God Even Calls Broken Believers into Ministry Imageby Andy

I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with insecurity, anxiety, and sexual addiction, and my name is Andy.

I was raised in a wonderful home, the middle child of three brothers, and a son to a mom and a dad who loved their children dearly. My parents both grew up in homes with alcoholic fathers who would occasionally turn abusive. Due to this, my parents endured a great deal of dysfunction growing up but promised each other that their children would grow up in a stable home. Mom and Dad achieved this to the best of their ability. They gave my brothers and me a home where we were loved, and they raised us to work hard and always do our best.

Growing up I became quite competitive with my siblings, particularly my older brother. When I compared myself to him I always felt like I fell short somehow, and I began to deeply resent him and became jealous of him. I wanted to show him that I was better than him, that somehow I had worth and value. It would mean that…

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Thirsty

By Celebrate Recovery

Thirsty - Waterfall Imageby John Eklund

I am not really much of an outdoorsman.

So when my brother-in-law, Luke, suggested a weekend camping trip along the Appalachian Trail, I resisted. I’m quite fond of roofs, mattresses, refrigeration, and indoor plumbing. I really like indoor plumbing. Conversely, I am not such a fan of malaria, poisonous snakes, poisonous spiders, and poison ivy. I pretty much like to avoid anything poisonous. He shrugged off my quick refusal, challenged my manhood, and began painting pictures in my imagination rivaling the best L.L. Bean and Cabela’s catalog covers. The next thing I knew I was trudging up the side of a mountain with a hastily purchased army surplus rucksack bouncing heavily against my back.

Luke had mapped out our trip, meticulously gauging and packing the precise amount of supplies we would need for our journey. We planned to hike up to and then down the trail several miles, make camp, and spend the night. We would wake up early, make for a spring that marked our halfway point, refill on water, and spend the rest of our final day trekking back to the start.

The first day went as…

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Television

We think all the time. We observe, record, and process information faster than any computer on earth. And we store information and imagery better, too.

The human brain is absolutely amazing in its capability to capture and catalog things.

And what we take into our minds definitely influences what comes out in our lives. Our habits are the results of our actions, which are the results of our thoughts.

So be choosy when it comes to what you allow into your mind.

Be discriminating. Don’t just allow anything and everything to filter into your mind.

I read a book one time called Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. It’s about how advertisers compete for your attention. Whether you realize it or not, everybody wants to get your attention, usually for the purpose of profit.

So it’s up to you to take control of your thought life. Second Corinthians 10:5 says, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).

Guard your mind and be disciplined in the way that you think.

There are four kinds of material that you can fill your mind with.

1. Poison.

Poison includes pornography, the occult, trashy novels, things that blaspheme God, and anything that is bad for…

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Growth of a Plant

The world needs the influence of the church more than ever before. And, at least in Western culture, the church faces many significant struggles as it seeks to influence its surrounding culture.

The solution, at its root, is to plant, grow, and build as many healthy, vibrant local churches possible — churches that believe and teach the biblical Good News about Jesus.

In other words, the growth of the church is for the good of the entire world, so your church needs to grow!

But how?

There are plenty of answers in terms of systems and methodologies, models and approaches. But before we go about the reshaping of the structure or ministry of a church, we first need to experience a change in our mindset.

You must develop an unshakable conviction about growth.

An opinion is something you’ll argue about; a conviction is something you’ll die for.

You need to settle the issue that God wants his church to grow. All living things grow. If a church is alive, it grows. Growing a healthy church is hard work, and unless you clarify your convictions, you’re going to be tempted to give up.

You have to develop this conviction because:

Ministry is full of stressful moments. Sometimes it’s conflict between members or staff. Sometimes it’s just the week after a high-attendance Sunday, like Easter, and we’re concerned about following up.

We all face a variety of issues in ministry that raise our blood pressure. Fortunately, we’ve got a great model for ministry in Jesus.

His life was under constant demands. Crowds were always pressing up against him, asking him to take care of their needs. He was misunderstood and criticized by religious people. Sound familiar?

But through it all, Jesus never got depressed or discouraged. He never gave up.

How did he manage to be at peace under pressure? And how can you experience that kind of peace, too?

1. Know who you are.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12 NIV).

More than 18 times in the Bible Jesus says, “I am . . .” and then gives a descriptor. He was always defining himself. He was saying, “I know who I am.” There was no doubt about it. As…

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Pastor, you may have a large crowd of attendees on Sunday morning—and still not have a congregation. The fact is that the crowd must become a church. People must be assimilated.

Assimilation is simply the task of moving people from an awareness of your church, to attendance at your church, and then to active membership in your church.

  • The Community talks about “that church.”
  • The Crowd talks about “this church.”
  • The Congregation talks about “our church.”

Members have a sense of ownership. They are contributors, not just consumers.

Because the incorporation of new members into your church does not happen automatically, you have to develop a system and structure to assimilate and keep the people you reach. At Saddleback, our system is composed of two parts.

The first part of our assimilation system is a set of questions we ask ourselves:

  1. What does God expect from members of his church?
  2. What do we expect from our members right now?
  3. What kind of people already make up our congregation?
  4. How will that change in the next five to 10 years?
  5. What do our members value?
  6. What are new members’ greatest needs?
  7. What are our long-term members’…

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Crosses on a Hill

On Easter Sunday, churches around the world invite their communities to come in and listen to two big, bold claims. First, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world, died for their sins and then came back from the dead. And second, that anyone who puts their trust in the risen Jesus will live forever.

That’s a lot to take in for someone who has never given serious thought to the Good News of Jesus before. So when people find their way into your congregation on this very important Sunday, remember how vital it is to practice the ministry of hospitality and be good hosts to spiritual seekers.

Obviously, we should be preparing for the evangelistic opportunity of Easter Sunday long before the big day, but there are still some things you can do in the last 24 to 48 hours leading up to your Easter weekend services that can make a big difference in how effectively you reach people.

1. Do one last big promotional push on social media.

It’s easy and affordable to sponsor an ad on most major social networks. Advertising for Easter Sunday several weeks in…

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God is Good

By Kareena

I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with co-dependency and with love and relationship addiction.

My childhood was filled with rejection, abandonment, and abuse. My biological mom left my sister and me with our dad when I was 8 months old. Growing up, I was physically abused by my stepmom and sexually molested by a step-sibling from the age of 6 until I was 12. The molestation stopped when a relative alerted authorities, but no charges were pressed because someone said it was untrue. I was taught not to talk about it, to act like those six years never happened. Putting on a mask, I tried to be “normal.”

At 19, I married a seemingly charming man. My husband soon showed that he was a verbally abusive and controlling alcoholic. Degrading insults, getting drunk, and punching holes through walls were common events. After 14 months of marriage, I got the courage to say that I wanted out.

Four years later, I married Joe, whom I’d met online. After two years of infertility, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. Around that same time, we went to church with relatives although…

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By Scott Kemp, North Central Regional Director

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and my God!” (Psalm 43:5 NLT).

I recently became ill and was eventually diagnosed with influenza A. As I sank deeper into the illness, a real sense of hopelessness began to rise up in my mind. I started getting delusional and began to think:

“I sure hope the doctor can give me something to make me feel better.”

“I sure hope I can get better in time for that special event this weekend.”

“I sure hope I make it through this!”

The fear and anxiety generated by the infection were real, and that hopeless feeling slowly became depressing. Turning on the TV during my recovery, I quickly realized how hopeless the world can be, too. We humans are hurrying to fill our empty lives with “stuff.” Abuse, addiction, illness, and broken relationships surround us. It’s so easy to lose heart. I began to feel doubtful about myself and began bathing in self-pity. I desperately needed some encouragement and hope.

As I lay on the couch feeling sorry…

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If you want to flourish in life, you’ve got to believe the best about God and cultivate your trust in him.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 tells us, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and has made the Lord his hope and confidence. He is like a tree planted along a riverbank, with its roots reaching deep into the water—a tree not bothered by the heat nor worried by long months of drought. Its leaves stay green, and it goes right on producing all its luscious fruit” (TLB).

Life is difficult. It’s tough. This passage mentions two kinds of difficulties we can face: heat and drought.

Heat represents the sudden crises of life. Heat comes on suddenly. The accident. The cancer. The death. Somebody walks out of your life. It’s a sudden crisis. How do you handle the heat in your life, when the heat is on?

Then there is drought. Drought represents long periods of time when you must go without something you feel you need.

You’re out of work. You’re out of income. You’re out of energy. Somebody walks out of your life. You’re going without. How do you handle those kinds of…

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Man Praying

We’re looking for better methods, machinery, and motivations, which are all okay, but God is looking for people to use. He is looking for leaders.

And for God to use the leaders, they must be men and women of God.

We have a sample of a leader’s prayer in the book of Nehemiah. You can learn a lot about people by the kinds of prayers they pray.

Remember that Nehemiah, when he first heard about the downfall of Jerusalem, prayed for four months before taking action. This is not just a casual prayer. The prayer we’re going to look at this week is just a sample prayer he prayed. It gives us a pattern for successful praying. If you want to know how to pray as a leader, study the book of Nehemiah, and particularly examine the prayer Nehemiah prays in the first chapter.

Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah.

1. Base your requests on God’s character.

Pray like you know God will answer you . . .

I’m expecting you to answer this prayer because of who you are. You are a faithful God. You are a great God. You are a…

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In Nehemiah 5, the Israelites faced conflict for one of the same reasons we do today: selfishness. So, what can we learn from Nehemiah about handling conflict?

1. Take the problem seriously. (v. 6)

Nehemiah didn’t ignore the problem; he took it seriously. When the unity of your church gets challenged, it’s your job to protect that unity. It’s serious business.

In times like this, a certain level of anger is completely appropriate and right. Leadership means knowing the difference between the right kind of anger and the wrong kind of anger.

2. Think before you speak. (v. 7)

If you only do step one and ignore step two, you’ll get in lots of trouble. Nehemiah 5:7 says, “I pondered them in my mind” (NIV). Nehemiah stopped, got alone with God, and thought about what he was going to do. He asked God, “What do you want me to do?”

You should get angry when disunity threatens your church, but you have to think before you act. You can’t just act on that anger. James 1:19-20 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God…

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