Up The Car, Up The Buyer (and vice-versa)

Note: this post is dedicated to my wife who lived virtue after virtue long before she knew me. I love you Ranae.

In the last 10 years, I’ve heard a lot of friends, family, co-workers and even strangers state and complain how there are not enough interesting people to start a relationship with. While there are plenty of people that anyone can start a relationship with, they are looking for someone better. Most Christian men are looking for a Proverbs 31 woman who is beautiful (even hot) inside and out. Most women are looking for someone who looks/acts like a (Biblical) David and walks with God like a Paul. Yet they have not found anyone who matches this desire. My answer?

To men: “Up the buyer, up the car.”

To women: “Up the car, up the buyer.”

After I make that comment, I am either given a look that implies confusion or a look that implies anger (that I would use a car anaolgy to parallel any type of relationship). So after they settle down, I ask this question:

Me: “Do you ever seen a poor college student (who comes from no money and has no money) shopping for a car in the BMW dealership?”

Them: “Ummm, no.”

Me: “Do you ever see a multi-millionaire shopping in a run-down used car lot?”

Them: “No.”

Me: “There you go. People choose things based on who they are. Up the car, up the buyer (and vice versa).”

Them: “Are you saying that the reason I can’t find someone of better qualities and character is because I’m not of that better quality and character?”

Me: “That’s right. Take time to improve yourself, refine your strengths and work on your weaknesses. Work harder developing better character.”

Them: ” {silence} “

It’s usually this point that they begin to look at themselves through other people’s eyes (particularly the other gender’s). They realize that they may be the reason they haven’t found anyone yet.

There are many amazing Godly, loving, funny and mature men and women who are ready and suitable for marriage. The truth is that many who complain at the “slim pickings” of potenial mates are themselves not potential mates for the types of people they want. (insert ouch here) It’s important to realize that although you may be looking for someone with certain attributes, they are too and they won’t be found by anyone who doesn’t have them.

Culture calls this as someone being “out of your league”, like it has something to do with your type of class. It’s not about class, it’s about character.

Some may argue that you’ll marry whoever God wants you to marry. I agree with this, but I also realize that God will not contradict His Word. He will not pair two together who are “unequally yoked”. He will give you someone who is on the same path around the same place as you are. I’m not saying that they will have the same faults and struggles as you, but people of like mind and heart are drawn together. They may be altogether different people in their desires and likes, but down on the heart level they are the same.

At the same time I warn people who are dating non-believers or immature believers that a wrong decision or mistake during their relationship could make them yoked together for life. I stress the importance of not lowering their standards just because someone is cute or because they are lonely. The Bible teaches us that we are to be an example to the lost people around us, the light of God in dark places.

What I do advise people to do is to change their character, which is something very Biblical. Here are a few pointers on exactly what to start doing.

TIPS FOR MEN:

  • Stop flirting with every girl!
  • Open the doors (for buildings and cars) for all women.
  • Practice good heathly habits (aka don’t smoke, don’t do drugs and stay out of bars).
  • Start practicing good financial habits and live by a budget.
  • Get a daily devotional life.
  • Kill all forms of lust in your life!!!
  • Model purity in word and deed.
  • Serve the church (and it’s individuals) as much as possible.
  • Show yourself faithful at your job and church.
  • Remove addiction to video games from your life (a little here or there is fine, but all-night week-long crusades on World of Warcraft probably aren’t).
  • Keep up good hygiene.
  • Start teaching what you are learning about improving your character.

TIPS FOR WOMEN:

  • Stop flirting with every guy!
  • Model purity in word and deed.
  • Stop gossiping, complaining and being argumentative.
  • Battle fear/worry and cultivate a gentle quiet spirit.
  • Learn to love and be patient.
  • Dress modesty (meaning don’t dress to flirt and seduce)
  • Honor, obey and respect your parents. It shows men what you’ll do when you get married.
  • Start practicing good financial habits and live by a budget.
  • Get a daily devotional life.
  • Practice good heathly habits (aka don’t smoke, don’t do drugs and stay out of bars)
  • Serve the church (and it’s individuals) as much as possible.
  • Show yourself faithful at your job and church.

I have done these in my personal life and I can tell you that they are all important and they all help to improve your character. You will also notice that very few of these things concern someone’s physical image. They are about character and habits, not outward beauty and class.

Woe if the best thing about you is your good looks.

The Bible states in Proverbs 31:

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30 ESV)

I think that verse can also apply to men. Let’s all start focusing on character and the matter of the heart and less on looks and charming personalities. Let’s devote ourselves to learning to fear and honor the Lord. If you do that, the spouse that the Lord will give you will make you speechless with wonder.

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Saved To Love

Out of all the questions I get, there is one that I rarely ever hear. People will argue about when Jesus is coming back, if tongues and prophecy are still active today, whether women should preach but this question is rarely, if ever discussed:

Why did Jesus die?

I think the reason we never ask this question is because we think we already know what the answer is. These typical answers are usually “so we don’t go to hell” or “because He loves us” and while those answers are true, they are not the root reason.

John 17 gives us some insight about why Jesus gave up His life for us:

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. – John 17:23

As Jesus was praying and battling His choice to go to the cross, He prayed to the Father that we all would be with Him where He is. Forever.

It’s important to realize that Jesus’ prayers doesn’t (and will never) compromise His standards or commands. There was no compromise in His prayer. He didn’t pray “Father, just put whoever or everyone on earth up there so they can see Me.” No. Jesus specifically asked for all His disciples, both present and future to be with Him forever. His prayer was for those who obeyed Him, loved Him, faithfully stayed with Him and followed Him to be allowed to love and be with Him forever.

Jesus died so that lovers could love Him forever.

For Jesus, salvation is not some benefit you sign up for or opt out of. Salvation is directly tied to love. Salvation is a benefit of love, not something ordered a la carte. Psalm 91 states this clearly:

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” – Psalm 91:14-1

God doesn’t need love, but He longs for it. Love is at the very core of who He is and therefore love is at the very core of His relationship with us…and likewise our relationship with Him.

In the New Testament, the gospel was preached for people to know God and love Him, not so that people would have a “get out of hell” free pass, yet this is what the gospel has been reduced to in these days in the Western church. We expect all the benefits and blessings of salvation without any of the devotion or faithfulness that it comes from.

It’s time we return to the gospel. We’re saved to love. Salvation is a person. His name is Jesus Christ. Let’s love our Salvation.

Endnote: I should mention that John Piper wrote an excellent book detailing many other reasons Jesus came to die and the many things it accomplished. He offers it as a free download on his website. You can download it here. I highly recommend this book.

Enoch & Elijah (Love & Holiness) In The End

And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. (Revelation 11:3-4 ESV)

I was thinking today about the two witnesses that will be on the earth during the first part of the tribulation. These two men will be the ultimate prophetic voice for God and truth in the end times (outside of the Bible itself). These two men that the verses above are talking about are very significant.

There has been discussion on who these two witnesses are. Most people believe that one of them is Elijah, mostly cause of this verse:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. (Malachi 4:5 ESV)

That verse from Malachi pretty much says that Elijah will be sent to speak God’s heart during the tribulation. As for the other witness, there has been much talk of it being Moses, usually due to Moses and Elijah meeting with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-8). People assume that Jesus was talking to them about His end time plans, especially since Jesus had just finished talking about His second coming.

I think this would be a good time to mention that we ought to be careful about declaring something as fact for something the Bible leaves as a mystery. The Bible makes no mention of who this second witness is and we should make no solid claim or theology saying who it will be. This is a very important principle when dealing with end time theology, so much so that God gives a warning to all who would add or take away from what He has revealed about the end (see Revelation 22:19-20). I believe though that thinking, pondering and mediating on these mysteries is fine, as long as it draws us closer to Jesus and not to arrogance.

That said, I personally believe that the other witness will be Enoch. I believe this in light of this verse:

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment… (Hebrews 9:27 ESV)

The Bible states that it is appointed that all people are to die once, but there are two people who have not. Elijah and Enoch. The Bible states that the two witnesses will eventually die by the antichrist only to be raised from the dead a few days later and taken to heaven, but forget the logistics of all of this. Think about the spiritually symbolic statement being made if God sent back these two men.

Enoch was a lover of God. He pursued God like no one else. In fact, He was so passionate in his pursuit of God that he was literally “caught up to be with the Lord.” There would not be anyone again who loved the Lord in this way until David, but not even David would be translated to heaven. Elijah was a voice crying out for holiness during a time of great wickedness and idolatry. He called people to be separate from the evil leaders of his day and called people to wholeheartedly return to the Lord.

If the Lord sent Enoch and Elijah back during the tribulation, the symbolic word being declared would be “Love God completely!” and “Rid yourself of idols & evil! Holiness unto the Lord!”. Love and holiness would become the focus points of all evangelistic messages during the tribulation and that’s something I can see being very possible.

Nevertheless, whoever these witnesses are, whether it’s John, Elijah, Moses, Enoch or a couple unknown people, their very presence and message will declare “Jesus, the God of love, is coming…and His jealous love burns.” Regardless of who the witnesses will be, our hearts must align with God’s in the areas of love and holiness. The two greatest evils released during the end times are that “the love of many will wax cold” and “the increase of lawlessness.” Both these evils either both Jesus and Paul warn the church that it will affect Christians in the end.

My heart is stirred to prepare my heart to love and live holy (by His grace) in the end. He’s returning for bright shining lamps. May we prepare now, so that we have enough oil for the end.

First Assembly DeLand and the Place of Prayer

“The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power.” (James 5:16)

I’ve been in awe these past weeks regarding what God has been doing in the midst of our church. For those of you that are unaware what I am talking about, the presence of God has been very strong and there has been a great stirring among many to pray. Prayer times accompanied by strong movings of the Spirit have spontaneously broken out at different times, services and in different groups.

I felt stirred to give a word of encouragement and summary to what I believe the Lord is doing right now corporately. The calling of our church is to pray, reach and teach nations (which also includes our city and nation). This calling is from God and has been confirmed over and over many times. The Lord knows that we will not be spiritually (or financially, physically, etc) prepared to handle the responsibility of reaching and teaching nations unless we are rooted deep in prayer, where everything we do (to serve or minister) flows out of time in prayer between us and God. I would say that our calling has not and will not come to fulfillment until we are literally a church of prayer.

I believe THAT is what this movement of God is about. This time is a season of grace from Him to stir us to enter into the place of prayer. Prayer that is not a duty, but delight. He spoke to me the other week and said:

“This time is not about splashing in the river but to stir you to pray.”

During the last week there have been multiple prophecies and encouragements given that the Lord is saying “ask me cause I long to give it to you.” One prophecy literally felt like the Lord was saying “I’ve made much power available to you in the place of prayer…start using it!” Recently, one of our deacon’s son-in-law became deathly ill. He was on a ventilator and a medical induced coma and no one knew if he was going to live. The next church service, we stopped everything and cried out corporately for God to break in with healing. THAT NIGHT HE WAS HEALED! It was the Lord who healed him but the Lord was (and is) looking to partner with us in prayer, to cry out for Him to move in these situations.

The Lord has called our church to great things, things that will require deep long persistent prayer. He knows we are not going to corporately get to that place overnight, but He is a good Teacher. I believe we are in a season where God is answering prayers quickly and powerfully to stir and boost our faith. He desires our first reaction to be prayer. When we are presented with an issue, situation or a need, He desires that our natural response would be to ask Him to move, break in and provide what is needed. We have prayed quick prayers during our services recently for people to get jobs and be healed only to hear the next day how God sent the answer quickly! Oh how God longs to answer us!

I encourage you that if you have a need, let the Lord move you to pray for it. We were praying Monday night and felt that the Lord wanted us (corporately) to ask for lost loved ones cause He wanted to save floods of them. I encourage you to pray for wayward family members, that the Lord would reach out and save them. For parents of rebellious children, begin/continue to ask God to bring them back to Him.

He hears us everytime we pray and He longs to answer us! He desires to do signs and wonders among us to boost our faith. I encourage you to enter into this place of prayer the Lord has set before us and let’s see Him do powerful things all for His glory!!!!

Thoughts On The Eve Of FOT10

I was thinking this week about the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles we are about to celebrate as a church. While listening to Renee explain from her heart what this time means biblically, I started thinking and meditating about where our church finds itself this year at FOT10 (Feast of Tabernacles: Year Ten).

I started thinking about the nation of Israel when they were journeying through the desert waiting to enter the Promised Land that God had spoken to them about many years ago. I could see them walking around, preparing and waiting, year in and year out for what they would walk into and occupy sometime in the future. Then one day after years of waiting, someone would see the edges of the Promised Land in the distance. I can imagine the joy that flooded the hearts of the people of Israel at the news of what they were soon to enter within the next several months.

It was around this time that Israel would stop and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Normally the feast every year was to remind them that it was God who delivered them out of bondage and would lead them to a promised land, but that year it meant something a little more. It was more than a reminder of Who delivered them from Egypt. It was a time to realize that the same God who delivered them was faithful to fulfill His promises to them. With the same hand that He led them out of Egypt, He would lead them into all that He had promised them. It was to remind the people of God’s previous miracles to strengthen the faith of the people for the upcoming battles and challenges that were now soon to come.

Likewise, as a church we have spent years waiting and preparing for the fulfillment of the promises of God and now we stand on the edge of our promised land. We see the plans, the people, the building and many other things that will be established in the next several months and the joy in our hearts is growing everyday as we near the fulfillment of His promises for us.

It is at THIS TIME that God calls us to the Feast of Tabernacles, to meditate and remember that the One who brought us this far will be the One who faithfully brings us to the end, all for His namesake and glory.

I am excited to see what God will do this upcoming year!

An Open Letter To Fast Food Chains Concerning Black Friday

To whom it may concern,
you don’t know me but i am a patron of your business. unless you’re arby’s (sorry…just not a fan), then i have been at each of your restaurants (franchise or whatever) recently. so as an active supporter and patron of your restaurants, i wanted to write this post to help you make some extra money and in turn help some people out (who, i just checked on, are hungry).

you see, it’s 11pm on thanksgiving night. i just got back from a movie (changeling if you must know) with my sister and we enjoy driving by places like best buy or the mall to see all the “crazy” people who start lining up at 6pm the night before black friday so that they can be the first ones to get their hands on the “hot items” of the year. as much fun as it is to go “people-watching”, i started thinking about these people and how long of a night that is. i realized that, because the line is shifting throughout the night, someone in each group or party that is sitting in front of these stores has to stay awake, unless they were to wake up farther down the line because they lost their place. i can’t speak for every store, but i can say for most best buy stores, people are there from 6pm on. that’s 12 hours of waiting. that’s 12 hours of NIGHT…waiting. when most people are sleeping, they are waiting in line.

what does this have to do with you?
simple answer…they get hungry but no place is open.

everyone knows that denny’s and ihop are always open, but these places are not takeout places or drive-thru places where they can come real quick and get back to their group waiting in the line. it makes no sense to me because more people are out on thanksgiving night and black friday between the hours of 10pm and 6am than you would probably get for lunch for the whole week. i can tell you, there is a serious demand out there, but for some reason…there is no supply.

my friend told me that where he grew up (palm coast) there was a starbucks open during these hours and they made half a million dollars in that one night just because they stayed open. now, i can’t prove that dollar figure and give documentation about it, but let’s imagine a bit. doesn’t that make sense? people want something warm and something to keep them awake. it makes sense that starbucks would make a serious profit that night. in the same way, people are hungry and if you were to have your restaurants open throughout the night (on this night), people would not only respond with money and sales, they would respond with gratitude…gratitude for serving them in a time of need. you see, people understand why you are closed. they understand that you let your employees off for the day and they think of you highly for that, for letting them spend the day with their families.

but i think i have a plan that would impress them more. so for no charge, here it is:

  1. leave your business open that night staffed by a team with high morale
    i would encourage you to open up your business on thanksgiving night somewhere between 6-8pm (definitely no later than 10pm). 8pm may be the best time. that way all your employees can celebrate thanksgiving with their families and even get some extra sleep…because they’re going to need it. but since this is a holiday, if your team doesn’t have an extra incentive to do this, you will be seen as a grinch or scrooge and the low morale will hurt you in the long run. my advice is to offer double wages for that night only (trust me, you will easily recoup any “extra” money you spend). have a talk with your team and cast the vision. focus on the need (serving people who are hungry) and the response they will have (thanks and money-both short and long term). i would suggest doing 2-3 hour shifts that night to keep the excitement and patience up. an eight hour work day is long enough without it being in the middle of the night.
  2. market in the lines
    while you’re open, send a couple people to the local mall, walmart or popular store where everyone is waiting in line. give them some cards that simply say “we’re open all night tonight in case you’re hungry or if you need anything”. people are used to not seeing any restaurants open, so if you want to be seen, you’re going to have to get out there. all of a sudden, people will be going to your restaurant to pick up stuff for their whole group…because i promise you, come 1am, there will be a mutiny if the group knows there is food somewhere and no one will go out to get it. lol
  3. lightly sell in the lines
    this one is going to take the permission of the store, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. maybe they will do a partnership deal or something. i would suggest sending a couple employees to wherever the lines are with a cooler filled with one of your products (ex. if you are chickfila, a cooler filled with chicken sandwiches) and then sell them for $2-3 a piece, cash. that way the people in line don’t have to leave (in case they’re by themself) and you still make money. i would strongly recommend that you do not overprice these products you’re selling. THAT will turn off your customers and though they may buy from you that night (for whatever reason), you will suffer in the long run.

i hope this helps. if some place were to do this, their testimony would change the face of pre-black friday morning. i hope it happens. if it does, i’ll stop in and say thanks. 🙂 your faithful young supporter, matthew manchester

Serve To Be Trusted, Trusted To Serve More

I don’t know what it is about sectional pastors’ meetings, but it seems like every time I go I end up with some challenging thoughts regarding servanthood and my life. This time, as I was playing keyboard for worship, I realized a reason why we serve. We serve to build trust. This is neither the ultimate reason nor the ultimate temporal goal. The ultimate reason is because He’s God and He has shown us His love and serving Him in any and every capacity is the least He deserves. Another reason is because we realize who we truly are without Him and His grace (“Serving God & Two Steps Away“). But another reason we serve is to build trust…with both man and God.

Luke 16:10-12 states:

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with very much and whoever is dishonest with very little will be dishonest with very much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

Now some people may say that passage is completely about money (and I do believe it concerns earthly finances), but the context and reality of those scriptures is all about serving and faithfulness. This is evident by what Jesus declares next – “no man can serve two masters”.

Jesus declares to the multitudes that we must show ourselves faithful in the earthly realm in order to inherit true eternal treasures. By living our lives now in the place of consistent faithfulness, we store up for ourselves glory and honor on that day. We gain our position (not salvation) in the end-time kingdom by making our lives like Christ’s – following the Sermon on the Mount, following the way of complete servanthood. The rewards we will receive in those days completely depend on our faithfulness now.

Likewise, we must show ourselves faithful in order to be trusted now. But the reward for our faithfulness now is not the same reward that we will receive from Him when He returns. The way God has set up His kingdom, both now and forever, is this: we serve to be trusted, and we’re trusted to serve more.

Jesus declares in Matthew 20:25-28:

…you know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Even as I was typing that scripture I realized that Jesus never said “before you become a leader or become known as great, first you must become a slave and serve for a little while”. No, Jesus declared that if one wants to be great in His kingdom, both in the temporal and eternal, they must sell themselves as a slave and serve others completely, for the rest of our lives.

In the western church, we have followed the ways of the world by believing that we start off serving in the lower positions and then we move up the corporate ladder where we can stop doing those things and do more “honorable” things. That is the complete opposite of what Jesus talks about. The greater you become in the kingdom, the more you serve and the harder you work. The more authority you are trusted with, the more you are trusted to serve and lose your life for those you are over. Jesus’ example in John 13 is that the greatest among us wash the most feet.

This is the reason He declares that in the end, when it’s all said and done, the meek (not the strong and forceful but the humble and serving) will inherit the earth. The highest positions in heaven will not be given to famous people who traveled the world showing their ministry. The highest positions (like kings of actual nations in the millennial kingdom) will be given to those who didn’t blow their own horn but instead gave their lives and rights up to serve others.

God is looking for those who will embrace the way of the cross, the way of servanthood and death, the way of unselfish devotion to God and others. He will reward them with eternal treasures and positions when He comes. In the meantime, He offers them greater ways to die and serve. That is why I serve. So that He can trust me more so that I can serve more, even unto death, knowing that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).