Archives For Discipleship

Infinite Memory

By Steve Woodruff

Walking last evening in mid-town Manhattan, I was struck, as always, by the vast multitude of people, walking past and with me from all directions. At most, I will “know” these people in the fleeting depth of one glance, barely registering on my consciousness; soon unseated in my very limited memory by a million other sights and sounds and ideas and thoughts.

A chance visual encounter, never to be repeated; a passing glimpse that doesn’t even qualify as a passing acquaintance.

Yet – God, the Creator of us all, knows every one of those people down to the deepest atom of their bodies and souls. Every word, every thought – every moment of their lives. And millions of others in cities large and small throughout the world – towns and villages, too. And every one of our ancestors, generation after generation backwards through time – God knows and has known every person, every event, with undimmed clarity.

He even knows the unborn before we do. And the generations yet to come.

And that’s just our tiny little world. Now multiply by billions of galaxies, with countless trillions of stars – each of which God can recall by name.

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LaughingI hope the people at your church know it is okay to smile every once in a while.  Even laugh occasionally (but not during the pastor’s sermon, please!).  Sometimes I think we take the things that happen at church a bit too seriously.

Do you know what I mean?

No, I’m not talking about things like sin or theology or repentance or anything like that.  Certainly those things have their place and should always be taken quite seriously, indeed.

Actually, I’m talking about the lighter things that happen in and around your church.  Like the things that appear in your Sunday morning church bulletin, for example.

Rarely does anyone ever create the Sunday bulletin and then run it by the pastor or a few sanctified editors for things like punctuation, clarity, etc…but maybe we should.  Why do I say that, you ask?  Well, read the following list of actual church bulletin bloopers and you’ll understand why.

These are funny, embarrassing, hilarious, and…oh, just read them yourself.  Enjoy, and share them with someone at your church who needs a good laugh!

  1. Due to the Rector’s illness, Wednesday’s healing services will be discontinued until further notice.
  2. Bertha Belch, a missionary from…

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SunsetGrowing up, I played a fair amount of golf. My parents would drop me off in the morning and pick me up later that afternoon.

Many days, I was by myself, just me and the narrow fairways.

There’s something epic about that picture to me, even now. Here’s the picture:

A 12 year old beating buckets of range balls on the dew-soaked ground until his hands callous over while the sun comes up. Walking 9 hours on a golf course by himself, evaluating every shot, pouring over every sliding putt. Kicking himself every drive that trickled into the second cut of rough. Spending hours on the putting green engraining that perfect putting stroke.

Gotcha fooled

And I’d love to say that that was the real picture. But more often than not, halfway through the first bucket of range balls, I’d decide to call it quits and just start my round. By hole 5, instead of lining up every putt, I would try to break my speed record of how quickly I could finish the hole.

It wasn’t gritty. It wasn’t hard, disciplined work. There was nothing epic about it. No Braveheart music was playing in the…

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I found out recently that one of my most faithful, trusted leaders and his family is being relocated due to a job transfer. It was really hard news to hear. This is a man who has taught for me, led classes, counseled hurting individuals and families as well as done everything from cooking to cleaning to repair work around the church for the past 10 years. I not only appreciate him, I love him.

My friend and I were talking, knowing that his final Sunday was coming, and he asked if I knew of any “good” churches in the city where he is being relocated. I thought about the churches and pastors that I was familiar with in the area and began to list them one by one describing what I thought to be their strengths and weaknesses. He was familiar with some of the churches from co-workers, had visited a few already, and I could tell that he was rather nervous about starting the process of looking for a new church home. We walked away from each other with a promise to pray, “put out feelers,”…

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(Editor Note: When our son, Jeremy, died at birth, we were blessed, yet surprised, by the number of infertile couples who reached out to us. Ministry to these couples is often overlooked; yet, it is truly important. You may find there is a fairly large group in your community who suffer in silence. Consider reaching out to them. jon walker)

In a recent Huffington Post article, Melanie Notkin writes about her “secret grief” of being single and childless. There, Notkin — who wants to marry — references the seeming difference in response a single woman receives and a married woman receives. Similarly, Courtney Reissig posted a blog about her current infertility journey and the challenges that come with it. Both articles are telling. Even though they are on this journey for different reasons, both Notkin and Reissig refer to the pain and grief that seem to be traveling partners on the road of childlessness.

According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that 15 percent or 4.3 million married women in the United States have impaired fecundity. That is, they either…

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This article is dedicated to Bill Hybels.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with questions or known someone who was?

A few years ago I was faced with this situation for the first time. It was one of the most memorable cups of coffee I’ve ever shared with a college student. Let’s call her Kelsey.

She sat down across from me at a table outside, frazzled. She hadn’t slept much that week due to homework. Not given to her by a university professor, but by me. One week prior to this, I challenged Kelsey with an assignment to write down all the questions she was wrestling with.” And she did.

Now, avoiding small talk, she went straight to the point, unzipping her backpack to pull out a notepad.

“Where do I start?” she sighed with desperation in her voice.

Pushing her coffee aside, she thumbed through the notebook. Page after page was filled with questions scribbled every which way. It reminded me of the movie poster for The Number 23, starring Jim Carey, whose face was covered with twos and threes scribbled in ink. Kelsey’s face might as well have been covered with question marks….

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Prayer problems fall into two major categories:

(1) things that are wrong in your attitudes or actions; or
(2) things that can interfere with your concentration and hinder the effectiveness of your time alone with God.

Attitudes and Actions Which Hinder Prayer

  • Wanting your own will and not God’s will. (1 John 5:14).
  • Selfishness and wrong motives (James 4:2-3).
  • Unforgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24).
  • Lack of harmony at home or peace with spouse, children, relatives (1 Peter 3:7).
  • Disobedience (1 John 3:22).
  • Lack of faith (James 5:15).
  • Failing to know God’s Word and to abide in Christ (John 15:7).
  • Impure thoughts, hypocrisy, jealousy, guilt, worry, discouragement, critical spirit, frustration, or aimlessness.
  • Loss of your “first love” (Revelation 2:4).
  • Lukewarmness (Revelation 3:16).
  • Critical or judgmental attitude (Matthew 7:1-5)

Overcoming Hindrances to Prayer

If you are distracted:

  • Pray each time you start that God will keep distractions away.
  • Ask the Lord to show you how to avoid distractions.
  • Is there a better time or place for your appointment with God?
  • Have paper and pen handy so you can jot down anything you need to do later.
  • Telephone interruptions can be handled with an answering machine; by taking the phone off the hook; or by letting people know you won’t be available during your…

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BudgetQuick tell me your plan for the offering this weekend.  If you are like most church leaders you have not given the offering a thought.  About the only time church leaders think about the offering is after it has been taken up and we are disappointed with the results.

Giving as a percentage of Americans incomes to the church has fallen from 3.11% to 2.38%.  Could one reason be that we are not taking the offering seriously?  For most churches about the only thought that goes into the offering is who will lead the prayer and perhaps where in the order of service it will go.  To increase giving to your church you need to change how you approach the offering.  Here are some thoughts.

First, stop treating the offering as an intrusion to worship and see it for what it is meant to be, worship.  My belief is that most church staffs see the offering as a necessary evil.  We know we have to pass the plate to get money but it takes valuable time out of our order of worship.  If you have that kind of thinking…

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SignJ. Oswald Sanders describes the process of qualifying as spiritual leaders:

Spiritual leaders are not made by election or appointment, by men or any combination of men, nor by conferences or synods. Only God can make them. Simply holding a position of importance does not constitute one a leader, nor do taking courses in leadership or resolving to become a leader. The only method is that of qualifying to be a leader. Religious position can be conferred by bishops and boards, but not spiritual authority, which is the prime essential of Christian leadership. That comes often unsought to those who in earlier life have proved themselves worthy of it by spirituality, discipline, ability, and diligence, men who have heeded the command: “Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.” and instead have sought first the kingdom of God {and His righteousness}. Spiritual leadership is a thing of the Spirit and is conferred by God alone. When His searching eye alights on a man who has qualified, He anoints him with His Spirit and separates him to his distinctive ministry… (Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, pp 18-19)

In every…

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One of the biggest mistakes I have made through the years in ministry is ‘doing’ ministry rather than equipping others to do ministry.  I would often tell myself, “I’m the only one who can do this”, or “If I want it done right, I have to be in the middle of it.”  One of the biggest traps was feeling that “This is what is expected of me in this position.”  I’ve talked to many other ministers who have fallen into the same traps.  It seems as though we have a martyr complex or an extreme need to feel needed.  This drives us to ‘do’ more than we should and ‘equip’ others less.  We rationalize that everything I am doing are good things.  Amd the truth is they probably are good things.  But your good things may be someone elses ‘God’ things.  By not letting go we overwork orselves and rob someone else of what they were made to do.  On the bright side, this leads to a type of job security when we make ourselves indispensable.  But this is a short term approach to ministry because we can’t…

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BibleOur church is one of over 4,500 that are participating in the 40 Days in the Word campaign. One reason I believe this campaign to spend 40 days focused on God’s word is both timely and needed is because America has a Biblical illiteracy problem.

In the land of the Gideon’s, people aren’t getting the Good Book, but it’s not lack of Bibles that has caused the problem. It could be that there is just too much saturation.

The familiar observation that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time obscures a more startling fact: the Bible is the best-selling book of the year, every year. 

-Daniel Radosh

25 million bibles are sold annually in the US or if that number sounds too obscure think about it like this: 6 bibles are sold for every 1 baby born in the US each year. 91% of American households own at least 1 Bible and the average number of bibles per household is 4. It has been estimated that we spend over half a billion dollars every year on Bibles in the US alone. Perhaps the Bible has simply become too common. Yet all…

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