As I thought about the holidays, the first thing that immediately came to my mind was relationships. Relationships with people I love and people I will share time with that I don’t get to share time with any other time during the year. Holidays truly are a special time, so I will make the most of the time I get to spend with them, especially while sitting around our old dining room table. I like table time because Jesus liked table time.

We know from Luke chapter 24 verse 36 and following that Jesus appears to his disciples, not as a ghost, but in bodily form, and after showing them his hands and side where he had been pierced, being from southern Galilee, I’m sure he said something like, “Y’all got something to eat here?”  Then…….. AFTER THEY HAD EATEN…….it says he opened their minds so they could comprehend even more.

 During, and especially after a meal, you share with people you love; opportunities arise for you to share things you may not have a chance to share at any other time.

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We spend a lot of time in waiting rooms. 

Some of those waiting rooms are in hospitals where we await word of a diagnosis. But we don’t just sit in waiting rooms in hospitals. We sit in our offices and wait for a ministry assignment we’re expecting soon. Sometimes we wait for relationships that need healing. Other times we wait for a specific transition period in our lives—graduation, marriage, or having children.

We also wait for God to answer our prayers—prayers for healing, hope, and guidance. Understanding God’s timing can be tough. 

The Christmas story has a lot to say about waiting and God’s timing. God’s promise to send his Son into the world had the Israelites waiting for years. But the Bible tells us, “When the right time came, God sent his Son ⸤into the world⸥” (Galatians 4:4 GW). 

God hadn’t forgotten about the Israelites. He was waiting for “the right time” to send his Son. 

He hasn’t forgotten about you either.

God’s delays aren’t a denial. There’s a big difference between “no” and…

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Before we know it, 2024 will be here—and the beginning of the year is a great time for a fresh start in your life and in your ministry. It’s when we try new diets, new budgets, and (often) new ministry plans. While there is nothing magical about the first few days of a calendar year, it can be a logical time to try something new.

If you’re already eyeing a change in 2024, don’t overlook the most important place to start: All change starts in your mind. 

Here’s why.

Your thoughts direct your life. “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (Proverbs 4:23 TEV). Every action and reaction in your life begins as a thought. If you don’t think it, it won’t happen.

You can use this idea for both good and for bad. Good thoughts lead to good behavior. But the opposite is true, as well: Bad thoughts lead to bad behavior. We don’t realize how often we sabotage ourselves with our own thoughts.

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A few years ago, my computer froze about an hour before I was going to preach. I lost all my sermon notes. For about 30 minutes, I panicked. Fortunately, a computer whiz on my staff saved about a third of my message. Although not the entire sermon, it was quite helpful. 

But my computer had been sluggish for a while before this emergency. Finally, it just stopped working because too many programs were clogging up the system. At that point, all I could do was hit the reset button. My computer needed a fresh start.

Our churches need a fresh start sometimes, too. We live in a complicated world. Our ministries can get more complicated than we intended. When that happens, we need a clean slate.

January 1 isn’t a magical date on the calendar that makes your reset easier, but it can be a natural time to begin. But you have some prep work to do before you get started. Here are four actions every church needs to take before making a reset.  

God has called us to lead in a world that’s often preoccupied with immediate gratification and short-term goals. Every problem has an immediate solution. Every bit of pain needs to be removed right now. 

But God looks for something different in Christian leaders. He is looking for far-sighted, eternally focused leadership. That’s leadership that always keeps eternity in mind. It isn’t easy. Often we have immediate issues that we must be focused upon. But when we don’t keep eternity in mind, it’s easy to get sidetracked by the frustrations and stresses of life.

The Bible teaches us what’s most important won’t come and go tomorrow. It lasts forever. That’s why we must focus  on eternal matters. Paul tells us this in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (NIV). 

Living in light of eternity changes your priorities. Jesus modeled this for us perfectly. Just read his first and last words. Jesus’ first recorded words were, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49 NKJV). His last words were:

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We all have years where it’s hard to be grateful during Thanksgiving.

How can you thank God when the doctor has just diagnosed you with cancer?

How do you thank God when the love of your life has just left you?

How do you say thank you when your ministry dream has crashed?

Those years are tough, and the holiday season seems to make it worse. But guess what? You can still be grateful. In fact, the Bible tells us, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT).

The key to this verse is the word “in.” The Bible doesn’t say we have to give thanks for all circumstances. The difference between the word “in” and the word “for” is the difference between maturity and masochism. 

God doesn’t expect you to be grateful for everything in your life—because there’s a lot of bad in your life. We all know there’s a lot of sin in the world. It would be…

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Healthy Roots

By Celebrate Recovery

Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

In a storyline on the drama series Grey’s Anatomy, the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with a patient who was admitted. They ran tests, did research, collaborated with others, and they just couldn’t figure it out. So, they decided to bring in a Master Diagnostic Technician. And yet, even with her advanced knowledge and experience, she couldn’t figure out what was going on either.

She ordered the doctors to stop all of the patient’s medications. The medications were masking the patient’s symptoms, so they could not diagnose her properly. The Master Diagnostic Technician said the disease needed to start “talking to them,” basically pointing them to the roots of the issue. Eventually, as the patient’s symptoms emerged, they…

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I’m a grateful believer in recovery for codependency and food and body image issues, and I struggle with the symptoms associated with Inattentive ADHD and Complex PTSD. My name is Sabrena.

I grew up in a dysfunctional home with an alcoholic father and a codependent mother. When I was 19 years old, I married my high school sweetheart, who also had an alcoholic father and a codependent mother. We spent the next 20 years carrying forward the dysfunction we grew up in. We further damaged each other and ourselves with the issues we had and didn’t understand how to change.

In 2007, we both got involved in Celebrate Recovery, which started at our church. We’ve spent the last 16 years working on the issues that almost destroyed our marriage and our family. God has done miraculous healing and restoration in both of our lives.

A few years ago, I was doing a Step Study online, and a couple of the participants were working through the step study specifically in the context of their new diagnosis of ADHD. As I listened to their sharing, I could identify…

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I grew up in small churches where we prayed long and sang hymns. When Saddleback began, that was the kind of world I felt most at ease in. 

But here’s an important lesson I’ve learned in 50 years of ministry: If I’m comfortable in a church, then non-Christians most likely are not. To reach people for Christ, you (and your church) need to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. 

“The way we’ve always done it” can’t be our reason for standing still as a church. Churches die because they refuse to change. Many churches are doing ministry the same way they did 25 years ago—the same order of service, the same prayers, the same sermons.

I encourage you to plan worship services and ministries in a manner where you feel uncomfortable, but non-Christians do not. We serve a God of newness. Jesus famously once said, People don’t pour new wine into old wineskins(Luke 5:37 GW). Too often, we’re trying to do just what Jesus warned us against.

But taking risks as you…

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God wants to do something incredible through your ministry. No one can take that away. Your critics can’t. Neither can Satan. 

But that doesn’t mean you won’t have to wait for it. Sometimes God cracks a door and lets you see your future before you’re ready to walk through it. 

Why does he do that? First, if God showed you all your future at once,it would scare you. You’d take one look and say, “Oh no, God wants me to do that?” You’re simply not ready right now to see everything God wants to do through you. 

God also wants to keep you close to him as you trust him to do what he is calling you to do. It’s like he writes his plan for you on a scroll. You unroll the scroll a bit and do what he says. Then you unroll a bit more, and he gives you a little more of the vision. 

You’re not the first leader God has let glimpse the future long before it’s become reality. In fact, he has done that over and over again throughout history….

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Great leaders have at least one common denominator: personal discipline. 

Take the Apostle Paul as an example. He had tremendous self-control. He talks about it in this passage:

“Don’t you realize that everyone who runs in a race runs to win, but only one runner gets the prize? Run like them, so that you can win. Everyone who enters an athletic contest goes into strict training. They do it to win a temporary crown, but we do it to win one that will be permanent” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25 GW).

Paul wanted to be successful and understood he couldn’t live haphazardly and accomplish what God called him to do. He showed self-discipline throughout his ministry, and so should we. Here are six specific areas of our lives where leaders need to show self-discipline.

Their mood: Most great things in the world are achieved by those who don’t feel like doing them. The Bible says, “A man without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls” (Proverb 25:28 TLB). Without discipline, you’re at the mercy…

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You can mass produce many things—cars, furniture, plastic bottles, etc.—but you can’t mass produce disciples. One-size-fits-all simply doesn’t work when you’re trying to help people become more like Jesus.

God wired each of us with a unique SHAPE. The Bible says, “You shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13 MSG). Our creator specially designed each and every one of us. The unique ways God made us affect everything about us—including how we fulfill God’s purposes. 

SHAPE is an acrostic that describes our uniqueness. God gave us Spiritual gifts, Heart (passions), Abilities, Personality, and Experiences. No one else in the world has the same mix of those five attributes as you do.

A person’s God-given SHAPE helps them identify where they can best serve the body of Christ. 

But our uniqueness is about much more than how we serve. In fact, our SHAPE affects how we worship, fellowship, evangelize—and how we grow.

There’s a myth that maturity is measured by how much Bible knowledge you have. 

Of…

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