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
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
One of the great struggles we have today in the Church is preserving our children in the Orthodox Faith. Too often they seem not to be interested. Can we somehow motivate our kids to be excited about following Christ and being Orthodox Christians? I believe there is a way. It takes commitment and hard work, but it’s worth it.
1. Make Your Family Your Priority
More important than anything other than the Kingdom of God is our family. I believe if we’re going to raise Orthodox Christian families, our spouses and children have to be our highest priority, next to Christ and His Church.
For the believer, our journey with Christ and His Church always comes first. On that matter, the Scriptures are clear, the Fathers are clear, and the Liturgy is clear. At least four times each Sunday morning we call to mind our holy and blessed God-bearer and all the saints, saying, “Let us commit ourselves and each other and all our life to Christ our God.” Our relationship with God comes first, our commitment to our family comes next, and our dedication to our work is third.
As parents, we need to make a vice-grip-firm commitment that above job, above our social life, above all the things that vie for our time, we will prioritize our families.
If you’re busy, find a way to compensate. I made appointments with my children. If your time is in heavy demand and you don’t block out time for the kids, you’ll never see them. If someone calls and has to see you, you say, “You know, Joe, I’ve got an appointment. I can see you tomorrow.” You decide to prioritize your family.
2. Tell Your Children of God’s Faithfulness
In Deuteronomy 4, Moses is talking to the children of Israel about the importance of keeping God’s commandments. And then he speaks directly to parents and grandparents: “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
Maybe you are a parent who came to Christ later in life and feel you didn’t do a good job spiritually with your kids, and now they have families of their own. Well, now you’ve got a crack at your grandkids! This opportunity does not mean that you become your grandchildren’s parent. But what you can do is tell those grandchildren what God has done for you, just like Moses says. Talk to them. If you’ve become more dedicated to Christ later in life, tell your grandkids about that. Tell them lessons that you’ve learned. Tell them real-life stories about God’s faithfulness and His mercy to you.
Moses goes on to explain the importance of such conversations by recalling what the Lord had said to him: “that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children” (Deuteronomy 4:10). Children who are rightly taught the Word of God will teach their own children.
And that is the same spirit we tried to keep in family prayer. When the kids were little, we read Bible stories to them every night. We would pray together. We did that all the way through, and as they got older we encouraged them to say their own prayers at night.
3. Love Your Spouse
Thirdly-and I can’t stress this enough-we do our kids a favor when we love our spouses. Psychologists tell us that even more important than a child feeling love from parents is for that child to know mom and dad love each other. Kids know instinctively that if love in marriage breaks down, there’s not much left over for them.
The beautiful passage that describes this love is in Ephesians 5. It’s the passage that we read as the epistle at our Orthodox weddings. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church”
(v. 25). That means, gentlemen, that we love her enough to die for her. We martyr ourselves to each other; that’s what the wedding crowns are about. I love my wife more than life itself. The crowns also speak of royalty. In my homily at the marriage of our younger son, I said, “Peter, treat her like a queen! Kristina, treat him like a king!” That arrangement works out really well.
4. Never Discipline Out of Anger
There are times when things go wrong, even badly wrong. I would love to tell you that none of our six kids ever missed a beat. Or that mom and dad were infallible. I don’t know of a family where that happens. I will say that on a sliding scale, three of our children were relatively easy to raise, three were more challenging. When some of them got stubborn in their teenage years, I would say to Marilyn, “Remember what we were like at that age? They’re no different than we were.” I was difficult as a teenager, and some of that showed up in our kids.
St. John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4). The opposite of that is also true. There is no greater heartache than when our children do not walk in truth. We’ve had a few big bumps in our family. There were nights my wife and I were both in tears as we tried to sleep. We would say, “Lord, is there light at the end of this tunnel?”
One of the verses I memorized out of the Old Testament early in my own parenthood was Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, / And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Let me assure you, that promise from God is true. There were days I wondered whether our family would stand before the Lord fully intact. Thank God for repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and grace.
Two of my daughters have come to me independently as adults and thanked me for holding their hands when I corrected them. They both had friends whose dads embarrassed their daughters, disciplining in a way that was probably too strong. I encourage fathers to guard against a discipline or correction that engenders wrath in your children. After the correction, give them a hug and let them know you love them.There are times when a father may need to refrain from discipline on the spot because he is angry. Remember that line from “The Incredible Hulk”? “You won’t like me when I’m angry.” If that’s true for a cartoon character, how much more is it true for a real-life dad?
5. Help Your Children Discern God’s Will
Let’s look again at Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The phrase, “in the way he should go,” is not speaking of the way you want him to go. Rather, it’s the way God wants him to go. In other words, taking into account that child’s gifts, his emotional makeup, his personality, his intellect, his calling, you help him discern the path God has for him.
I’m really pleased that Peter Jon is a seminarian and that Wendy’s husband is an Orthodox deacon. But I’m no more pleased with them than I am with Greg, who is a marketing guy, or with Terri, who is a mom of five, or with Ginger and Heidi, who both work outside the home to help their husbands provide for their sons.
To repeat, our job as parents is to try to discern with our children what God wants them to do, and then train them in that way. Whether their calling is in business or law or retailing or service to the Church, I want them to be the best they can be, for the glory of God. And by the way, all of us are in the ministry of Christ by virtue of our baptism. We are ordained as His servants-lay or clergy. Therefore, whatever we do, our goal is to do it for the glory of God.
These, then, are the steps we have tried to take with our children. Thank God, these measures have produced good fruit. At our stage in life, it is wonderful with just the two of us at home to think back over the years and to thank the Lord for children, spouses, and grandchildren who are faithful. There is nothing like it.
That doesn’t mean there will never be any more problems. I’m naïve, but not naïve enough to believe that. There may be bumps yet to come in our lives. But as we confess at our weddings, “The prayers of parents establish the foundations of houses.” These years are not kickback time, but they are a time of thanksgiving.
May God grant you the joy in raising your family in Christ that we have known in raising ours.
Read the full article 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
The Statistics actually Say “No”!
There are millions of people in smaller congregations across the country who live with a feeling that they are failures because their church isn’t as big as the megaplex congregation down the street. This is sad and should not be the case.
A global survey conducted by Christian Schwartz found that smaller churches consistently scored higher than large churches in seven out of eight qualitative characteristics of a healthy church. A more recent study of churches in America, conducted by Ed Stetzer and Life Way Ministries, revealed that churches of two hundred or less are four times more likely to plant a daughter church than churches of one thousand or more. The research seems to even indicate that the pattern continues—the smaller the size of the church the more fertile they are in planting churches.
It pains me that so many churches and leaders suffer from an inferiority complex when in fact they could very well be more healthy and fruitful than the big-box church down the street.
I am not suggesting that the mega church is something we need to end, I am simply saying that we need other kinds of churches to truly transform our world. I also do not want people in huge churches to think that just because they have more people and more money that they are more blessed by God. The stats tell us that ten smaller churches of 100 people will accomplish much more than one church of 1000.
Christian Schwarz says:
“The growth rate of churches decreased with increasing size. This fact in and of itself came as no great surprise, because in large churches the percentages represent many more people. But when we converted the percentages into raw numbers, we were dumbfounded. Churches in the smallest size category (under 100 in attendance) had won an average of 32 new people over the past five years; churches with 100-200 in worship also won 32; churches between 200-300 average 39 new individuals; churches between 300-400 won 25. So a ‘small’ church wins just as many people for Christ as a ‘large’ one, and what’s more, two churches with 200 in worship on Sunday will win twice as many new people as one church with 400 in attendance.”
Schwarz found that the average growth rate in smaller churches was 13% (over five years), whereas in larger churches it was a mere 3%. A small church in the NCD sample with an average attendance of fifty-one typically converted thirty-two persons in five years; megachurches in the NCD sample averaged 2,856 in attendance but converted only 112 new persons in five years. The same number of persons participating in fifty-six small churches averaging fifty-one in attendance would have produced 1,792 converts in five years.
I know such extrapolations in some ways mean little. I also know that conversions is not the whole picture. My point is that we need to stop seeing smaller churches as less successful. The trend currently is seeing the closing down of smaller churches as larger ones increase in size and number and I think this could be an alarming trend given the actual facts when we measure true influence.
When I mention statistics like these I am often criticized as being a mega church hater, and that is not fair. I am not a hater. I am not a bride-basher because I love the groom too much.
It is hard for me to feel sorry for the mega churches when this information confronts them given that they are so often lifted up as the height of success–often at the expense of the smaller church around the corner. My advice: Get over it. I am not thrashing the mega church here, I am simply saying that smaller churches are necessary, needed, and often more fruitful than we have been led to believe. And they often feel less significant in the shadows of their much larger sister around the corner. Lets look at the truth and accept it for what it is and strive to do whatever it takes to make a difference in this world.
If you review these maximums consistently, I’m sure you will live a life that matters.
I suggest that you use these maximums as your personal checklist. Check them periodically to see the items you need to improve, and make a personal commitment to apply them. Over time, you can measure your progress in applying these. If they are consequently applied it will result in a life that matters.
So here are the 25 maximums to help you live a life that matters:
1. Discover what matters to you – Plan it
Success overall has less to do with finding the best idea, organizational structure, or life model, than with discovering what matters to you. A Christ centered life is the best place to start.
2. Have the courage to do what matters – Make changes
You create enduring success not because you are perfect or lucky but because you have the courage to do what matters to you.
3. Don’t strictly rely on others’ approval – Please the Lord first
Successful people don’t rely on the approval of everyone to pursue their cause or calling. They are more emotionally committed to doing what they love than being loved by others. We do need godly counselors but not the opinion of people who have little wisdom or care for us.
4. Redefine success – A godly life that makes an impact
The real definition of success is a life and work that bring personal fulfillment and lasting relationships and makes a difference in the world in which they live.
5. Don’t chase money and recognition – Seek the Kingdom of God
Money and recognition are just outcomes of passionately working often on an entirely different objective that is often a personal cause or calling.
6. Recognize signs of passion – Use your passion to bless others
Achievers become lovers of an idea they are passionate about for years and years. They lose track of the passage of time while doing it. In a real sense, it’s something that they’d be willing to do for free, for its own sake. This may be something you will regret if you don’t pursue it at least a little bit.
7. Worry more about being what you love – Fear God more than man
Most of us worry more about being loved than being what we love. Being a people pleaser causes drift.
8. Check regularly whether you’re on the right track – Search me Oh God.
Planning always takes periodic adjustments to get you where you want to be. Don’t be afraid to tweak your plan from time to time.
9. Find your mission in life – What is your part in His plan?
To find your mission in life is to discover the intersection between your heart’s deep gladness and the Lord’s perfect plan.
10. Find place for your multiple passions – Plug into church and society
You do need to find a place for everything that is meaningful to you. When you exclude all other things except a single focus for your life, there is a danger that you might find it impossible to locate the real treasure.
11. Experiment with your other passions – Seek, ask and knock
Carve out a little time each week to experiment in some way with one of your other passions.
12. Never retire from what you love – You are always valuable unless you quit
Godly passions create meaning in our lives. It usually builds a legacy and memories.
13. Be yourself – Live your unique God plan
You shouldn’t hijack someone else’s life plan system. Seek your plan by prayer.
14. Do what matters despite popularity or political correctness – Go what is right before God
Doing things despite the political correctness of the path is the price of admission to almost every enduring life of lasting impact. Do what is right not what is popular or politically correct.
15. Have passion, determination, and skill – Be diligent
Life takes passion, determination, and skill. You can’t skip any of those three and expect to enjoy success that lasts.
16. Be greedy to acquire knowledge for your dream – Seek wisdom
If you should be greedy about anything, it should be about acquiring “intellectual capital” for your dream. Get wisdom and knowledge.
17. Recognize when to move – Seek the Spirit’s guidance
When you find that striving for excellence is unreachable or joyless, you may need to move onto something else. Fundamental things like marriage we should fight for but insignificant things can be left behind.
18. Have the right attitude toward difficulties – Rely on the Lord
Having many difficulties perfects the person; having no difficulties ruins the person. Embrace difficulties with a plan and a passion to change one’s self.
19. Make failure your friend – Learn in humility
Many highly accomplished people described themselves as so proficient at making mistakes that, if you didn’t know better, you might think they were losers. Enduringly successful people harvest failure. They become more resolute after losing a battle they believe in because they learn from the loss. Losers call it failure; winners call it learning.
20. Always make new mistakes – Don’t be hearers only but doers
When you make mistakes, just be sure to make new ones. A plan helps avoid old mistakes.
21. Have a prepared mind – Gentile as doves but shrewd as serpents
Only a prepared mind and open heart prevails. Being prepared give you a high degree of success.
22. Have clear goals – Consider the ants
The godly use planning and goals – often big goals – to put themselves into a opportune position.
23. Have explorer mentality – Don’t be an old wine skin
Be adventurous without ignoring the roadmap. Allow a little sightseeing on the way.
24. Surround yourself with “godly producers” – Seek Godly counselors
Successful people spent the largest percentage of their time tracking down, surrounding themselves with, and developing the people who are “godly producers”.
25. Get the inconsistent stuff out – Lose the meaningless
Alignment requires that you get out of your life all the stuff that is inconsistent with your passions and goal. That includes people, places, activities, and things. Choose wisely.
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path—Psalm 119:105
A long-time friend recently wrote me with some excitement that she had purchased her first study Bible. This surprised me, since she is solid Christian who holds a degree from an evangelical seminary. There are many ways to grow in our knowledge of God through the Bible, but I have found that a biblically-based study Bible is one of the best.
Christians should not only read but also study the Bible. Studying requires focused attention on what the books of the Bible reveal. One learns to follow the logic and narrative of a book’s presentation, determine what genre of literature is used by the writer, know the cultural background of the book, how one passage relates to other passages, and more. While there is a vast literature of books—academic and popular—written for a better understanding of Holy Scripture, the genre of a Study Bible offers the ardent Christian meaty resources for greater knowledge of “the living and active” Word of God (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
A study Bible contains the entire text of Scripture in one of many translations. To further understanding, it adds introductions to the books of the Bible, cross references, outlines of books, study notes, maps, diagrams, special essays on various topics, indexes, and more. (A study Bible differs from a Bible commentary in that the latter does not include the entire text of Scripture. It, rather, refers to and quotes from Biblical passages for the sake of the commentary.) The number of Study Bibles has multiplied in recent decades. Which ones are worth studying? Consider five basic principles.
First, one should use a Study Bible with a solid translation. Evangelicals scholars generally endorse The New International Version, The New American Standard Bible, The English Standard Bible, and (with some caveats), the King James Bible and the New King James Bible. A translation should be distinguished from a paraphrase, such as The Living Bible, The New Living Bible, or The Message. These works, while helpful in some cases, are not the texts from which one should study the Bible in earnest.
Second, Study Bibles worth studying are prepared by scholars worth reading. Most Study Bibles are prepared a team of scholars, who are listed near the front of the Bible. Scholars, who teach Evangelical institutions, such as Denver Seminary, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Talbot School of Theology, and others, are to be preferred. However, there are some solid biblical scholars who teach at more liberal institutions.
Other study Bibles are prepared by single authors, such as The MacArthur Study Bible (John MacArthur) or The Ryrie Study Bible (Charles Ryrie). When one man takes on one book as large, diverse, and consequential as the Holy Bible, he faces a daunting task. Nevertheless, it can be done well by some scholars, including the two mentioned just mentioned. On the other hand, The Scofield Reference Bible (C.I. Scofield, first published in 1909), while historically significant as the first American study Bible, was prepared by a man who never attended seminary. Much of the scholarship is out of date as well.
Third, the typesetting should be readable. As I get older, I am frustrated by how small the commentary text is in some study Bibles. If you strain to read some of the study material, then you are not likely to study it.
Fourth, while all study Bibles share common features—such as commentary, outlines, and introductions—they differ in the tools they offer and the perspective or emphasis they proffer. The emphasis may be obvious, as with The Archaeology Study Bible or The Apologetics Study Bible. The titles of some study Bibles give away their perspective, such as The Reformation Study Bible or The Spirit-Filled Study Bible (charismatic).
Fifth, some study Bibles are sparse on academic material, but are devotional in focus. The Bible itself is both intellectual gripping and devotionally rich, and a good study Bible should recognize this. However, do not expect much theological reflection or exegetical rigor in something like The Inspirational Study Bible by Pastor Max Lucado, whatever merits it may have, since it offers little to actually study.
For those who are zealous for examining the Bible in detail, learning its truths, making them known to the world, and applying them to live, consider several study Bibles.
General, multi-scholar works
- The NIV Study Bible. I have used this work more than any other. It was first published in 1985, and I have consulted it ever since. The study tools are robust and the scholars well-qualified. It was recently updated.
- The Zondervan NIV Study Bible. This features the most recent evangelical scholarship by leading scholars. It goes into more depth than The NIV Study Bible.
- The ESV Study Bible. An able work by conservative biblical scholars using the English Standard Version.
Single author works:
- The Ryrie Study Bible. Prepared by a long-time professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, it is Dispensational in focus, but much more supplicated and academic than the much earlier Dispensational work, TheScofield Reference Bible.
- The MacArthur Study Bible. Pastor John MacArthur has been teaching, preaching, and writing for over forty years. He is known for his strong—and sometimes controversial—stands on doctrine and for careful biblical preaching.
Special Emphasis Bibles
- The Reformation Study Bible. Reformed theology informs this work, which features excellent commentary and short essays on theological topics.
- The Apologetics Study Bible. The overarching theme is the rational defense of the Christian faith. Its notes and essays will equip the reader to defend the biblical worldview.
- The Spirit-Filled Bible. Written from a charismatic perspective. I find its short inserts on key biblical words particularly helpful.
- Walter Martin’s Cult Reference Bible. This out of print work, edited by the father of the evangelical counter-cult movement, brings together writers knowledgeable about cultic doctrine in relation to historic Christian orthodoxy. However, noble the goal and able the writers, the volume lacks adequate commentary and study helps.
Study Bibles Outside of Evangelicalism
- The Jewish Study Bible. While not Christian in orientation, this study of the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) is helpful in better understanding the Jewish mind about their sacred text.
- The Orthodox Study Bible. This underscores the relation of the Bible to Orthodoxy’s deep liturgy and its sacred tradition. One will find less material on biblical languages and exegesis than in the other study Bibles mentioned here.
- The Catholic Study Bible. Like Orthodoxy, Catholicism emphasizes church tradition more than Protestants (who affirm sola scriptura) and differs from it in key doctrines. Nevertheless, its contributors are able academically.
Study Bibles abound, and I have not mentioned all of them. Nevertheless, the principles and comments in this essay should help chart the way to learn more about Scripture through this method of study.
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