Are we working out?

Hey Gratis Family,

Two weeks ago my wife Teresa and I went to Liberty University because Teresa had to take an intensive for her masters degree in counseling. While at Liberty I wanted to go rock climbing at the new rock-climbing wall because for one, it was three times bigger then the old wall and two, because I loved rock climbing while I was a student at Liberty. On Monday afternoon I finally got the chance to go climbing, but within a few minutes I realized a major problem. My hands were weak and sore, my forearms were throbbing, my shoulders and abs were like Jell-O, and the easy routes I could do with one arm while I was in my prime of rock climbing were very difficult for me to even do one move on. Then it dawned on me it had been over a year since the last time I’ve climbed and not to mention, 15 pounds heavier. All of the core muscles I used for rock climbing had become weak because I had not worked on them like I was when I was climbing almost every day. The bottom line is, I was out of shape for rock climbing.

This experience had me thinking about our spiritual walk with the Lord. If we are not working on our spiritual core as believers, we are not growing or maturing in our faith. In a sense, our spiritual muscles are not being used so they become weak and feeble. Therefore, if we want to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ we must be working daily on our spiritual core. To work on our spiritual core we first must know what our spiritual core is. According to Jesus our spiritual core is our heart, soul, and mind. Matthew wrote: “But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And He said to him, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40 NASB). So many times we over complicate what Jesus really wants from us but the truth is He wants us to Love God and Love People (LGLP).

He wants us to love Him with all our heart. Our heart is the seed of our passion; we do what we are passionate about. The problem is many times we are more passionate about hunting, fishing, NASCAR, beer, football teams, golf, video games, Facebook statuses, tweets and Netflix than we are about Jesus Christ the Savior of the world. Therefore, we must work on getting our priorities in order when it comes to the heart of loving God. He wants us to love Him with all of our soul. Our soul has been damaged because of sin and needs to be worked on daily. Sin separates us from the amazing presence of the Lord. Therefore, we have to call sin what it is, sin. We must stop beating around the bush and brushing it under the rug and start being honest with ourselves and with God. To love Him with all our soul, we must repent of our sin to God and maybe even to someone else to begin the healing process. He wants us to love Him with all our mind. Loving Him with our entire mind means taking every thought captive and making sure our thoughts are filled with Godly things. The mind is the funnel to the rest of the body. In other words, the mind feeds the soul and heart. What we put into the mind is what is going to come out of us in our character and in our daily lives. We must replace unrighteous thoughts with righteous thoughts.

I want to end by finishing my story about my rock climbing experience at Liberty. Every day I went back to the rock wall and climbed. It was not painless but it was rewarding. By Friday afternoon, I was able to climb 12 routes in 1 hour. My muscles were sore and my fingertips were bleeding but I accomplished my goal to climb all 12 routes in the beginner category. To go from barely being able to do one move on a route to 12 full routes is a big deal. Spiritually speaking, the same can be true when it comes to working on our spiritual core. It is not always painless but it is always rewarding in the end. According to the Apostle Peter “He (Christ) has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3 NASB). Therefore, we have been given everything we need to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. The question we need to ask ourselves is do we truly love God and love people? If we do, then we will daily be working on our spiritual core.

In Christ alone,

            Joseph Brown

5 Reasons To Consider Joining A Church Plant

Jeremiah Adams being baptized in our new pool

Jeremiah Adams being baptized in our new pool

I've been wanting to write this post for a long time.  Problem was I didn't have the full list - until now.  Helping start a church has been one of the most rewarding and difficult ventures I've experienced.  Recently, I've discovered the lack of material for people about joining a church plan.  So I created a quick list myself. 

Before getting too far, I want to mention that this list isn't an encyclopedia about church planting nor is it perfect.  I also want to point out that I've always believed that you should run toward something and not from something.  Leaving your church because you're not happy isn't the best idea, but feeling called to step out of your comfort zone to help grow God's Kingdom is a GREAT place to start.  Here's the list in no particular order:

 

1.  Experience Church In A Simplified Way

Churches can have a lot of red tape.  I can say this because I've been going "9 months before I was born."  Simple doesn't mean boring or plain either.  It does mean a clear focus without too many "things."  I think this happens for two reasons.  The first is because most church planters want to spend the majority of their time on issues and work that matters.  The second is because church plants have limited resources and leadership, which forces them to be intentional.

In most cases, you won't see the greatest equipment, venue, programs etc.  But last time I checked, Jesus didn't comment about having a great sound system.  He did say "feed my sheep."

2.  You Want To Reach Unchurched People

Before I began planting at Gratis, I was part of two large churches.  Both were fantastic and helped me learn things far beyond my years.  Yet, in both cases I found almost all of my time, talents and resources were being focused on church folks.  I didn't know many people who were unchurched.  The worst part was that it didn't bother me.

Now that I've been part of a church plant, I've found myself surrounded by people who are unchurched, de-churched or to be honest could care less about God or Hillsong United.  God started teaching me about true discipleship.  Only God can change someone's heart, not creative or witty one liners from a speaker.  Something else I learned is that unchurched people care more about people than most church goers.  Did I say that right?  Yes!  They genuinely care about you and me.

I was blinded in my pursuit of the right things to say, that I was missing the opportunity to love - to be a great friend, neighbor, coworker.  Genuinely loving your neighbor as yourself is what the church is all about.  You see this in full form at a church plant.

3.  You Want To Disciple Young Christians

I'm not talking about kids.  I'm talking about fully grown adults who recently became a Christian or have been without someone to personally disciple them.  I'm going to warn you - true discipleship ain't easy!  Jesus only discipled twelve people, and He's Jesus.  It's a simple task, to show God in everything and share life together.  You shouldn't be scared about walking through life with someone; they won't bite.  But it does take time, and shouldn't be taken lightly.

4.  God Wants You To Test Him

You may not have been expecting this on the list.  Truthfully, neither did I until I, but God wanted here.  So here it is.  Someone out there has been feeling God stirring them to step out of the boat.  What are you waiting for?  What's holding you back?  Trust me, I've had my fair share of jumping the nest moments in my life.  The jump never gets easier, but the faith grows knowing God will do His part.  I believe Batterson said "God will never call you to do something that you can do yourself."

5.  See God Do Something Fresh In You

Joining a church plant puts you in places you thought you'd never go, meeting people you thought you'd never meet, making a difference that you thought you'd never make.  I can say that this statement is 100% true.  I never dreamed the impact that God would have by my decision to help plant a church.

While the results may not be instant, the feeling of being part of something bigger can be.  I immediately started to feel God moving in a fresh and exciting way in my life.  Sometimes, it takes a little stirring of the pot to make things different.  Nothing is more exciting than seeing people experience the greatness of God for the first time.  At Gratis, we always say to treat every day like it's the first day and last day of your life.

 

That's it!  You made it through the list.  Hopefully, you will find this list encouraging or at least eye opening.  If you live in the Monroe, GA area, we would love for you to "experience the difference" at Gratis Church.  You can check out all of the info around our site.  Where ever you are, make a difference.

REMEMBERING 9/11

Photo:  Jim MacMillan

Photo:  Jim MacMillan


Thoughts 13 years later

Most of us remember where we were when we heard the news of 9/11.  People gathered all around the world to pray in churches for peace, comfort, and safety.  In fact, I cannot remember a time that I've seen so many people return to church at one time.

The heroes from that day were people who responded to the catastrophe in their own back yards.  All of the public service, friends, neighbors risked their lives to save others.  Most trying to save strangers they had never met.  It was a beautiful picture of love and kindness.

2,999 people died as a result of the attacks.  That's 5-6 times larger than the average number of people's friends of Facebook.  Imagine if everyone you knew were gone in a matter of moments.  I think it's easy to forget how large a number that is.  What startles me more than the almost three thousand deaths is something more devastating that happens daily.

Our sin is just as catastrophic as 9/11.  This isn't to take away from how horrible that day was by no means.  Sin is why the attacks happened in the first place.  What startles me most is that there are BILLIONS of people in need of rescue walking around us every day.  Where's the response like 9/11?  A response that involved 1-2 rescuers per person needing rescue.  I think our world would be very different if only millions of people tried to help rescue the billions from the grip of sin.  Make no mistake, only God can truly rescue people, which He did through Jesus' death.  We still must make an effort to tell our friends, family and strangers about our massive and unpayable debt that's been paid.

Before the towers fell and before the planes were hijacked, there was no rush to help because there wasn't a need.  We face an overwhelming need, but there's no help.  Sin isn't fun to talk about.  Spiritual death and decay isn't fun to talk about.  I'm sure there were people working who had no clue what going on that didn't feel the need for rescuing until it was too late.  The same can be said about the majority of the world.

Let's make a change to this epidemic.  Let's share the good news, the Gospel, that our payment of sin has been paid.  Free (Gratis) of cost to us because it was paid by Jesus on the cross.  Before the attacks, the streets of New York were silent.  The world is waiting in silence until it's too late.  Allow 9/11 to be a reminder of how important it is for the church to come together at all costs.  Who are you going to share the gospel with today?

I'm Different,

Caleb

God is good all the time; all the time God is good!

What an amazing God we serve! Last Sunday Pastor Mike spoke on a subject that I believe all of mankind has dealt with at some time or another. Pastor Mike helped us have a better understanding on the question: “God why ____?”. God why did my Grandmother have to die? God why did my father-in-law have to get lung cancer? God why is my grandfather not saved after years and years of praying for his salvation? God why did you allow me to have a learning disability growing up? God why did you allow this to happen to me? All of us have the “God why___?” questions and to be completely honest some of those questions might not be answered on this side of eternity. I do not want to sit here an give you an answer that’s made up or might sound good on paper but when the hard times come it doesn’t really mean anything. I want to be real and I want to try to make a real difference. Therefore, in the next paragraph I am going to be completely honest an share my heart.

Life sucks sometimes, there I said it. The reason life is unfair is because of sin. It’s not because of God it’s because of sin. Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of good; sin is the absence of God who is the essence of good. From the time Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden according to Genesis chapter 3 life has been unfair. The world is polluted and falling because of sin. That is why bad things happen. However, for those that are in Christ we have a hope, a peace, and a joy even in the sucky times of life. That does not mean we will always feel joy, peace, hope but we do have the opportunity to tap into those emotions because of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us to provide those feelings of comfort.

The Apostle Paul is a great example of what I’m talking about. Being persecuted day after day and having every right to ask the question “God why ______?” Paul wrote this to the church in Rome: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:28-39 NASB). I don’t know what you’re going through right now or what big questions you might be asking God but I do know the Savior loves you and desires to be your comfort.

Family Pastor

       Joseph Brown

Be Courageous!

Last Sunday was such a blast, from the fellowship, worship, and the teaching of the Bible that I had to share some of my thoughts about it!

Pastor Mike talked about Acts Chapter 6-7. In these two chapters we learned about the story of Stephen the first Christian martyr of the New Testament. I encourage you to go read the story it could change your life. For me the story of Stephen challenged me to be different in my daily walk with the Lord. So many times we can get comfortable in our Christian relationship with Jesus Christ that we don’t step out and do anything courageous for the Lord. That was not the case for Stephen or any of the New Testament disciples of Jesus. Almost all of them died because of what they believed in. However, to them it was not a horrific death but a glorious one because they died for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My prayer for myself this week has been that I will not be stagnant in my relationship with my King but rather be like Stephen and be courageous and bold in my faith!

This morning I read in Matthew chapter 16 that to follow Jesus it cost everything even my life. “Jesus told His disciples, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV) I want to be known as a man that gave up all his so called rights or privileges because I found something far greater then anything this world could offer and that is the treasure I have found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I want to leave you with a battle cry that hopefully fires you up! I got this from one of my professors in College. It goes like this: “I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed, I have the Holy Spirit power, the die has been cast, I have stepped over the line, the decision has been made-I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ- I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still. My past is redeemed, my present make sense, my future is secure- I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, praise, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praise, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I won’t give up, shut up, let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up for the cause of Jesus Christ. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till everyone knows, work till He stops me and when He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me because my banner will have been clear!”  

Family Pastor,

            Joseph Brown