Christ Followers Give Priority to Church

Whatever your level of commitment at whatever church you call “home,” know that God accepts you right where you are at. Your pastors, if they care about you, love you right where you are at – and they love the other people in your church that way, too. God doesn’t condemn us, so if you are not giving priority to church, don’t take that on you. Then as you grow spiritually, you can take steps to develop in God’s principles for living the life He intends for you.

When it comes to giving church priority, that will mean different things to different people. The Bible says in Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” In the New Testament, the kingdom of God is made up of local churches. Giving priority to church is being committed to a home church, attending it, growing in it, giving to it, and serving in it. The church isn’t the building, the church is a community of people that I’m a part of. Church isn’t just about what we can get out of it; it’s also how we are a part of it to bless other people in and through our church community. We don’t just focus on the people we are, but we welcome others into our church – desiring to reach more people and to grow.

God asks us to commit to one local church. The Bible says that the pastors will be accountable to God for your souls, so acknowledging the spiritual authority of a pastor is important. Those who have experienced a misappropriation of pastoral authority may struggle with commitment. Some withdrawal from attending, growing, giving, and serving. Some will find fault or an excuse and leave that church, go to another church, do the same thing, and go to another church – always uprooting and never getting planted. Some will oppose a pastor by speaking negatively of church leadership. Some will try to pull people away from the pastor’s influence. Some will leave and invite their old friends to leave too. Some will even take a group and split away from that pastor to start their own church.

Thank God, He is merciful. He knows of our struggles and accepts us as we are. He also loves us enough to patiently bring us to another level in His plan for us and for His kingdom. Pastors should share God’s heart, accepting people where they are, understanding their struggles, and loving them to another level.

Here is my personal story:

When I was a little girl, going to church was not something we negotiated. My parents were not preachers – dad was an engineer and mom managed the house and three kids. We went to church three times a week and to special services and events. I enjoyed it the children’s ministry, but I went to church simply because I knew that was part of life (btw, thanks mom and dad, and all my teachers).

In my teenage years, I was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to experience God in a more intimate relationship. It was a crazy, wild time in my life where I came to realize how REAL God was and how CLOSE God was. He was blowing my mind! I couldn’t wait to get to church, youth meetings, youth events – you name it – I was eager to be there (btw, thanks to Pastor Grimes and youth leaders).

I got married and went to Bible school. Again, going to church because I wanted to. However, responsibilities were now a bit heavier on my shoulders, so there were a few times I would have rather stayed at home, but I went because I knew it was the right thing to do. I picked up my body and made myself go. Once I was there, it was a blessing, but my flesh sure opposed me from time to time.

Jerry and I began to serve in ministry. We served in nearly every service, three times a week. We did special events, we worked through the week, we had kids, and we loved it. However, I experienced a few negative things in the church world. I went through my season of disillusionment, as some people call it. I realized people weren’t as perfect as I once thought. We had some problems in our marriage. It got to a point where I was ready to turn my back on church and ministry all together. All I wanted was to focus on my home, my marriage, and my kids.

Jerry wouldn’t let me. We made a church change and we continued to attend, serve, tithe, give… and to be honest, heal. There were times I didn’t want to be there. I started to second guess people. I struggled with trusting God. My pastors knew of our situation, and my co-pastor asked me to come up to the church once a week to volunteer (I now see she was doing that more for me than for the church). God did something in me. He showed me His grace and He showed me where I struggled with performance. Through those difficult years, staying faithful to church and to the Lord is was brought me through and kept me in ministry.

Today, I continue to give church a priority. It’s not just because I’m a co-pastor; it’s because I love the church! I love God’s plan for His kingdom that we’re a part of. I love to see the people I care about when we get together. I love the ones who are young and growing, I love the ones who are hurting and struggling, I love the ones who are faithful and have my confidence – I love them all!

If someone is gone for awhile for whatever reason, and I see their face again – I am glad to see them! I’m not going to judge or condemn them because they missed a service. I’m going to run up and give them a big ‘ol hug. That’s what God would do. If someone makes a mistake, I’m going to stay true to the Word and my authority, but I’m not going to hold it against them.

Most of all, I love my heavenly Father, and I love what He loves. He loves His church as a whole and He loves the local church that I’m a part of. He loves His pastors and church leaders. He loves all His ministers that serve each week with kids, youth, ushering, greeting, singing, sound – every area! Loving God is seen in committing to a local church, giving priority to Him, His kingdom, and our home church.

Being a Christ follower means that I’m following my Teacher, my Master, My Lord… and it’s because I want to, not because I have to.  I’m praying for you today that you continue to commit and be faithful to your home church. Love your pastor. Love the people you are a part of, and most of all, love God. His plans for us are good!

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A Christ Follower Gives to God from the Top

A Christ follower is someone who puts action to their dependency on the Lord, who is our leader. We are a dependent upon Him as a child is to a loving Father. When we give to God, we are loving God, trusting God, worshipping God, and we are acknowledging our dependency upon God.

The Bible teaches us that the tithe, the first ten percent of our income, is not ours. That top portion belongs to God. The Bible calls the tithe the fruitfruits, the first and the best of the harvest. I was blessed to be taught that I shouldn’t spend any money until God gets His portion first. It’s not a matter of payment; it’s a matter of loving reliance upon God.

As a co-pastor, I can’t help but encounter people who ask me about tithing. Their heart is to obey God, but sometimes they can’t see how tithing could ever work. Numbers are numbers, and their numbers just don’t add up. Their plan is often to wait until the end of the month to see if anything is left over for God, and most of the time, there isn’t. God is looking at the heart, and He cares for people who are struggling. He also has a higher way of living that He wants us to experience. It’s the way of the supernatural.

The math may not make sense when we are challenged to give, but I’ve learned that God isn’t limited by arithmetic. I have over thirty years of personal testimonies where God met our financial needs when the numbers just didn’t add up. God has given me decades of proof that we untie His hands when we depend on Him by giving Him His portion before we take ours.

The Bible says we are robbing God if we don’t give our tithes and offerings. That’s because the first or top portion belongs to Him. God spoke through Malachi and pinpointed the reason why many people were struggling to make it – because they were stealing from Him. God challenged the people to test Him in giving to see if He wouldn’t open the windows of heaven and bless them financially when they added dependency to their trust, action to their belief. He knows He loves us and He knows He has more than enough to meet our needs. He wants us to know it, and not only to know it, but to act on it. That’s faith. Faith is what pleases Him because leaning on God is what will free us up to live supernaturally. It’s how the things of the spirit work. Being self-sufficient is the opposite of faith and it blocks God’s blessings.

God also promised to rebuke the devourer, to keep the enemy from coming in to steal from them. As a church leader, it is difficult to watch people struggle with their jobs, their health, their business, their relationships… often seen as a result of the struggle to be self-sufficient. I pray for them because I see their struggle to step over the threshold of self and abandon themselves to rely on God. Sometimes it’s an issue with obeying God by trusting church leaders, often due to being hurt by some form of leader in their past.

I’m thankful to my parents because it was Mom and Dad that taught me to not only trust God, but to put action to my trust. It’s known as obedience. For me, tithing isn’t about keeping the rules – it’s about looking up, putting my eyes on God, and having confidence that my Father will breakthrough my natural with His supernatural. Sometimes I pray, “I don’t know HOW You will do this, but I know that You will. You will never leave me. You will never forsake me. I put my trust in Your love for me and my belief that by Your power You will change my circumstances.” I’m confidence of His promises. I’m determined that I’m going to obey Him, no matter what I see or hear or experience. I’m not testing Him. I don’t need to. I am confident of His Word and His love.

I’m a Christ follower. My Lord loves me and He leads me. I get to follow.

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The Christ Follower STARTS the Day in Worship

Jesus called His disciples to FOLLOW Him. When we position ourselves as a follower, we also give recognition to Jesus as our leader. We become dependent, surrendered, obedient. If I’m serving Jesus, then I’m going to go to Him in prayer; and in prayer, hopefully there is love, relationship, and intimacy that creates worship. To know Him is to eagerly want to be in His presence and express the revelation we have of His greatness and His mercy.

Not everyone follows Christ from a heart of worship. Some follow Christ out of duty. A true follower enjoys the nearness of their loving Lord, waiting for the morning to awake to see Him and know His embrace.

Psalm 17:15 “…I will be fully satisfied when I awake to find myself seeing Your likeness.”

One of the best ways to start a day is to play worship music, sing, or even just soak in an atmosphere of worship. We’re not following a boss or a dictator; we’re following the One we love and the One who loves us.

Psalm 143:8 “Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, for in You do I trust…”

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The Christ Follower STARTS the Day in Prayer

It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’m being challenged… I mean, WHOA, am I being challenged!

I was recently in Israel. When I was at the Sea of Galilee, I thought about Jesus calling the disciples to follow Him. I thought about what it means to be a Christ follower; not just a believer, but a follower, someone who puts action to their dependency on Jesus.

Psalm 5:3 “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.”

I am a praying woman. I also am a hard-working woman. I see what needs to be done and I do it. Throughout my day I do look to God for His direction and help, and He gives it.

However, I believe the Lord is challenging me to come up a level. To truly be following Christ, then to Christ I will go at the beginning of my day for His instruction and His plan for the day. His instruction may differ than my plan that I have written in my planner. How do I know that that unless I submit myself to Him from the get-go?

If this speaks to you too, I encourage you to put out the effort to join me in making room for morning prayer. We’re all busy, but busy keeps us limited to a self-sufficient life. Getting up a few minutes earlier is worth inviting God to do what we can’t do on our own. It’s the supernatural life we are all meant to live, a life of following and walking with God!

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Living Life to the Fullest

 

God wants each of us to live our life to the fullest, open to love, and free from any weights. The way to get the most out of life is to live it as close in relationship with God that we can, by grace, through faith. God wants us to receive a position of being saved, and then He wants us to live in His salvation everyday. He wants us to grow in knowing Him, and from His presence, we find the source of all that makes us whole in spirit, soul, and body.

Just like any other relationship, when we give ourselves to knowing God, the relationship can grow, get stronger, open wider, and flourish. If we neglect our relationship with God, it can become stagnant, cold, closed, and lifeless. God wants us to experience Him and the life He offers.

Not only can we know God, but we can also mature in our relationship Him. As we grow spiritually and in relationship with our Father, we can increase our capacity to receive. We can also become more effective in working together with the Holy Spirit in our ministry to others. We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to know God more fully.

There is no greater fulfillment a human being can have than to enter into an interactive relationship with God while encountering His tangible presence. Think about it. God, the Creator of everything and everyone, is in a close relationship with you. You are fully satisfied in being one with your Maker. Completed in every sense of wholeness. Confident of the person you are, where you came from, and where you are going. The more you mature, the more wonders of God’s person are unfolded for your discovery. The more you grow, the more you marvel at the swelling beauty of His grace and truth. The more you develop, the more rooted and established you become in His love. Nothing can move you from the place God has given you in Christ.

Not only do you experience being enveloped by the majesty of His power and love, but you also encounter the deluge of His anointing flowing through you, knowing God is supernaturally accomplishing His miraculous purpose together with you. Whatever age you are, with each new day comes a new opportunity for God to take you higher in Him.

The book OPEN is available on our website at www.growchurches.com

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