Why The Bible Matters


bibleReposted from Radical Mentoring

Why do so few people read the Bible?

I’m not talking about a random verse pulled out to make a point, I’m talking about the book itself . . . the entity . . . this thing that’s integral to our faith. It’s one of the most important topics!

God’s Word is eternal . . . it’ll last beyond the internet, the Super Bowl, the iPhone, the Final Four . . . everything. In heaven, we’ll recognize the words, the wisdom, and the authors, and we’ll never tire of learning what it all means.

So why bother now? Why not wait until heaven when we’ll have all the time in the world? (. . . or out of the world?) Besides, is this stuff really important? Is it really true? Why do we struggle to ‘get into it’?

There’s the fact that God’s Word has been around . . . unchanged for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and almost half the world’s population believe its essence. A friend of mine was ready to commit his life to the nine ‘insights’ spelled out in The Celestine Prophecy. I asked, “Wow, what if the author changes his mind, or discovers some new truth?” Shortly after, he published The Tenth Insight. My friend later became a Jesus-follower.

Isn’t it smarter to build your life on a time-tested plan?  The New Testament approach to life is wise, effective, stable, practical, and true.

“But isn’t the Bible just a compendium of stories and folklore, pieced together by church people with a motive?”

Sounds convincing, until you try to explain how the Dead Sea Scrolls perfectly matched earlier manuscripts and were untouched by church people from their recording until their discovery in the 1950’s. The Bible is true. You can depend on it.

“But is it relevant?” You bet it is! Here’s just one example . . .

You get a new job or have your first child or move to a new church. You’re scared out of your skin! But when you read 2 Timothy 1:7, God reminds you “the spirit of fear is not of God, but God is love, power and a sound mind.” Suddenly, you realize “Hey, I can do this! God loves me! This fear I’m feeling isn’t coming from Him . . . I have His power within me . . . I can discipline myself . . . I have a sound mind . . . let’s get on with it!” You’re no longer afraid.

And one more point . . . the Bible is supernatural! I’m not kidding.

Remember Hebrews 4:12? For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Paraphrase: God will use His Word to help you sort out your thoughts and attitudes regarding what you want (i.e., your “heart”).

I take that to mean when I read the Bible and ask, “God, what are you teaching me here?” or “Lord, what would you have me do?” He’ll often give me wisdom I’m not smart enough to discover on my own.

And then I try to obey. I also write it down in my journal, because I don’t want to forget. I’ve unearthed much of what’s written in my blog posts this way.

So . . . read your Bible. And chat with the Author as you read. Pray. Ask questions. Listen to His answers and instructions.

Advertisements

In Faith…..We Choose


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

We’re Christians because we have faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Which can seem sort of easy to have faith in since it happened 2,000 years ago and didn’t cause us any personal pain.

It’s much harder to have faith when God allows a man to get hit by a car while he’s biking with his son. Or when God tolerates an innocent child being sold into the sex trade. Or when God seemingly doesn’t answer cries for mercy for loved ones suffering debilitating pain.

There are two elements of God’s perspective missing from ours . . . two things we have to grasp and embrace by faith if we’re going to make sense of pain and tragedy in this world . . .

  1. The long view  God sees timelessly. We think right now; He thinks eternity. What looks like tragedy to us in the short-term is grace and mercy in the long. We must learn to trust in the long view and trust that God knows what he’s doing through pain and tragedy in our lives.
  2. The broad view  God is always doing multiple things in multiple lives at the same time. We have no idea how momentary pain or overwhelming tragedy are being used to challenge someone, to break down a hard heart, or to raise up compassion.

When Romans 8:28 starts with “We know” (that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them), it means we “know in advance.” We know God loves us and He’s in charge, so in faith, we surrender. We yield our demands for a certain outcome. We trust He knows what’s best, and is doing something good, even while we struggle through tough times.

In faith, we choose to rest in the fact that He’s using our pain and the suffering for His purposes. In faith, we choose to pray continuously and rely on His strength to get through whatever we’re going through. In faith, we choose to trust that after we do all we can, the outcome is up to Him. And in faith, we choose to believe God has a plan and will use our pain for good somewhere for someone.

That’s what faith is.

Scripture: Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1) 

Four of the Worse Reasons to leave a Church


Screen Shot 2018-01-28 at 3.55.53 AMReposted from Rethink

I once heard a pastor say that the church is like a body. Sometimes you eat food and sometimes you “release” food. In other words, a church will always be bringing new people in and letting people go. And both are required to be healthy.

There certainly are valid reasons on why you should leave a church, but that’s another topic of another post. In this post we are going to examine some of the worst reasons to leave a church.

1. I’m Not Being Fed Anymore

If a church abandons it’s call to teach God’s word and grow and develop the congregation, this can be a legit concern. However more often than not I see this used as an excuse to leave based off a dislike of the new direction, type of preaching, or some other stylistic preference.

It is not the church’s job to feed you. It is your job. 

It’s popular in our culture to abdicate our responsibility and assign blame to someone else for our own failure. If you are not being fed in your spiritual life the only person to blame is you. It is your job and your responsibility to feed yourself, not anyone else’s. If you are not being feed at your church I suggest you find a way to feed yourself. Buy a book, download a podcast, journal, pray, dust off your bible, just find some way you can feed yourself. 

If you aren’t getting spiritual fed at your church, don’t leave; find a way to feed yourself.

2. I Don’t Have Any Friends Here

Whenever I hear “I don’t know anyone here” or “I don’t have any friends” I always ask, “Do you go to a small group?” “Have you tried to hangout with anybody?” Most of the time the answer is no. If you aren’t plugged in anywhere outside the Sunday service you will never build relationships. Relationships are built when you invest your time. In other words, the grass isn’t greener over there; the grass is green where you water it.

Friendships rarely just happen. They are forged by time spent together. If you go to church once or twice a month for an hour on Sunday you aren’t going to develop any friendships. You need to spend more time with people.

Find a place to serve, check out a small group, find a common interest with someone and just hang out. Learn people’s names, listen to their story, and when you find someone you connect with hang out with them outside church. You aren’t going to get connected without first putting in effort. 

Instead of waiting for someone to invite you, invite. Don’t leave your church until you at least put effort into building a few friendships.

3. They Don’t Have “________” Ministry

As a pastor I get approached regularly about starting a ministry for “__________.” Nine times out of ten they are great ideas. We won’t talk about the one out of ten bad ideas… When I ask if they would want to lead, start, or help in the ministry the answer is essentially no you do it, I just want to attend. This consumeristic mindset is crippling the church. 

Maybe the reason you have such a great idea for your church is because God wants you to do it!

Every church cannot have every kind of ministry. Each church is unique and will look different and have different ministries, and that’s okay! Just because your church doesn’t have this great ministry doesn’t mean it should be started. It might not align with their specific mission and vision.

If you have a ministry you think would be beneficial to your church go meet with your pastor. See if it will fit the direction your church is heading. If it does, don’t assume your pastor will do all the work; offer to help start it or even lead it. The pastor of your church isn’t the only one gifted to lead a ministry. You are too! Use your gifts to grow and benefit the church.

4. The Pastor Doesn’t Know My Name

If you go to a smaller church or hang out with the pastor regularly you might have a case. However, I have seen people get mad that a pastor cannot remember their name when they talked to him once, and they are part of a 1000+ congregation. I am terrible at remembering names, and I feel TERRIBLE when I forget someone’s name. But there are 100’s, sometimes 1000’s of names pastors have to keep track of. Give them a little grace.

While in a larger church not everyone can have a personal relationship with the lead pastor, there is a benefit. The larger the church the more pastors will be on staff. You might not be able to be best buds with the lead guy, but find another pastor on staff that you can connect with.


The purpose of this article is not to convince you to never leave a church again. Most of us will not be at the same church for our whole lives. And that’s okay! The purpose is to challenge why we leave. A lot of people bail at the slightest inconvenience, and in doing so they are robbing the church of their gifts and skills and they are robbing themselves of what the church has to offer them.

Sometimes the greatest things in life are on the other side of difficulty. Maybe, just maybe, if you stick it out you will find it was well worth it.

Before you leave your church prayerfully consider your reasoning. Have you considered talking to someone on staff or in leadership at the church? Is the issue a reason to leave or can it be solved with a few conversations? Doing life with others is hard, and there will be conflict. But if we push through that conflict there is beauty on the other side.

When is it Time to Leave Your Church


Reposted from Rethink

It’s no secret that most people don’t stay at a church for very long. The reasons are many, some good, some bad. The reality is people leave churches. The question is how are you supposed to know when is it time to leave? 

Maybe you are thinking Well, if that’s true, then you should be telling people to stay in their church!

I have written on the worst reasons to leave your church before. But there are also good reasons to leave your church. I get it, church attendance has become increasingly sporadic. But the answer to that issue is not telling people to stay in bad situations. 

I’ve talked to many people that have been considering leaving their current church. In the majority of cases it’s a decision that weighs heavily on them. It’s not always easy to discern and figure out when it’s time to find the door. 

While there are plenty of reasons to stay in your church, there are also things that should cause you to leave. And that’s what I want to look at in this article. Here are reasons to consider leaving your church.

You Haven’t Found Community (but you’ve tried)

One of the biggest reasons that church is important for Christians is that we have people to do life together with. If you aren’t finding that in your church, it might be time to look for a different church. But hear me on this, you have to TRY first. I have heard the complaint from a lot of people that goes like, “I’m not connecting at my church.” Then I ask, “Well what have you tried?” And often times it’s nothing… Or “I went to something once.” Before you can say you can’t find community you have to try first.

The Church Isn’t Doing Anything for People Outside The Church

Churches should have a balance between growing the spiritual depth of those in the church and loving those outside the church. If you church has become all internal and has no focus on what’s happening outside the walls, it’s time to go. Any church that only focuses on those inevitably become sick and dies. The church was never meant to be exclusive, but rather inclusive. That responsibility lies not only on the church, but on you as well. Find a place that puts an emphasis on loving people outside the church. 

There is Abuse of Power in the Church Leadership

It’s a sad reality we live in that this even has to be said. But it’s commonplace to find a church consumed with the pursuit of power. I have heard many heartbreaking stories of spiritual, emotional, and sometimes even physical abuse that have taken place inside churches. If the leadership in your church is demanding, twisting the Gospel to give them power, or is using the Bible to put others down, get out. If there’s even a hint of that in your church, RUN.

You Don’t Agree With the Vision

One of the beautiful things in the church in the western world is that there are a thousand different kind of churches, each with a different look, feel, and vision for why they exist. Most of these differences aren’t right or wrong; they are just preference. If you don’t agree with the direction your church is going, that’s fine; go find one you can get behind. That’s the beauty of having so many unique churches; each one will make an impact in a different way. 

You Don’t Trust the Church With Your Money

Do you trust your church to use the money you give to make an impact on people’s lives inside the church, in the community, and around the world? If you cannot trust the church with your money, you shouldn’t give them your time.

I know of a lot of churches that keep closed books and will not share where the money that comes in goes. They might show broad categories, but no specifics. Giving to a church is like making an investment. If you shifted your 401k to a new broker and they wouldn’t show you where your money was, you would pull it fast! If you regularly give and attend a church you should know exactly how your money is being used and you should see “returns” on your investment.

Church Politics Have Overtaken the Pursuit of Jesus

Wherever two or more people gather the one thing you can guarantee is there will be issues. Every church has, and will continue to have, issues. You cannot expect a group of broken, messed up, people to come together and all of a sudden be perfect. Not going to happen. If you want to be a part of a church, or any group of people, you will have to have some grace.

However there are some churches where the church politics have overtaken everything else. If your church is all about the church politics, drama, or he said/she said it might be time to look for a new church.

There’s No Place For You to Use Your Skills/Gifts

Every single person is different and has a unique set of skills. This means that you were created in a way that you can serve and use your skills to benefit those around you. There is a place in which you can use those gifts inside the church. If your church doesn’t have a place or aren’t willing to let you use your skills, you need to find a place where you can use your God-given gifts to benefit those around you. 


Maybe you are living one of these things out and now you are wondering, How do I actually leave my church? That is a whole other article and is highly situationally based. However let me say this. It should always start with prayer and conversations with trusted friends. Don’t make this decision on a whim or in search of green pastures.

I want to hear thoughts… What reasons do you think someone should leave? Have you left a church? What drove you to that decision? 

How is Your Relationship with God Today


pulse-check

Reposted from Follow the Good Shepherd

How’s your relationship with God today? Is it dull or intimate? Do you still remember your honeymoon stage when you first encountered His love? Do you still feel the same way now? Do you still feel the strong urge to fulfill your mission and to realize your godly vision now or is it long gone?

A lot of Christians go through this stage when they feel bored because there’s not much action (this is not true though as a lot of miracles happen everyday, we just overlook it or take it for granted sometimes). Although it’s normal, it doesn’t mean that we should not address it. Love is not just about feelings. It’s a commitment.It means to stay in the relationship through the ordinary and extraordinary, through the routine and the unusual, through the highs and lows, through the similarities and differences. It’s a piece of work but we need to trust our Potter to turn us from a simple pile of clay to a glorious work of art.

Most of the time, when our relationship gets boring or if we feel like His path is not where we want to go, we tend to run away from God. We don’t want to do what he asks us to do. We try to tune His volume down in our lives so we can live how we please. If we continue to do this, things might get dangerous. Consider the story of Jonah and how God pursued Him: Letting Go: Running Away From God.

So, what should we do if we feel like the fire inside us is burning out?

Pray Unceasingly. No matter how boring our prayer might sound like to ourselves, remember that our God is a very personal God and He is mindful of us. Communication is vital in any form of relationship and prayer is our main communication tool with God.

Keep Reading. Not everyone hears God audibly speak to us. Reading his Word would allow us to get advice and teachings from God himself without waiting to hear a thunderous voice from heaven. The Bible is our ultimate instruction and guide book that He left for us. Everything we need to know is already in here.

Stay Connected. Attend the church service, listen to podcasts, and catch up with your life group from church. Hearing God’s Words through godly people is a way for us to reconnect to God and vice versa. Remember, if you take a coal away from the rest of the burning coals, it will become cold. But if you put it back with the rest, it will burn again.

God never fails to provide and take care of us. He has given us a mission to fulfill in various areas of our lives. That should be enough to keep us from getting bored. Sometimes, the problem is that we don’t like the mission itself, thus, we ignore it and pretend nothing is happening in our lives which leads us to getting bored. It’s never gonna work this way. God gives us the opportunity to live a full and meaningful life but remember, it takes two to tango!

Prayer and Grace


Grace

Reposted from The Life Project

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:2-6

This is a really neat little passage; there’s so much to see.  As Paul closes out his letter, he reminds the people to be devoted to prayer, and while this may seem routine, after all, Apostles talk about prayer a lot, Paul here seems to bring it to life.  I’m always struck by the idea of prayer being “watchful and thankful.”  Maybe thankful, as in giving thanks isn’t so surprising, but watchful!  How often do you hear someone say that we should be watchful in our prayers?

Watchful for what?  Things you want God to give you, like little favors?  “Oh yes, and Father please send me that new Lexus…” something like that?  Somehow I doubt it. Maybe watchful for someone who needs intercession, maybe an opening for the Gospel, maybe something that is within God’s priority system− yes that seems more like the kind of “watchful” that Paul has in mind.  He continues by asking for the people to pray for him, but again, not in the way we might expect.  Notice, that even though he is in prison, he didn’t ask them to pray for his release, he asked them to pray that he might preach the Gospel effectively.

I don’t know about you, but that gets my attention every time!  When Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:5. He taught us to pray for God’s priorities. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”  Do we remember to do that? Are we watchful for specifics that fit into this category?  Well, I can only speak for myself, but truth be told, I forget or overlook this more often than I’d care to admit. Paul seems to continue in this line of thinking when he advises us to be wise when speaking to “outsiders,” non-Christians.  We are to be ready to make the most of every opportunity, to show them the love of Jesus Christ: Maybe we should pray for those opportunities.  We are to speak to them “with grace, seasoned with salt…” Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor” meaning that we are to deal with them in love; more love than they might deserve.

I have a little secret for you to consider:  Speaking to someone with grace is not telling them that they are wrong, even if they are.  It doesn’t mean calling them names, or being critical of the way they live.  Yes, there is a fair chance that they live as unbelievers, but guess what? They are unbelievers, and that may be just how they are supposed to live.  Our job isn’t to correct the world, it is to save the world for Christ.  This requires grace, not criticism.  Salt is an interesting metaphor; I’ve heard many different explanations for this, so I’ll throw out my thoughts.  When we season food with salt, we add it to bring out the full flavor of the ingredients, and when we speak with grace, seasoned with salt, we are sharing the full love of God who so loved the world that He sent His Son to die to save it.  We need our speech to be so full of His grace, that nobody hears the slightest little bit of condemnation come from our lips!

So, when you put this all together, maybe I should remember to pray that God will bring me opportunities, and give me the words to share, so that some may be saved.  What do you think; do you need to join me in praying this way? If not, I’d love to hear why that is.

How to Pray for Physical Healing


Reposted from The Word Among Us

Of all the kinds of healing, physical healing is perhaps the hardest for us to really believe in; it is far easier to believe that prayer can lead to repentance or can change a person psychologically.

Yet real physical healings take place regularly in the prayer groups I know. Often, a dozen or more occur at conferences when we take the time to pray for the sick.

So if you have the faith that the Lord still heals people as he did two thousand years ago, launch out and learn to pray for the sick. For, although physical healing may stretch your faith (have you ever prayed for a blind person?), it is also the simplest kind of prayer.

The Confidence to Launch Out. To pray for the first time requires courage. I used to feel very foolish, as if I were pretending to be someone special when I knew I was just an ordinary person. Who was I to pretend to be a great healer, to act like Christ? All this was, of course, merely false humility since, as we know, Christ himself instructed his followers to pray for the sick. Sometimes healing requires more courage than faith.

What a joy when we find that God really answers our prayers and heals the people we love! The praise of God spontaneously rises from our hearts. If you have confidence that Jesus might use your prayers to heal the sick, then there are just a few simple steps to learn. They are easy enough to remember; we do not need a graduate degree to learn to pray for physical healing.

I have missionary friends who are teaching the poor people of the barrios of Latin America to pray for the sick, and they report that about eighty percent of these unlettered people are healed or notably improved. There is no one method or technique that always produces results; God wants us to depend on him—not upon a technique. But there are some simple steps that flow out of the very nature of prayer for healing, and these I want to share with you.

Listening. The first step is always to listen in order to find out what to pray for. Just as the first step for a doctor when he meets a patient is to find out what to treat, so we need to find out what we are meant to pray for. A doctor is looking for a right diagnosis. In prayer for healing, we are looking for the right discernment.

We are really listening to two things: to the person who asks for prayer and tells us what seems to be wrong; and to God, who from time to time shares with us the true diagnosis whenever the person isn’t sure what is wrong.

When we listen in this way, the Spirit comes to enlighten us when we are in the dark about what to pray for. To some people this special knowledge seems to come in a very special way in the form of definite mental images or verbal impressions. To many of us, however, the knowledge of what to pray for comes in a very natural way, more like a simple intuition.

We may not be sure whether we are inspired by God or not; we learn by experience to sift out our intuitions and to find what works out in practice. Often, after I have followed what seemed to me a simple intuition about what to pray for, the person I was praying for has told me that I touched on those very things he had not directly mentioned but had hoped that I would pray for. When these intuitions work out time after time, you learn to trust that God is working through them.

In addition to listening to the person, we should also be alert to the promptings of the Spirit who may enlighten us, especially when we don’t know what to pray for. It is not healthy for us to be unduly problem-oriented and symptom-centered. In the abundance of Christ’s health and life, sickness will be overcome, in the brilliance of that light, darkness and ignorance will be dispersed.

Laying on of Hands. In actual praying for the sick, the laying on of hands is a traditional Christian practice: “They will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover” (Mark 16:18). Certainly it is not essential; if you feel that the person you are praying for would be embarrassed or would feel more comfortable if you stay at a distance, then by all means be sensitive to his feelings. But if it does seem right, there are several advantages that explain the New Testament practice of the laying on of hands.

In the first place, there does seem to be a warm current of healing power that often flows from the minister of healing to the sick person. Precisely what happens when we feel this current we are not sure, but it seems like a transfer of life-giving power. Jesus himself experienced this flow of power in such a way that he could sense it:

Now there was a woman suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, whom no one had been able to cure. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak; and the hemorrhage stopped at that instant. Jesus said, “Who touched me?” when they all denied that they had, Peter and his companions said, “Master, it is the crowds round you, pushing.” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched me. I felt that power had gone out from me.” (Luke 8:43-46)

Often we experience this same transfer of power, occasionally like a gentle electric current, but more often like a flow of warmth. Whatever it is, it is often connected with healing. It almost seems like a transfer of life.

Some with the gift of healing talk about “soaking prayer” in which you just soak the person in a prayer of God’s love. In thirty years of praying for the sick, we have discovered that this soaking prayer where we spend time with a person and pray with the laying on of hands helps immeasurably. It’s like God’s radiation treatment: The longer the sickness is held in the force-field of God’s love, the more it shrinks, until it finally disappears.

The Actual Prayer. In praying for the sick person, we can be spontaneous and improvise prayer for healing. We can assume any posture that is most comfortable for us—sitting, kneeling, or standing—where we can best forget ourselves and relax and concentrate on the presence of God. We turn our hearts and minds to the Father, or to Jesus; we know that it is only through their love that anything will happen. After welcoming their presence and praising God, we then turn to the petition itself.

Most ministers of healing suggest that we be specific in our prayer, that we visualize as clearly as possible what we are asking God to heal. For instance, if we are praying for the healing of a broken bone we can ask the Father (or Jesus) to take away every infection, to stimulate the growth of the cells needed to restore the bone, and to fill in any breaks. Such a specific request seems to enliven our own faith, as we see in our imagination what we are praying for. It also stimulates the faith of the sick person as he listens and pictures in his own mind what we are asking God to accomplish in reality. This helps him become more actively involved in the prayer, even if he says nothing.

On the other hand, some of us—that includes me—are by temperament not very good at imagining things; it is much easier to leave the imagination out and just ask God—but in a very specific way—to heal the person.

With Confidence and Thanksgiving. For a long time, there has been a kind of tradition which led most of us to end all our prayers with the phrase, “if it be your will.” The idea behind it, of course, is that we don’t know God’s will, so we don’t have the confidence that everything we ask for will be given us. This is true. Yet, this addition—”if it be your will”—can weaken our prayer if it really means “I don’t believe anything is going to happen.” This is a far cry from the words of Jesus, “Everything you ask and pray for, believe that you have it already, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).

If we believe that God answers our prayers always (not always as we think he will, but nevertheless always), we naturally will have a heartfelt desire to thank him. We can thank him even during the prayer: “I thank you, Lord, that even now you are sending you healing love and power into Bill and are answering our prayer.” Our attitude should be that of St. Paul: “There is no need to worry but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6).