The Machine

What I have written might ruffle some feathers. However, it’s something that many of us church folk are aware of and may be in the midst of. I don’t mean in any way to point fingers but to encourage you the reader to seek a Spirit-led life. If churches aren’t being Spirit-led, then I think it’s safe to assume that those attending most likely aren’t being encouraged to allow the Spirit to lead in their own lives. In my course of ministry I have encountered several churches that I would refer to as “machines.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be organized, to have goals as a church, and to have fresh vision. Those are all great things. The problem is when the church becomes so efficient at running its programs, meeting its goals, and fulfilling the vision, that the church finds itself not relying upon the Spirit’s leading. With service rehearsals, focus groups deciding what the sermons will be, scripted announcements/prayers, and cues becoming the norm, it’s easy to see how the Spirit would not be acknowledged. These churches have it down to a “T.” Production is flawless and they are fluid. All great, but the main issue is that most machines are engineered to fulfill one task. If you’ve ever seen a car manufacturing line there are several robotic machines that assist in assembling a vehicle. It would be redonkulis if the robotic welder malfunctioned so they decided to use the robotic paint sprayer. It wouldn’t fly! When the church becomes a machine it’s good at doing what it does. But when the Spirit comes along and wants to change things up, it’s very difficult for the machine to fall into sync with what the Spirit desires to do in the body.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”

Revelation 2:7

Through chapter two and three of Revelations we see, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It’s a scary place when the church is so machine-like that there is no longer an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying. It’s a scary place in our own lives when we don’t have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying. The church today needs to continually surrender to the Spirit’s leading.

Pour out your Spirit, Lord!


The Triumphal Entry

I really have been struck these past couple of weeks by a powerful truth. The Sunday before Easter is known to many as “Palm Sunday.” It represents the time when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem before His crucifixion and resurrection.  In most of the gospels, this passage of scripture will have the title, “The Triumphal Entry.” A triumphal entry indeed it was! We know that Jesus sent His disciples to retrieve a donkey and its colt that were waiting for the master’s use, and they were exactly where He indicated they would be. Upon His entry into the city the people began to worship Jesus: “And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matt. 21:8,9) Jesus triumphantly entered this city and He triumphantly entered the lives of those that were there worshiping. As I was sitting in church on Palm Sunday I was looking around the room and meditating on the fact that Jesus had triumphantly entered many of the lives that were there that morning. I would like for all of you to briefly post how Jesus triumphantly entered your own life.  I wanted to jump up from my chair that Sunday morning and encourage people to share out loud the Master’s triumphal entry into their lives. However, it would have been awkward if the ushers had to escort one of the pastors out of the building. I think it’s so encouraging being able to hear how God worked in people’s lives to bring them unto His saving truth.

The Journey is too great

I want to start off by asking a pretty straightforward question, “Have you ever just felt like you were done?” Maybe in a place where desperation, anxiety, exhaustion, and confusion are all mixed up together like a multi-fabric quilt that you are completely wrapped up in? All of us have probably been here at some point, and maybe you’re in a very similar place at the present moment. This thing called life isn’t easy and scripture is very clear to point out the fact that we are in a battle. It can be easy to forget that we are in a battle and that the Devil desires for us to be dead meat in the street. I want to look at a man in scripture that I think was at this very point in life. He was overwhelmed, ready to throw in the towel and call it quits. This man is Elijah and the story I want to focus in on is found in the amazing book of 1Kings, at chapter 19:

“And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’ 3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’”
1 Kings 19:1-4

In response to Ahab telling Jezebel all that he had done, Elijah runs, and we find him in verse 4 praying that he would die. He was done! He felt that death was his only hope.
I feel that he was in this place of desperation and was probably filled with fear, anxiety, and doubt. I encourage you to go back and read 1Kings 18 because this is the content that Ahab informs Jezebel of. Elijah had an amazing mountaintop experience in chapter 18. He was used in a bbq/sacrifice cook-off challenge that was between himself and the prophets of Baal. Elijah called for God to bring fire down upon his sacrifice to show that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the true and living God. God did send fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice. After this happened, Elijah boldly executed all of the prophets of Baal. Again, this was quite the mountaintop experience. However, we don’t see this same boldness in Elijah in Chapter 19. We see fear cause him to run, and desperation cause him to pray a request for death. Personally, I can really relate to this post-mountaintop experience gloom. It seems for me that when I experience the mountaintop with God, I can easily find myself in a state of depression afterwards. I know whenever we go on a missions trip or hold Festival of Life that it will normally be followed by a time of gloominess. I am so thankful that God isn’t only on the Mountain, where for some reason we all want to be, but God is also in the valley and in the storms of life. We must look at God’s response to Elijah’s prayer for death:

“Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, ‘Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.’”
1 Kings 19:5-7

The angel of the Lord says, “Get up and eat”… why? “Because the journey is too great for you.” I found myself in the multi-fabric blanket a few weeks ago. I opened my Bible to where I had left off and literally told God that I needed to hear something from Him. I hit this passage and it came across as God saying directly to me, “Phillip, arise and eat for the journey is too great for you.” God challenged me with the fact that the journey will always be too great for me; it will be hard but all I need to do is stand up and eat what He has for me. Be comforted today in knowing that the journey is too great but all God might require of you is to simply stand up and eat.


The Advocate

I have been the subject of several background investigations over the last several years. This is one of the prerequisites in order to become a law enforcement chaplain. In fact, one department I work with put me through everything they would put a prospective police officer through. They visited my workplace and neighbors unannounced in order to interview people who interact with and see me on a daily basis. I even had to have a polygraph test performed on me. All this to say, I feel I have a pretty clean record and a non-existent rap sheet. I remember getting pulled over a while back when I, let’s just say, accidentally neglected to see a stop sign. The officer approached my window and first asked the obvious, “Did you know you drove through a stop sign?” Gulp. “No, officer, to be honest I didn’t even know there was one.” He then asked if I had ever done jail time. I responded by saying “no,” then told him that I have a pretty clean record and that I was a police chaplain for a different department. I made his day and he got a laugh out of the fact that he knew officers from my department and couldn’t wait to tell them that he pulled over their chaplain. Having a clean background with no criminal record helps immensely when applying with various police and fire agencies. However, it doesn’t really benefit me when it comes to accessing God’s throne room. My ability to avoid a life of crime and the authorities growing up doesn’t change the fact that I have broken the Creator’s laws. I am a guilty man before God and have a very long and extensive rap sheet with sin that has brought God’s heart much sorrow. I may never have had to flip open the Yellow Pages and turn to the lawyers section, or pick up a pay phone and use my one call to contact a bail bonds company; but in all reality I did have to call on Jesus to fulfill both those duties in my life.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
1 John 2:1-2

John tells us that if we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father. This word “Advocate” in the Greek is “Parakeltos,” which means, “An intercessor, consoler, advocate and comforter.” This word and role is very similar to that of a lawyer. John’s hope for us was that we may not sin, but if we do blow it, our lawyer is on standby and speed dial 24/7. Jesus is our High priest and He, through His blood, goes before the Father and presents our case. The amazing thing is that He will never lose our case and His defense doesn’t cost us thousands of dollars. The only payment He requires is for us to confess our sin and hand it over to Him. He takes our bail and pays it. He takes our rap sheet and clears it. He is the only one that can do it! It is believed that a priest when entering the temple would have a rope tied around his ankle. This was so that his body could be pulled out of the temple in case he was struck dead in the presence of God. The priest also had to offer a sacrifice for his own transgression before offering one on behalf of the children of Israel. Jesus is the only High priest that doesn’t have to offer a sacrifice for Himself because He is spotless. Jesus doesn’t have a rope tied around His ankle when He enters the Holy of Holies. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice and He is our Advocate before God. Let’s shoot for John’s hope and sin no more, but let’s also take great encouragement and comfort in knowing that if and when we do sin, we have the advocate on our defense team.