The First Fantastic Four

followers

“Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4:21

Long before Stan Lee, the comic book craze, and the Big Screen, Jesus called four fishermen. Two sets of brothers to be exact. They weren’t kings, presidents, politicians, attorneys, or priest. They were ordinary men who made their living breaking their backs, as they cleaned their nets.

Peter, his brother Andrew, James whose father was Zebedee and his brother John, were casting those nets into the Sea of Galilee. Jesus found them and gave His one-line elevator pitch: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew singled out the four, and we don’t know why.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a reason. Jesus began His ministry at Galilee, these men were the first four called, and they lived in Galilee, but is there more to it than that?

I think there is. Let me suggest two thoughts:

  1. The CALL of the one line pitch is to Follow Him. That’s universal. From Salvation through Sanctification WE are called to follow. We are NOT leaders we are followers. Somewhere we have mistranslated the call.

Today much more emphasis is placed on leaders than followers. We want followers on Twitter. We want friends on Facebook. But that shouldn’t mean the at we are leaders because we have followers. We are all called to be followers with Jesus as our leader.

  1. Be Fishers of Men. This phrase meant something to them because they were fishermen. They got it. Jesus didn’t use this phrase for Matthew the Tax Collector. It simply means you will help gather more followers (fish) for Me.

This has to with evangelism, but it also means to make disciples. Not every Christian is a great soul winner. However, as Christians use their gifts, soul-winning and discipleship are accomplished through the local church.

These first fantastic four and the rest of the twelve are listed in Matthew 10:2-4. They were commissioned and sent out. They didn’t possess special power before they were called, but they received special power from the One who called them.

Every Christian has been given that power. Are you using it?

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Start Living For God Today

We should stop pretending to love Jesus while inwardly craving other desires.

If God really is who He says He is and heaven and hell actually exist, would you live any differently? Would any of your priorities get rearranged? Would you start seeing this world from a different lens? Would you tell others about Jesus…instead of hemming and hawing around? I often contemplate such questions as I struggle to pull myself from my comfortable, safe, little world.

We should stop pretending to love Jesus while inwardly craving other desires.

Religion apart from God is dead; it is merely an effort to clean our outer shell. Possibly without realization, we are trying to make ourselves look good and fit in with the crowd. Possibly without personal reckoning, we are hoping to feel good about who we are.

God sees through the superfluous and cuts right through to our heart. He is not concerned about fancy new toys or the Who’s Who List of your city.

God is after you.

During the time of Jesus, there were some superficial believers…their names are the Pharisees and Sadducees. They spent their time combating Jesus and playing games as “Goody Two Shoers.” They thought they had all the right answers, convincingly laying down arguments. Jesus sees right through their camaraderie and points out their issue with pride.

This sect of the Jews seemingly were seeking after God, but in reality were self-seeking. They didn’t see their problem with sin, and likewise, didn’t admit their need for a Savior. They thought they knew God because they could rattle off facts. They were full to the brim with head knowledge. We must be careful not to fall

We must be careful not to fall into the same trap…God wants to transform us completely.

A stern warning is given to those who dilly-dally with God. Those who talk the talk, but don’t come close to walking the walk. Those who say they love God, but their lives don’t come close to showing it. In Isaiah 29:13, God says, “This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.”

Church, I think it is time for us to stop pretending.

And church, I think it is time for us to really know God.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Abraham was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:21

To live a surrendered life requires obedience.

To live by faith and fixate our eyes on the heavenly realm requires prayer.  To live this way, I must ___________________________ (fill in the blank). Ask yourself, are you willing to pray, “Father, glorify your name” (John 12:28)?

Start afresh today by making your relationship with God your top priority. Place Him at the center of your life. Honor Him in all that you do. Allow Him to mold and shape you. Living for God means putting ourselves in the passenger seat and allowing God full access to our lives.

Sue Allen

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Pastor: 5 Ways to Avoid Burnout

match-burnout

The turn burnout has been around for years. It makes sense that a CEO, Manager, or someone who is in the spotlight all the time should struggle with it. But can a pastor really suffer from burnout?

It seems burnout in the ministry isn’t really something we notice. Now mega-church pastors Perry Noble, and Pete Wilson, have resigned burnout has become a relevant ministry topic.

There are also statistics for pastor burnout:

23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.

But, what really causes burnout? And, how can it be avoided?

Let me suggest 5 ways:

1.Do things you love to do

There is nothing wrong with finding what you love to do and doing it. If it’s writing a blog (mine), encouraging others (mine too), fishing, hunting, bowling, shooting basketball, lifting weights, walking, running, reading, or fixing up old cars, do it!

We have to do the things we love and notice none of those had anything to do with your ministry. Get out of the church and unwind.

2. Ask for help

Like Donald Trump, there are more people who wants us to succeed than not. People in the church very often don’t get asked to help do anything. We assume they feel like we should do everything. Not everyone feels that way.

Inviting everyone to do something in the church will open up ways for us not to have to do everything. Ask people to help.

3. Know your limits

You are not superman. You can’t leap small buildings with a single bound. Therefore, we must know what we can and can’t do. There are some things we simply aren’t good at. If we know what these are we can go back to step 2 and fix it.

Saying no really is a way to freedom. If we can figure out what we enjoy, and what we want to do it is a perfect fit.

4. Visit your Flock

Nothing replaces this. They want us to do it. They feel special when we do. It also is a way for us to get to know who they really are. We get to meet them in their arena and let them open up their home to us.

Many pastors today believe they don’t have time to do this. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It builds the church and that is our #1 responsibility.

5. Be involved in the community

Again, our people want this. Ball games are an easy way to do it. Civic clubs, meet with police, firefighters, there are many opportunities to fit into a new community. The reality is we usually are not from that town. We need to be involved.

Another thought to ponder is maybe unrealistic expectations cause burnout. Many times on our part. Could we feel that we are the pastor so the people should just follow?

Here’s a good quote to tie this up, “The antidote to exhaustion is not rest but wholeheartedness.” David Whyte

If our heart is for that flock, then we will never burnout.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Do Democrats Care About White Evangelicals?

evangelical vote

I am one of those white evangelicals. Like many other demographics, I am categorized as a polling statistic.

“Evangelicals make up approximately 25 percent of the US population and exit polling suggests 80 per cent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, compared to just 15 per cent of African-American/Hispanic/Asian evangelicals.” 

Think for moment, what if Secretary Clinton could have won 10%-20% more of white evangelicals?

Just like I am an exit poll statistic, I am also often labeled (because of my beliefs) racist, homophobic, and ignorant.

However, whether you agree with my positions on Syrian refugees, illegal immigration, gay marriage, or creation does not give me the right to label you. I believe you have a right to disagree with me.

After all, America is a nation about the rights of each individual.

But, it appears that the Democratic Party has forgotten this. I did not want to vote for either candidate, but I had to choose one. So I voted for the platform (not person) that best valued my rights and feelings as a Christian American.

So did every other American.

I don’t want to be forced into a political party. But, I also will vote for the party who seems to care about me.

Here are a couple of ways the Democratic Party got it wrong:

1.The candidate.

She epitomized elitism. Secretary Clinton acted like she was entitled to be the next President, and the cities of America would carry her through. What does that say about rural America? With her attitude and her past, could many white evangelical Christians vote for her?

2. Her main advisors don’t try to think like us.

Her campaign manager is openly gay. Would anyone in his position really care about reaching out to me? Would he try to get to know how I feel about the other issues?

Huma Abedin. Can we really relate to her? Do some research about her views. But even then we don’t know clearly who she is. Here is a NY Post article  that speaks to her radical connections. Then here is a Washington Post article that contradicts the NY Post article.

We all know the media is divided between conservative and liberal.

This is what political parties don’t seem to get. If you label me, refuse to care about my vote, don’t reach out to me, and surround yourself with people who don’t try to think like me, how can you get my vote?

The reality is there is more that unites us than divides us. We all care about our families. We all care about infrastructure. We all care about a decent job for everyone. We all care about the safety of America. We all are American.

Why can’t both parties realize we care about all the other issues and reach out to every American?

Why is one group of people less important than the others?

Shouldn’t both parties be smarter and get people around them who think differently than the party or the person running?

You could still get my vote if you care enough to try.

Pastor Rodney

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Pastor, When is it Time to Leave?

leave or stay

“And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jeremiah 3:15

Leaving a church is a difficult decision. How can we know when our time is up? When is it time for the pastor to leave?

I’d like to suggest 3 ways to know when.

1.Passion fades

When our heart is not on fire for that flock something is wrong. It may be us, or it may be that some of the people aren’t necessarily that excited we are there.

Obviously, when we first come, there is a great sense of enthusiasm and optimism. We must understand the honeymoon doesn’t last. That’s when we have to sort through the passion of our heart and see if it is still for these people.

It could be we have just lost our own way. It could be that we need to make a change in our leadership, sermon prep, or habits we have developed. We may need a refreshing conference or a break. But we have to find our passion.

It could be our heart has changed for them. Our heart may be moving toward a new work.

2.Strained Relationships

Very often there have been leadership challenges and consequences that have caused a strain in our relationships. We may have rebuked someone or even snapped at a person in a meeting. That causes ill feelings toward them or them toward us.

We have to stop and evaluate these relationships. Can they be mended? Its there something we can do to fix the hurt or anger they feel?

Most of the time the person says something like, “There is nothing wrong.” “We are fine.” But the reality is they don’t want to go through the difficult process of reconciliation. As the pastor, we must be the one to go out of our way to make things right.

However, if there are several leaders, or a plan by a few to keep the relationship strained, we cannot fix anything. We must pray that God will break through and heal hearts.

Sometimes the strain is so great the only way out is to leave—for our sake and theirs.

3.Vision is foggy

We know the verse, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

I have seen clearly that once God is moving me, my vision begins to get cloudy. The fog seems to hide what is next for the church. I can’t seem to stay certain on what is next for the church. I don’t think it’s our fault; I believe it is God’s way of saying move on.

When we lose our vision the people can’t seem to see why coming to church is important. There is a period of non-commitment to the purpose and direction of the church. Volunteers are hard to find.

This is not an exhaustive list. And any one of these three can be evident at one time or the other. But when all three are there, it is time to leave. I know we don’t go until God says, but the reality is our spirit and the church’s spirit are dying inside.

Leaving is always difficult. Some are tougher than others. But ultimately God is moving us through a series of peaks and valleys to get us where we can do the most good.

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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Regaining Balance

Do you have Balance?

A middle-aged pastor said, “I’ll tell you what I struggle with, and it’s constant. It’s church vs. family vs. what I have left over for some of my personal needs. How do I balance my life so it’s not either totally structured and rigid or totally hang-loose and spontaneous? I like to achieve, but I also like to be with people and invest in them. So how do I achieve both?”

We all want balance in our lives. A balanced life is the key to joy, peace, and effectiveness. But living a balanced life is not easy. Finding balance seems to be a struggle for most people today. It’s not the too little to do anymore. Our lives are crowded and complex. The answer lies not in the balance of our abilities but in our ability to balance.

What do we do to regain balance? The answers are found in the word balance.

Be decisive in what matters most. Determine what matters most we prevent us from engaging too much time in activities that are not important.

Ask for help. Don’t be too stubborn or proud to ask for assistance when you need it.

Live with margin. Margin-less living is the disease of our culture. We live our lives like a page typed-single spaced, top to bottom, and edge to edge. Margin is having breath at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month, time between appointments.

Attitude means you are willing to wait before you decide if something is bad. Often, what may appear to be bad might actually turn out to be good.

Never lose your focus. Watch a graceful ballerina when she spins. While her entire body is spinning rapidly, she holds her head still as long as she possibly can, fixing her eyes on a distant point. Then, at the last possible fraction of a second, she turns her head completely around and finds the point again. She is focusing on a single point to help her stay balanced even when everything else around her is spinning. For us we keep our focus on the purpose of our lives.

Concentrate on your gifts. Wise up and say yes to the best that you can offer and give. Sometimes in our efforts to win approval we give in to the lesser things and our energy is wasted working outside our giftedness.

Eliminate the unnecessary. Many of the activities that we engage in our not necessarily wrong, they are simply not necessary. We need to develop the skill of discretionary neglect.

Allow me to rephrase a statement from Jesus: “Come to Me, all you who are worn out and weighed down by scrambling to meet the demands of others, and I will bring quiet to your spirits. Serve Me, follow Me, and—because I am caring and understanding—I will stop the clamoring in your souls. For what I ask of you is not a burden at all.” Life is not a crowded to-do list but a blank stretch of canvas. It is not trying to balance all of the demands of our lives but simply doing this day what God would have us do. Then, and only then, will we find balance.

Rick Ezell

Visit Rick @RickEzellDefiningMoments

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The Field of Dreams Approach to the Church

Millennials

(This article originally appeared in the Baptist Courier.)

I still like the movie Field of Dreams.  I must confess that I get choked up every time I watch the end of the movie where Ray (played by Kevin Costner) ask his dad, “Hey Dad!  You want to have a catch?”

Early in the movie, Ray hears a mysterious voice stating, “If you build it he will come.”  In response he builds a baseball field among the cornfields near his Iowan house and witnesses a spectral baseball team that converges on the field to play ball.

Sadly, a number of churches approach their communities with a Field of Dreams mindset regarding their facilities.  Although they are not evangelistic and have dusty baptisteries, they believe renovating their facilities or building new facilities “to attract young people” will cause Millennials and young families to flock to their church buildings in droves; however, when we look at what Millennials actually say is important to them regarding the church, we see a much different picture.

Here is a short list of some of the things Millennials say attract them to churches:

1 They want preaching that is not shallow.  Millennials want biblical preaching that asks and answers hard questions in life.  To appeal to this generation of young people, preaching must have depth.
2 They want authentic worship. Young adults are not as concerned that churches utilize a particular style of music in worship.  They are attracted to authentic worship that reflects the culture of that local congregation.  They do want worship to have both authenticity and quality.
3 They want community. Millennials are attracted to congregations that promote biblical community where church members actively participate in making disciples.  They also want multigenerational small groups where they can learn from believers who are further along in age and spiritual maturity.
4 They want community ministry involvement. Young adults desire to serve in churches that are actively ministering in their communities.  They want to address social needs and concerns within the area surrounding the church.  Millennials also are concerned with justice issues around the world and want to participate in churches that address these issues.
5 They want church buildings that are functional. Millennials aren’t so concerned with being a part of churches that have flashy or “cool” worship centers.  They will worship at churches who are being the church, regardless of the style of the building or the worship center.

So, rather than focusing on renovating or building worship space to attract young people or young families, churches should concentrate on making disciples of people in their surrounding communities and being authentically biblical congregations.

To be growing and healthy congregations, churches must consist of church members who regularly share the gospel in their everyday interactions and relationships with their family members, friends, and acquaintances.  Such congregations are welcoming and open, but are led by pastors who do not shy away from preaching biblical sermons that address hard topics or hard questions.

You can build it; however, if you are not an authentic church that prioritizes building gospel relationships and making disciples, they won’t come.

Dr. Tim McKnight

Read more from Tim @drtimmcknight.com

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Traditions

What are your thoughts on tradition?

Every family has traditions. From foods, games we play, songs we sing, and special foods we eat at the different holidays. Sometimes we hear of something someone else does and make it a new tradition for our family.

In our family my great grandma used to have everyone over for a pancake breakfast and then everyone would gather for steak dinner at another relative’s. The year my uncle was born grandma said it was too long of a day for the baby. So great grandma put the two meals together at her home and every year since 1929 the family has gotten together for a steak and pancake breakfast. The steak is delicious with a little bit of syrup finding its way across the plate and surrounding the bite with a little bit of sweetness. We have friends that thought that sounded so good and not as much to cook so they adopted our tradition.

When I was born my great aunt bought a baptismal gown for me. My brother How do you feel about traditions?was a little older when he was baptized so he wasn’t able to wear it. Then four years later my sister was born and she wore the gown. Since that time it has been worn by every member of the family including a friend’s daughter. On September 4th our granddaughter was baptized and she was the 12th baby to wear my gown. It started out as a gift for me and has become a tradition. I wonder how many more children will be baptized in that beautiful gown.

This is one example where we find Jesus talking about traditions.

Debate Over Tradition

Mark 7:1–23

15 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8     ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,

And honor Me with their lips,

But their heart is far from Me.

9     And in vain they worship Me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”

13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”

15 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”

16 So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”[1]

The scribes and Pharisees were more concerned about the traditions that had been followed for years. Some of which God put in place to keep the people healthy, like the washing of hands before preparing food.

There are traditions in each of the main stream churches. I believe people get hung up on these traditions and forget that going to church is a time to put everything aside and be in worship with God. Our faith is strengthened when we worship with others and join in lifting our praises up to God.

When a church puts it traditions above those of the other churches I believe they are losing site of the real meaning of worship and faith. No one style or order of worship is better than any other. We don’t have to be in a specifically designed sanctuary, or do our liturgy, hymns and sermons in a specific order. Jesus preached from mountains, and beside the water, He spoke to the people with love and compassion. Teaching them how to praise God and care for each other. He didn’t give them a bulletin with the only order in which a worship service could be done.

Traditions in families and churches are good as long as they don’t exclude others or make their tradition more important than anyone else’s.

Jann Martin

Read more from Jann @www.jannwmartin.com

What traditions do you have in your family that you would like to share? Also what are your feelings on the traditions in churches?  Leave your comments on our Facebook page

 

 

 

 

[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Mt 15:1–20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

The First 3 Things to Do at a New Ministry

ministry

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Very often pastors are called to a new ministry. However, if we are not careful we can carry over some of the baggage of the past and allow that to impact what God can do with us in a new place.

So what did we do to avoid ill feelings and potholes that may trip us up as we begin this new chapter in our lives? Let’s look at the first three things to do:

1.Rejoice in the Work

Celebrate it. God has moved us to something that can be the greatest place we have ever been. It may be that all our ups and downs were meant for this time in our ministry to see God do great things,

Build new relationships. This is the time to get to know new people and reach out to them as their new pastor. They may have heartaches and struggles that they have gone through. They may have been hurt in church (we all have). We need to pour ourselves into them.

Use this time to be grateful and thankful. God has called us into His work for a reason. God called us here and the people are ready to do a new thing. We should be too!

2. Learn From Your Past Mistakes

Regardless of what happened in our last ministry, we have to evaluate the mistakes we’ve made. Maybe it was a blindspot in leadership. A style the old church preferred or we simply didn’t understand the why of what went wrong.

The reality is we have to honestly look at ourselves and not repeat the same misstep.

We may need to visit more, show more love, not snap in a meeting, or really examine our preaching. Maybe it is our study habits, or something we need to strengthen. But we can’t allow pride to keep us from being better.

3. Don’t Look Back

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” Luke 9:62

Don’t bring up the past hurt. You may have been deeply wounded by people you thought were your friends and wonder why things went wrong. But reliving the failure or heartache does’t help anyone.

Avoid looking at what is going on in the old church. We shouldn’t stop by their website or listen to the interim preacher. We shouldn’t celebrate, even secretly, if people have left and things are going wrong.

Limit conversations with that past congregation. Doesn’t mean we don’t love them. It simply keeps our focus on where it should be—our present ministry.

That is the important thing to remember. God has allowed us a new thing. It is imperative that we realize we need to go forward. Just as church people need to forgive the past, we do too. For the sake of the kingdom, and the community, may we enjoy what God is doing.

God is never done with us.

“God never loses sight of the treasure which He has placed in our earthen vessels.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney

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2 Traps Pastors Must Avoid

pastors

Satan often flavors his bait to the individual. The enemy is very alert to what works on men and women who seek to serve God. But there are two traps the enemy places patiently for all of us. Very often we are unaware that they lay waiting for us to be caught in them.

What are they?

1.Anger

This isn’t righteous indignation. It’s not Jesus turning over the money changer tables.

This is a situation that catches us off guard. A committee meeting that a stray comment gets under our skin. A church leader who said they supported our decision then went back on their word in the meeting.

We may not go off on a tirade. But a deep sigh, jaw clenched, snap of a comeback, and people see us mad. When this happens we have given ground to the enemy.

The Bible tells us, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” 2 Timothy 2:24

Quarrelsome, angry pastors are not what the flock needs. They need us loving and kind even when they act like sheep and go astray.

The second trap is harder to admit.

2.Arrogance

Once we come to a church and it begins to grow people very often say nice things about us. They may even exaggerate our giftedness.

When this happens pride very subtly slips into our thoughts. We may even begin to feel like this church could never grow unless we were the pastor.

The Bible warns us in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” But how do we see this trap before we fall?

Perhaps Pastor Peter can answer this. “Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’” Matthew 19:27

What do we get out of this follow Jesus deal? Shouldn’t there be benefits for the preacher? The one who proclaims God’s Word to His people ought to have a special closeness, or a blessing hotline to heaven, right?

In this day of self promotion and mega-star saints we, too often, fall into these traps. Gold, Glory, and Girls have ruined many a man of God. But anger and arrogance have caused too many of us to lose a ministry.

Be watchful and ready. Stay humble and grateful.

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Keep Looking Up!

Pastor Rodney