There is a disturbing trend I am noticing in churches. Maybe it is more in larger, contemporary churches than smaller, traditional churches. But since the majority of all churchgoers now attend larger churches this is of real concern. The trend is the decline in percentage attendance. In other words there are less people attending each church service in comparison with the number of people who call the church their home. For years a good percentage would be around 75%. Three out of every four people would be in church on any given Sunday. Now that number may well be 50% or even worse. Regular church attendance is extremely valuable, is very important and should be practiced by anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. A Christ-follower needs to regularly attend church. Not counting the times that you might miss for vacation or sickness or a particular work commitment you should be in church.
Church is not something that you do individually it is something that you do collectively. To be a follower of Christ is not just what you do by yourself it is what you do together with other people. We are what the Bible calls the “family of God.” A family is by its very nature inter-dependent. What it means to be a part of a local church is that you’re inter-dependent with other people in your church. There are strong reasons why you should come to church regularly.
It Is What Jesus Did
Luke 14:6 says, “Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he’d been brought up and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath.” The Bible tells us that “as usual” or another translation of the Bible says “as was His custom” Jesus went to the place of worship. This is in keeping with obeying one of the Ten Commandments which is, “Observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” When we say we are followers of Christ, we’re supposed to do what Jesus has done. What would Jesus do? Jesus would go to church and we as followers of Christ should do the same. If we take seriously our followership of Christ, then we should go to church regularly.
It Is a Good Habit
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship. But we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.” The Bible says to us there is a good habit of regularly going to church. Most of the time when we think of habits we think bad habits but there are good habits. Some have developed the bad habit of missing church. Maybe you’ve gotten out of the habit or maybe you have yet to develop the habit of regular church attendance. Sunday morning offers a lot of options. It offers the sleep in option, it offers a brunch option, it offers the read the Sunday paper option, and it offers all kinds of options having to do with recreation. Good habits bless your life and produce positive results. When you practice the good habit of regular church attendance you reap some very good outcomes.
It Is a Positive Example
Going to church is a positive example. When you go each Sunday, you’re setting an example. You are setting an example that other people notice. It is an example that becomes an inspiration for others. People who are trying to make their lives better, people who want a positive change are going to be impacted by an example of someone who is committed to regular church attendance. For those of you who are married, it’s a positive example to your spouse. For those of you that have children, it’s an absolutely positive example for your kids to know that on Sunday you go to church. For the people around you, whether it’s your friends or your co-workers, whether it’s your family, when they see that you have a commitment that is leading you to living a better life – that is a positive example that other people can follow.
It Is Important for Fellowship
Look again at what the Bible says, “Some have gotten out of the habit. We should not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other.” The church is an encouraging place. We all need encouragement. Life is hard. Life is difficult. We all run into various kinds of challenges; health problems, financial issues, conflict within our families. We have an opportunity to encourage one another and that is part of what church is about. Sunday service is where fellowship begins. Being in classes, groups and serving is where you get to know people on a deeper level. But it starts on Sunday; the launching point to fellowship and community is in church services. Every Sunday that you come, there are going to be people who are looking for you, wondering if you’re there. People will miss you. And the longer and more consistently you come, the more you will be missed. Because the more that you are in church, the more you are involved, the more people miss you and notice that you’re not around. It is a marvelous thing to be a part of a local church it is like having a much larger family.
It Is Essential for Growth
It is absolutely essential for spiritual growth to regularly attend church. I have this phrase, “The service you miss is the service you need.” Each service is tailored and designed to maximize your Sunday worship so that you can leave with the best possible spiritual experience. You can praise and worship God and you can learn things that you didn’t know before. You will be challenged. You’re going to be motivated. Church is where you will be inspired to go higher than you’ve gone, to live a life that is godlier and greater than you’ve been living, to sync your life up with Jesus and His purpose and plan for your life. You will come to understand why you’re here on this earth: to serve, to give and to love.
Don’t come occasionally to church. Don’t just come when you feel like it. Make regular church attendance a priority and let it be a good habit that becomes a part of who you are. Nothing does more for your spiritual health than regularly being in church. Being in a church service is irreplaceable. It is a moment in time and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. There will always be competition for your time and other things that you could do on a Sunday. But these are really good reasons you should regularly attend church.
Full Article can be found Here
Accountability groups and partners are not magic pills. While accountability plays a crucial role in personal growth and holiness, there are many accountability pitfalls.
Here are five ways accountability often goes bad:
Problem #1. When accountability partners are absent
Accountability relationships need to be fostered through time together. It is hard to hold one another accountable when partners meet infrequently or sporadically (or not at all).
Often both parties are at fault. We might commit to “holding one another accountable,” but this is something vague, elusive, and undefined. Accountability partners need to have a very clear picture in their minds about what accountability really entails: face-to- face, voice-to-voice conversation.
When accountability partners do not meet in some fashion, the accountability relationship has no foundation. This means confession, prayer, and encouragement are erratic and shaky, at best.
Problem #2. When accountability groups are programmatic
When we read through the one-anothers of the New Testament, one cannot help but see the organic, family dynamic that is meant to exist in the church. We are called to an earnest love for one another (1 Peter 1:22), brotherly affection (Romans 12:10), single-minded unity (Romans 15:5), eating together (1 Corinthians 11:33), bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and having the same care for each other (1 Corinthians 12:25).
But often our approach to accountability is programmatic. We simply don’t have the quality of friendships that are close and spiritually meaningful, so we search for it in forced and sometimes awkward settings.
The church, of course, should offer support groups and discipleship models. “Program” is not a four-letter word. But these programs should aim toward something rich and natural.
If meeting together, prayer, confession, and encouragement are the building blocks of accountability, then many of the other one-anothers in the New Testament are the “atmosphere” of the relationship. This should not be an empty, austere structure, but filled with the air of Christian love and friendship. You may be “doing everything right” but it still feels empty and cold.
Problem #3. When accountability partners are sincerity-centered
Confession is the central pillar of accountability, but there are a few ways this pillar can be constructed poorly.
The first way confession of sin can go wrong is when it becomes an end in and of itself. This is when we believe confession is the only point of accountability, something we do to put to rest our uneasy consciences and get something off our chests. These kinds of accountability relationships make “getting the secret out” the whole point.
As therapeutic as this might feel—and it is therapeutic—we need to be careful that in our confession of sin we don’t trivialize sin as something that resolves itself with mere sincerity. Jonathan Dodson, pastor of Austin City Life church, says that one surefire way to ruin your accountability relationship is by making it “a circle of cheap confession by which you obtain cheap peace for your troubled conscience.”
Christians do not believe that pardon from sin comes from merely being honest about sin. Your sincerity wasn’t nailed to a Roman cross for your sins; Christ was. Peace with God comes only by leaning on what Christ has done for us (Romans 5:1). We often mistake the relief of unleashing our secrets with true peace.
Conversation must not stop at confession. The outermost pillars of the accountability relationship call us to prayer and encouragement. After humble confession, we should encourage one another with the assurance of forgiveness promised in the gospel, and we should approach God’s throne of grace in prayer together.
In this way we not only hold one another accountable for our behavior, but we also hold one another accountable for trusting in the gospel for our complete forgiveness.
Problem #4. When accountability partners are obedience-centered
The first way the pillar of confession can be built poorly is when we aim at cheap peace. The second way the pillar of confession can be constructed poorly is when the focus is on moral performance.
Some Christian accountability groups are militant about sin—a healthy attitude in its own right. Members want to see others grow in holiness, so this becomes the focus of the group: questions and answers that deal with obedience.
The problem is, mere rule keeping does not itself get to the heart of sin. This is one of the great lessons Paul teaches again and again. Merely knowing the law only aggravates our lusts (Romans 7:7-12), and following rigid ascetic regulations—don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle—is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).
What we need is a kind of accountability that corrects our natural tendency to focus on ourselves—own own performance or lack of performance—and instead focus on Christ and His obedience in our place.
Don’t turn the pillar of confession into a pedestal—a place where we can prop up the idol of our own obedience. Don’t turn accountability into a narcissistic program of self-improvement. Accountability relationships like this either center our thoughts on a few benchmarks of success that we might happen to be reaching, or force us into hiding because we don’t want to admit how much we are failing to hit the mark.
Problem #5. When accountability partners forget the gospel
Whether you slide toward being sincerity-centered or obedience-centered, both tendencies have ignored that the gospel is the capstone of accountability.
When we make our groups all about sincere confession with no expectation of change, we trivialize the very sins that were nailed to Jesus on the cross. When we confess the same sins week after week, say a quick prayer, and go home, we merely highlight the cheap peace we feel from refreshing honesty, and we forget to comfort each other with a testimony of God’s grace of forgiveness. We forget to challenge each other to fight sin in light of the motivations God provides in His Word.
When we make our groups all about obedience, we only reinforce our tendency to center our identity on our performance. This either drives us to rigid moralism or hiding the evil that lurks in us from others and ourselves. Either way, these kinds of accountability relationships only reinforce legalism and self-absorption. This robs us of the joy of building our identity on Christ’s obedience, and we lose an opportunity to speak about the grace of God that trains us to be godly.
This is why the gospel is the capstone of good accountability. Our confessions, prayers, and encouragement should all be done under the canopy of what the gospel promises God’s children.
- Confess your sins in light of the gospel. One aspect of repentance is agreeing with what God says about your sin, labeling your sin as truly sinful, as an affront to His holiness, something that cost Christ his life. Confess your sins to God and others knowing He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).
- Pray together in light of the gospel. The gospel promises both grace to cover our sins (Romans 5:1-2) and grace to empower our obedience (Titus 2:11-14). Approach Christ together asking for this grace (Hebrews 4:16).
- Encourage one another in light of the gospel. Knowing that true internal change happens in our lives as we set our minds and affections on things above—the complete redemption that is coming to us (Colossians 3:1-4)—we should help one another do this. Mining the Scriptures together, we can teach and admonish one another in wisdom (v.16). We can strive together to have more of a foretaste of the holiness we are promised in the age to come.
Full article can be found Here
Because Christ Expects it of Christians
Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:16-18 are not words of a command. He does not tell us that we have to fast. However, He expects that we will. He said, “when you fast…” He was making an assumption that a Christian would fast. Moreover, when He said these words He followed it with a bit of explanation that a fast should be personal and private. Your focus should be on your relationship with God and not on letting the world know you are fasting.
In Matthew 9 Jesus is talking with the Pharisees and tells them that the disciples, while not fasting at that time, would fast once the bridegroom (Jesus) was no longer with them. Jesus expected His disciples to participate in fasting.
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23)
We see in the above verse that Paul fasted about some decisions he made in leading the churches he started. The Israelites sought the Lord through fasting when they had been defeated in battle by the tribe of Benjamin. They were asking for guidance on what they should do and how to proceed (Judges 20:26-28).
For Intensity in Prayer
David fasted and prayed for the child that he fathered with Bathsheba. David knew he had sinned, but his fast was not to restore fellowship with God. Apparently restoration was already taken care of. His prayer in 2 Samuel 12 was for the life of the child. Though God did not grant his request, David was satisfied and content after his season of prayer and fasting. He had moved past the point of blaming God to a place of trusting God for the outcome.
Ezra prayed for God’s protection over his countrymen as they journeyed back to Jerusalem. He could have entreated the king for soldiers and cavalrymen, but he had already proclaimed that God would care for them. Now he was asking God to show Himself strong on behalf of the Israelites and to help raise a good testimony before the enemy (Ezra 8:21-23).
As a Sign of Mourning
Nehemiah heard about the destruction of Jerusalem and was moved to fast and weep for his beloved city. This fasting was because of grief over the sin of his people before the Lord. He knew that God was punishing Israel for their sins. Nehemiah mourned and confessed before the Lord. Sin had caused a pain that prayer alone could not express. Fasting was a natural result of his grief:
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. (Nehemiah 1:4-6)
To Show Humility in the Presence of God
The man after God’s own heart, King David, said that he fasted for the purpose of humbling himself before God (Psalm 35:13). He certainly seems to be the person who could have walked into the throne room of God and made his request boldly as we are invited to do in Hebrews 4:16. There is a difference between boldness and arrogance. David knew how to humble himself in prayer through fasting.
Along with humility before God, fasting can be a way to worship God. David said in Psalm 51 that God is more interested in a humble and contrite heart than He is in fasting and sacrifices. This is not saying that we don’t need to fast; rather, it is saying that fasting without the right attitude does not touch the heart of God.
Along with humility before God, fasting can be a way to worship God. David said in Psalm 51 that God is more interested in a humble and contrite heart than He is in fasting and sacrifices. This is not saying that we don’t need to fast; rather, it is saying that fasting without the right attitude does not touch the heart of God.
For Spiritual Strength
While Jesus faced the temptation of Satan, He fasted for 40 days. There is a principle of spiritual strength that is demonstrated in fasting in the life of Christ (Luke 4:1-11).
Mark 9:29 shows that the disciples needed a power from God that comes only through fasting. Matthew 17:20 and 21 say that fasting and prayer coupled with faith in God can work spiritual miracles.
Full article can be seen Here
Below are five verses along with the opinions of Christian leaders that may comfort those who struggle with their singleness.
“And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.'”
Jesus never married, and in Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul writes that the church is the bride of Christ. In a relationship as strong as romantic love and as close as family bonds, Jesus welcomes his disciples. As the Reverend Mark D. Roberts explained in a post countering the popular theories in The Da Vinci Code, “Jesus is more inclusive and counter-cultural than those who would tie Mary Magdalene’s significance primarily to her filling the traditional role of wife.”
Despite the Bible’s emphasis on the importance of marriage and the family, “the relationship that matters most of all is our relationship with Jesus Christ as his disciple,” Roberts concluded.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
The Apostle Paul explained that Jesus Christ, the sinless savior of the world, was tempted “in every respect,” just as you are – that includes sexual temptation, explained Dr. Roger Barrier, founder and president of Preach It, Teach It, a Christian counseling site.
Hunt recalled teaching on singleness in a seminary in the Ukraine. When asked if a single person could be a pastor, a deacon, or even an elder, the seminary president emphatically said “no.” The counselor then shot back, “What a shame. So the Apostle Paul and Jesus couldn’t be a deacon or a pastor.”
I Corinthians 7:8-9
“Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
In I Corinthians 7, Paul writes that unmarried people have more time to dedicate themselves to God. Mark Driscoll, founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, explained that Paul advised against marriage “in view of the present distress,” likely referring to Christian persecution in the Roman Empire. He did not mean to say that singleness is always preferable to marriage.
Nevertheless, Driscoll argued, a season of singleness gives Christians the opportunity to draw nearer to God and reflect on Jesus, who represented the ideal single man.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued by faithfulness to you.”
In this prophecy to Jeremiah, God promises to rebuild Israel and fulfill His promises. In a post on Purposeful Singleness, a blog geared toward inspiring and encouraging single Christians, Fern Horst quoted this passage along with a few others, as words to consider on Valentine’s Day “if we don’t have romantic love to celebrate.”
Horst also included other Old Testament promises:
“I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you.” Haggai 2:23
“You will be called Sought After.” Isaiah 62:12
“You are precious and honored in my sight.” Isaiah 43:4
“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:16
I Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
“If we are pursuing marriage we are pursuing the wrong thing because love then becomes subservient to marriage,” wrote John Fischer on Purposeful Singleness. Instead of trying to find their soul mate, single Christians should focus on loving others, and then prayerfully consider tying the knot later. “Marriage is not an end in itself…it is the servant of love.”
Full article can be found Here
Why Do We Find It So Hard to Forgive?
One reason we resist forgiving is that we don’t really understand what forgiveness is or how it works. We think we do, but we don’t.
Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us.
The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn’t. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive and forget, letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries.
- Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.
- Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. By refusing to transfer the right to exact punishment or revenge, we are telling God we don’t trust him to take care of matters.
- Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. We don’t have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to, lack of respect or any form of abuse.
- Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, “What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me.” Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
- Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again.
- Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. As soon as we can, we should decide to forgive, but it probably is not going to happen right after a tragic divorce. That’s okay.
- We have to forgive every time. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused.
- Forgetting does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
- Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look outward at them or stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.
- If they don’t repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
- We don’t always have to tell them we have forgiven them. Self-righteously announcing our gracious forgiveness to someone who has not asked to be forgiven may be a manipulation to make them feel guilty. It also is a form of pride.
- Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.
- We might have to forgive more than the divorce. Post-divorce problems related to money, the kids, and schedules might result in the need to forgive again and to seek forgiveness ourselves.
- We might forgive too quickly to avoid pain or to manipulate the situation. Forgiveness releases pain and frees us from focusing on the other person. Too often when we’re in the midst of the turmoil after a divorce, we desperately look for a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women want to “hurry up” and forgive so the pain will end, or so they can get along with the other person. We have to be careful not to simply cover our wounds and retard the healing process.
- We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it’s not true forgiveness — it’s a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, “I want to forgive you, but right now I’m struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it.”
- Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it’s what we do with them that counts. When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, “Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is.”
- Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive.
Full Article can be found here
“Search, You Need Spiritual Food for Spiritual Strength for the LORD and his strength. Always seek his presence” (1 Chronicles 16:11 GW).
Just like you need physical food for physical strength, you need spiritual food for spiritual strength. The Bible describes itself as spiritual food — the water, milk, bread, and meat of our spiritual lives. It’s everything you need for sustenance.
If you were a construction contractor, you wouldn’t consider sending out a guy who hadn’t eaten anything in two weeks. If you were a commander in the Army, you wouldn’t send a person into battle who hadn’t eaten in a month. Right? We need to feed ourselves to have the strength to accomplish the tasks ahead of us.
You’re not going to have much success in winning the spiritual battles you face if you’re starving yourself to death. That’s why we need to feed on the Word of God.
Unlike eating physical food, whenever I feed on God’s Word, I get even hungrier. The more I taste and see how good God is, the more I want.
The Bible says in Colossians 3:16a, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly” (NIV). Paul is telling us to let the Bible take up residence in our lives in a rich, profound, and life-giving way.
So how do we feed ourselves on the Word of God and allow that to happen?
- Receive the Word with your ears. Commit yourself to go to church and listen to God’s Word being preached.
- Read the Word with your eyes. Having a Bible in your house is not going to bless your life. You have to have the Bible in your heart.
- Research the Word with your hands and mouth. When studying the Word of God, keep a pencil in your hand. Write down what God teaches. Talk about what you’re discovering with other believers in a small-group environment.
- Reflect on the Word with your mind. Think about and chew on God’s Word.
- Remember the Word with your heart. You’ll rarely have a Bible with you when you need it. Commit God’s Word to memory.
Talk It Over
- What changes do you need to make in your life so that you are spiritually nourished?
- Do you write down what God teaches you? What you are memorizing from Scripture?
- What spiritual battle are you fighting today? Have you turned to God’s Word for sustenance?
Full Article can be found Here
Reasons God Says No
God does not arbitrarily or capriciously say no; as with all of His other actions, He has a purpose. Let’s consider some of the reasons God says no to some of our requests.
1. We harbor unconfessed sin – Psalm 66:18
The Bible makes it clear that we all sin and sin breaks our fellowship with God. (1 John 1:5-10) Maintaining the open line of fellowship with God is the most important need we have in life. Before granting any other requests we make, God wants us to deal with sin that breaks our fellowship with Him.
God says no not to punish us, but to focus us on the greatest need we have – fellowship with Him.
2. We ask selfishly – James 4:3
Consequently, another reason God says no to us is because our request is self-focused rather than kingdom-focused. In the Model Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray for the accomplishment of His will and kingdom. (Matthew 6:9-13) God delights to give us things that advance His agenda, and He is loathe to grant us our selfish desires.
3. Our request is not good for us. – James 1:17
The verse above teaches us that God gives us whatever is good for us. The phrase “good gift” reminds us that God has given us anything good we already have. The phrase “perfect gift” teaches us that God will give us everything that could possibly be good for us.
Often God says no to us for our own good. I can think of specific times God said no to my request when I later looked back in thanksgiving.
4. The timing is not right. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11
Sometimes, God says no only for a season. He may intend to eventually grant our request, but He knows a future time will better serve His purposes. As Solomon observed, God makes everything beautiful in its time.
5. God wants to test our persistence. Luke 18:1-8
In the parable of the persistent widow and unjust judge, Jesus encouraged us to “always pray and not lost heart.” Since He enjoys our fellowship, sometimes God says no for a season to keep us in prayer. That time of seeming delay, however, is also for our good. During the season of delay, God is shaping us and building our faith in Him.
How to Respond When God Says No
1. Trust the goodness of God. Know that God has a very good reason for saying no to your request.
2. Examine your heart for lingering sinful attitudes and/or actions you have not addressed. Exercise 1 John 1:9, confess, receive cleansing, and move on in obedience.
3. Consider your motives for your request. Ask God to help you seek HIS kingdom first.
4. Continue to pray until you sense you have received God’s final “no.”
Do not lost heart when God says no, it may only be temporary. Even if not, you can trust His wisdom and goodness, and know He will give you what is best.
Full Article Can Be Found Here
Challenges are part of any ministry, yet some clergy thrive despite the inevitable setbacks. New research shows that their keys to success can be boiled down to a few simple strategies available to anyone.
Some clergy seem to rise above the fray.
They face the same sorts of challenges that are present in any church: critical congregants, hectic schedules, pressure to devote more time to others and thus minimal time to caring for themselves. They don’t always get it right; in fact, they’ll say they are far from having it all figured out. Yet they’re flourishing in ministry.
What sets them apart?
In a recent study, researchers at the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School (link is external) interviewed 52 church-appointed pastors about their daily lives and how they approach challenges, and invited them to complete a series of surveys and maintain a daily activity log for one week.
The participants were selected based on their responses to an earlier study of the predictors of positive and negative mental health in clergy, through which they had answered questions about components of positive mental health. Among the participants were clergy who had been identified as flourishing, with positive mental health scores at the highest levels, and those identified as languishing, with scores in the bottom third of the continuum.
When the researchers compared the new data from these two sets of pastors, they noticed important differences in how the two groups take care of themselves and orient their work. One factor stood out above the rest, however: flourishers attend to their well-being (link is external). In fact, the researchers found that 94 percent of clergy with flourishing mental health are intentional about spending time on personal care such as exercise, prayer, family relationships and hobbies.
The good news: the strategies they employ to achieve this balance are available to everyone, clergy and laity alike. These strategies can form a playbook of sorts for how to attain positive mental health.
“Some people, including some clergy, still feel that the very nature of clergy work sets pastors apart — that above all else, pastors are called to serve, so the human need to attend to oneself shouldn’t apply,” said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, the research director for the Clergy Health Initiative. “But this just doesn’t hold up. The flourishing pastors’ beliefs and actions show that applying intentionality and nurturing relationships with friends and family actually make all the difference.”
Flourishing clergy focus on working in alignment with God.
Strategy 1: Remember who it is that you serve.
Rather than looking for praise from the pews, aim to derive your sense of success from knowing you’re doing your all to enact the work God has called you to. Also, keep in mind that you are participating in a process — you are working with God, and God alone sees the full picture.
Strategy 2: Discern, discern, discern.
Create time for spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study to understand the work God is calling you to do.
Flourishing clergy are proactive and flexible in taking care of their physical and mental health.
Strategy 3: Prioritize healthy behaviors.
There is tremendous pressure to eat what is offered to you at church gatherings. Remind yourself that your congregants don’t want to make you unhealthy. Take smaller portions, and don’t feel awkward about it. Go to the doctor regularly; get annual checkups. Get outside. Ride bikes, play golf, or go for a walk every day and set a goal for the number of steps you want to log. Make healthy activities a priority, but also be flexible about how you incorporate those health behaviors into your daily routine. Pastors’ lives are too unpredictable to keep to the same habits all the time, but that doesn’t mean you have to dismiss your health goals.
Strategy 4: Invest in spiritual care.
Start each day by reading the Bible. If you’re traveling and can’t read along the way, listen to a devotion on an MP3 player or mobile device. Set aside time for prayer and one-on-one communion with God. Keep a regular Sabbath.
Strategy 5: Make time for personal interests.
In addition to pursuing the activities you care about, look for opportunities to incorporate them into your ministry.
Flourishing clergy are intentional about setting boundaries around their work and personal lives.
Strategy 6: Pick the time that works for you.
Schedule activities in functional blocks. Pick one night of the week when you will attend nighttime church meetings, and urge others to use this as a basis for scheduling. Set “office hours” for when you will be available at the church each week.
Strategy 7: Use space creatively.
One pastor described taking regular “office hours” in a local McDonald’s. This allows him to have space outside the church to connect with church members, as well as the broader community. To create distance from their work on an afternoon off, some pastors recommend going out of town — even if it’s only as far as the next town.
Strategy 8: Communicate clearly and regularly.
If you keep a Sabbath, include that information in the signature of your emails. If you have to say no to a request on your day off, offer an alternate time to help. Ask your congregants, staff and other key people about their top priorities for you, and share your own. Then discuss where your expectations diverge. Being honest about your gifts and limitations as a leader is important.
Strategy 9: Manage your technology.
Some pastors set a stop time every evening, after which they do not pick up incoming calls. These clergy say they check their voicemail and will respond if there’s an emergency, but by waiting for a message, they can determine whether a request needs to be addressed during off hours. Work with another pastor or spiritual leader who can be “on call” when you are off or away. Include that person’s contact information in your automatic email reply and your outgoing voicemail message.
Flourishing clergy nourish friendships and mutual relationships.
Strategy 10: Find support from other clergy.
Identify another pastor who can serve as a mentor. Form or join a peer or covenant group. Find at least one person in whom you can confide and from whom you can draw support in the face of ministerial and personal challenges.
Strategy 11: Seek out emotional support from family and friends.
Meet a friend for lunch, especially if you feel yourself getting down or low on energy. Create an annual ritual, such as a retreat with friends, to maintain important connections. Make yourself accountable to a close friend or spouse who knows the day-to-day stresses you’re facing; help each other maintain boundaries and healthy practices.
Those who set priorities and adjust their plans to attend to those priorities on a near-daily basis aren’t undone when difficult circumstances arise; they find their way through. They embrace challenges. They avoid symptoms of depression, anxiety and burnout. They flourish.
“If you’re wondering whether these basic strategies make a difference, they do,” Proeschold-Bell said. “Even though they sound like good common sense, they are hard to enact — but worth it. They are what differentiated flourishing pastors.”
Originally posted Here
THE ISSUE: Does current scientific data support the theory that the universe was created with intelligent design?
WHAT SKEPTICS SAY: Belief in an intelligent designer is a religious theory that has no basis in science. Scientific data supports evolutionary theory, and everyone knows it.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).
THE DESIGN HYPOTHESIS
“A big, fundamental question, like belief in God (or disbelief), is not settled by a single argument,” said physicist-turned-theologian John Polkinghorne in Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity. “It’s too complicated for that. What one has to do is to consider lots of different issues and see whether or not the answers one gets add up to a total picture that makes sense.”
That’s the approach I took in my investigation. I probed six different scientific disciplines to see whether they point toward or away from the existence of an intelligent designer.
When I opened my mind to the possibility of an explanation beyond naturalism, the theory denying any supernatural existence in the universe, I found that the design hypothesis — that says there is a purposeful, intelligent, created order to the universe — most clearly accounted for the evidence of science. Consider some of the facts from my investigation:
The Evidence of Cosmology
Thanks to scientific discoveries of the last 50 years, the ancient kalam cosmological argument has taken on a powerful and persuasive new force. As described by William Lane Craig, the argument is simple yet elegant: First, whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Second, the universe had a beginning. Based on the data, virtually all cosmologists now agree the universe began in the Big Bang at some specific point in the past. Craig stressed that even alternate theories for the origin of the universe require a beginning.
The conclusion then follows from the two premises: Therefore, the universe has a cause. Even once-agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow conceded the essential elements of Christianity and modern cosmology are the same: “The chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply, at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”
The Evidence of Physics
One of the most striking discoveries of modern science has been that the laws and constants of physics unexpectedly conspire in an extraordinary way to make the universe habitable for life. For instance, said physicist-philosopher Robin Collins, gravity is fine-tuned to one part in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion.
The cosmological constant, which represents the energy density of space, is as precise as throwing a dart from space and hitting a bull’s-eye just a trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter on Earth. One expert said there are more than 30 physical or cosmological parameters that require precise calibration in order to produce a universe that can sustain life.
The Evidence of Astronomy
Similar to the fine-tuning of physics, Earth’s position in the universe and its intricately choreographed geological and chemical processes work together with exquisite efficiency to create a safe place for humans to live.
For example, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and science philosopher Jay Wesley Richards said it would take a star with the highly unusual properties of our sun — the right mass, the right light, the right age, the right distance, the right orbit, the right galaxy, the right location — to nurture living organisms on a circling planet. Numerous factors make our solar system and our location in the universe just right for a habitable environment.
What’s more, the exceptional conditions that make life possible also happen to make our planet strangely well-suited for viewing and analyzing the universe and our environment. All of this suggests our planet may be rare, if not unique, and that the Creator wanted us to be able to explore the cosmos.
“If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision, we could never have come into existence,” said Harvard-educated astrophysicist John A. O’Keefe of NASA. “It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.”
The Evidence of Biochemistry
Darwin said, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Biochemist Michael Behe has demonstrated exactly that through his description of “irreducibly complex” molecular machines.
These complicated, microscopic contraptions, such as cilia and bacterial flagella, are extremely unlikely to have been built piece-by-piece through Darwinian processes, because they had to be fully present in order to function. Other examples include the incredible system of transporting proteins within cells and the intricate process of blood clotting.
More than just a devastating challenge to Darwinism, these amazing biological systems which far exceed the capacity of human technology point toward a transcendent Creator. “My conclusion,” said Behe, “can be summed up in a single word: design. I say that based on science. I believe that irreducibly complex systems are strong evidence of a purposeful, intentional design by an intelligent agent.”
The Evidence of Biological Information
The six feet of DNA coiled inside every one of our body’s one hundred trillion cells contain a four-letter chemical alphabet that spells out precise assembly instructions for all the proteins from which our bodies are made. Cambridge-educated Stephen Meyer demonstrated that no hypothesis has come close to explaining how information got into biological matter by naturalistic means.
On the contrary, he said that whenever we find a sequential arrangement that’s complex and corresponds to an independent pattern or function such as books and computer code, this kind of information is always the product of intelligence.
“Information is the hallmark of a mind,” Meyer said. “And purely from the evidence of genetics and biology, we can infer the existence of a mind that’s far greater than our own — a conscious, purposeful, rational, intelligent designer who’s amazingly creative.”
The Evidence of Consciousness
Many scientists are concluding that the laws of chemistry and physics cannot explain our experience of consciousness. Professor J.P. Moreland defined consciousness as our introspection, sensations, thoughts, emotions, desires, beliefs and free choices that make us alive and aware. The “soul” contains our consciousness and animates our body.
According to a researcher who showed that consciousness can continue after a person’s brain has stopped functioning, current scientific findings “would support the view that ‘mind,’ ‘consciousness,’ or the ‘soul’ is a separate entity from the brain.”
As Moreland said, “You can’t get something from nothing.” If the universe began with dead matter having no conscious, “how, then, do you get something totally different — consciousness, living, thinking, feeling, believing creatures — from materials that don’t have that?” But if everything started with the mind of God, he said, “we don’t have a problem with explaining the origin of our mind.”
This article can be found Here
5 Practices to Resist Temptation and Grow Stronger
- Recognize Your Tendency to Sin
James 1:14 explains that we are tempted when we become enticed by our own natural desires. The first step toward overcoming temptation is to recognize the human tendency to be seduced by our own fleshly desires.
Temptation to sin is a given, so don’t be surprised by it. Expect to be tempted daily, and be prepared for it.
- Flee From Temptation
The New Living Translation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 is easy to understand and apply:
But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.
When you come face to face with temptation, look for the way out—the way of escape—that God has promised. Then skedaddle. Flee. Run as fast as you can.
3. Resist Temptation With the Word of Truth
Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s Word is living and active. Did you know you can carry a weapon that will make your thoughts obey Jesus Christ? If you don’t believe me, read 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 One of these weapons is the Word of God.
Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations in the wilderness with the Word of God. If it worked for him, it will work for us. And because Jesus was fully human, he is able to identify with our struggles and give us the exact help we need to resist temptation.
While it can be helpful to read God’s Word when you’re being tempted, sometimes that’s not practical. Even better is to practice reading the Bible daily so that eventually you have so much of it on the inside, you are ready whenever temptation comes.
4. Refocus Your Mind and Heart With Praise
How often have you been tempted to sin when your heart and mind were fully concentrated on worshiping the Lord? I’m guessing your answer is never.
Praising God takes our focus off of self and puts it on God. You may not be strong enough to resist temptation on your own, but as you focus on God, he will inhabit your praises. He will give you the strength to resist and walk away from the temptation.
May I suggest Psalm 147 as a good place to start?
5. Repent Quickly When You Fail
In several places, the Bible tells us the best way to resist temptation is to flee from it (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). Yet still we fall from time to time. When we fail to flee from temptation, inevitably we fall.