Can YOU really make a difference?

you_can_make_a_differenceIt is during adversity when one can really make a big difference. But making a difference is not about being a big hero. It is simply about leaving the bathroom a little cleaner going out, than when you came in. We all live busy lives, don’t we? These busy lives can often feel very overwhelming. And then, as if we aren’t busy enough keeping up with the demands of our own personal and professional lives, there are the pressures of being more involved in our communities and the world-at-large.

Never be afraid to do something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the titanic.

Today, I share with you a story I recently read from the questions you all have been sending. This story is about a female executive who is trying to improve her place in life by attending school. She is driven to do this because she has a family to support. In addition to her work and her family depending upon her, she has surrounded herself with wonderful friends, but many of them look to her for advice and spiritual guidance. On top of all this, she is feeling like she is not doing enough for her community and that she should be more involved in the world around her! She wants to make a difference!

Already feeling overwhelmed just hearing about her? Well, I have some great advice for her and for you.  I believe there are many other ways you can find a balance and thrive in your personal and professional life. With compassion and self-discipline, you can be successful! Being successful in what you do IS giving back to the community in many ways. Be empowered to live life with purpose! Let me leave you with this last thought; don’t underestimate the value you bring to every situation just by being you! All of the things you are doing now, from working, to taking classes, to keeping up with your friends and family, are ways of giving back, whether it feels like it or not!

Leave you mark on the world by the way you llive your life today!    – Cindy Trimm

God bless you and it’s great doing life with you!

 

Photo(s)/Resuource(s): Dr. Cindy Trimm

Rick Warren’s Six Ways You Can Help Build Church Unity

I thought this was a awesome & annoited article!!! Pastor Rick Warren knows a thing or two about growing churches– he’s the pastor of one of the largest, most rapidly-growing mega-churches in America: Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Weekly church attendance at Saddleback’s nine regional campuses averages over 20,000 people. Several more campuses are planned in the next few years. So when Rick Warren writes an article about church growth, people pay attention.

This week, Warren wrote an article titled “6 Commitments for Growing a Church with Unity” over at Pastors.com. In it, he argues that a church can experience growth by really loving others, and goes on to list six different commitments churches can make in order to love others well. These commitments include:

  • Building each other up
  • Recognizing the value of every person
  • Focusing on what’s important,
  • Limiting out liberty out of love for each other
  • Not forcing our opinions on others, and
  • Living by faith.

Warren writes,

If you’re a Christian, part of your job description is to build up other Christians.  If you’re not doing that, you’re not fulfilling part of your job description.  It is our responsibility.  Jesus didn’t please Himself.  If you want to be like Christ, then you need to put the needs of others ahead of your own and be a servant.

How did Christ accept us?  Unconditionally.  Non-judgmentally.  To accept each other as Christ accepted us means to accept them in the way that Christ accepts you, which is never based on performance.

Without question, Warrens focus on unconditional acceptance and love for others is part of what has made Saddleback the influential church it is.

Conversely, Joe McKeever recently posted a blog titled “Seven Viruses That Infect the Church,” a post that touched a nerve with many of you. In his post, McKeever lists seven ideas or philosophies that can poison church members and leaders, rending their ministries and missions ineffective and driving people away. His overarching point is that we often treat church like a place of business, coming in to get what we want, complaining if the owners (i.e. leaders) aren’t giving us what we want and withholding our service when we’re not happy with what’s happening at church. 

These two articles effectively highlight the difference between a growing church and a dying one. A growing church is one where members are extending their arms out to others, lovingly inviting in all and embracing the fact that all people are different and come with differing opinions and ideas on how the church should function. They live by faith that God will transform them into the His likeness and that, in the spirit of Romans 14  accept others “whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.”

Dying churches, on the other hand, are full of people who think their way is the only way. They will out any leader who does anything they deem “wrong,” or else they leave a church or refuse to tithe when they don’t agree with what’s going on inside the walls. These churches have missed the whole point of what the Church is- a representation of God’s unconditional love for his people.

What do you think? What do you think makes a church grow? What makes it die? Is church growth all about numbers, or is it about something more?

For further reading, check out: You Lost Me Dissects Post-Youth Group Malaise, an article that discusses why youth are leaving the church and what we can do about it.  

Photo(s)/Resource(s): Kelly Givens is the Editor of iBelieve.com

You Have to Move People to Reach People

1Great preachers and leaders know how to move people.

As soon as I say that I know that, the first thing that comes to many people’s minds is emotional manipulation. After all, when unchurched people say they really liked your sermon they usually say that it really moved them. And in their minds, they’re probably talking about pure emotion. Maybe intellectual curiosity. But that’s not what I mean. Anyone can do that, and it doesn’t guarantee any kind of positive growth in the lives of the people you’re preaching to and leading.

What I mean is the concept of moving people further along in their lives. Advancing them beyond their current level of development. Beyond their current walk with God. I like that concept. That image. And it’s something that I think all pastors should strive after. Pastors have to know how to move people. And they have to know how to move them on two tracks – 1) individually and 2) corporately.

The words you speak should move people on a personal level.

It should grip their hearts and make application to their lives personally. If you don’t move the individual and you’re only casting broad vision to the church as a whole, you’re only going to preach to the highest commitment level people, and your church isn’t going to go very far.

For example, you can make the greatest pitch for the greatest capital campaign in church history. But if the individual people and families in your church aren’t moved to live lives of generosity, the thermometer on your stage is going nowhere.

You have to move the people to move the church.

But you also have to move the church as a whole in the right direction. You should always have a direction the church needs to move in corporately. A common goal that you want the collective efforts of the individual people in your church aimed at. If you don’t, the church won’t advance.

Going back to our example, it’s not enough just to move people to tithe. What you have to do is figure out where God wants to take your church. What it’s going to take financially to get there. And then cast a compelling vision that moves individual people to get on board to make it happen.

You have to move the church to move the people.

Good preachers and leaders are great at moving individuals.
Good preachers and leaders are great at moving churches.

Great preachers and leaders are great at both.

 

Photo(s)/Resource(s): Steven Furtick

How You Can Recharge and Keep Pushing Forward

“You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe. Trust. Let go. And see what happens.” Mandy Hale

Depression-Banner-33-580x300 You know those times when you’ve been pushing and pushing for what seems to be a very long time – but, despite all your pushing, you’re still not exactly where you want to be? Maybe you’ve been working to accomplish something; maybe you’ve been dealing with some challenges for a while. Or, perhaps you’ve been trying so hard to resolve something really important in your life. Well, have you noticed that when you are pushing through these times, you’re never quite sure how long it’s going to take?

You don’t really know how much longer it will be until you finally are settled and get to where you want to be – perhaps days? months? a year? These times when we are pushing but are unsure if the end is anywhere in sight can be tough … can’t they?

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have found myself in this exact place with different situations in my life. In fact, I am literally in this place right now and the question is always the same … How much longer am I going to have to keep pushing?

In the past, whenever I would find myself in these situations, they were hard and I thought it was possible I would hit my breaking point. I disliked the uncertainty. I didn’t like feeling unsettled. I was tired – so tired- from all the pushing and hoping and trying. I just wanted to reach that point where I finally felt really good and relieved because I made it through.

So, I would plan and plan. I thought if I could just figure out the ideal plan and follow it, then I would get exactly where I wanted to be. But, as I am sure you know, there are times when all the plans in the world don’t matter because it’s not just about something you need to “do” its also about something you need to be reminded of or learn.

And, what I realized is that whenever we are pushing and looking for that finish line, one message that is always trying to come through loud and clear is how strong we really are and that if we just keep pushing forward, believing and trusting so many amazing possibilities will appear.

It’s like one of my most favorite quotes explains …

“Within me is Infinite power. Before me is endless possibility. Around me is boundless opportunity. Why should I fear?” – The nature of success

Once you feel the true strength of your Extraordinary Side, not only do you know without a doubt that you can keep going, you also know that you don’t have a breaking point. And, that’s when the only plans you have ever needed appear. Possibilities you may not have seen before finally come to your attention. More and more things start falling into place. So, if you’re also looking for your finish line, then let’s move forward together. You know you can’t stop now. You’ve come so far.  Take a deep breath. Recharge. Believe and Trust. Remind yourself of how strong you really are. It’s time to go (again).

The Possibility of Today: Realizing Your Strength & Continuing to Push Forward.

1. Start Everyday Right. Before you begin the day, take at least 30 minutes to yourself. Meditate, do yoga, go on a walk or do anything else that relaxes you and tunes you into the strength of your Extraordinary Side.

2. Read things throughout the day that inspire you. What you put into your mind matters. Make sure you’re reading the right things that motivate you.

3. Remember it’s only about Today. The one thing you can control is how you move through today. Don’t worry about tomorrow or things from the past. Catch your mind when it wanders and focus on experiencing the moment in front of you in the best way you can. You create the tomorrow that you want by focusing your attention on the moments you experience today.

Live Today Better than Yesterday.

STOP WORRYING

Phot(s)/Resource(s): Sibyl Chavis

How To Kickstart Your Devotional Life

kickstartThere are times when, for whatever reason, our devotional life goes stale. Bible reading seems like a colossal chore, our prayers feel tepid and weak, and our love for God ebbs. We feel like we are stuck in a spiritual rut, like we don’t have any soul traction, like we’re just spinning our spiritual wheels. These times of staleness can be incredible frustrating and discouraging.

Are you in a spiritual rut? Here are a few practical tips to breath new life and vigor back into your devotional life.

PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

All the practical tips in the world won’t make a lick of difference unless God moves mightily on your heart. God cannot be controlled. He is not a personal genie who can be summoned on command. He cannot be summarized or contained in a neat formula. But, he promises to respond to our humble requests. He is a good father who loves to give good gifts to his children. In Luke 11:13 Jesus said:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

God loves to give the Holy Spirit to us, but we have to ask! If your devotional life is in a rut, humbly confess your cold heart to God and ask him to breathe white hot affection back into you.

READ A BOOK

Seeing the splendors of God through the undimmed eyes of another person can be tremendously helpful. One of the ways to see God through the eyes of someone else is to read a book. Often times our view of God is cluttered and clogged by the circumstances of life. Reading a book allows us to stand on the shoulders of someone else and see over all the clutter. If your devotional life is dim and blurry, take a short break from your regular Bible reading and spend some time savoring a good book. I recommend any of the books on my list of thirty books every Christian should read. 

READ THE PSALMS

The Psalms are an intensely devotional section of scripture. The authors of the Psalms experienced the highs and lows of life, and they met God in the midst of those highs and lows. They experienced the faithfulness of God in the dry times and in the seasons of fruitfulness. If your devotional life is lacking oomph try spending some time in the Psalms.

START A BIBLE READING PLAN

Many times our devotions lack substance because we don’t appropriately plan them out. We meander from verse to verse, reading a bit here, a snatch there, yet never making any real progress through God’s word. If this describes your devotions, maybe you need a Bible reading plan to get you on track. The ESV Bible website has a bunch of different Bible reading plans to get you started. If your devotional life is lacking direction trying starting a Bible reading plan.

ABANDON YOUR PLAN

Some of us like plans a little bit too much. We like to make lists and then cross things off those lists. We like the feeling of progress, of moving forward, of gettin’ her done. We apply our love for plans to our Bible reading and thus read through the Bible every year like clockwork. This is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But there are times when we need to abandon our plan and simply slow down our Bible reading. To delight in and savor a chapter, or a section, or just one verse. If your devotional life is feeling too rigid and stiff try abandoning your plan for a while.

CHANGE UP YOUR METHODS

Most of us read the Bible. After all, the Bible is a book and books are meant to be read. No argument from me. But remember, significant portions of the scriptures were originally intended to be heard. The apostolic letters were read aloud in the churches. The Psalms were read aloud in the synagogues. Scripture was meant to be both and read and heard. The ESV Bible site allows you to listen to the Bible instead of reading it. If your devotional life is feeling repetitive try listening to God’s word. Take notes as you listen.

Out of all these tips, the first is the most important. You can do all the right things and yet if God doesn’t work powerfully in your life nothing will happen. However, I know that God wants your devotions to be meaningful. He wants you to have a vibrant, joyful devotional life. In light of that truth I would encourage you to prayerfully try these different suggestions.

Don’t be content with a mediocre spiritual life. Press into God. He wants to meet you.
Photo(s)/Resource(s): Stephen Altrogge

Scattered Thoughts on how God’s Grace is Sufficient!

Corinthians 12:8-10 – Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

my-grace-is-sufficient-for-you-bible-quoteGRACE= getting what we do not deserve. An unmerited or undeserved favor from God. Grace is a gift. Jesus Christ is the Gift! A gift is not something given because we are deserving. That would be considered a wage. A gift is something given by someone who loves the recipient and does not expect nothing in return, because there is nothing we can give to pay for it. Jesus Christ, “The Gift” is priceless! .We do not deserve God’s love through the shed blood of Christ, but because of “Grace” God gave it to us anyhow. He said “My Grace is sufficient for you.

Saints, Grace brought us through. Grace gave us hope for eternity!

Are you hurting? Are you in Pain? Are you angry? Have you been rejected? Are you tired of going through what you have been going through? Have you told God to take away the pain and it appears to linger? Are you still asking God why he allowed this bad thing to happen to you or if He is God, why is He allowing all this pain? Are you tired of carrying the heaven burdens? Well, I have good news for you on this morning. God says to you that “His Grace is sufficient for you.”

The more we realize our weakness, the more we understand God’s grace. Having our weakness revealed to us is therefore an act of mercy. Allowing us to continue in the façade of our own strength would not be mercy because we’d be relying on our own power rather than God’s. Being humbled only makes you stronger.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” – Phil. 3:7-8

We are owed nothing, and everything we do have is nothing compared to having Christ. We must be open-handed with every gift we’ve been given, and we must not be expectant to receive more or even to keep what we have. There are no guarantees other than what God has promised us, but those are the only guarantees we need.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” – 1Cor. 15:10

Our joys and sorrows, our victories and our failures, our gifts and our thorns– they all coalesce into a story of grace and redemption. This story will not be told in vain; God wrote your story before the world began as a thread in a tapestry of lives that create a beautiful image of God’s grace and glory. Therefore, your thread of life, no matter how ragged it may seem on this side of things, is full of grace.

For when I am weak, then I am strong. In other words, Paul is saying that in his suffering for Christ, in insults, in hardship, persecution, distress, sickness, grave dangers, calamities, physical or mental afflictions, etc., He will be content. Philippians 4:11 – For I have learned to be content in whatever my circumstances may be.

How can we find contentment? In God’s Word, in prayer, praise, in worship and a total surrender to the will of God for your life. Knowing, that regardless of what we are feeling, regardless of what is happening, God is Sovereign, He knows all about it and there is a purpose in why He is allowing it. Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Through the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, we can make it! The peace in knowing that regardless of what we or we may suffer, that God is with us. Do you believe that? Do you believe that God’s grace is sufficient for you in your situation this morning?

HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR US ON TODAY SAINTS! SAY THAT TO YOURSELF!”GOD’S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR ME”! SAY IT AGAIN SLOWLY! DO YOU FEEL THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AS YOU SOFLY AND WHOLE HEARTEDLY SPEAK THOSE WORDS? I DO! THANK YOU LORD FOR YOUR SUFFICIENCY OF “GRACE”

*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Theologigal & Debra Pearson-Aiken

The Way of the Christian Samurai

seven-virtues-of-bushidoAs Christians, we are called to be both servants and warriors for Jesus Christ. There is much to be learned from the teachings and example of the Samurai, legendary servant-warriors of Japan, in order for believers respond to Gods call as Christian Samurai. (Christian)

The samurai, whose very title means “one who serves,” were skillful warriors of feudal Japan who devoted themselves fully to the service of their masters, willing even to sacrifice their lives in service to their lord. Christians are also called by their Lord, Jesus, to take up their cross and follow Him, and to seek to lose their life for His sake (Matthew 16:24-25).

While fantastic legends and stories of the samurai are plentiful, The Way of the Christian Samurai draws from primary sources – notes, essays, and books written by real samurai from Japan’s feudal era. Their advice on everything from overcoming fear, giving counsel to others, serving one’s Lord, and self-sacrifice are remarkably applicable to the life of the modern Christian.

The Samurai Bushido Code (Japanese “way of the warrior”, or bushido), was the code of the samurai. The samurai bushido code is an internally-consistent ethical code.

There are seven virtues associated with the samurai code of bushido:

  • Gi – Rectitude
  • Yu – Courage
  • Jin – Benevolence
  • Rei – Respect
  • Makoto – Honesty
  • Meiyo – Honor
  • Chugi – Loyalty

The excerpts on serving one’s lord are eye-openers for any Christian with a “soft” view of service that rarely goes beyond activities at their local church. The willingness of a warrior to give himself completely to his lord underscores what it means to make oneself part of the “body of Christ”….The Way of the Christian Samurai is truly an unusual book among the many published that seek to link Christianity to various Eastern religions or philosophies.

It’s uniqueness lies not in any success in doing so, but in its insistence that any such linkage must be judged by the known truths of the Christian faith. Given the limited focus of the book, its acknowledgment of the superiority Biblical teaching, and its usefulness in shedding light on often ignored facets of the Christian way, it is an important book that can be read with profit by those in the Church.

Author Paul Nowak ties the advice of these servant-warriors of old, pointing out how the selections from samurai texts relate to Christian teachings found in the Scriptures.

The book is a matchless resource for Christians intrigued by the mythos of the samurai or Japanese culture, or for pastors and other spiritual leaders who are looking for anecdotes that illustrate Biblical ideals. Christian parents whose children enjoy Anime or Manga will find it a useful tool in understanding their children’s interests and in ministering to them.

“The value of this book is in its ability to show us what true servant hood is by examples of the writings of the samurai of old.

After reading it, I have a much better sense of what service and self-denial is. More importantly, it has helped me see more clearly the example that Jesus set, and has encouraged me that I can do much more in imitating it. Anyone looking for a good devotional will benefit from reading this book. Christian martial artists, on the other hand, need this book. As we navigate our various martial arts, we take inspiration from accurate depictions of these ancestral warriors. Nowak empowers us to be inspired by their selfless dedication to their master that serves as an excellent model for the dedication we should show to Christ.

Eternal Revolution prepares and arms Christians to keep, defend and spread the faith in the modern world which is always hostile to genuine Christianity, using reason-based arguments to combat the forces that seek to destroy our society and humanity.