Oct 22 2020

5 Reasons To Go To Church

This weekend we are starting a new series, one of my favorite series, called At The Movies. Normally, when we do this series, we have a high turnout of new people, people coming to Christ, lots of energy and excitement and it’s a good momentum boost for our church. However, there has not been much “normal” in 2020.

There is a good chance this will be a lower weekend for us and it’s not because of the weather, although it will be snowing on Sunday, and its not because the Broncos are playing, even if they are 2-3. Although those are still factors in church attendance, those are minor factors as to why churches all across America are experiencing lower attendance and engagement than normal.

Most people assume that the majority of people are not coming back to in person church because of COVID, whether someone is nervous about getting it or someone falls into the high risk category. And there are definitely people that are not attending things in person because of those reasons and I get it. I have family and friends in the high risk category and I want them to be wise and safe.

However, by far the majority of conversations I’ve had with people as to why they are not attending church in person, is not because of COVID, but because they have a broken routine.

We are all creatures of habit. We wake up. We get that first cup of coffee or workout or have time with God. We do pretty much the same thing each day, with slight variances. If we get way out of our routine, if you are like me, it can mess with your entire day, week, even month. We want…we NEED routine.

So for those of us who find ourselves disengaged from church or “watching” from home because we have broken the routine, let me give 5 reasons to go to church.

  1. Drift Happens When We Aren’t Connected: We’ve all felt this and experienced this. No matter who you are, if you aren’t connected, drift will happen. That’s true in marriage. It’s true in friendship. It’s true in your faith. When you aren’t making church a priority, your faith a priority, you drift from the community, you drift from your purpose, you drift from God. It’s probably why Hebrews 10:25 tells us to not neglect meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. Because when church isn’t a priority, we drift.
  2. Healthy Habits Lead To Growth and Stability: When I’m building healthy habits, working out, spending time with God, meeting with friends, going to church, I find myself growth and my life feels stable. In an ever changing 2020, stability is something all of us long for. Building that healthy habit of church is essential to growth and stability.
  3. Developing a Healthy, Growing Relationship with Jesus Requires Coaching: This week in my men’s group, we were talking about professional athletes and how many coaches helped that individual get to where they are in life. Well, if it takes many coaches to help someone get to the highest level of athletics, can’t we assume that if we want to have a healthy, growing relationship with Jesus, then it’s going to require us having some coaches too? (1 Timothy 4:8) Church allows you to be coached. It allows you the chance to develop relationships with those who can coach you. It gives you the chance to help coach someone else. If we want to grow, if we want our relationship with Jesus to thrive, we must have coaching.
  4. The Body of Christ Needs You: 1 Corinthians talks about how followers of Jesus are like a body. Some of us are thumbs, some of us are feet, some of us are the nose. I just don’t want to be the tailbone…know what I’m saying. ­čÖé Now, imagine how the body can’t be complete without you being a part. Imagine what the body of Christ would look like if you weren’t a part of it. If you are engaging online, then we need you. If you are coming in person, we need you. The church can’t be the church without all members doing their part. YOU. ARE. NEEDED.
  5. There is Power in Gathering: I remember the first time we regathered in a location that wasn’t a drive in service. I remember tears coming down my face because of the joy, because of the excitement, because of the power. I was talking with a teacher yesterday and her class all came back in person this week. She said “there is power in everyone being in one place.” It’s so true. There is a special power in gathering together. There is power in knowing that we are victorious together. There is power in praying for one another, encouraging one another, serving one another. There is power in knowing we are not alone.

There are so many other reasons as to why going back to church is so vital. These are just 5. What are some others?

Oct 15 2020

Changing The Narrative – Part 2

Earlier this week, I wrote about how we can change the narrative in our Country. In a time when disagreements seem to be at an all time high and people struggle with the art of communication, how can you and I change the narrative.

If you missed the first part of this post, please check it out here.

Today, I want to continue this conversation by adding three more steps we can take if we want to grow in our beliefs, have constructive conversations and deepen our relationships.

Here are the 6 steps we can take to change the narrative.

  1. Always Buy The First Cup Of Coffee
  2. Remember Hurting People Hurt People
  3. Use Statements That Encourage Dialogue

Four: Desire Change Over Being Right

I’m competitive. I want to win. That’s true in sports, in competitions with my team, even in playing games with my kids. Just today, I was playing a game to help Waverly with her school work and I lost to her. I remember thinking halfway through, “Ernest, are you going to let her win?” and a quick “of course not” was my internal response.

I know. I know. Judge me all you want…but it’s one of my many flaws.

And this flaw shows itself even in the conversations I have with others. But, should winning be the goal?

I learned a long time ago that I can win the battle, but lose the heart. I can seek the win in an argument or discussion, but I can lose the ability to grow as an individual and the chance to have a friendship with the person.

If you want to grow, strengthening your beliefs, then seek to change, not to be right. If you want relationships with people, especially with those you disagree with, then seek change, not to be right.

The only way I can do this in my conversations is asking myself either before the conversation or trying to pause in the midst of it and asking “What is my goal for this conversation?”

If I can stop and ask that question, I usually know the right answer is to change, not to be right. To be open to a different view, to have a chance to strengthen my own view or to learn how to have open dialogue with those who are different than me. This brings about change. Let’s seek change together.

Five: Hold Onto And Express Hope

One of the things I’m seeing in almost every conversation these days is fear. The sky is falling. Our lives as we know it will end. No matter where you stand with different issues, you always have someone telling you that you should be fearful.

What if we changed the narrative and we held onto and expressed hope in our conversations.

Here are three things I have hope in.

  1. Humanity: I just don’t buy the lie that humanity is evil and we are all going down in flames. Yes, every person has sin, among whom I am the biggest sinner, but every person is also made in the image of God. That means every person has the capacity to love, to show grace, to display truth, for goodness. “But Ernest, just because they have the capacity doesn’t mean they will.” You are right and yet I will still have hope that humanity will.
  2. Jesus: Jesus is the ultimate hope…He is our ETERNAL hope. That means nothing can take that way. That means no matter our circumstances, no matter what happens in this election, no matter what happens with our country, if our hope is in Jesus, it will NEVER fail. Jesus is faithful, good, powerful, loving, just and redeeming. I will place my hope in Him.
  3. The Church: The Church is the GREATEST force to change the world. When our hope is in politics or a country or a person, we will be disappointed. When we expect other people or organizations to change the world, we aren’t grasping the power of the Church. The church is the greatest change agent on the planet and NOTHING will stop the church…nothing. (Matthew 16:18)

Even when the sky is falling, hold onto and express hope.

Six: Change Starts With Me

Its so easy to pit us against them. To use language like “when they” or “if they would just” or “they can’t”. When we do that, we are hoisting ourselves up and bringing others down. We are drawing a clear line in the sand, expecting the other person to come to our side.

But, what if our posture was “God, how can I change?” “God what are you wanting me to do differently?”

I have been asking this a lot lately and guess what, my views haven’t change a whole lot. I think my beliefs and values are pretty biblical, I hope, and they have been strengthened through conversations with others.

But I have started to change.

I started to change what I post on social media. I started to change how I respond to people on social media. I started to change how much time I spend on social media.

I also began changing my approach. Instead of being in a state of reaction, I started asking “How can I change the narrative?” So I began thinking about how I can speak into issues, into topics that will encourage people to pursue truth, will encourage people to support other humans, will encourage people to pray for others.

I had to choose. Do I let the conversation control me or do I change, essentially helping to change the narrative. Let’s focus on letting God change us first. Sure, I would love for others to believe like me, think like me, vote like me…that would result in a perfect life for everyone, right? Not quite.

What if instead of focusing on making “you” change, what if I worry about me? What if I focus on the change that needs to happen in my own heart? What if I prayed, “God, I know there are things that need to change in me. Please show me where I can change and give me the strength to make those changes?”

Imagine how differently we would see the world. Imagine the difference we would make in the world. Imagine the narrative we could change.

I’ll leave you with two last thoughts.

One, is from a college student. He wrote an article about cancel culture and how it is impacting our country. He said this…“Only a culture that allows for redemption and open discourse can encourage the moral progress we all want.” Wow!! Pretty profound.

Two, let’s remember the words of the Apostle Paul to his mentee, Timothy. His reminder to Timothy should be a reminder to us all…

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:5

Let’s Change The Narrative!!!

Oct 12 2020

Changing The Narrative

Watching TV, reading the news, interacting with people, one thing has become obvious…we have lost the art of communication. Would you agree?

We argue before we listen. We prepare our defense before ever hearing the other side. We don’t seek to know the heart, but we seek to win the battle.

But, what if winning the battle comes at a cost? What if the cost is not just our ability to communicate, but our relationships and maybe even our integrity. Would winning be worth it? I don’t believe so, but what do I do?

I never took a course on how to have conversations. I can say “Let’s just agree to disagree”, but how do you do that in this ever increasing hostile environment?

I’m going to share 6 steps (3 today) I try to take to grow in my beliefs, have constructive conversations and deepen my relationships…yes, even with those who look, believe and vote vastly different than me. I’m not perfect at this, but here is what I seek to do.

One: Always Buy The First Cup Of Coffee

Before casting the first stone, let’s try buying the first cup of coffee. It’s so easy to judge people, disparage someone and even condemn someone without sitting across the table and getting to know their heart.

Getting to know their heart may not change your beliefs or your stance, but it should soften your heart toward the person. When you find out their experiences, their background, their hurt, their pain and how those things are influencing their decisions, their actions and their beliefs, it can give you sympathy for them.

Sympathy allows you to have compassion and love, two essential ingredients to healthy relationships.

Two: Remember Hurting People Hurt People

This is a truth that I have to keep in mind every time I see people hurting each other or when someone chooses to hurt me. Understanding that people who are hurting on the inside, many times, express that hurt and pain through hurting others, allows me to give sympathy toward people and pray for them, rather than getting angry and responding emotionally.

I’ve done it. I’ve allowed my own fear, pain, and hurt to come out toward my spouse, my kids, toward complete strangers.

If I want to grow as a person and choose to deepen my relationships, then I can’t get upset everytime someone does something I don’t like or agree with. I have to understand from politicians to my next door neighbor that if someone is doing something that is hurting someone else, that hurt is probably coming from their own place of hurt, a place I can pray for God to heal.

Three: Use Statements That Encourage Dialogue

Whenever we want to have a conversation with someone who believes differently than us, we have to use statements that encourage dialogue. Here are a few to try…

“Tell me more about that” – This challenges us to grow in our listening skills and choosing to seek understanding. It also encourages the other person by letting them know we actually care about what they believe.

“Having this conversation with you makes us stronger” – Anytime you are willing to have a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you, maybe it’s someone of a different religion or political persuasion, that conversation can lead to growth in both individuals. It doesn’t mean that your views will change, maybe they will be strengthened, but it will mean you will have growth.

“Would you be open to my opinion?” – Asking someone this question shows them that you aren’t going to shove your opinion down their throat, but if they are open, then you will share what you believe. It gives them respect, which is crucial in having healthy dialogue.

These are three of the six steps that can lead to personal growth, constructive conversations and healthy, deep relationships. If you are like me and you are tired of seeing the anger, the emotional outbursts and the lack of compassion, then let’s change the narrative. I can’t control others, but I can control myself…and I will seek to live out these three steps in all my relationships.

Stay tuned for the remaining 3 steps on Thursday. If you have any suggestions that can add to this conversation, I would love to hear it. Also, if this was of value to you, share it. It might just be of value to someone else.

Jul 11 2019

Constant Connectivity

Could we have ever imagined 10-12 years ago that we would be as connected as we are to the world around us?

I remember thinking and saying back in 2005 that this is the most connected generation the world has ever seen. And that was true…back then. In just 2 short years, one invention would increase our connectivity exponentially. In June, 2007, when Apple released the first iPhone, it was billed as a way to not have to carry two devices anymore, the iPod and your phone. The iPhone was a way to have your music and your phone in one device.

Maybe Apple could have imagined, but I’m not sure any consumer could have imagined, how much we would now use this one device.

If you are like me, the iPhone or any other smart phone for that matter, has made things simpler. You can jog, record your distance and calorie count, while listening to music at the same time. You can search for anything, purchase anything and have it at your doorstep in a day. You can send videos to your friends, schedule appointments and talk to relatives that live 1000s of miles away. The iPhone has made some things simpler.

However, if you are also like me, the smart phone has begun to dominate your life. You check it constantly, spend way too much time surfing sites and apps, and feel anxiety when it’s not on you at all times.

The connectivity is helpful; however, the constant connectivity can be damaging.

Researchers have found that the average person looks at their phone at least 39 times and spends a minimum of 3 hours per day on it. The constant connectivity has become an addiction.

Oh come on Ernest, an addition? If a person went to the bottle 39 times and drank for 3 hours every day, we would say they have an addition. If a person looked at porn 39 times a day, we would say they have an addition. Why is it that we can’t call our phone use an addiction?

Because to admit that we have an addiction is an admission that we are not in control. To admit that we are addicted to connectivity, is to admit that we aren’t in control of our lives, of our phone usage, of our social media surfing. But, many of us, and my hand is raised, have a problem.

So what are we going to do? This is what I’ve been wrestling with for the last few months. Trying different things, experimenting with different ways to disengage more often. It’s not easy. I would love to just swap out a smart phone for an old school flip phone that can only call and text…but I’m not there yet and I’m not sure I ever will be. But, what I am doing is trying different ways to disengage and I wonder if there are others doing the same.

Do you find yourself overly connected? Are you attempting to disengage more often from your phone, social media or just surfing the web? If so, I would love to hear your tips and advice. I will share some of mine along the way, but let’s learn from one another, grow with one another and find a new way to live intentional, healthy, values-driven lives.

Let the journey begin…or continue!!!

One Tool: The book Digital Minimalism is a must read for anyone wanting to live more intentionally with the digital world in which we live.

Jun 6 2019

I’m done…now let’s continue!!!

I can’t believe I haven’t written on my blog in almost two years. TWO YEARS!!! That’s crazy. Why did it take me two years to write another post? What was I doing for two years that would have consumed my time?

Have you ever noticed that a lack of time isn’t the only thing that holds you back from doing what you want, love or desire?

So many times we say “I’ve been busy” or “I just haven’t had time” and sometimes that is true. Sometimes we are so busy, so consumed by the whirlwind of work, school, church, home, taking one child to practice and another child to recital that we really don’t have much time for anything else. But, many times, we don’t do what we want, love or desire because of factors that are not time related.

For me, I haven’t written in two years because, honestly, I’ve been tired of writing. For the last 5 years, I have been in the process of getting my Doctorate in Ministry. It has been a fun journey and I have had many people encourage me, pray for me and challenge me to get it done. For the first 3 years, I did a LOT of research and wrote a little. I was in the middle of planting a church, I didn’t want to put much of my focus on writing during that time. We had a few other things going on.

But, the last two years of this process have been all about the Thesis. I’ve written over 130 pages for this assignment. It sounds like a lot, but….no, who am I kidding…it was a lot.

And not only have I been writing my Thesis, but I write a message almost every week. One message is anywhere between 8-10 pages, that’s 3000-3700 words. So honestly, I’ve been tired of writing.

Have you ever just gotten tired of doing something, so you just stopped? Have you ever been tired of doing something spiritually, something you knew was a good thing, but it was tiring, exhausting, maybe you didn’t see the results, so you stopped doing it? Have you ever worked out so much that you got tired of working out? Have you have been tired of being a taxi for your family, driving them all over the place, so you just throw your hands up one Saturday and say “I’m not going anywhere today”?

What have you gotten tired of and it caused you to quit?

Well, a season of rest is good, but long periods of not doing what you love, is not ideal. God gave me a desire to write…I’ve used it for a lot purposes over the last 2 years, but now I’m turning a new page. Now, I want to write more on here.

I hope you will join me on this journey as I continue writing, sharing and communicating what God places on my heart and what I hope will encourage and inspire you.