Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First Steps Into the NEW


I was just thinking about how tough it is for many Christian Believers to receive a new revelation. In fact Jesus said that people will reject new wine because they prefer the taste of the old stuff.

I know that it has been a bit disappointing for me in the moments I realized that after I’ve taught something repeatedly over the course of many weeks, I will still hear people quote the old wine phrases to their families and friends in the midst of crisis.

One of those old wine statements is, “God won’t put on you more than what you can bear.” This phrase has been quoted by thousands of Christians for scores of years and it is absolutely WRONG.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God won’t put on you more than what you can bear.

The Bible actually says, from 1Corinthians 10: 13 No TEMPTATION has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be TEMPTED beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

This scripture is not talking about the trial you are going through. It’s not talking about the consequences one may be going through due to bad choices. TEMPTATIONS and TRIALS are two different things and this scripture is not talking about trials.

Paul was talking about the wilderness journey that Israel was going through on the way to the Land of Promise. Along the way, they faltered because they kept giving in to the temptations to rebel against God.

So when someone has been stricken with a disease, destruction, divorce, depression, disaster, or even death, this is not the appropriate scripture to quote to them.

The main reason this is not the appropriate scripture is because TEMPTATION does not come from God. So to tell someone that God won’t put on them more than what they can bear, is to accuse God of placing temptation on people.

The Bible specifically says in James 1: 13-14, Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.  

Yet, many will read this blog and still hold on to the old wine revelation because this new wine revelation forces us to own up to our responsibility in the circumstances of our lives. Some of our circumstances are of our own doing. Some situations are simply the results of living in a fallen world. Some circumstances are the result of what the Bible calls Time and Chance.
Other circumstances are just direct assaults of demonic attacks that have been launched in every generation in our families.

But make no mistake about it!  Our hardship is not some burden or trial that God is placing on us just to see how much we can bear.

But like a toddler learning how to walk, one has to let go of the old religious quotes, in the way a child must let go of a chair or table in order to take their first steps.

However, many Christians refuse to let go of the old phrases and familiar quotes. Therefore, they never mature and come into a wonderful new understanding of walking with God.

But you can take a step today. Stop quoting this phrase in order to encourage yourself or someone else. That phrase is not Bible. Instead turn to what the Bible actually says about trials and tough times in 2 Corinthians 4: We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—

Look at what Paul said when he prayed about a particular trial in his life: Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

These are the kind of words we need to speak to ourselves and speak to others to encourage them. Not the tragically incorrect interpretation of scripture that accuses God of putting harsh and cruel problems upon people.

Come on… Let go of the old stuff and take your first steps into the NEW.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012: Feeling like a proud father

Through our first official holiday outreach, we were able to bless three families with Thanksgiving dinner this year.

We also surprised some of the Urban Life family with gift cards from the Giant Food Stores. Just being able to do this brings us great joy.


A special thanks goes to Bobbi Lehman and Jennifer Munoz for pulling it all together. Bobbi simply felt impressed by the Lord that we should do something special as a church family. Jennifer contacted one of the local school districts and connected us with their efforts to assist children and their families with food.

I felt like a proud father as Bobbi stood before the church family and broke into tears as she thanked everyone for contributing. Jennifer told all of us that she learned that many children only eat during the federal funded free breakfast and lunch meals. However, they don't eat when they go home every day. It was stunning to learn that many children who eat lunch on Friday afternoons, don't eat again until breakfast on Monday morning.

Well, we have found our practical ministry to affect change in this community. So we have officially luanched our new Family2Family Community Outreach.

We're going to help as many families as we can during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. However, well beyond the holiday season, we are going to establish this as a regular outreach for the children in the school districts that will allow us to help in this way.

What I love so much about all of this is that this was not a Pastor-initiated outreach. Our own church family heard from God and they did all of the work to do this.

We have fought through a lot and waited a long time for this day, and it was all worth it. Our little congregation has taken ownership of the ministry and taken personal responsibility to answer the call to touch our community.

Yeah, I feel like a proud father. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Oval Office of My House

Almost four years ago, after I sent an email on the day of President Obama’s inauguration and quoted from the Bible that we are to pray for him, several pastors and leaders in this community who opposed Obama, discontinued support and communication with us and this ministry. On the other side, friends and family who supported President Obama took our email to mean that we were merely offering some form of insincere political patronizing.

I thought I was fulfilling my Pastoral leadership responsibility to bring our divided congregation together and to focus on the things that God desires to do in our nation. It had nothing to do with endorsing or condemning the President.

Here is what we sent out on January 21, 2009:

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers and intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone---for kings, and for all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior." 1Timothy 2:1-3

Make no mistake about it, yesterday was a profoundly significant day. I don't mean to disturb or upset anyone who is strongly opposed to our new president's policies and plans. My comments are not an endorsement FOR him or words AGAINST him. It’s very difficult to put into words. I’ve spoken to you guys about this in some way or another, so allow me time and space to try to express my thoughts on this subject.

As a father of three African American sons, I was deeply moved as a new image of the African American male was presented to the world. A young man from Atlanta was interviewed immediately after the ceremony and the first thing he said was that he was glad that America and the world was given a positive view of black men, and that maybe people will no longer see us as criminals.

I'm not ignorant of the fact that agendas are about to be implemented that are directly against the Word of God. If you want to read our personal views on the president from a global, historical, and prophetic view, just visit our ‘You Know What I'm Saying’ group pages. I just don't have time or space to get into that in this week's email.

In this brief moment, I just want those who have no idea what it's been like (as an African American man) to live in a country where the only image that people have of you is that you are a dead beat dad, a womanizer, a thug, a gangster, a lazy parasite, a criminal, or that the only thing you’re really good for is sports or entertainment. Please allow me to help you understand partly what this moment means. (Again, I’m not endorsing the President. I’m just making an observation).

I personally believe that God is using this moment in history to pave the way for my sons (and grandsons) to one day preach the gospel from a position of authority. When their Black faces are seen, there won't be an automatic, unconscious perception of negativity or inferiority.

My sons will minister in a world very different from what my wife and I have toiled within. No; life won't be easier for them. In fact, our new president is constantly trying to brace our nation for things to get worse before they get better.

However, we were so moved because, we believe that with this shift in accepting leadership from a man of color, God will use it to thrust forth HIS divine purpose for America, particularly within the church.

When we see the president and the first lady walking hand in hand, maybe people will believe that me and my wife really are close and that we're not pretending just to get people to connect with this ministry.
Maybe, now, some young adults will begin to trust leadership coming from African American pastors who have been living solid lives for many years in this and hundreds of communities all over this nation.

We see tremendous opportunity coming to us and many other pastors through this season of change. Not all of the change in America is good or Godly, but we believe God has orchestrated this day for something HE is doing beyond what our eyes can see right now.

While people are rightfully celebrating the fact that a family of color has moved into the White House and taken this leadership role in this country, we believe that God is using it to prepare the world for thousands of people of color to take their rightful places.

I do not make these comments to slight or cast aside our White brothers and sisters. When I say "rightful place", I don't mean that Black pastors will now seize authority over White pastors. I mean that we will all take our rightful positions under God’s authority and we will no longer see one leader as being less significant or capable than another simply because of their ethnicity. We will truly become ONE in Christ Jesus.

That’s what yesterday signaled for me. It was about more than the inauguration of a Black president. It was the signal that God is moving behind the scenes to change the landscape of America, including the church in America.”
– Pastor Chris Green (January 21, 2008)

****

Nearly four years later, I can see a glimpse of the change in attitudes in this extremely divided commuinty of Harrisburg. Over the past four years, people of various cultures and backgrounds have come and sat under our teaching in Urban Life. I believe God used the image of the President to change people’s attitudes so that they were a little bit more comfortable to come to a ministry where the senior pastor was a Black man.

We have watched a significant change in the attitudes of people with our sons. Doors have opened to them that simply were not open four years ago. There were just too many people who were afraid of young Black men to help them. We watched people, who weren’t necessarily Christian Believers, relax in the presence of our sons and open up to see them beyond their skin color. They allowed our sons to break through the stereotypes and fears.

We still don’t agree with all of President Obama’s policies and agendas. Many of them conflict with Biblical teachings. However, that still doesn’t change the fact that God will use anybody to accomplish what HE wants to do in a nation.

Where did we get the idea that a political leader MUST be someone who follows all of the principles of the Bible in order for God to use him or her to accomplish His purpose and plan? God called Nebuchadnezzar His servant even though he was the emperor that destroyed Jerusalem, killing thousands of people, and carried their best and brightest into exile. God chose him to execute judgment; therefore he was God’s servant even though he wasn’t a Godly man.

Presidential elections are about more than trying to get a scripture quoting, Bible toting candidate in the Oval Office. This is about getting synchronized with what God is doing in our lifetime in America. If America is under judgment, (and many Christian leaders believe it is) then God will set the man or woman in place that needs to be there at the time of judgment.

So we’re going to stay focused on the bigger picture. It doesn’t matter who sits in the Oval Office of the White House. It still comes down to who is sitting in the Oval Office of MY House.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Follow me and I will make you...producers of men

Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. These words were spoken to men who were businessmen and skilled professionals. They had been brought up and trained in a particular trade. These words were used to help me understand the calling on my life in a brand new way. One of the songs God gave us when we moved to Pennsylvania is called “A Brand New Move of God.” I believe we are walking in that right now.

For years I have lived with an internal conflict regarding the calling to be a producer and the calling to be a pastor in a godless generation. I had always pursued a career in TV and radio production because God had called me to that field. For 17 years, that’s exactly what I did in music, radio and television. It was exactly what He told me and showed me. In my insecurity, always in the back of my mind, I was questioning my true skills and abilities, asking, do I really have what it takes to be successful in this arena?

The Lord blessed me to become an award winning TV producer in 1999. Even though it was only a local (St. Louis) public access cable TV station, the judges were imported from major network TV affiliates and they determined my work to be the best Inspirational and Religious broadcast for that year. The award did a lot for me personally especially since, at that time, we had sub par recording equipment, poor lighting, inferior cameras and shaky audio. Combine that with mostly teenaged volunteers working at almost every single station and you have a better understanding of the level of post production work I had to put into the broadcast to edit camera shots and adjust the fluctuating audio to piece together industry-standard material for a weekly 30 minute broadcast on two stations.


Yet, in the midst of producing, God started sending words and prophecies about me becoming a pastor, a shepherd, a prophet and even hints of the apostolic. Thus, the conflict began in my heart. There had never been any desire or hint of a move in that direction before. I starting protesting to God, “Hey, you told me I was a producer; where did this pastor talk come from?”

Now fast forward into 2006, where I found myself in Pennsylvania, answering a phone call from the Press Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, giving me an opportunity to work there. Part of my interview process involved meeting the Governor’s Communications Director. I still recall walking up the steps of the State Capitol asking myself, ”How did I end up here?”

Needless to say, I was very thankful to do well in the interviews and I developed even more confidence when I was thrown into the fire from day one. I discovered that I could handle the pace and the workload. God allowed me to see that I was indeed, a multi-media producer. It wasn’t just church-world success.

I’ve seen a lot people who are very successful in the church, but they fall miserably in the secular environment because they really don’t have the skills to make it outside of the church. God showed me that I was exactly what He said I was. A producer is a producer, no matter what environment they are assigned to work in. Hear me closely. You are exactly who and what God says you are.

After all this training and experience was established to solidify that I really am a producer, why would God start messing up everything? That’s what He did to a few fishermen one day. He acknowledged that they were fishermen, but he opened up a whole new world by telling them that if they followed Him, He would let them continue to work in the ways that brought them great fulfillment, but He would change their purpose. They would still go fishing everyday, but they would fish for men instead.

My wife was encouraging me one night following a very successful Friday evening meeting with the church family. She had watched me struggle with the producer versus pastor conflict for many years. As she spoke into my life about the will of God, a revelation suddenly exploded inside of me. Just like the fishermen were being transformed into fishers of men, the producer of multi-media was being transformed into a producer of lives.

Suddenly, everything came together in my understanding. That year (1999) of producing an award-winning product despite inferior equipment, means something more to me now. As a producer of lives, I know that you don’t have to have it all together for God to make something awesome out of a church.

Urban Life Church is an assembly of the forsaken, forgotten and fallen. Symbolically and spiritually, we don’t have good lighting. Our emotional recording equipment is erratic. Our relational material is not up to standards, but as the producer of this presentation to the Lord, God has given me years and years of practical experience in how to work carefully, slowly, methodically and patiently with every element that you have in hand; to get the best out of every camera shot, sound byte and special effect to produce an award winning product.

However,the award and reward is from our Lord as He says, “Good job. That’s what I wanted to hear come forth out of that family. That’s what I wanted to see come forth out this church.”

I felt impressed that the Lord was saying to me, “I made you a producer because I put within you the ability to take whatever I put in your hands and make something special out of it. That’s why you don’t just see people where they are now, but you see what I see in them.”

As pastors we want this to be a core value expressed though all of us at Urban Life Church: the ability to look beyond the faults of others and see what God sees in them.

The Lord reminded me how I used to spend hours mixing and re-mixing one section of music, over and over again, to get the best possible interpretation out of a song. Now as producers of lives, we can sit down and mix the various sounds in a person’s life so that we hear the song of the Lord come forth. I recall how I would lower the volume on some instruments while at the same time increasing the volume of a particular vocal part. Now I see how it’s the same in producing lives. The volume of abandonment, divorce, death and grief are lowered. They’re not eliminated completely from the music, because they are a part of the life of a person. But now, they will be settled into the chords of one’s heart while other sounds become the solo instruments. Now grace, peace, faith, hope and purpose take the leading parts and their notes are intertwined to make a new melody.

Similarly, like in a video production, the images are changed in a person’s personal music video as doubt, destruction, devastation and despair become deleted scenes that no longer get replayed. We will manage to get crystal clear images in spite of the fact that the original shots were made in poor dim settings. Most who come to Urban Life come from places where the Word of God was taught in cloudiness or complete darkness. Very little was understood and even less was properly interpreted. It’s a miracle, beyond description, to develop such clarity out of so much that was out of focus.

The main job of the producer is to assemble the people and resources to complete a project. Every person from the technicians to the on-screen actors or the behind the microphone talent, are assembled for a single cause. From that definition alone, I realize and accept the fact that we are indeed producer-pastors.

We will continue to write and produce songs and books personally, but nothing will be more important than the lives we are honored to produce by the skill and gifting of the Holy Spirit.

As Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 3:2, "You are our letters, written in our hearts, read and known by all men.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Post-Election Assessments

Four years ago, immediately after the election, I sent out an extremely important email.

Prior to the 2008 election and in this 2012 election, I offered no political opinions. I did not seek to sway anyone in the election. I simply presented the spiritual and moral issues that are identified in the Bible. Unfortunately, the issues and interpretations of morality, justice and equality have fallen on two different sides of the dominant political parties in America.

This dilemma causes many people to vote for a president who is a Democrat and then vote for Senators and Congressmen who are Republicans in order to balance the scales. Or they vote for a Republican president and then vote for Senators and Congressmen who are Democrats. This is why it’s so difficult to navigate through the political process in our country. It’s also the reason it’s so difficult to explain one’s choices to family, friends and colleagues.

Here is what I wrote four years ago and it is incredibly amazing how it still applies to us today:

Last night our nation elected another president and no matter if whether your candidate was chosen or not, we are facing many storms in our future. I personally believe the first one will be a storm of division which always strikes after an election. This year it will have a significant effect on the church in America because the polls within the church show the Body of Christ was divided along racial, political and social lines during this election.

Sometimes we were asked who we believed would win. As pastors and ministers, we’re not supposed to publically endorse a political candidate, so we will continue to withhold our personal views on that subject. Also, since the church in America is so divided over the candidate choices, we have found it necessary to minister on a higher and more meaningful level than politics and race.

So you ask, what could possibly be more important than politics and race, especially since the issues that were raised were deeply spiritual and moral?

We choose to focus on the hearts of men, women, boys and girls, because the Bible declares that from the heart, spring the issues of life.

Proverbs 4:23 reads:
Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

So, before we start discussing the issues of life, we have to deal with the HEART. Many hearts have not been kept (guarded and protected). They have been broken, wounded, damaged, crushed, twisted, perverted, distorted, etc. Therefore, people assume their personal and political positions, regarding the issues of life, based upon what has happened in and to their hearts.

The Lord gave us a particular way to address the issues of today. The main objectives of Chris and Carol Green include being spiritual parents in this era. We believe God gave us this approach to ministry because HE knew the kind of hearts this generation would have. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, was giving a warning regarding some matters, but in the midst of his warning he makes a profound statement to explain his position. He tells them,

For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. - 1 Corinthians 4:15-16

So, like Paul, we’re not making these statements just as instructors, teachers, pastors, or clergy. We write these weekly emails to you as spiritual parents because there really aren’t many fathers (and mothers) in Christ. Before we were sent out in ministry, we were called primarily to be a father and mother to this generation.

Paul established solid relationships with the people reading his letters. He was basically telling them this: I've been more than a religious instructor. So don't just do what I'm telling you because I said so. Imitate me based upon what you've seen in me and what we have shared together.

So in your mental picture of Chris and Carol, please take away the podium, the clergy collar, the robes and sacred garments. We’re just a father and mother, a dad and a mom, that God has touched with His love and compassion. HE told us to go and reach this generation with that kind of love and ministry.

Like parents talking to their children, we're saying: While you are following the peace of God, let's stick together. There will always be a lot to complain about (politically, socially, economically), but don’t give in to it. That's why Paul told everyone to be thankful.  - written November 5, 2008

I'll close this week's blog with the lyrics of a song written by a dear friend more than 30 years ago.

If you want a brand new world, you gotta have brand new people
If you want brand new people, we've gotta have a brand new life
If you want a brand new life, you gotta have a brand new spirit
If you want a brand new spirit, we've gotta come to Jesus Christ! 
- Dr. Myles Munroe