Testimony: Silence the Lies You Believe With God’s Truth

Since before I can remember, before I even knew what the word “lust” meant, I was immersed in it. Around the age of six, I was acting out in lust with self-gratification. It controlled me, and no one knew about it. Hi, I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, I struggle with lust, control issues, codependency, and fear of failure, and my name is Julia.

At a young age, I remember being taught, mostly through the T.V. and movies, that love, being loved, and being in a relationship was the most important thing in life. Even growing up in a Christian world, I felt that lie was perpetuated as I came to believe that marriage would complete me and that it’s where my identity belongs.

I was six years old when I stumbled into self-gratification. I didn’t really understand what I was doing or the implications of it. All I remember is somehow feeling like what I was doing was bad. As I got older, the “bad” feeling grew into shame.

You see, I went to a private Christian high school, where we would frequently…

Continue Reading

He Knows Our Needs

By Andy Petry, National Director of The Landing

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Matthew 6:8 (NIV)

Adversity and discouragement seem to go hand in hand. Whether they come in the form of hard medical diagnosis, some sort of family crisis, financial troubles, addiction and dysfunctional behaviors, or a world-wide pandemic, tough times can zap our strength, courage, and resolve, and can leave us feeling exhausted and defeated. Thinking back on this past year, I’ve had to admit that I’ve been pushed and stretched in a lot of different ways that I didn’t expect, nor want. And while I wouldn’t have chosen it myself (I don’t think any of us would’ve either), one undeniable fruit of this tough time has been that it’s forced me to press in the Lord and my own recovery journey. It’s taught me again just how much God is aware of our situation, how he works in the midst of it all, and how he gives us what we need to grow more into the image of Jesus.

I learned the Lord’s Prayer as I grew up in the church and…

Continue Reading

Helping People Through Grief

Pastor, the reality is that some of the people you lead will never deal directly with their grief. They’ll stuff it, push it down, and pretend it’s not there. And they’ll miss out on God’s best for their lives because they can’t move past the pain.

Many people believe the myth that God wants us to walk around with a smile all the time—and ignore the pain so no one knows when we’re hurting. But the Bible doesn’t say that anywhere! 

In fact, Jesus taught the opposite. In Matthew 5:4, he says, “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (NLT). 

Because grief is an appropriate response to pain, we need to help our congregations discover how to grieve in healthy ways. 

This is particularly important right now. Since the beginning of this pandemic, you’ve likely had people in your congregation who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. But they’ve also lost jobs, important relationships, and meaningful routines. It’s important for them to grieve all these losses.  

Yet we need to help our congregations grieve…

Continue Reading

How God Helps Us Walk Through Grief

As we head into the holidays, I know many of you are either walking through grief yourselves or helping others walk through their grief. Anyone who has lost loved ones in 2021 will feel the loss particularly hard this season as they face the first Thanksgiving and first Christmas without them. 

The “holiday blues” isn’t a myth. It’s a reality for many.

But grief doesn’t need to be the end of the story. In fact, God wants to bless us in the middle of our grief. 

Jesus said, “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4 NLT). That seems like an impossible statement. How can God bless your life while you’re grieving? By comforting your broken heart.

In the Bible, I’ve discovered six ways God helps us with our grief:

God draws us close to himself.

When you grieve, it often feels like God is a million miles away. But not everything you feel is true. God isn’t aloof when you’re in your worst pain. He never leaves you….

Continue Reading

Interesting sermons capture the interest of your listeners. That’s why I think it’s wrong to bore people with the Bible. When they hear a sermon that doesn’t engage them, they often think the message is boring—and they think God is too. 

As preachers, our message is too important to deliver in a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. 

Paul tells us in Colossians 4:5-6, “Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have. Your speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone” (GNT). You’re wise when you strive to be interesting when you preach.

So how do you keep your messages interesting and keep listeners engaged? There are two ways to do this:

Vary your delivery of the message.

The difference between a good sermon and a great sermon is delivery. I’ve preached the same message to multiple services and multiple audiences for years, and I’ve seen the difference my delivery has made. So, even though it may be the same material, how…

Continue Reading

Spiritual growth isn’t a solo affair. We grow in community. You can read the Bible on your own. You can memorize a verse on your own. But you can’t grow spiritually by yourself. 

The New Testament uses the phrase “one another” 58 times. We’re told to care for one another, pray for one another, help one another, and so on. But our church members can’t do any of those things if they’re not involved in small groups.  

True growth happens with other people. That’s why, when we do spiritual growth campaigns at Saddleback, small groups are at the heart of them. In fact, spiritual growth campaigns are a factory for creating healthy small groups. 

So, how can you leverage spiritual growth campaigns to get more people connected in small groups?

First, provide great small group content. 

For many years, I emphasized the wrong aspect of small groups as I tried to encourage people to get plugged-in. I would tell them that small groups will help them build relationships. But that didn’t motivate the response I was looking for, because most people have plenty of relationships and feel…

Continue Reading

By Nita

I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with grief. My name is Nita.

In August 2017, our thirty-year-old son died of a drug overdose. A year later, my father died after suffering with dementia for years. A year later, my mother battled through cancer treatments and severe pain for 11 months before dying in November 2020.

As I have watched the Covid-19 virus cause worldwide disruptions, upheavals, and losses of every kind, my heart has grieved anew. I see families experiencing economic hardships, severe illnesses, and painful deaths.

The unexpected, shocking, and random nature of Covid-19 has caused much confusion, anguish, and deep pain. My heart aches for the widespread grief affecting so many people because I have felt the crushing blows of grief myself.

Though the death of my parents caused us much sorrow and longing, they had lived long lives and they were eager to go to their heavenly home. We were able to bury them in their old age, in the more usual order of things. Burying our child was a different matter.

By far, our hardest grief journey was with our son. After a bad motorcycle wreck in college, he…

Continue Reading

God Grieves With You

By Rick Warren

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those whose spirits have been crushed.”

Psalm 34:18 (NCV)

When you grieve, you may feel like God is a million miles away.

However, what you feel and what’s real are not always the same thing. God isn’t a million miles away. In fact, he’s never been any closer.

Did you know that God grieves with you?

The Bible tells us that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NLT).

When you come to Jesus with your grief, he knows what you’re talking about, and he understands your pain. God is sympathetic, he’s not aloof or apathetic. He’s not standing on the sidelines of your life watching in, he’s in the game and grieving with you.

God doesn’t only give you himself, he gives you a church family for support. You were meant to grieve in community. Healing comes in groups. Healing comes in the church. Healing comes in community. We’re better together!

On a practical level, what kind of grief support does a church family offer?

They can bring meals, help with childcare, stock your pantry, and run errands—to…

Continue Reading

By Mary Owen, National Training Coach

When 2020 arrived, we got in an unhealthy rhythm of staying in hypervigilant mode, and it’s a struggle to get out of this cycle, as the hard stuff seems to not be letting up.

The enemy wants us to think that God doesn’t have time for our prayers because after all, a lot is going on in the world that he’s tending to! The enemy reminds us:

You have failed God and disappointed him too many times.

You have doubted.

You have lived in fear.

You are weak.

The enemy wants us to believe that our prayers are powerless and ineffective. He doesn’t want us to communicate with God. He wants us to think we don’t have what it takes to be God’s leaders. So, he hopes we will let go of hope and let go of God.

“When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you, From Jordan depths to Hermon heights, including Mount Mizar. Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids. Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers crash and crush me. Then God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through…

Continue Reading

Pastors are the most powerful change agents in the world. Only one thing on earth will last forever—the body of Christ. That means, as a church leader, you’re investing in the most important entity on the planet. 

The role of a pastor is particularly essential during difficult times. When people are hurting, they often turn to the Lord. In a crisis, they want to get connected to God and others. They’re hungry for spiritual, relational, and emotional connection. As the world has battled COVID-19 over the past year and a half, we’ve seen this hunger for relationships become more intense than at any other period in our lifetime. 

It’s important, as pastors, that we model healthy connections and help people learn how to cultivate them in their own lives. 

Here are 10 reasons why I believe connections are vital right now:

Connections are the essence of life.

The only reason our organs function properly is because they are connected to the body. They would wither and die if they were disconnected. The same is true of the local church. Our churches are living organisms. When we…

Continue Reading

Pastor, do you want your congregation to grow? I’m not talking about numerical growth. Do you want your members to grow in their relationship with Jesus?

Nothing will facilitate intentional growth like small groups. 

But as powerful as small groups can be in the life of your church, their health isn’t automatic. The values your small groups hold will make the difference between groups that foster growth and groups that don’t. 

Here are five small group values that influence spiritual growth:

  1. Encourage your members to show up every week to their small groups.

Just attending every other week won’t lead to transformational small group experiences. When people attend small groups consistently, they put themselves in a position to grow. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer” (GNT).

A habit means you consistently do something. You make it a priority. This is one of the reasons we ask participants…

Continue Reading

Every one of us needs a support system. A brain surgeon wouldn’t operate without first hooking their patient up to a life support system. A deep-sea diver wouldn’t explore the depths of the ocean without first connecting to a life support system.

You, as a pastor, can’t send your congregation into the world each week without a life support system to help them navigate life’s challenges and help them grow spiritually. It doesn’t matter how strong of a preacher you are. Your congregation can’t survive without a life support system. 

That support system is called a small group. God wired us for community. The very first thing God said when he made humans is, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Whether or not we ever marry, we’re better together. We need each other, even during seasons when social distancing is recommended and we have to get creative with ways to connect safely.

Why are small groups so important in the life of your church? Biblical small groups do five things that help your congregation sustain themselves spiritually and live out God’s purposes. You can…

Continue Reading