Frank Sinatra and the Garden of Eden

Frank Sinatra and the Garden of Eden

Did you know that one of the most requested songs to be played at the funeral on a non-believer is “I did it My Way” by Frank Sinatra? If there was ever an anthem for what we are without Christ, old blue-eyes sums it up with that song.  

“Doing it my way” started back in the garden of Eden when Adam & Eve became discontented with God and his rules. Remember the rules? Everything is yours, all of it except for the one tree. Enjoy paradise kids!

If you know the Genesis narrative, we quickly find that Eve was deceived by a talking snake and Adam was as lost as a ball in the Alabama weeds. All that to say, they did the one thing God told them not to do, they ate the fruit! Have mercy!

The choice to eat of the fruit was, and is, the starting place for all the trouble in the entire universe.  When Eve took that bite, sin entered into all of us. It has been said that sin makes us stupid. Sin seems to push us away from God, and it certainly did in the case of Adam and Eve. Genesis chapter 3:8-10 we find Adam & Eve on the run. Funny how sin does that. We sin, then we run. We run away from the very being we should be running to, God.

 

There were three things that Eve did that contributed to what we call “The Fall” and put Adam and Eve on the run from God:

  1. Listened to the Lie
  2. Believed the Lie
  3. Acted on the Lie

What lies are you believing today?

-I can hide from God

-No one cares about me

-This feels right to me therefore I will continue in this ungodly relationship

-God is angry at me and I have passed the point of no return

-My marriage will never rebound from this

 

All lies! Right from the pit of Hell. We really need to stop talking to snakes!  Remember, who you spend time with can be a blessing or a curse. Choose wisely! Take inventory of not only the who’s in your life, also ask what is in your life. What has come in that needs to go? Another way to say that is, “What is in my life that is not helping my life, as it pertains to my personal holiness?”

Ultimately, we need to connect with God. He changes our lives; makes dead things live! His grace is sufficient. Grace is beautiful, it’s getting what you don’t deserve. Grace says, you don’t need to run away from God, you can run to God.  Take it, take the grace, we need it! We are so dead without grace, yet so alive with it!

Here are three things to help you live a life that moves away from doing it your way to His way:

 

  • Counter the lies of the enemy with truth.

 

Read your word, pray over the word, memorize the word.

  1. Identify the areas in your life that you are in bondage to.

Confess those to the Lord and confess to a mature believer and ask for accountability.

 

  • Get yourself into community

 

Don’t be isolated. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Plug into a group at church. Find someone to disciple you. Remember isolation drives you away from the cross!

 

My friend Ron Galla-Rini has been kind to remind me in times of frustration the following words, “You have more power than you think you do.” Indeed, that is true. Thank you, Lord for the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit not only convicts us of our sin, it also helps us to overcome doing things our way, which leads to sin, and gets us doing things God’s way, which leads to life!

 

To Life in Christ!

Charlie Moulton

Confessions of an Arrogant Preacher

Confessions of an Arrogant Preacher

Recently I was asked to do a lecture at a Christian university.  The class was students comprised of men who were training to go into the ministry. As I put the finishing touches on the lecture I opened it up to questions.

The questions were all over the map. Everything from sexual purity, how long does it take to prepare a sermon, to life balance, you get the idea. However, there was one question that stood out and pricked my soul. My prayer is that it also pricked those that were listening then and reading now.

The question was actually simplistic in nature. It was as follows:

“Pastor, how has your preaching changed or what is different about your preaching now since you first started out?”

I looked that young man in the eye and said, “Son, when I first started out I was arrogant and did not even know it. I thought I had to win every battle that came across my desk. I have now learned that I no longer need to win the battle as I am more concerned about the war.”

To be arrogant is to feel superior, to have a need to be right, or put other people’s noses in it. The actual definition is: having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities. That was me!

You see, I was more interested in my pet doctrines than I was for the lost. I was more interested in speaking than listening. My library of books consisted of those who only thought like me. My circle of friends mirrored my thoughts.

Then I remembered why Jesus came. He came to seek and save the Lost. He came to bear witness to the truth. Jesus was a man on a mission. He loved the sheep. Even the smelly, nippy little sheep. Sheep bite you know!

Faithful Pastors are shepherds, certainly not perfect but they are to care for the flock entrusted to them. John 10:11 tells us, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

I heard Pastor Johnny Hunt say that “Shepherds need to smell like sheep.” And tenure has taught me that you don’t choose your sheep, God does. They come in all sizes and shapes and, believe me buddy, some of them sheep will test you, pull you, and some may even curse you! You are called to love them anyway. I now love my sheep and consider it pure joy to be their Shepherded.

Allow the words of Charles Hodge to help you as it did me. “The doctrines of Grace humble a man without degrading him and exalt a man without inflating him.”

Yes and Amen to that Brother Hodge. I NOW understand what you meant by that!

When the Sunday Morning Service Turns into a Train Wreck

When the Sunday Morning Service Turns into a Train Wreck

It was a Sunday morning service like no other. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. Don’t think for a moment that I am exaggerating. For example, the audio team could not get the squeaking and feedback corrected.

The worship team took a new song out of the oven before it was fully cooked. The congregation was as lost as a ball in the tall Alabama weeds trying to learn the song.

The guy doing the announcements was having a bad day and appeared to have the love and compassion of Osama Bin Laden.

I also contributed, getting lost in my sermon notes 3 different times and going on to preach my longest sermon of the year. Not my best to say the least.

At lunch, I remember looking at my wife and saying the following words: “That was the worst service we ever had, what a train wreck.”

So how do you rebound from a service that really is a train wreck?

Here are 10 things to do:

  1. Learn from it.
  2. Talk about it. Laugh! The fact that anyone comes back the following week is proof of God’s sovereignty.
  3. Get clear on what you want.
  4. Get clear on what you don’t want.
  5. Be sure everyone on the team has the right tools to do the job. Ask, make sure!
  6. Remember God can change lives, even in so-called ‘train wrecks’.
  7. When in doubt, don’t tell them, show them. Model to your team what ‘good’ looks like.
  8. Re-evaluate if all team members are in the right spot. If not, make changes.
  9. Encourage your team.
  10. Ensure your team gets back on track immediately!

Does Your Congregation Need to be Reminded of its Responsibility in Gospel Partnership?

Does Your Congregation Need to be Reminded of its Responsibility in Gospel Partnership?

My home seems to get its fair share of door to door solicitors. We know they are at the front door as our two dogs bark at the intensity and pitch of a 300-dog kennel. I liken this to having cold water thrown in your face at 2AM. Anyways, when I finally get to the door, it does not take very long before I am asked to part with my money.

One such solicitor represented, what I believe to be, a worthy cause. Because I believe in what they are doing I usually give a little something.  This same organization seems to come back to my door once every 3 months. Each time they do, I give to their cause.  

As I opened my wallet to give a few dollars from my billfold, the man at the door said, “Mr. Moulton, thank you for your partnership.” I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is hardly a partnership.’ Candidly speaking, what was happening was very much transactional. This does not mean that I did not find the cause to be noble, even worthy. It was! I just did not pay too much attention to the cause with the exception of the good reminder and visual of the person standing at my door. This may be all too familiar to many of those who attend your Sunday services two times per month.

The Apostle Paul in Philippians 4 spoke of the difference between partners and consumers. Verses 14-15 lets us in on the fact that the Philippian church partnered with Paul in his gospel ministry. They partnered with him in many ways, including meeting his financial needs.

Not only did the Philippian church partner with Paul. They did so right after he left the church of Philippi to plant in Thessalonica. In other words, Paul is saying “You have been partnering with me since the beginning and continue to partner with me all these years later.” How cool is that?

Yet he contrasts this with what I call the “consumer mentality” as he says, “When I left Macedonia, no other churches entered into partnership with me. You were the only one!”  So, verse 15 gives us a sneak peek in that many churches/Christians were enjoying the benefits of Paul’s teaching and his care for the congregation yet not assuming the responsibility of giving.

I think this quote from Tony Merida says it beautifully:

“How common this is in local congregations receiving benefits but giving nothing in return. When a person is receiving sound instruction, which leads to life and godliness and when a person is receiving pastoral care, they have the privilege and the responsibility of giving to support the mission of the church. “

Partnership is not just about the Benjamins; however, we can’t carry out the mission of gospel ministry with only pats on the back. We need our congregations to partner in the gospel.  All Christians are commanded to partner with the church. Remind your church about what God’s word says as it pertains to stewardship. In doing so, you will likely move some from consumers to partners.

Pulling for you!

Charlie  

Is Your Church Now Competing with the Parachurch Ministry?

Is Your Church Now Competing with the Parachurch Ministry?

The idea of Parachurch is: to come along side of. That’s what the word means in the original language. And for years, a traditional “Parachurch Ministry” was something birthed from the church, sent out from that church, with elder oversight, depending, of course, on your church polity.

Times are a changing! I am connected to a fair number of Pastors and they will tell you (I am one of those Pastors) that many Parachurch ministries are not being sent out by the local church. In many cases the Parachurch started because the “Cause” was being neglected, hence the reason why the Parachurch was birthed to begin with.

Candidly, sometimes the “Cause” is being neglected!  With most of the financial resource within the church already allocated by way of the church budget, it becomes difficult to say yes to a Parachurch ministry looking for ongoing, monthly support.

The church has to say ‘no’ to the Parachurch ministry, and those leading the “Cause” leave disappointed and sometimes even rejected. Some have begun to wonder, ‘does my church, or that church, even care about this Cause?’ The mind continues to race, ‘what are we even doing these days for “The least of these?”’

After the head tilt and head scratch by the passionate Parachurch leader, he continues with the charge because the “Cause” needs to be funded. The “Cause” needs volunteers to serve. So, the petition is taken to the church. Not formally, it is presented behind the scenes. This is not to suggest that it’s being done under the cover of darkness, not at all. Remember Parachurch ministries have leaders who are fired up about their Cause and have a conviction, to not ask everyone they know would be almost Un-Christian!       

It would seem that almost overnight many of the members of the congregation you lead have been asked to support the Cause. Social Media also helps to get the message out, and remember it’s a great Cause!

And then it happens, another Parachurch ministry comes to your church, and another, and the cycle continues. What do all of these Paraministries have in common? They have a “Cause” worth supporting and that passion and conviction, along with the message, spreads throughout the congregation. It is not uncommon to have 4-7 Parachurch ministries active in the church. Remember all of them in need financial resource and volunteers . . . sound familiar?

I started off this conversation with, “is your church now competing with the Parachurch ministries?” This is a question you may need to ask.

I also want you to consider why so many Parachurch ministries seem to be visiting your church, whether you know it or not, and why many of your church members are supporting them. They are clear on the objective, “Give money, and 31 kids eat or get water.” Our younger generation loves to support “Causes,” it makes sense to them. The church, to many, is like this big machine where red tape seems to loom. Change that narrative! Here are seven things you can do to better communicate to your church about your love for them and the community.

  1. Get your people fired up about the “Cause of Christ”
  2. Celebrate what God is doing in your church. Testimonies, Wins, etc.
  3. Be transparent about what you do with the money given to the church
  4. Celebrate what ministries the church does support and make it known
  5. Create a budget that has more margin for reaching the community and causes
  6. Be a great partner to the Parachurch you do choose: it’s OK to say ‘No’
  7. Remind your church that members have a responsibility to give to the local church

Lastly, be blessed by the passion and love others have for causes you are unable to support. Thank them for their love and care. Offer to pray for them. Maybe you can’t do everything requested of you, however perhaps you can do something. Ask God to help you.    

What are you asking your team to do?

What are you asking your team to do?

I will never forget a conversation I had with one of my heroes, Dr. Thom Rainer. To me, what Billy Graham is to evangelism, that’s what Dr. Rainer is to leadership. To say that I respect him would be an understatement!

During our conversation, I shared with Dr. Rainer my discontent with what seemed to be a large amount of people in the church I lead who didn’t seem to be making forward progress. He asked me what I meant by that, and I said, “Many of those that call our church home show up 50% of the time and, candidly, I am of the opinion ‘they’ want a gold star and a lollipop from me for their attendance. I mean, if you’re going to go to Disneyland on a Sunday at 10 AM, don’t brag about it and post it to Social Media.” I continued, “Our church continues to grow, yet the giving has stayed the same. When churches grow shouldn’t the giving also grow? After all, more people means more ministry needs to be done and of course that comes with the cost of time and financial resource.”

I am sure I shared a few more things that day, however, I think you get the point. With grace and tact, Dr. Rainer said what may be obvious to you, but clearly it was not obvious to me. He said, “Charlie, what is it you would like to see the members of your church do?”

I answered, “Show up for church, give, serve, you know the stuff Christians do.” By the way, if you have yet to realize this saying (as I did), ‘You know the stuff Christians do,’ is not helpful nor is it clear!

He asked if there was anything else besides coming to church on Sunday, Serving and Giving that I would like to see happen with our members. I said “Of course.”

He responded, “Then write it down. Write everything down and then share it with your church.” That’s exactly what I did, I wrote it down.

We now share this list of expectations with those who attend our New Members Class. We continue to remind our church of the expectations. Bottom line, we are now clear. Clear on what we, as leaders, are asking our members to do.

Is your team clear? Do they know what you are asking of them? It may be time to find out. Here is our list, use it as an idea starter and may it serve you.

Best,

Charlie Moulton

  1. Attend Sunday Morning Service: Make it a priority
  2. Serve
  3. Prayer Night: Attend 1 prayer night per month
  4. Give: Support the church financially
  5. Community Group: Join and commit to a group to go through life with

When the Sunday Morning Service Turns into a Train Wreck

When the Sunday Morning Service Turns into a Train Wreck

It was a Sunday morning service like no other. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. Don’t think for a moment that I am exaggerating. For example, the audio team could not get the squeaking and feedback corrected.

The worship team took a new song out of the oven before it was fully cooked. The congregation was as lost as a ball in the tall Alabama weeds trying to learn the song.

The guy doing the announcements was having a bad day and appeared to have the love and compassion of Osama Bin Laden.

I also contributed, getting lost in my sermon notes 3 different times and going on to preach my longest sermon of the year. Not my best to say the least.

At lunch, I remember looking at my wife and saying the following words: “That was the worst service we ever had, what a train wreck.”

So how do you rebound from a service that really is a train wreck?

Here are 10 things to do:

  1. Learn from it.
  2. Talk about it. Laugh! The fact that anyone comes back the following week is proof of God’s sovereignty.
  3. Get clear on what you want.
  4. Get clear on what you don’t want.
  5. Be sure everyone on the team has the right tools to do the job. Ask, make sure!
  6. Remember God can change lives, even in so-called ‘train wrecks’.
  7. When in doubt, don’t tell them, show them. Model to your team what ‘good’ looks like.
  8. Re-evaluate if all team members are in the right spot. If not, make changes.
  9. Encourage your team.
  10. Ensure your team gets back on track immediately!

Confessions of an Arrogant Preacher

Confessions of an Arrogant Preacher

Recently I was asked to do a lecture at a Christian university.  The class was students comprised of men who were training to go into the ministry. As I put the finishing touches on the lecture I opened it up to questions.

The questions were all over the map. Everything from sexual purity, how long does it take to prepare a sermon, to life balance, you get the idea. However, there was one question that stood out and pricked my soul. My prayer is that it also pricked those that were listening then and reading now.

The question was actually simplistic in nature. It was as follows:

“Pastor, how has your preaching changed or what is different about your preaching now since you first started out?”

I looked that young man in the eye and said, “Son, when I first started out I was arrogant and did not even know it. I thought I had to win every battle that came across my desk. I have now learned that I no longer need to win the battle as I am more concerned about the war.”

To be arrogant is to feel superior, to have a need to be right, or put other people’s noses in it. The actual definition is: having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities. That was me!

You see, I was more interested in my pet doctrines than I was for the lost. I was more interested in speaking than listening. My library of books consisted of those who only thought like me. My circle of friends mirrored my thoughts.

Then I remembered why Jesus came. He came to seek and save the Lost. He came to bear witness to the truth. Jesus was a man on a mission. He loved the sheep. Even the smelly, nippy little sheep. Sheep bite you know!

Faithful Pastors are shepherds, certainly not perfect but they are to care for the flock entrusted to them. John 10:11 tells us, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

I heard Pastor Johnny Hunt say that “Shepherds need to smell like sheep.” And tenure has taught me that you don’t choose your sheep, God does. They come in all sizes and shapes and, believe me buddy, some of them sheep will test you, pull you, and some may even curse you! You are called to love them anyway. I now love my sheep and consider it pure joy to be their Shepherded.

Allow the words of Charles Hodge to help you as it did me. “The doctrines of Grace humble a man without degrading him and exalt a man without inflating him.”

Yes and Amen to that Brother Hodge. I NOW understand what you meant by that!

10 Things this Pastor had to learn about Church Attenders (The Hard Way)

Planting a church has been, and continues to be, a wild ride. We have a beautiful church and we have fun together. Because of that, I thought it would be fun to share 10 things that this rookie church planter did not know about the people he would be asked to lead. Enjoy!

  1. I have an agenda! People will attend your church to push their agenda. These are often noble things, however, it’s their agenda, not yours.
  2. Ronald Reagan sits at the right hand . . . say what! The best way to get Amen’s and the Hallelujah chorus singing is to bash the Democratic Party and of course say something nice about Ronald Reagan. After all, nothing brings them to a blood stained cross like Red & Blue politics.
  3. Hello, Critics! You will have a handful of critics that meet regularly to discuss what they don’t like about you or your leadership team. Some are even open to sharing it with you!
  4. Pastor, you got a minute? Minutes before the Sunday service you will be asked to do numerous things. Here are a few requests I have had; make an announcement (today) for me, show a video, sing Happy Birthday to my mom that is visiting.
  5. Better Late than Never. For some, the Sunday morning service starts in the middle of the third worship song.
  6. Giving is so Old Testament. On the subject of giving, many have worked out that tithing is an option. You will even have a brave one from time to time let you know tithing is Old Testament and we are no longer under the law (code for, “I don’t give”).
  7. Busy, Busy, Busy. Some people have been too busy to serve for several decades.
  8. Social Media: Some in your church will let it rip on Social Media removing all doubt about their maturity and their Christian witness!
  9. First Time Visitors: Some believe that first-time visitors should immediately stop smoking, dress modestly, and clean up their language.
  10. I don’t want to let you down. Key volunteers, Elders, and Deacons will have seasons of unexpected busyness. Because of their commitment to the church, or even a person, they may be inclined to keep the plates spinning in the air. Don’t let this happen! You must step in and assist or the plates will hit your church in the head.

Learning from Marriott Hotels

My wife Louise and I recently traveled to Scottsdale, AZ so that I could be seen for a medical procedure. When we travel we do our best to find a Marriott Hotel, consider us the loyal customer type! Our recent hotel stay reminded us why we chose Marriott.

As we walked up to the property a man immediately said, “Hello, welcome to Marriott. We are glad you are here. Can I take your bags and replace it with a bottle of water?” Our next stop, checking into the hotel. A young lady said, “We are glad you chose to stay with us.” She continued, “Thanks for your loyalty to us here at the Marriott. Because of that loyalty, we have upgraded your room. Enjoy your stay with us, we are glad you are here.”

After a long day of travel, we both slept great that night. As I made my way to the bathroom in the morning, I saw a bug scurry across the floor. It was so large it looked like you could put a saddle on it. He had a few friends with him and they were not in the mood for company so they made a break for it and held up under the bathroom sink.

Immediately, I thought to myself if Louise has the same encounter I just had, she may have died of a heart attack or certainly let a scream rip so loud the entire Scottsdale community would hear of it! Without sharing the details with Louise, I made my way back to the lobby and advised the front desk of my findings.

The young lady at the front desk was gracious and compassionate. She said, “Mr. Moulton I am so sorry this happened to you. We want to make sure you and your wife have a great stay with us. Allow us to make this up to you.” She immediately waived the room charges for that night and then proceeded to upgrade our room yet again to one of their largest suites. We continued our lengthy stay with no other encounters with bugs.

We did start to notice that this hotel had a commitment to excellence and the staff was friendly, very friendly. It was the kind of staff who seemed happy to be at work. You don’t see that every day! But then my wife watched a new employee being trained by the pool. His task, make sure all the pool lounge chairs are even or in a straight line. From the naked eye, they all looked straight to us.

The person doing the training said the words to the new employee that floored us. He said, “Every detail matters, it all matters.” The person doing the training then proceeded to move the chair about a half inch forward. There you have it, modeling the little things because details do indeed matter at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn.

Here is what I learned from my experience at Marriott

  • The front desk person was trained to listen to the entire story
  • The front desk person was trained to take responsibility
  • The front desk person was able to make a decision on the spot, to right the situation and satisfy the client
  • It is possible to have happy employees who love their jobs
  • Employees are trained to understand that little details matter

There would be some that say a hotel is a hotel, they are all the same. Louise and I would beg to differ. Little things do indeed matter and doing the little things adds up in this case to a client for life. Well done Marriott!