Monthly Archives: January 2014

Speaking of leaving your church . . .

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leaving-home cartoon

Recently, I posted an article by Aaron Loy on Facebook called, “5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church” (Relevant Magazine). Of course, as a pastor, I admit I’m biased, but I thought it was an excellent article that addressed some truly unhealthy and unholy reasons for leaving a church to go shopping for another. (You can read the article here: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-really-bad-reasons-leave-your-church/)

Boy, did I kick the hornet’s nest! I got emails, Facebook posts, and even unfriended by a few folks who really hated this article.

At the risk of getting further stings, let me tell you why I like the article and why I think some hate it.

  • I liked it because I’ve seen hundreds (maybe thousands) leave their church for the wrong reasons.

We live in a culture driven by a self-centered attitude that says, “What’s in it for me?” We also tend to think we know more about God, church, and life than everybody else (click on this link to read a blog I wrote about the age of arrogance: http://pastors.com/leading-age-ignorance/). A consumerism mentality has infiltrated the church. The attitude of many: If it’s not meeting my needs, why attend?

Leaving Me Church
Furthermore, the connection many have to their community of faith isn’t very deep. So when things don’t go the way they want them to go . . . they just go, and usually in a tizzy.

  • I liked it because too many view actively engaging in a church as an option.

Growing numbers of people are leaving the church because they see it as a waste of time. They’d rather get their spiritual food from a microwave TV dinner because it’s quicker, more convenient, and cheaper. Because they can flip on a dozen channels or go to thousands of websites 24/7, they choose to stay home and squeeze in a little God when there’s nothing else better to do.

Leave TV church
I am deeply concerned about the isolationism that is becoming the new norm for Christians. More than once I’ve heard, “I don’t need the church. I have my family and friends and all the spiritual guidance I need (or want).” I have friends who almost brag about not going to church anywhere. I think this grieves the Holy Spirit. I know it grieves me.

Whether your church meets in a home, a cathedral, or a former K-Mart (like my church,
Eastpoint) is not the issue. Whether your church is made up of dozens or thousands is unimportant. What is important is our regular and active engagement with a group of believers who function as the church of Christ.

Leaving LARGE church

  • I liked it because it challenged us to work hard on relational wholeness rather than take the occasional relational copout, “God is calling me somewhere else.”

Doing church is hard because the church is people, and people are often broken. Church is messy because people are messy. But hard and messy can be good for us because it challenges us to grow in grace.

If we have the humble heart of Jesus, we will do our best to reconcile with the pastor or church member rather than use our differences and frustrations as an excuse to bail. One of the greatest lessons we all must learn is how to work through conflict in a God-honoring way. That doesn’t mean we must agree on everything. However, it does mean that we must love in spite of everything. Last time I checked, “the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Cor. 12:21) and “Love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).

Leaving Sheep Conflict

To be clear, there are some good reasons to leave a church and move to another. (Read what I wrote about this here: http://pastors.com/how-to-help-someone-leave-a-church-without-hurting-the-bride/).

It’s not always bad for someone to leave a church and move on. However, there is never a good or biblical reason for completely quitting on church. As the Body of Christ, we gather to celebrate, to grow, to serve, and to love one another. It’s what the first church did. It’s what the church has done for millennia. It’s what we are to do now and will do forever in heaven!

Is it always easy or convenient? Of course not.

Is it always fun and fulfilling? Nope.

Is it critical to a thriving relationship with Christ? Yup.

If you hate (or seriously dislike) the church, which is the Body of Christ, you can’t convince me you love Him with all your heart. Even on a human level, we understand how this works. You can’t say you love me and not love my wife. We are one. We go together. Just like Jesus and His bride. It’s a package deal.

I’ve learned a few things in my 35 years of being a pastor. I’ve learned that people come and people go. Usually, when they come for the wrong reason they eventually leave for the wrong reason too.

But what if?

What if we embraced the church with all its warts and wrinkles?

What if we saw conflict and struggle as an opportunity to grow?

What if we worked through our disappointments, stayed fixed on Jesus no matter what, and stayed connected to the church even when it’s difficult to do so?

What if we practiced loving the unlovely and demonstrated humble service to those who tick us off?

What if we acknowledged to a watching world that the church is far from perfect but still the hope of the world as the Body of Christ?

What if we agreed with Tony Campolo, “The Church is a whore, but she is my mother, and I love her”?  (Meaning, the Church has miserably failed and prostituted herself many times throughout history, but a child still loves his mama!)

Leaving NO perfect

I’ve probably been in church more than most in my 57 years. As a preacher’s kid and pastor, I’ve seen the underside of the church up close and personal. I know the church has a tendency to operate more as an organization rather than an organism. I know it sometimes reeks like a business rather than being a blessing. I know too many pastors and leaders have failed too often.

I know.

But I love the bride because she belongs to Jesus, and my life would not be what it is without her.

Perhaps the writer of Hebrews put it best: “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day of His return drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 (CEB)

Leaving BRIDE

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17 Responses to Speaking of leaving your church . . .

  1. I really liked this, Kurt. I posted our story on facebook when you shared the original article. But from what we’ve experience, leaving a church is such a touchy subject. And everything was great at the church where were were serving before we began serving at the church we’re at now. I think we can say that God has called us somewhere else, but what matters are the motives. The questions in the link you sent us to on Pastors.com was a good list of questions to ask when leaving.

    But I totally agree with your heart about the church!

    • Hi Hannah, it is indeed a touchy subject . . . and one hard to completely address in a blog. And you are right, it’s always about the “why” (our motives) – Jesus always looks at the heart! BTW, love the pics of your babies! SO excited for you guys!

  2. Thanks Kurt, for sharing your heart. We are here to do two things…love God and love people. Loving God is the easier of the two in my opinion. Loving people is more difficult. They are right in front of us and let us down or are just hard to love. The Church is made up of people…those we love and those that are tough to love. We have to press in to loving God and He will give us what we need to love His people. Bless you for loving your flock…for we are those people that are not always easy to love! Your heart and obedience helps us to stay the course.

    • Loving God. Loving people. (Sounds like a great church motto!) 🙂 And I sooooo agree, loving people is the harder of the two. That being said, I DO love and appreciate you!

  3. Yes! I read that article last week and loved it, and loved this, too! Isn’t Christ, being the prefect groom to His bride, the Church, crazy about her? Then shouldn’t we, desiring to be imitators of Christ, also be passionate about the Church? Great post!

  4. The article was great, and so are your comments here. I dislike it when people take one sentence, out of context, and make a big deal of it, but here is my contribution from YOUR comments. Here it is: “I am deeply concerned about the isolationism that is becoming the new norm for Christians.”. To my mind, this is the crux of the entire matter. Leaving Church, leaving community, just plain leaving. And, commentating on the way out why under our breath as we leave. I have done it, to my chagrin. I am, however, over that. I have found a place where I am fed because I contribute. I can disagree (rarely) without feeling like I am being condemned. I can state my opinion (when I am not speechless) and not be ostracized. Being a part of something larger than ourselves is a great thing. Serving Jesus and His Church is an even GREATER thing. Thank you Kurt for being who you are. Love it, and Love you.

  5. I completely agree with you and Aaron Loy. How blessed we are to have a fellowship of believers to love, forgive and to worship and praise with until He returns.

  6. The article hit the nail on the head and I’m glad that you posted it for all of us to read. Leaving a church should not be an option. Moving to a new community of believers to help them and yourself grow should be an welcomed if directed by God. For instance, I was happy, content, and always felt loved and at home when I was at Life Center. The reason that I joined you in moving to the new church plant was that the Lord brought it onto my heart that I should because I might be able to contribute in a way that others would benefit from. Sometimes we can get too comfortable. The Lord asks us to move on, ahead, up, out, and it is for our own good. I still love and respect our Mother Church and always will. It’s like having grandparents to encourage us and it’s a safe harbour but Eastpoint is home until the Lord decides on a different path for me. AND I’m confident that he wouldn’t tell me to leave just because I was uncomfortable or challenged by something. That’s when we grow. Thanks for challenging us (me) and for loving us just the way we are. 🙂

    • Judi, some people (like you) are easy to love! Thanks for your kindness and faithfulness over all these years together.

  7. The article that prompted this blog entry hit the nail right on the head – 5 times in fact. Like you I have been in the Church most of my whole life. My wife Barbara and I met in 1984 in a singles group at Overlake Christian Church when it was still located in Kirkland. We stayed there until we moved nearly 50 miles away to Kent 18 years later in 2002. We visited several different Churches in the Kent area and began regularly attending Covington Christian Fellowship within a couple of months. We stayed there 11 years until we moved to Spokane last August.

    Was it always easy? NO! Did we ever hear sermons we didn’t 100% agree with? Sure! Did we sometimes question or disagree with decisions made by our Church leaders? Yes we did. Did we ever meet fellow Christians in our Church that we didn’t especially like, or with whom we had strong disagreements? Of course! But just as you can’t divorce yourself from your blood family, you can’t just walk away from your Church family either.

    This is not to brag about what a great Christian family we are, simply to show how much I (and I am sure I speak for Barbara too) agree with you regarding the importance of “sticking with it through thick and thin”. The Church is not a consumer commodity or a social club. As you so eloquently, stated, it is the Bride and Body of Christ. Our commitment to the Church needs to mirror our commitment to the Lord. We the members, ARE THE CHURCH. WE are the bride of Christ, and just like in a human marriage, you have to take the bitter with the sweet, the good with the bad, and accept and love your partner unconditionally, warts and all.

    Just as this is an unpopular idea in today’s world regarding marriage, it is also unpopular with those within the Church who have not learned this Biblical perspective on the Church – and their own proper role within it. Although these ideas may not be popular, they are still the truth. Keep preaching and speaking the truth in love, Pastor. People need to hear it – whether they like it or not.

    God Bless,
    Bob

Teamwork in Marriage ~ Guest Post by Paula Whidden

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married couple rings

Teams carry out amazing feats.  Consider the many sports related movies that inspire us to work harder, run longer, and dream of throwing that great touchdown pass. My favorite is the iconic Rudy. This movie exists because of the efforts of an entire team rooting for the sturdy, hardworking little guy.

Rudy 1
I’m a sucker for a good sports movie.  When these colossal combatants compete and coordinate their efforts in a ballet-like effort, my admiring jaw drops open.

But of course, we know those miracles on ice and thrills of victory don’t just happen.  They need hours upon hours of committed practice.  When asked, most athletes share how someone encouraged them to continue their efforts even when fatigue hit. As a result, they formed amazing muscle memory that kicked in when the time clock counted down the final seconds of a game, and the crowd booed their efforts.

That’s just amazing.  I can’t help loving it.

What if we decided this same effort and attention should be applied to our marriages.  No one greater, no one lesser, we choose to combine as a team toward a mutual goal.

Teamwork 1The first step toward creating a successful team involves recognizing the goal.  When we unite in marriage we profess that we want the relationship to last a lifetime.  I’ve discovered many couples who never meant those words. Do you mean it?  If so, knowing the goal means picturing its outcome.

Football players picture touchdowns and blocks and passes.  Hockey players visualize the slap shot. The gymnast mentally captures the image of sticking that landing. Yes, gymnastics is a team sport, watch the Olympics and you’ll know what I mean. Athletes imagine themselves holding the trophy or medal.  What’s your marriage trophy? (FYI, a cute spouse doesn’t count.)

My grandparents stuck together in marriage for over 50 years. I still recall their anniversary celebration with kids and grandkids gathered.  That’s my trophy.

Trophy 2

My grandparents practiced teamwork in their parental duties, their church involvement, business and more. When my grandmother developed rheumatoid arthritis, my grandfather became the family cook.  They supported one another and rooted for one another day after day. After a while, those days became years.

This Bible verse makes me think of them, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” Ecclesiastes 4:9 (NLT)

When marriages involve teamwork, showboats aren’t allowed. Consider great teams such as the 1988-89 San Francisco 49ers. Joe Montana had wonderful skills, which combined with an intense 49ers offensive line and the speedy, sticky fingers of Jerry Rice to create double Superbowl success.

49ers

When necessary, in the same way my grandpa changed roles with my grandma, we rotate our marital responsibilities, because that’s what real teamwork involves.  It’s not what they do in the major leagues or the NFL, but a team of two does.  And for a successful marriage, that’s the perfect number.

In what ways can you include teamwork in your marriage?

 

Inline image 3
Paula Whidden is an author, speaker, former pastor, now stay-at-home-mom, who is passionate joy junkie. As a result of this passion she wrote Couple Corners: 52 Faithful Choices for a More Joy-Filled Marriage. She also blogs regularly at www.FaithfulChoices.com.
You can find her book at Amazon in the Kindle format, coming soon in paperback.
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One Response to Teamwork in Marriage ~ Guest Post by Paula Whidden

  1. Kirt,
    Remember when you were young, and we were caught getting it by an elder. I remember that as correctional speach was being given,l continually looked for loop holes. The main saying was, “you keep being evil, and you had better start counting your blessings, because the devil will get you when you run out.” Well I think. Before I ran out, I went to live in a new home, Here Grace was explained, as best it could to an eight year-old. I told them that maybe I had done some things wrong, and had lost my blessings. I was informed I was under the Grace OF God. And that many blessings would be filling my life.
    What do a have to do?
    Nothing

Is it really true of you and me?

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yoda 2

I’m old. I admit it. Not as old as Yoda, but close enough. I can’t bench press my weight anymore. I’ll never run another mile in under eight minutes. Sometimes, in the middle of a sentence, I forget my point.

What was I saying?

Oh yeah, I’m old.

I was having an interesting conversation with a young twenty-something not too long ago. He was telling me how hard it is to be a Christian in today’s culture. He wasn’t really looking for advice, but I gave it to him anyhow. Far be it from me to withhold an unsolicited opinion.

His response didn’t really surprise me. I’ve heard it many times before, “You don’t understand my generation. Things are different today than when you were a young man” (Implied: back in the dark ages!).

young people

But are things really that different?

Sure, when I was twenty, computers filled rooms, not your hand. There was no such thing as a smart phone. Matter of fact, nobody even had a cell phone! The most exciting video games were Pong and Pac-Man. And in 1977 the Minnesota Vikings were actually super-bowl contenders.

Old School Games 3

Yup, lots of things have changed, but in more ways than not, many things are and always will be the same.

Five things true of every generation:

1.    Every generation thinks they know better than the generation before them.

When I was twenty, I thought my parents were totally out of touch with reality. They lacked the education and vast experience I had. How could they be as smart as me? Everything was clear in my mind. I knew in my knower I was God’s gift to humanity. I knew how to run a family. I knew how to do church. I knew I was going to be much better at everything than the old guard before me.

However, in my youthful arrogance I was cocky, and I failed to realize that there is no substitute for wisdom, and wisdom typically comes with age and experience. True then. True now.

Old and Young

2.    Every generation is significantly influenced by their culture.

Go back a thousand years in history and you’ll find humans profoundly influenced by the culture around them. Sure, the world was smaller, and the medium for temptations different, but our base human desires have always been the same. We are driven by a desire for pleasure, especially sexual pleasure. We always want more, not less, stuff. We tend to drift from the simple to the complicated. And our view of family, faith, and morality is significantly molded by what we see either on the stage in 10th century Europe or on FOX today.

modern family

3.    Every generation wrestles with the same two big questions: Who am I? Why am I here?

Philosophers for millennia have asked the same questions, “Why do we exist? What is mankind’s great purpose?” The Hitler Youth Brigade of the 30’s drew young people with the appeal of being special. The Black Panthers of the 60’s gave a voice to African American men and women who reacted to unjust oppression. The Jesus People Movement of the early 70’s gave hippies a spiritual purpose that rejected the religious status quo. All of these groups struck a chord with some because people are desperate for purpose and meaning in their lives.

From the beginning of time, we humans have struggled with our identity and purpose. This has always been true, and it always will be.

Hilter Youth Brigade

4.    Every generation attempts to alter truth to suit their desires and beliefs.

I hear it all the time, “Truth is relative. What’s true for you doesn’t make it true for me.” For some crazy reason, many in our world have actually accepted that there is no absolute truth. (They are absolutely sure about his, however!)

Why do we reject that absolute moral and spiritual truth exists? Because we insist on being our own gods. We want to go our own way and do our own thing. From the first couple on (see Genesis 3), we’ve been questioning if God gets to call the shots or not. Relativism is popular right now, but every generation throughout history has worshiped false gods and false beliefs of their own making.

truth sign

5.    Every generation is fascinated by the new, the bigger, and the better.

Small shiny objects fascinate us. We are always looking for the next new thing, the next new fashion, or the next new trend in technology. Remember MySpace? That’s so 2003. There are rumblings now in the tech world about the impending doom of Facebook (go figure).

Certainly, new often represents progress. I have no desire to drive a Model T or carry a cell phone that could double as a weapon. That being said, may I gently remind the younger generation that someday what they think is “hot” now will be a forgotten memory (especially when their memory goes)?

Things change. True then. True now.

old cell phone

So what’s my point?

If you’re old, embrace the new. Adjust. Adapt. It’s okay. You’ll be fine.

If you’re young, accept and appreciate the old. Remember nothing on planet earth lasts forever. Only people do. So perhaps you could get off your trendy high horse and maybe show some respect to the generation that went before you. They might not be as out of touch as you think.

At the core, every generation deals with the same heart issues, the same human tendencies, and the same proclivity to failure and sin. This has always been true, and it always will be true. People are people.

By the way, that’s why every generation desperately needs God. We all need the hope that comes through grace and faith in Him.

B & W Young womanold man

 

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24 Responses to Is it really true of you and me?

  1. Thanks Kurt! As my father once said (no doubt quoting from someone even older than he…) Why is it we get too soon old, and too late smart?

  2. I can’t believe it. I’m actually going to type a comment. I’m getting out of my comfort zone. Well said pastor Kurt. I appreciate your wisdom and insight. It helps me to reflect and grow as a woman of God. Thanks for all your do!

  3. As someone who falls somewhere in the middle of the old and new, I appreciate your balance and perspective on this issue. Well said!

  4. My Dad always said “It’s the first 100 years that are hard, then it gets easier…true then, true now.

  5. Kurt, when your cousin Brandon was little he tried to quote a phrase he heard. His went this way…”I have much knowledge, but not much common sense.” Could this be part of our maturing problem? Keep us thinking and listening to God!

  6. Well, you have done it again. Left me speechless, almost:
    1. Took me till I was 30 years old to realize how smart my Dad was. Slow learner.
    2.Watched the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. What a trip listening to my Dad criticize them, over, and over, and OVER again.
    3. Identity. Well, I still haven’t figured that one out, save the fact that by giving my life to Jesus, He runs the show a LOT better than I have. Maybe I AM getting smarter????
    4. Situational Ethics. Been around for some time now. Pity. There are absolute truths, and we really need to recognize them. This life is a Gift from God. Appreciate it to the fullest, and the only way to do that is to appreciate God. Always.
    5. It has been said “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. God is eternal, we are not. We are just Blessed to live in His creation.
    There is, however, some really good things about “things” from the past. I can tell you about some of the antiques I have restored and still use!!! I agree, Kurt, that ALL of us need to appreciate what God has provided and “Love one another” always. Thank you so much.
    Well, I guess I wasn’t “speechless” after all!!!

Can You Hear the Sirens of the Spirit’s Conviction? Guest Post by Jeff Kennedy

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Jeff-8x10-2-210x300Note: Below is an excerpt from Jeff Kennedy’s soon to be released book on the Holy Spirit: Father, Son, and the Other One ~ Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Transforming, Empowering Reality in Your Life. Jeff’s book is Francis Chan on steroids! I highly recommend it.

 

I don’t know why my wife and I did this, but the first year we owned our home we made no effort to change the batteries in our smoke alarms. I discovered that when the batteries got low on the disc shaped alarms that they would sound off a little chirp, reminding the homeowner that it’s time for a new battery. We spent about a month just ignoring the occasional chirp from the alarm in the kitchen. But after a while it was beeping every two minutes.

So, I took the fire alarm off the ceiling, walked downstairs to the basement, and I stuck it in the laundry room. That worked for about an hour until I realized that I could still hear the alarm chirping from every room in the house. Then I took it out to the garage and stuck it on a shelf.  That bought me a solid hour or two before I realized that I could still faintly hear it…

Chirp!

I was starting to lose it.

So, I went out to the garage and angrily buried the alarm in a box and covered it with some old guitar magazines. I briefly glanced over to my workbench where I kept my duct tape. Then, I finally came to my senses.

“What am I doing? Why don’t I just change the battery?” Great idea. I fished the alarm back out of the box, replaced the old battery and popped it back on to the ceiling—no more annoying chirps.

I think both religious people and sinners share the same motivation. They are both trying to silence the alarms of guilt and shame—one with religious activity and the other through pleasure seeking.

The role of the Spirit is to dredge up all that stuff that we’ve buried and hidden away. Only when we come to our senses and admit our guilt can the Spirit begin his work of transformation in our hearts.

Jesus told the Disciples that when the Spirit comes, he will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (Jn 16:8).

He convicts us of righteousness because we can’t know that we’ve fallen short of the mark until we know what the mark is. And Jesus alone is the standard bearer in the Christian faith. He alone is righteous.

He convicts us of sin because, left to ourselves, we would never hear the sirens and the alarms of the Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, we would wander aimlessly with only some broad moral parameters.

He convicts us of certain judgment. The Gospel also includes a warning. And the Spirit wants to bring us to the inexorable conclusion that without Jesus we are lost and headed for a Christ-less eternity.

As believers, we also experience ongoing conviction of sin. We must live in such a way that the Spirit’s voice can be heard loud and clear. We can do this by removing several barriers…

1) Self-righteousness: This is the universal delusion of humanity. Both religious and non-religious people are convinced that they can just be good enough for God. Like the Pharisee in Jesus’s parable (Lk 18:9-14), the super-religious are convinced they are better than the riffraff. Likewise, the garden-variety non-Christian is measuring himself against those really bad people like mobsters, murders, and sex-traffickers. But we all have the wrong standard—people who we think are worse than us.

2) Blame-shifting: Once we acknowledge that wrong was done—a crime was perpetrated—then someone must take the fall. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, it is human nature to transfer the blame to everyone around us. Adam said to God “This woman you put in the garden with me…” It’s everybody else’s fault but his. And the woman responded, “This sneaky servant deceived me…”—See the pattern here? It’s difficult to hear the Spirit’s conviction when we fail to own our stuff.

3) Downplaying: Sometimes in ministry, I hear people admit wrongdoing but then they try to soften the ugliness of it. Sure they blew it, but was it really that bad? We recently had a good friend who was caught in a grave pattern of sin and failure against his leaders. His initial response was to take ownership. But when he realized he was going to have to confess it to the church, he began to modulate and downplay the gravity of it. Unfortunately, it resulted in some very destructive things in the life of the church and crushed those of us who loved him and believed in him.

4) Listening to false voices: In the Old Testament, the prophets constantly warned Israel not to listen to “lying prophets.” These false prophets told Israel that God would tolerate their idolatry and sin. But God’s spokesmen warned that Babylonian exile was coming. Listen, the Holy Spirit can’t bless “stupid.” Let’s surround ourselves with people who are wise and speak truth into our lives.

The Spirit means to bring our sin scratching and yowling into the light of the cross. Only when we humble ourselves and confess and embrace his cleansing power can we be saved and begin to grow in the Christian faith. Only when we demolish those barriers to conviction can we live in unity with others. The question is, can we hear the sirens?

 

Jeff Kennedy is the Executive Pastor of Adult Ministries at Eastpoint Church. His book on the Holy Spirit: Father, Son, and the Other One: Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Transforming, Empowering Reality in Your Life is being released on Feb 4th. You can preorder a copy at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble or CBD.com.

You can also connect with Jeff at his personal web page: jeffkennedy.tv

Father-Son-Other-Book-Cover-e1383593103565

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2 Responses to Can You Hear the Sirens of the Spirit’s Conviction? Guest Post by Jeff Kennedy

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