a means for getting ministry done.

People are the ministry.

And those who volunteer are not placed in our path to make us successful, but so that we can help them to grow and to move forward.

To keep ourselves from the edge of the slippery slope of using people to get ministry done, it’s important to remember some hard, unchanging truths …

1. Ministry is about relationships, not results.

If we think like much of the surrounding corporate world, as much of the western church does, then we see goals and figures without seeing people. I’m all for looking at numbers to celebrate and evaluate, but never for the purpose of determining who is and isn’t useful to the kingdom.

It isn’t about what a volunteer or staff member can produce in the way of results for us. It’s about what kind of growth we can help to produce in that leader. Growing leaders typically have growing ministries, but numerical success is the byproduct of healthy relationships.

2. People are souls, with or without roles.

If we ever leave someone in a role because of their talent while their personal life is falling apart, we’ve failed. As leaders and shepherds, it is our calling to create healing and health deep within the souls of people.

So when people walk into the room, our first question shouldn’t be are you ready to get to work? It should rather be something like how’s life going? How’s your soul doing?

3. Jesus modeled people empowerment perfectly.

Jesus wept over people, prayed over people and eventually died for people. He gave up His time and His comfort to serve others. And He accepted the rejection, criticism and abandonment that He would receive from His people, even knowing full well that it was coming.

Then, at the end of His earthly story, He released His people to go change everything with the gospel. If you want to know how to empower people, start by looking at Jesus.

4. Everybody matters, and every life has dignity.

To use anyone for what they can produce, or to reject someone because we doubt they can produce, is to insult the One who created all people with inherent dignity.

Moses even learned this lesson when he questioned his own ability to be a persuasive speaker. God responded simply, “Who made your mouth?”
In the business world, we select the most qualified. But in the Kingdom, everybody gets to participate!

5. I’m a people too.

Some awesome mentors and friends have poured into me, expecting nothing in return. Someone is waiting for me to pay it forward.

It’s the way this idea of ministry is supposed to work. Don’t use people, empower them.  

Brandon Cox  is Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor and Community Facilitator for and Rick Warren's Pastor's Toolbox and was formerly a Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In his spare time, he offers consultation to church leaders about communication, branding, and social media. He and his wife, Angie, live with their two awesome kids in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Preparing for worship at NRN on Sunday February 28 2016

As we prepare for worship tomorrow at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene we are going to be blown away by the Presence of God in our time together.  Get ready to shout your praise to the Lord and see the moving of God in our midst.

We begin by standing in the presence of the Almighty God and sing to Him a great song of faith:

Now we draw our attention to the baptistery as you hear the testimony of salvation.

                   Series: A Place for Everyone         
Part 2 – A Place of Instruction
1 Timothy 4:7-8
Ephesians 4:11-13

It doesn't matter who you are, what you believe, or what you've done, “there’s a place for you in the local church. Because this thing called church; it's not a building. It's a movement of people following a loving God and serving each other. Come see the spot carved out just for you. Join us as we discover A Place for Everyone.

We close our time together in a time of celebration as Pastor Jordan baptizes a young man who have been discipled for years through the ministry of Pastor Jordan and North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene. 

This will be a memorable day for us as a church family!  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

7 Signs You Love the American Dream More Than Jesus

I enjoy writing in different settings, particularly when blogging. I’m not sure why. Maybe I love watching people. I might even enjoy eavesdropping on conversations around me.

Please stop judging me.

For this post, I chose the commons of a local Christian library. While searching for an interesting story to frame the points, God hit me with a holy face slap (which is much less painful and more productive than the slaps I’ve received from a few unnamed women).

Sitting across the commons was a guy wearing a red hat with the words “Make America great again.”

Mind you, I’m in a Christian library, not a Presidential debate. The American dream penetrates deep into the heart of Christian culture.

What is the American dream? I defer you to Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls. While celebrating Michael Jordan’s retirement, he said this:
“The American Dream is to reach a point in your life where you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do and can do everything that you do want to do.”

Make no mistake. There are few, if any, similarities between the call of Jesus and the American dream.

Could it be that our idea of following Jesus is actually a perverted American dream with some gospel sprinkled on top? Could it be that American pursuits drive us away from Jesus? Could it be that our temporary dreams prepare us for an eternal nightmare?

Here are seven signs you love the American dream more than Jesus.

1.) If Jesus returned today, you would be disappointed.

Let’s assume a signal goes out 30 minutes before Jesus’ return, giving you time to process the past, present and future (or lack, thereof). Would you be excited about His coming? Would you feel robbed? Would you be apathetic?
I’m being honest. While I would be beyond ecstatic if Jesus returned, I’m not exactly longing for his return. Paul says creation longs for restoration. That’s foreign to me.

My life is great. I’m doing work I love. I have an amazing family. I’m healthy. There’s really no need to return right now, Jesus. If you have some other items to knock out in heaven, go ahead with those. I’m good here for now.
Maybe you share my thoughts. But you shouldn’t.

Creation longs for restoration because it finds no comfort or satisfaction on earth. For every Frank, who enjoys a comfortable life on earth, dozens are so overcome with grief or pain, they can’t imagine another second on this planet.
Several months ago, I stared this reality in the face. While serving at a homeless food kitchen, I noticed a man overcome with anger and sadness.   He was pacing back and forth, unable to eat. After watching this for several minutes, I finally asked him to go with me in another room and talk.

As a pastor, you hear incredibly sad stories. This man’s story might “take the cake.” The night before, while staying in a home he doesn’t own, sleeping in a different room than his wife because they were arguing, someone raped her. So, here’s a homeless man, unable to provide for his family and processing another man sexually assaulting his wife.

His pain was so strong, I felt it. Now, let’s assume Jesus approached this man and said, “Hey bro, I’m thinking about redeeming you and the rest of humanity. In 30 minutes, your pain will disappear, and your wife’s attacker will receive justice. What do you think?” You think he would respond with, “Uhh … or you can come tomorrow. Life’s pretty good, Jesus.”?

Not hardly.

I left the food pantry that night with a sobering thought … maybe this man, homeless, hungry and overcome with pain, is closer to Jesus than I am. Unlike me, he understands what it means to long for restoration. Brokenness isn’t something “out there.” It’s his reality. Heaven would be an upgrade for him.
Most American Christians don’t see their desperate need for God because they’re blinded by the American Dream.

If you don’t feel uneasy here, it’s probably because you’ve created a pseudo-heaven on earth. Your hope rests in a present facade rather than a future reality. And if you take up residence on earth, you give up residence in heaven.

2.) You trust things more than people. 

I saw a bumper sticker recently that said, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.”

“Congratulations, Billy, you have the most toys. C’mon down and claim your prize. Billy … Billy … Hey, Frank. Where is Billy? Oh, he’s dead. How will he receive his prize? … Who cares, let’s divvy up his toys.”

What an absurd idea that we would accumulate trinkets only to leave them for someone else?

But this is the American Dream. As your salary increases, so does your toy box. Incidentally (or maybe not), the larger your toy box, the less you rely on others and especially God.

The rich don’t need other people. But, a culture driven by wealth and prosperity must understand a very important point …

No one is independent.

Maybe you don’t need other people. Maybe you see this as a noble pursuit. People, after all, can’t be trusted (at least, this is the what the American Dreams says). But your independence from people only reveals your dependence on stuff.

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him …” These words introduce Jesus’ first sermon in Matthew 5. They also reveal who is in the best position to receive the promises of God. Why does Jesus spend time with prostitutes, tax collectors and lepers? They’re poor in spirit. Their toy box is small. And, consequently, they’re most eager to receive a message of hope.
No facades with the poor. No trinkets to cover up enormous voids. No costumes to mask secret sins and empty hearts. Phillip Yancey says it this way, “I do not believe the poor to be more virtuous than anyone else, but they are less likely to pretend to be virtuous.”

The poor and helpless must depend on others. They have no stuff. And, in this way, they’re more likely to receive Jesus.

3.) You believe privacy is an acceptable way of life. 

The American Dream preaches independence.

While independence isn’t inherently bad, its close friend isolation is. Independence and isolation are travel buddies. You won’t see one without the other. I’ve watched Christians becoming increasingly disconnected from one another and culture.

I often hear, “I just don’t like entertaining guests in my home or sharing details about my life. I’m a private person.”

But, to be real, you handed in that card when you became a Christian. There’s no such thing as a private follower of Jesus. You were created by a relational God, so your joy is tied to other people and others’ joy is tied to you.

I’m an introvert. My wife thinks this is ludicrous, but I enjoy lunch by myself. I also used to be a “private” person, chalking it up to introversion. But as I saw lives changed by opening my home to others, I realized an isolated life is the product of the American Dream, not a personality type.

When people say they’re “private,” it usually means one of two things.
Number one … you don’t want to be inconvenienced. Cooking dinner for strangers is weird. Having people stay in your home cramps your style. It’s easier to do neither and tell others you’re private.

Number two … you’re hiding something. I know this from experience. I was most isolated when I struggled with addiction or my marriage was struggling.     I was afraid someone might uncover my secret sin and struggling marriage, so I played the “private” card.

Whether it’s inconvenience or secret sin, the real issue with isolated Christianity is it’s not sustainable. When Christians become isolated and private with their lives, the church begins to die. A relational faith won’t thrive in a disconnected culture.

4.) You can’t distinguish between necessities and luxuries. 

Multiple times every day I say,  “Man, I need …” and complete the sentence with stuff like
“… a new phone.”
“… that fresh flannel shirt.”
“… a raise.”

Maybe you do this too. If so, here’s an exercise. Count how many times you say “I need …” in a 24-hour period. While this seems like water under the bridge, it’s really more like rushing water threatening the integrity of the bridge.
For the record, “needs” are food, water, shelter and clothing. Generally speaking, everything else is extra.

While it’s a blessing to have your needs met, if you can’t differentiate between wants and needs, many teachings of Jesus will be difficult to comprehend. 
For example:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” (Matt. 5:6)

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” (Matthew 6:31)

“Give us today the food we need.” (Matthew 6:11)

These statements might as well be written in some alien language. I’ve never experienced hunger or thirst, which puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding righteousness.

“Give us today the food we need” is not only foreign, it’s irresponsible. Seriously. How would you respond if someone told you they only had only enough food, clothing and resources for today? No extras. No stocked pantry. Only enough for today.

The American Dream would call this irresponsible. Sadly, I probably would too.

5.) The radical life of Jesus sounds more like a threat than good news. 

If you use “radical” and “Jesus freak” to describe certain Christians, you’re probably too influenced by the American Dream. Jesus asks the same thing from every follower. He asks you to die.

If you haul the American Dream into the presence of God, you can count on one thing … he will ask you to leave it at the door. Recall the rich young ruler. By all appearances, he was a sincere man. But he wanted to journey with Jesus and bring his stuff. So, when Jesus asks him to leave his stuff at the door, the young man chooses instead to walk away from Jesus.

For Christians influenced by the American Dream, every sermon is a threat to their lifestyle. They pick and choose Scripture. And when confronted with stories like the rich young ruler, they’re quick to justify. “This story is an example of exaggeration.”

You can’t serve both God and the American Dream. If you want God, you must leave your selfish pursuits and ambitions at the door, all of it.

6.) Your fears are exaggerated and unrealistic. 

I don’t get into conspiracy theories. But, if you live long enough, a conversation about some far-fetched, wildly unrealistic scenario eventually finds you.
A culture drowning in riches is also drowning in unrealistic and exaggerated fears. We have no real needs, access to unlimited information and an unhealthy amount of free time. The result is fabricated fears.

You know who doesn’t entertain conspiracy theories? People with real needs. People whose eyes are fixed on the cross.

7.) You don’t know how to receive from others.

“Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. … Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.” Oscar Romero

Jesus says it’s more blessed to give than receive. While this is true (I’m not one to question Jesus), I also know it’s more difficult to receive. When given a compliment, especially from a stranger, what’s your first response?

“Thank you? I appreciate it?”

Of course not. The natural inclination is to divert it.
You can tell a lot about yourself by how you respond to compliments. If someone approaches you and says, “That was a powerful sermon,” “You look pretty today,” or “You’re a talented writer, artist, mother, etc.” how do you respond?

I meet few Christians who respond with “Thank you.” But, when I do, it tells me something about that person. They are humble. They know how to receive gifts. They aren’t power hungry or control freaks.

Receiving a gift (without repaying or refusing it) requires humility. You’re indebted to the giver. You allow another person to have power and control. And this is why most Americans are awful receivers. The American Dream is built on independence and self-sufficiency. Freedom means you’re indebted to no one.
We’d much rather be givers. We love helping the poor, especially at Christmas, while our greatest fear is being poor at Christmas. We love buying gifts for family, but opening gifts from others is more awkward than a middle school relationship.

We’re better givers than receivers because we’re prideful and arrogant, not generous.

But here’s the real issue. Until we approach God with a posture of humility and total dependence, we won’t receive his gifts.

Rich, self-sufficient people can’t fathom the gift of grace. They might accept the gift. But they turn around and work to repay it, nullifying the gift.

God’s promises can only be received. They can’t be earned. We say grace is a gift, but it’s incomplete without works. God says grace is the work. We say salvation is a gift, but you must follow certain steps and maintain a level of morality. God says the only step to salvation is approaching Him with empty hands.

Until we see ourselves as poor, needy and completely dependent on God, we won’t receive His gifts.

The American Dream isn’t God’s dream. The life Jesus modeled stands in stark contrast to the values of America, in particular, and the world, in general. We are poor and helpless. To see Jesus, we must accept this. Americans hold no special claim over God.

The door to Jesus is open to anyone … just leave your stuff outside.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!  

Frank Powell serves in the Campbell Street Church of Christ in Jackson, Tenn., ministering to college-age and young adults.  More from Frank Powell or visit Frank at

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Prayer is a dialogue

“O Lord, now I have heard your report, and I worship you in awe.”                                                              (Habakkuk 3:2a LB)

If you want to hear God speak, then worship God.

In other words, thank him for being a part of your life and for being interested in the details of your life.

Thank him for answering your prayers: “O Lord, now I have heard your report, and I worship you in awe”             (Habakkuk 3:2a LB). 

God gives you a vision. God gives you a dream. You know what God wants you to do, so now you thank him for answering your prayer. That’s part of worshiping God.

What I want you to do is to stop seeing your prayers as a monologue and start seeing them for what they truly are: a dialogue. Prayer is a conversation with God. God hears you when you pray, and he answers you when you ask questions. He wants to talk to you every day. If you will faithfully talk to God every day throughout the day, it will revolutionize your life.

Now, you can't hear God until you know God, and there are three levels of knowing God: recognition, acquaintance, and friendship. You may be at the recognition level; you know God is there, but you don't really know him. Or, you may be at the acquaintance level; you know God a little bit, but you don't know him very well. 

God wants you to live at the friendship level. He wants to be your friend, and he wants you to be his friend. God wants you to talk with him all the time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Don’t Fear the Unknown. God’s Already Been There.

Fear is something that can paralyze even the bravest and strongest of individuals. It’s that displeasing feeling inside of you that causes one to sometimes doubt themselves or the wonderful opportunities that come your way, cause you to second-guess your capabilities, and silence you when you know that you should be speaking up. 

Whether it be the biblical story of Elijah who prayed an audacious prayer for the sun to stand still amidst the battle against the Amorites (Joshua 10:12), Moses parting the massive beauty of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21), or Noah building the gigantic piece of artistic wonder known as The Ark (Genesis 5-10); God constantly came in the clutch and took care of his people. There was no need to fear. There was no need to worry. He was there.

And although these magnificent experiences of God’s presence took place thousands of years ago, we must understand that the foundational truth of God’s support and assistance is still alive and true today. God isn’t just alongside you for this journey called life, He’s leading the front lines.

God’s Already Been There.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”                                                                                  Deuteronomy 31:8

The powerful truth found in Deuteronomy 31:8 is both assuring and comforting. We must realize that we have no need to worry about the present or future due to the reality that God, who is outside of time itself, has already been where we are going and will be in the future. He’s all-powerful, all-knowing and all-forgiving. God is the essence of time itself, aware of anything and everything that will take place in our lives.

When we put our lives in God’s hands, there is space for us to relax knowing that he has everything under his control. This doesn’t mean that fear will be absent from our thoughts or that we are no longer allowed to fear, but instead that fear no longer needs to control the way we live, dream, speak and act. Fear sits under the colossal majesty of God.

Don’t fear the unknown, the future or the present. God has already been there, and he’s letting you know that he alone has got you immersed by his perfect, protective and all-consuming love.  

Jarrid Wilson is a husband, pastor and author relentlessly sharing the love of Jesus. More from Jarrid Wilson or visit Jarrid at

Monday, February 22, 2016

Stress Free living

On Sunday February 14 - the day after my birthday - I tearfully read my letter of resignation to the church family of North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene.  As I have described to many others who care for us, we have once again stepped into God's Waiting Room.  We trust God for our future and the door of ministry opportunity He will open for us.  A family that recently left our church wrote me a letter as the departed and commented in that letter that when I leave North Raleigh there are lots of churches looking for a pastor with the experience and preaching skill that I have.  Well, I have not heard from any of those churches yet, but trust God in the process.

The first few days after reading my letter was filled with text, emails and Face book postings about my decision. On Wednesday Sharron and I departed for a family trip we planned over Christmas. This trip could not have come at a better time as we needed a few days of stress free living and responsibilities. The trip delivered!  Here are a few pictures that tell the story:

It was a little difficult to explain to our 8 year old grand daughter that we had resigned.  Here is the letter she wrote for me.

On Wednesday afternoon we headed to the mountains of North Carolina.  We had arranged to go snow tubing and I was ready to escape and laugh.  It began by climbing the top of the slope and I would hold the belts attached to the tubes to "launch" Alyse and Breeley.

 Then they would "fly" down the hill.  Laughter filled the air along with the "screams of delight."

Here is Breeley hitting a small bump that caused a great response.

Breeley arrived safely at the bottom of the hill.

And so did Alyse!

And then Papa came down and knocked everyone down!  The girls picked up snow balls to throw at me and then decided to give me a hug and have a picture.

As you can tell - I was having a great time!  The cold weather and the snow with family was perfect.

It was a beautiful day on Thursday February 19th as we walked through the Biltmore Estate.  For the first time we have visited - personal pictures are now allowed inside the house.  It was amazing!

Friday morning we made our way to a "go to" restaurant in Asheville, NC - Biscuit Head. I especially enjoyed the homemade raspberry - chocolate jam on my biscuit. It was a fun experience!

Then we headed for a few antique shops and stepped back into the past to see items I remembered being in my house when I was young.

We closed our family trip at Double D's coffee bar in a double decked bus. Sharron and I enjoyed our hot chocolate and watching the "girls" eat their dessert.

It had been a great time away and exactly what Sharron and I needed to catch our breathe after a very full few weeks.
 Our car ride home would be filled with conversation and prayers about our future. We were confident that our girls would enjoy their ride home and nap time was not far off.

I am so thankful for family and the healing it can bring to a wounded soul.  I look forward to seeing Alyse and Jayden the beginning of next month as we connect for family time again to celebrate their birthdays which are only one day apart.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Place for YOU!

Today I began last my teaching series at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene.  These last messages for our church is brought out of prayer and tears for people that I care for and love. The past nine years have been filled with difficulties as a church however, I have constantly seen the hand of God upon my ministry and the church.  When it seemed time to walk away God would remind me that He is not finished yet. The sermons in this teaching series are very intentional. I pray God will use my words to bring glory to His name and to built the kingdom.

Here is a take away from today's message:

This week we launch small groups - it's not too late - jump into a group this week,

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Preparing for Worship on February 21 2016

I truly hope this Sunday many of our regular attenders will be present for the first message in my final series at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene.  I have worked hard and soaked this message in prayer.  It has been marinating in my spirit for over two weeks and is so ready to be preached.

Here is the order of worship we have planned for this Sunday:

It doesn't matter who you are, what you believe, or what you've done, “there’s a place for you in the local church. Because this thing called church? It's not a building. It's a movement of people following a loving God and serving each other. Come see the spot carved out just for you. Join us as we discover A Place for Everyone.

Join us this Sunday for Part 1 of 4.  You will be glad you did! 

Friday, February 19, 2016

I'll Follow Jesus

I'll Follow Jesus - Lyrics
Lyrics: Blair Jereza Music: Rhea Bernardez

Intro – E – B – C#m – A

Verse 1
I start my day thanking You Lord
C#m A
For creating this wonderful world
Everyday You bless me
C#m A E – B – C#m – A
You make me very happy

Verse 2
You are my God from up above
C#m A
And you came down to show your love
E B C#m A
You are my King, my majesty
Oh Jesus, lead the way for me

You teach me how to love and obey
I’ll do whatever you say
C#m A
You teach me how to share and pray
I’ll worship you all day
… … … Hey!

C#m A
I’ll follow Jesus everyday
Like Mama Mary
C#m A
I hope and pray

C#m A
I’ll follow Jesus everyday
Like Mama Mary
C#m A E B Pause
I hope and pray
E – B – C#m – A
Let’s follow Jesus everyday

Intro Chords

E – B – C#m – A
Let’s follow Jesus everyday
E – B – C#m – A
Let’s follow Jesus everyday
E – B – C#m – A
Let’s follow Jesus everyday