Like many of you I have been watching and enjoying this quadrennial sporting event. We’re glued to the tube, not only because there are few other good TV options, but also because there is something about the Olympic spirit that also touches our spirits. Watching the world’s top athletes at the top of their form encourages each one of us to be “the best me I can be.” This year, instead of just dreaming about your physical potential, consider these 4 spiritual questions as well.
How is my team participation? My favorite Olympic events are the ones that are played together. No matter how great the individual effort, the team depends on the ability of the individuals to play well together. God did not intend for us to live individual spiritual lives either. He gave us the church not only so that we might worship together, but also that we might do life together! The Bible describes the church as a body: “Together you form the body of Christ and each one of you is a necessary part of it.” Ask yourself: “Am I living my spiritual…Continue Reading
“I believe that God is directing me to ____________________.” How do you handle that in a small group? Whether the group member feels led to quit his job, move to another state, or end a relationship, how do you help your group member discern the truth?
From the very beginning, God has been in relationship with people. Today, we’re not walking in the garden with God in the cool of the day or getting inspiration to write new books of the Bible, but God does speak to us. The question is how do we know that it’s actually God and not wishful thinking or indigestion? Here are some tests for what you might be hearing:
1. What does the Bible say?
As followers of Christ, we believe that the Bible is God’s Word. All truth is God’s truth, certainly. But, any direction attributed to God must square up with God’s Word. God isn’t going to contradict Himself. That wouldn’t make any sense.
Let’s say your group member feels closest to God in nature, so he feels led to quit his job and spend more time…Continue Reading
Better yet, kneel there. Be there.
It’s easy to switch the verbs in the old, accusatory challenge to do something — anything — rather than stand around. Lots of preachers, speakers and writers invert the familiar phrase to encourage us to slow down and be still. But it’s hard for us action-oriented Americans to stop and just be. Inaction, even for a moment, seems lazy, unproductive, even weird. We should be multitasking.
Stillness? It’s a little scary.
Yet stillness is where we meet God. To be His heart, His hands and His voice — IMB’s overarching theme for 2012 — we must lay aside the sound and fury of our ceaseless activities, our personal priorities and our very selves to encounter Him. We need His heart to make a difference in the world, not our divided, selfish hearts. His hands do the healing, not our powerless hands. His voice cuts to the core of searching souls, not our meaningless chatter.
“If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me,” Jesus says. “For whoever wants to save his…Continue Reading
Pastor, you will always have critics, and you will always have fans. At the end of the day, you need to have the guts to believe neither, but rather to allow your affirmation to flow only from the truth God has declared about you in His Word.Continue Reading
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. Psalms 4:1 (NASB)
Lord, we’re desperate for you. We’re bunched up in confusion, moving by impulse and fear, flitting here and there like a frenzied flock caught in the wilderness of the far country.
We are here! We are here!
We know you hear; you’ve heard us before; you’ve swept in like shock and awe and saved us from our hopeless paralysis.
Do it again, O, Holy One; we are desperate for you. How long will you make us wait?
And you speak to us God, saying, “Yes, how long? How long must I wait while you wear my grace and peace like some cheap cloak bought at the secondhand store? How long must I wait while you chase after worthless things, like birds pushed by a winter’s wind? How long must I wait while you live out a lie because you think you’ve found the truth in something – or someone – other than me?”
Oh God, I hear your heart. You set me apart; yet,…Continue Reading
By Russell D. Moore
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Mother’s Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.
It is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize, though, that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings, longings that are good.
Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have…Continue Reading
Earlier this month, Sandy and I spent a couple of relaxing days at Cape May, N.J., where the houses are Victorian, the breezes are fresh, and the beaches are wide. The only downer was the vicious cold I developed just in time for our little getaway. But even that couldn’t take away from the loveliness of our stay.
Actually, I used to be much more of a “downer” person. My tendency is to be introspective, perfectionist, even negative — and when looking within my own soul, I could catalog 10 thousand reasons why I didn’t measure up. I would stare within and find an awful lot not to like. Ever been there? I lived there.
Fact is, there’s always plenty of defect and stupidity and sin brewing around in our minds and hearts. Our actions, our desires, our thoughts, our words — they never do match up to the perfect standard of God’s . Not even close.
At Cape May, you can walk the wide beaches, and the sand seems almost infinite. Imagine trying to count not merely the smooth little stones that wash up but every grain of sand!…Continue Reading
The list could go on.
Pastors are constantly faced with practical questions. What to do has become the driving force of ministry, and as a result we spend our time trying to figure out how to do it. A vast majority of seminars and conferences today are focused on the “how”. Strategy is the name of the game and the equipment for playing is resourcefulness, creativity and innovation.
When faced with a question of what to do we immediately turn to the equipment above. Unfortunately, what this often means is that our strategy is determined by us, rather than God. In a sense, we lead as functional deists, believing God has left us to do his work in the here and now. By including one key piece of equipment in our strategic method we can help reorient our “how” under the authority and guidance of God. The piece of equipment that needs to be added is…Continue Reading
“’And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,’ says the Lord. ‘But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.’” (Jeremiah 45:5 NKJV)
“Once you get into the real world, you’ll find it’s not as easy as that.”
“You’re in for a rude awakening when you get out of here and into real life.”
These are things we might say to students who’ve never experienced life outside of school. But the truth is, even after we graduate, we still haven’t reached our real life in Christ.
We become real, healed, full human beings when we connect with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Until then, we’re still sending postcards from a fantasy life.
Our maturity in Jesus brings us closer and closer to real life, as established by God before he set the foundations of the world.
Thomas Merton, the prayer-centered monk, spoke in terms of life in the nasty-now-and-now being like an onion. God keeps peeling away the layers until the real you is revealed.
In a sense, God is explaining that when he says, “I will bring adversity on all flesh” (Jeremiah 45:5 NKJV)….Continue Reading
“How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:1–2 NIV)
“Getting ready to go to church.”
What emotions does that phrase evoke in your family? In your heart? Your mind? The psalmist yearned for the next time he could be in God’s house, worshiping with God’s people. Do you anticipate meeting with God this weekend at church? How are you getting prepared? You do know, of course, that if you’re not in church, you can’t meet with him there. So first of all, get to church this weekend! God set a day apart every seven days not just for physical rest, but also for worshiping God with God’s people because he knew we needed it! He also commanded it.
Second of all, where’s your Bible? I hope you have already done so by now, but if you haven’t, go find it! Dust that thing off. Take it with you to church. The Bible calls itself “God’s Word” and also “the Sword of the Spirit.” Who would want to leave home without that?
Third, begin to get spiritually prepared. Spend a…Continue Reading
I’ve just recently read “Mud, Sweat and Tears,” an autobiography by adventurer Bear Grylls. In case you’re not familiar with Grylls, he’s the star of TV’s “Man vs. Wild.” During each show, Grylls is dropped in some of the toughest terrains on Earth and then has to find his way back to civilization. Highlights so far have included him sleeping inside the hollowed-out carcass of a dead camel, paddling a tiny self-made raft through shark-infested seas, and wrestling a wild boar to the ground.
But the book’s account of his life story is even more intense than the TV show. We read of his gruelling SAS training (the daring special forces unit for the UK army) and breaking his back parachuting during a mission. Remarkably, after his recovery from this devastating event, he set his mind on a new goal and successfully became the youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest. Incidentally, there are some nice insights into his faith in Christ running throughout the book, too.
I might actually be the complete opposite of Bear Grylls. Any thought I ever had of parachuting, building a…Continue Reading