Moving Forward in Christ


Reposted from The Rugged Historian

Too many times we look back at our past mistakes, failures, and sins, which, in turn, causes us to be held captive by our past.  We must focus on who we are in Christ and the journey that He has put on while working to become who we know that we need to be.  Self improvement is viewed as a bad thing in some Christian circles, but there is nothing wrong with casting off our yesterday and desiring to be more Christ like while fighting to walk the narrow road.  Don’t let others who don’t have the strength or faith in the life changing power of the Lord Jesus Christ hold you back.  They want to do so because it is true, misery does love company.  Look to Christ continually because in Him you will find the strength to not only walk the narrow road, but to run it with purpose and courage while being everyday rugged.

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I Just Want to be Happy


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

How many times have you heard someone say, “But I just want to be happy!” Or even said it yourself?

“I’d be happy if I could lose another 10 pounds, but I hate starving all the time!”

“I love the people I work with, but I’m so unhappy with my job.”

“I can’t stand this apartment anymore . . . I want a house!”

“I’ll never be happy here. Don’t you see how people look at me?”

“I don’t get squat from attending my church, but I’m not going through ripping my wife away from her Bible study friends. I just want her to be happy!”

It’s like happiness is something we trade for. “I’ll give up (fill in the blank) in return for being happy.” But it never seems to work out, does it?

Three things make us unhappy . . .

  1. Not getting something we want
  2. Not getting to do what we want to do
  3. Not having people think what we want them to think

Anxiety comes from unmet expectations, and all three of these ‘unhappies’ start with expectations . . . for ourselves, other people or God. We, humans, create a never-ending stream of expectations.

Even when we get what we think we want, we’re not happy for long. Or down deep. No sooner than we get the ‘thing’ we want, we want something else. The thing we want to do might make us happy for a little while, but stuff changes, something new appears, and happiness fades. And getting people’s approval is never certain and as fickle as a housefly. “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do,” said Eleanor Roosevelt.

Happy is “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” It comes from the same root word as ‘haphazard.’ It connotes random. Spurious. Here and there. Unpredictable.

But the word ‘joy’ . . . which comes from the word ‘rejoice,’ means “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad.” Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words ‘happy’ and ‘happiness’ about 30 times, while ‘joy’ and ‘rejoice’ appear over 300 times.

For me, joy rides on two things: love and hope. It first came when I grasped that I was loved . . . like really loved . . . by my Heavenly Father. And it hasn’t left since. I have an irrevocable hope because I know that I will always be loved. Personally. By the God of the universe. He knows my name! And He loves me. Individually. Amazing, huh?

The only sure cure for anxiety is a grateful heart. And for the Jesus-follower who ‘gets it,’ gratitude is the default setting of the heart. Grasping how much God loves us, how He forgives us, how He’s always there for us . . . that’s the source of real joy. And that joy isn’t dependent on our circumstances. It’s available 24/7/365. Not haphazard. It’s there for every Jesus-follower.

Scripture: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13.

The Death of Delayed Gratification


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

As a culture, we’re killing the idea of suffering now for the good stuff later. We want the new car and the newest, coolest stuff, but we don’t want to save for them. We want them now. The result? Car loans, credit card payments, and oppressive debt.

We want happiness, and we want it now. The idea of waiting for your mate to mature seems ridiculous. What if she doesn’t? What if she stays the spoiled “Daddy’s girl” until she dies? What if she never changes her attitude about sex? Are you ready to wait around till the kids leave home, so maybe she’ll become your lover again?

And she’s probably got the same questions about you. Will he ever grow up? Will his relentless pursuit of getting in my pants ever subside? Will he ever care as much about me as he does about his job? Will I ever get as much attention as the TV? Or the ballgame? Will there ever be a time when he’ll hang out with me as much as he plays golf? Will he ever learn to listen to me? Value what I value? Truly be my friend?

The answer is yes. It can happen. All of this is possible.

But it won’t be overnight. It will take time, effort, and a lot of patience. It’s a long-term deal.

Right now is not all there is.

“Live for today, for tomorrow never comes” is a lie.

Tomorrow will come. You will get older. Your wife will change. You will qualify for Social Security, unless the grim reaper snags you early.

Impatience is what gets a marriage in trouble. You want what you want, and you want it now. Same with your wife. Little by little, one of you loses hope that things will change and the result is a mess of a marriage that hangs by a thread.

I want to challenge you to take a minute and think long-term. Really think.

Scripture: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

A Faith of your Own


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

I’ve had a burr in my saddle for a while. I feel it every time a church service ends with an altar call . . . when folks are asked to become Christians. The words flow with passion . . . “Give your life to Jesus.” “Get saved today.” “Surrender to Christ.”

What do these words mean to an unbeliever? Even more, what do they mean to the guy or gal who went through confirmation as a kid and hasn’t thought seriously about their faith since? (See how hard it is to talk about Christian stuff without using ‘church words’?)

Watching videos of middle schoolers share their stories before being baptized, I was stopped in my tracks by these words . . .

“I now have a faith of my own.”

That’s it! These young people have moved beyond the faith of their parents and decided to believe independently. But I think the message is even bigger. Serious Jesus-followers have faith in God and live a faith-filled life! That’s the end game. “Giving your life to Jesus,” “Getting saved,” etc. are a means. The end is a life of faith in God . . . a life lived with God.

Everyone has faith . . . in a job, a savings account, a boss, a spouse, a doctor, a pension plan, a best friend. These days, we’re told to have faith in ourselves. So the idea of ‘having faith’ isn’t new. It’s about who or what we have faith in. Everything I just listed falls short at some point. The job goes away, the doctor can’t heal you, the pension plan is underfunded, the friend moves away, the spouse dies. Now what? Faith in a God who loves me . . . who never leaves, never dies, never moves away, never implodes, never turns his back on you . . . that’s what we all want.

Three things are necessary to have faith in someone or something . . .

  1. You have to believe it exists – You won’t squat in a chair if you don’t believe it’s there. You won’t have faith in an imaginary friend. You won’t put your faith in Jesus unless you believe He’s real.
  2. You have to have access to it – You might believe God exists, but if you can’t get to Him (or He can’t get to you), then you won’t have faith. He’ll be a concept, maybe a nice idea, but not someone you have faith in.
  3. You have to trust it to do what it’s supposed to do – You have faith in your car to get you from point A to point B. You have faith in your stove to cook your food, not wash your clothes. When we start asking people and things (and God) to do things they aren’t supposed to do, we lose faith in them. That’s why so many people lose faith in God and walk away . . . because God didn’t do what they thought He was supposed to do.

Are you struggling with your faith? Can you trace it back to one of these three issues? Pray right now and ask God to give you more faith.

Scripture: The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)

Are You a Human Being or a Human Doing


 

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Years ago, a good friend really handed it to me. He said, “When I see someone running as hard as you run, I wonder who he’s trying to please.” My friend didn’t wonder, “Is he trying to please someone?” He knew that answer. The question was who?

Most of us start out trying to please our dads. For some of us, that’s the who we’re chasing for the rest of our lives, whether we realize it or not. For years, each time I’d get a promotion or a raise, I’d call my dad before I’d call my wife. It took me a long time to uncover what that said about the most significant who in my life.

But after surrendering to God and ‘replacing’ my earthly father with my Heavenly Father, things changed. I released my dad from all my expectations; from all the things I wished he had been and done. I forgave him and accepted him just as he was for the rest of his life. But before long, I was driving just as hard as a sold-out Christian as I was before. Why?

The reality is, some of us make God our work. We make Him something we do. The church loves it because we fill all the volunteer jobs; fill the seats and the fill the offering plates.

But we miss what God really wants . . .

Relationship

Communion

Dependence

Worship

Gratitude

Love

Those things flow from the Holy Spirit living in our hearts when we stop being human doings and become human beings.

This week, spend time just being . . . with your family, with your friends, with yourself and especially with God.

Just as a soldier who takes on his day without having orders from his commanding officer could be in trouble, how then can we head out in the morning without first consulting Our King of Kings?

Instead of just charging out and doing, stop first to be with Him and ask, “Lord, what would you have me do today?”

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.