TRANSITIONS

TRANSITIONS

On June 2, 2010, without any fanfare or drama, one of baseball’s best players called it quits… Ken Griffey Jr., aka, “The Kid”, as he was affectionately called in his earlier years, decided that he was no longer a kid. At the age of 40, he hung up his cleats, possibly feeling that he was incapable of performing to the highest of standards that he had set for himself. But it doesn’t mean that it was the end of the road for him. It was simply a transition in his life. He went on to enjoy his family, watching his kids excel in their sports and activities, coaching his son’s football team, doing some photography on the side, and enjoying the fruit of his labor. Nothing wrong with that. He embraced his season of transition.

Life is filled with transitions.

Some good. Some bad. Some necessary. Others avoidable. Some joyful. Many painful.

Simply put, transition happens. But it is a normal, and might I add, ‘healthy’ part of life.

I have embraced this fact and have come to realize that life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Just when you think you’re putting it in cruise control and you’re starting to get into a comfortable rhythm in your life… “wham!” God disrupts your plans. He interrupts your schedule.  He speaks a word into your heart that changes your life forever. Ever been there? I like to think of these moments as “divine interruptions.”

Karine and I recently experienced another one of these “divine interruption” moments, resulting in yet another TRANSITION for our family. This past June, we left a church that we had been pastoring in South Carolina for the last four years, literally piling all of our earthly belongings into a 26′ U-Haul, saying goodbye to friends, and heading 600 miles south back to Florida, where God had originally placed a dream in our hearts nearly 18 years ago. It all began with a whisper; at an unexpected moment; and we are now pursuing God’s big, audacious, scary-yet-thrilling dream for our life!

What is this dream? It’s the dream of PLANTING A LIFE GIVING MISSIONAL CHURCH on Florida’s Gulf Coast where unbelievers will not only be welcomed, but expected!

After wrestling with the implications of this dream, we took an incredible leap of faith when I tendered my resignation at the church, not knowing where we would land, but being confident that God would be there waiting for us.

This transition has not come without a certain level of fear, however. Yes, I know, I know, as believers “we have not been given a spirit of fear.” But, can I be brutally honest and completely transparent for a moment? Leaving a comfortable job, with a dependable income, with no guarantee of gainful employment awaiting us in Florida, and having the responsibility of a wife and four children added into the mix–there’s plenty of opportunity for fear! There’s always opportunity for fear, isn’t there?

Thankfully, we serve a God who understands our weaknesses, who cares about our concerns… and provides all of our needs… and not only that, but also walks with us through our fears. Which reminds me of Joshua.

Long story short,when Joshua was given the task of transitioning into the leadership post vacated by Moses upon his death, leading the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God spoke these words to him in Joshua 1:9 (NLT):

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Did you see that? Read it again. What stood out to me in this verse is the inferred reality that Joshua was facing–FEAR and DISCOURAGEMENT. Have you ever been there? If so, you’re in great company!

Think about it, God actually commanded Joshua to be strong, courageous and to not be fearful or discouraged in his new faith journey. Why? Perhaps because He knew Joshua and his limitations like no other and saw the redemptive potential in him that Joshua may not have seen himself. This gives me great encouragement for the journey that lies ahead for me and my family, because just like Joshua (as followers of Jehovah), we are all imperfect human beings struggling to follow God’s perfect leading in this dangerous journey called life.

The best part of it all is that we have God’s covenant promise that He would be with us wherever we go! God says in Joshua 1:5 (NIV):

As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you (Italics mine).

So, whatever transition you may be facing today, let God be your strength and your courage. I know I will!

Now, let’s go plant a church!


P.S. I will be updating our church planting journey more frequently in the near future as we begin the year-long process of getting things in order for Launch Day! So please check back often. Blessings!

 

M25: The Jesus Model for Ministry

M25 Ministries Graphic

There is nothing more Christlike than to put down your titles and pick up a towel to serve others. Pure and simple.

To be honest, one of the great downfalls that I have observed in churches today that are failing or in decline (BTW, that would be about 85% of churches in America today) is that they have become so inward focused (concerned more with who they’re trying to keep happy than who they’re called to reach), that they’ve forgotten why they were intended to come together and meet in the first place–to worship God and serve people! And one of the best ways to serve people is to share the love of God with them in practical ways.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28, NIV).

At the church that I currently serve as pastor, we are providing opportunities through the creation of M25 Ministries (based on Matthew 25… go ahead and read it. It may change your view of what church is all about).

Basically, M25 is all about truly living a Christ-centered life through the power of the Holy Spirit, demonstrating (not just through empty words) God’s practical love for people by serving their most basic needs–food, clothing, drinks, compassion, etc. Why? Because this is the Way of Jesus!

To get just a glimpse into what we are trying to do, watch this short promo video about M25 Ministries. Better yet, if your church currently does not have anything like this, why not begin praying and planning how to get started today? You’ll be glad you did!

Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)
I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

SOUTHEASTERN BOUND (and Successful Parenting)

Kelsey's acceptance letter

My oldest daughter, Kelsey, received her acceptance letter in the mail recently from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. She sent me a text with the photo (shown to the left) of the letter with a pendent included, and, well, I paused for a moment to reflect on this good news as tears welled up in my eyes.

Ask anybody that knows me very well and they’ll tell you that I don’t cry… ever (well, I did cry one time when my favorite team lost in the final seconds of the big game, but that’s a another story for another day). But when I received Kelsey’s text that day with this exciting news… I cried. Yep, I admit it. I sat down in my chair behind my desk, and in that solitary moment of emotional reflection… a few crocodile tears welled up in my eyes as I tried to deal with the emotion that my baby girl was “officially” growing up.

I guess you could say my tears were a mixture of joy, sprinkled with a dash of pride, all colliding with the reality that my little princess would no longer be sleeping in her bed, under our roof, eating at our table, commandeering “my TV remote”… well you get the idea. Yep, it’s the stark reality that her mother and I now have to come to terms with that our oldest daughter is no longer our cute little princess, sitting on our laps, asking question after question, many times not even pausing long enough for us to answer, barreling down the highway of discovery. She is now a growing, beautiful young lady, full of passion, vision, dreams, creative ideas and plans for her life and… who also loves Jesus with all of her heart. By any definition, I would say that’s what true success looks like!

As Karine recently posted on her Facebook wall: “My greatest gifts to this world are Kelsey Cencebaugh, Ashley Cencebaugh, Rebekah Cencebaugh, and Andrew Cencebaugh. All four of you will be greatly used for and by God. What more could I ask for!”

What a treasure. What an accomplishment. What a gift. What a success in life!

If you are a parent who’s reading this post right now, I want to encourage you by saying, you are not defined as a successful parent based on how much money you make, how big your house is, how many cars you own or how many big screen TVs you have hanging on your walls. You are deemed successful as a parent when you lead your child into a growing relationship with Jesus! And once you have both taught and modeled what it means to be a growing follower of Jesus, you can send your children off into the big, scary, dark world without fear, knowing that you have dedicated them to the Lord; that His hand is upon them; and that the Holy Spirit is the best guardian you could ever ask for.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote:

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.

So, we are challenged, as parents, to supply our children with the basic faith essentials of helping them to find their roots in Jesus as their lives are being built on him, the very foundation of our faith.

Colossians 2:7 (NLT) says,

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught

Remember this…

True success in parenting is not measured so much by how our kids behave as by who they are becoming under our watchful care!  So, let’s lead them wisely… and then stand back and watch who they become and what they will accomplish for God’s glory!

Oh, by the way, grab some Kleenex… you’re gonna need it!

A PLACE FOR EVERYONE

Web Sermon PageI love the Church. And I love the description of the Early Church as recorded in Acts 2:42-47. It gives us an inspiring vision of what the church CAN BE and SHOULD BE DOING when it submits itself to the authority of Jesus, who is the Head of the Church, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, who is the Helper of the Church, resourcing it with power to fulfill it’s mission. When the church is healthy and in biblical alignment, it is the most powerful, life-giving force anywhere! God’s divine plan is a healthy church that is uniquely designed for the broken and the hurting, for those who are believers and those who are far from God. In other words, a place for everyone.

My goal as a pastor is to model the church that I lead after this example, for I believe that an Acts 2 Church is A PLACE WHERE…

EVERYONE IS KNOWN. “All the believers were together and had everything in common. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:44, 46, NIV).

If you really want to get to know someone, just go out to eat with them. There’s just something about food that makes even the most private person become an open book. I mean, they will just start sharing things that you never knew about them, or they will “let their hair down” and you’ll begin to see who they really are, what’s underneath that mask they wear (by the way, keep in mind that we all have facades to some degree, but that’s for another blog ;-).

One of the greatest desires of people is it know and be known, to care and be cared for, to love and be loved, to celebrate and be celebrated. That’s the kind of community that the Acts 2 Church enjoyed, and I am convinced that the best way for us to replicate this experience today is through healthy Small Groups. We must work harder and be more intentional in getting people from sitting in rows (on a Sunday morning) to sitting in circles (anytime, any place in a Small Group setting).

An Acts 2 Church is also A PLACE WHERE…

EVERYONE IS SUPPORTIVE. “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need (Acts 2:45, NIV). The Acts 2 church was a deeply spiritual and deeply communal church. They combined resources and financially supported both MINISTRY (inward focus) and MISSION (outward focus), and did whatever they could to meet the needs around them.

EVERYONE IS SERVING. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11, NLT).

I love how Rick Warren put it, “We are saved to serve, not sit, sour, and sulk!” So true. Let’s encourage one another to find our place of service and then be diligent and faithful in that area!

Finally, an Acts 2 Church is A PLACE WHERE…

EVERYONE IS CHANGING. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47, NIV). The ultimate change in a person’s life is when they surrender their lives to the Lordship of Jesus, and that was the end-game for the Acts 2 Church–people being saved/changed by the power of the Gospel! That must be the church’s end-game as well.

May every believer reading this post see the vision for establishing a Spirit-empowered Acts 2 Church where the primary objective is to CONNECT OUR CULTURE TO CHRIST through grace-saturated, compassion ministries.  Perhaps then EVERYONE we touch with the Message of Jesus will feel more welcomed and the local church will truly be known as… A PLACE FOR EVERYONE!

The Power Force Invades Bethel!

What a great weekend with John Jacobs Power Force team! It was an incredible day filled with prophetic implications for Bethel as it was declared that 2015 was going to be a year of MOMENTUM. We have already been sensing this wave as God has been moving in tremendous ways in recent weeks as we continue to build a Bridge of Hope to the the homeless, the broken, the discouraged, and the hurting in our area.

Sunday evening’s power rally was totally mind-blowing as approximately 20 people came to the altar to surrender their lives to Christ (either for the very first time or rededicating). That was awesome! That is what Bethel is all about… life-change through the power of the Gospel and the anointing of the Holy Spirit!

John Jacobs EventOn a lighter note, I was also part of the demonstration of power as I allowed one of the guys to slam a full, unopened can of 7UP over my head… and no, IT WAS NOT RIGGED!  It was very real! There’s a video clip floating around the Internet that’s sure to pop up on your screen if you look hard enough for it 😉

Not only that, but our church (and several guests) gave over $5,500 to help get the Power Force into local schools in the coming weeks!!! All I can say is… Miraculous!

I want to encourage whoever is reading this to believe God for BREAKTHROUGH in your family, in your finances, and for your future! With God, all things are possible!

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” — 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)

Raise Up A Child

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Andrew Cencebaugh 3If you’re a parent, you’ve probably referred back to this Scripture from Proverbs 22:6 many times, especially when you’re children do something really dumb or that drives you crazy… but that’s for another topic for another day.

While this Scripture is not necessarily a law, it is a strong principle from God’s Word that reminds us of our responsibility, as parents, that our first priority is to raise our children to love Jesus and to put Him first in their lives.

However, many who may be reading this entry right now are painfully aware that there are no guarantees. We may do everything right, modeling and leading our children on the right path of following Jesus, only for our kids to grow up and walk away from their faith that we have helped to instill in them through their early years. How does this happen? Simply put… Free will. Ultimately, each one of our kids will have to make their faith in Jesus personal; they will have to own it someday if it is ever going to endure.

You see, this reality is fresh on my mind because a couple weekends ago I had the awesome privilege of baptizing my son, making him the last of our Cencebaugh household to follow the Lord’s example in this wonderful experience. And just like the times that I baptized my three girls, I was once again overwhelmed with emotion and a deep sense of pride and gratitude as I led him through this moving encounter. It was a priceless moment that I will always remember and cherish… even as my own children grow older and begin to “walk on their own”, slowly but surely becoming more and more independent. My only prayer is “Lord, I trust that Karine and I have raised them right and that they have cultivated a faith that will endure.”

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 gives us some great steps to building this kind of strong family:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (NIV)

As you can see, it all begins with loving God with everything you’ve got, giving Him all of your passion, dedication and devotion. It all starts there.

We are also given some basic instructions as to how we can demonstrate our love for the Lord and building a solid Christian home. In verse 7, there are three golden opportunities that we can take advantage of and begin to apply every single day. But, I’m also a realist, and I understand that with today’s family schedules as they are, every single day may not be feasible. However, the following is a solid pattern. Let’s strive to instill “faith talk” in our families on a regular basis…

  1. at the dinner table,
  2. when you travel, and
  3. at bedtime.

This is a great way to raising children in “the way they should go” and creating a home that is filled with faith in God and love for one another. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Are You Mostly Dead?

Mostly DeadIf you’ve seen the Princess Bride, then you probably remember the classic scene where Inigo Montoya brings the lifeless body of his friend, Westley, to Miracle Max (played by Billy Crystal) in order to try to attempt to revive him. When Inigo tries to explain that his friend is dead, Miracle Max says, “No, he’s not dead, he’s only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.”

Simple, yet so profound. You see, the grim reality is that there are multitudes of people that are “mostly dead.” You possibly work with them, go to school with them, or live next door to them. They may be physically alive, but are spiritually dead. But God has a remedy!

That’s where the power of the Gospel comes in. Jesus said, 

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NLT)

This is the Message of Life and Hope that we have in Jesus! Those who are currently “mostly dead” still have hope. It’s the very reason He came. Here’s the deal:

JESUS DID NOT DIE TO MAKE BAD PEOPLE GOOD; HE DIED TO MAKE DEAD PEOPLE LIVE!

That’s what he does best! He takes what appears to be an impossible situation (death) and miraculously turns it around (life). That’s why He made this declaration:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25 (NLT)

One of the most alarming realities is the fact that there are those who think they are alive, but are in reality dead. This can be seen in one of the growing sub-cultures of our day which is commonly referred to as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Many churches have even allowed this philosophy to creep into their teachings.

In a nutshell, MTD is a religious brand that seeks to be morally centered, pursuing a happy, pain-free life, and loving God from a distance, just comfortably enough to be loosely associated with Him (or church). It’s a reformatted version of religion. In other words, it’s a belief system for the “mostly dead.” It’s mantra is “Just go to church, say a few prayers, give an occasional offering, be nice to others, and you’ll be alright.” However, the Apostle Paul describes those who follow this pattern as such:

“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” – 2 Timothy 3:5 (NLT)

What’s frightening is that you can be a really good person, never hurting anyway, always treating others with dignity and respect, and even attend church on a regular basis, and still be “mostly dead.”

The good news is if you’re “mostly dead” that obviously means that you’re slightly alive. And if you’re slightly alive, you can still make the conscious decision today to embrace new life in Jesus!

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(NIV)

As we approach this Christmas season of gift giving and receiving, let me encourage you to receive the “gift of God” by simply praying a prayer, inviting Jesus into your life, asking Him to forgive you and to give you a new start. Then, you will have crossed over from death to life (see John 5:24)! You will no longer be “mostly dead” but FULLY ALIVE!

If you would like more information on how to receive this new life in Jesus, please feel free to email me at James@BethelUpstate.com or go to the following link: ABCs of Salvation

TAKE INITIATIVE!

Take InitiativeThis past Sunday morning the news broke that Will Muschamp was out as the Florida Gators head football coach. I couldn’t help but think about a similar story that developed several years ago about the athletic director of a major university that fired their head football coach. When asked by a reporter if he was bitter, the coach replied, “Not at all, but I plan to buy a glass-bottomed car so I can watch the look on his face when I run over him.”

How do you handle seemingly unfair treatment?

To a degree, Jesus is responding in Matthew 7:12 with proper teaching on how we should respond to our critics and those who may try to cause us harm or damage our reputation.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” – Matthew 7:12 (NLT)

I kind of like how the Message Bible paraphrases this same verse: “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.

The point is, Jesus really is concerned with how we treat other people. It’s not enough to just love Him and say that we love others.  In fact, Jesus expects us to take the INITIATIVE by loving others with the same passion that we love Him!  After all, “The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40, NLT).

So, where do we start? We need to start by taking the lead and setting our personal feelings aside, walking in faith, trusting God to move in every situation and relationship.

INSTEAD OF WAITING FOR SOMETHING GOOD TO HAPPEN, TAKE INITIATIVE BY DOING SOMETHING GOOD!

When God’s love fills your heart you begin to change on the inside and something supernatural takes place… you begin to see people, even those who offend you, through Jesus-filtered lenses. You actually begin to see broken people, who likewise need healing, restoration and victory in their lives, with tremendous compassion and mercy. Now, when you begin to be moved with compassion, even for those who mistreat you, you really know that the Holy Spirit is doing a deeper work in your life and that you’re becoming more and more like Jesus!

Check out the Jesus model for life and ministry in Acts 10:38 (NLT):

You know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Jesus had a reputation for being good and doing good. Can the same be said for you and me? If you want to grow in your relationship with Jesus, perhaps the next step in your faith journey is simply to TAKE INITIATIVE and do something good for someone, unprovoked and unannounced, and see what God will do.

Are you ready to take that next step? I know I am… let’s do this together!

Grace

Grace “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? Matthew 7:7-10 (NIV).

A few weeks ago, as I was studying and preparing for a message based on this particular teaching from Jesus in Matthew 7, I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to me that I needed to pause for a moment and allow Him to reveal something to me that I hadn’t previously considered. (Don’t you just love it when He does that!)

At first glance, I had already assumed that He wanted me to talk about our need for PERSISTENCE in our prayer lives, for when Jesus said ask, seek, and knock He used the present tense, which indicates continuous, persistent prayer. In other words, He was saying, Ask and keep on asking; seek and keep on seeking; and knock and keep on knocking…” I mean, come on, this has persistence written all over it, right? Well, while this is an obvious understanding of this particular teaching, I quickly came to realize that there was more than I had anticipated.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that persistence was merely the secondary truth being communicated here; the primary truth leaped out at me from v. 11 where Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

The focal point of Jesus’ teaching here really isn’t about how grand our prayer life is (our asking, seeking, and knocking) but about how good our heavenly Father is!

Here’s a truth you can hold onto…

THE GOD WHO CONCEIVED YOU AND I IN LOVE WILL ALSO COVER US WITH HIS AMAZING GRACE!

Psalm 84:11 says, “He gives [which means we cannot earn nor gain through human effort] us grace [favor] and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. (NLT)

He gives us good things, but also protects us by not giving us some things we may ask for. For example, if my son, Andrew (who is 9 years old) came up to me after church one day and asked for the keys to the van so he could drive us home, what do you think I’m going to say? If I say no, am I being a bad or unreasonable father? Of course not! In actuality I’m being a responsible and caring father!

HOWEVER… if Andrew somehow got the keys to our van and drove off and got in an accident, that would be called disobedience, which would very likely lead to his and possibly other’s harm.

Here’s the deal… Your heavenly Father is not only good (full of mercy and grace); He is also responsible, and will never provide something that will cause you harm!  In fact, He will cover those who follow Him with grace.

“Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor [grace] as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12, NIV).

Take comfort in knowing that you serve a good heavenly Father that is gracious and kind toward you and  who loves to provide everything that you have need of… yes, even when you don’t deserve it. After all, when have you ever deserved anything good from God? Isn’t that the very essence of GRACE?

Criticism

If we viewed others as broken people, who are JUST LIKE US–Broken, I’m convinced that there would be less criticism, condemnation, and judging in the world. Much like the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, we would all have to drop our stones and walk away. I mean, who are we to condemn anyone?

The reality is we live in a broken world, full of broken people, who do what broken people do. And as broken people, we tend to only point out the brokenness in others, while ignoring or worse yet… denying that we ourselves are broken.

Before we can truly grow in spiritual maturity, we must all come to the same conclusion that apart from Jesus and His finished work on the cross, we are all doomed; we are undone; we are insufficient. However, I truly believe

WHEN YOU PUT GOD FIRST, YOU TEND TO SEE PEOPLE DIFFERENTLY

Putting God first, in effect, puts a lens over our eyes so that we see others through the eyes of Jesus! As a direct result, we should treat people differently; we should be more compassionate and filled with grace, understanding that we likewise are imperfect, and the benefactors of God’s great grace and compassion.

On one occasion, while pastoring in another state, I have to confess that I pre-judged another pastor who was in a neighboring town and was overly critical of his church and ministry. You see, this guy was a well-known pastor in the area that was on Christian TV, pastored the largest church in the area with more than 15,000 people, whose picture was plastered on billboards all over town… you know, “Pastor Big Shot” as I called him.

One day while meeting with another pastor/friend at Starbucks, guess who strolls in… Yep, big shot pastor guy! I thought to myself, “Oh boy, here we go. Look at him stroll in with his shades and leather jacket hanging over his shoulder.”  To my surprise, and I might add, dismay, he recognized my friend and asked if he could join us for coffee. We sat there for over an hour talking about ministry and the Kingdom of God, just encouraging one another. I walked away from that conversation with a whole new respect for this pastor, who just happened to be a “Mega church pastor on TV.” I can honestly say that he was a genuinely nice, caring pastor who had nothing but the best interest in mind for the people in our community. I know this to be true because just a few months prior he had led an initiative to help those in our community who’s homes had been flooded due to a major storm in the area. His church pumped thousands of dollars worth of clothing and water and other supplies to those in need. Sounds like something Jesus would want! This guy was Kingdom-minded par none! Not only that, but he shared some valuable insights that I took away that day at Starbucks that has molded some of my ministry thinking to this day.

I decided after that moment that I would always sow good seed and not pre-judge anyone or be too quick to criticize someone I didn’t understand or who didn’t think like me, dress like me, or talk like me.

Kind of brings to mind what the Apostle Paul said, “You will always harvest what you plant” — Galatians 6:7 (NLT).

Perhaps that’s why Jesus Himself, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged” – Matthew 7:1-2 (NLT).

Be careful not too jump to conclusions by criticizing or condemning someone, for someone else may just return the favor. Let’s walk in love as children of the Light (1 Thessalonians 5:5).