A Calling to Hope

It is amazing the journey we have been on the last couple of years. Little by little, people have lost hope in the midst of the uncertainties. The world at large has found itself more anxious, on edge, and hopeless. Yet, in the midst of it all, we can find peace. Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it me afraid.” He even said that He came to give us peace. Not as the world gives, but only peace that Jesus can provide for us.

Think with me for a moment about this season of your life. How are you feeling? How are you coping with the unending changes? Are you standing strong in the midst of the world’s angst? There is no doubt, it is difficult to walk in unending peace, but it is possible. If it was impossible the Bible would not give us the hope of peace.

In fact, this is what the world needs the most. Not just peace, but hope. When I speak of these things, I know instantly that our mind goes to the fact that the world needs peace. But it is not outward peace that we need as much as inward peace. The Bible warns that this world will never have complete peace until we get to Heaven. Jesus did say that in this life we will face many hardships, and He also said that He would give peace.

Here lies the hope! The world will never know peace, yet we as individuals can find peace in Christ. Inner peace is possible through prayer, thanksgiving, and worship. However, peace can also come through resting our hope in something more than this life. When this life is over, it’s not truly over. For those who have trusted in Jesus, there is something beyond this life. We have hope in Heaven.

The reason we are anxious and hopeless is because there is nothing on this earth to hope in. People cannot always be trusted. Sickness and disease are rampant. Life is uncertain and heartache is everywhere. Why not hope in something beyond this life? If we think this world will eventually satisfy us, we are destined for disappointment. But if we keep our eyes on Jesus and our eternal home, we will find peace in the midst of chaos. The problem we have most of the time is that we look for something here on earth to fill the emptiness in our heart. That longing can only be filled by Jesus.

I don’t want to paint a picture of glum, but I find refuge in knowing that this life is not all we have. This is why we must live for more than just this life. We must live to make impact that will affect eternity. To love others, to serve others, to lead others, and to touch the lives of those who need hope.

The Apostle Paul said, “If we who are [abiding] in Christ have hoped only in this life [and this is all there is], then we are of all people most miserable and to be pitied.” I Corinthians 15:19 Amplified Version.

We have a calling to hope. We are to spread that hope to others. Christians should be ones who point others to eternity. If Christians are the ones who lack hope, then how can we ever convince others to believe in the hope of Jesus.

Daily Habits

In the last couple of years, there have been numerous books on the subjects of rest, slowing down, and simply taking your life back. We live in a fast paced culture that doesn’t value quiet or rest as we once did. In fact, we believe people are lazy if they are not always on the go.

Furthermore, we seem validated if our phone is always notifying us, or someone is calling or texting. We also find our sense of satisfaction from how many likes or views we get from the posts that we make. Yet, one thing is missing; inner peace.

We are the most connected society in the history of the world, however, we are also the most anxious. Not to mention, we are distracted like never before. We are more social, but our relationships aren’t any deeper. We have friends (and followers) but how many of these relationships are vital and add life.

John Eldredge wrote a great book called Get Your Life Back and John Mark Comer, wrote, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry to address these very things. Another author, Justin Whitmel Early wrote The Common Rule, which takes it from, not only the personal level, but connects it to family and social life as well. For every one of us, I think we need to slow down and evaluate our lives to make sure that we are valuing the right things.

In The Common Rule, Early writes much about spiritual disciplines and the need to make them a daily and weekly part of our lives. (DISCLAIMER: with any of these books, realize that they may have viewpoints and habits that might not resonate with you or me). However, there are some things that we can glean from their writings. The old adage, “Chew the Meat and Spit out the Bones” applies here.

I like the way that Justin Whitmel Early gives us a great perspective on the daily habits that I believe are applicable to all of us. Check out the PDF below on the Daily Habits and see if you can incorporate these into your life. If you can’t do them all, at least start somewhere.

Early challenges us to:

  1. Kneel 3 times a day in prayer.
  2. Eat one meal a day with someone (Family or Friends)
  3. One hour with your phone off.
  4. Read Scripture before your phone (or if you read on your phone, don’t do anything else until you have read the Bible)

Try these things and see how you grow in your spiritual life. Getting our priorities in order will help us in every part of our life and will lead us into a life of peace and not anxiety.

Stretching our Thinking

It’s hard in life when you get in a funk. You know the days, or weeks, or months, when you can’t seem to get a clear direction on anything. This last year and a half has been that kind of journey. The old saying, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” That pretty well sums up this COVID season of church and leadership. For me, it has been extremely hard watching everything you have been working for and toward, suddenly taking a step or leap backward.

But yet, I find that God is not surprised, rather, He is watching to see what I have been doing and what I will do. I have grumbled and complained for the last year. As if, God has turned a blind eye to the situation the world is in. Then I had an epiphany a couple weeks ago, perhaps, I should look at things from another perspective. With a new set of eyes. Maybe I should think differently. Instead of looking at the problem at hand, what we can do about it. Of course, there are a lot of uncertainties. But in every uncertainty, there will always be an opportunity. Now is the time to really look at what’s important.

There are a lot of things that have changed, some permanently. There are a great deal of things that have been lost, but there are also a lot of things that remain. Instead of focusing on what is lost, we must learn to work with and grow what remains. To say that God is working in my heart is an understatement. He is changing the way I think. Changing the way I view things. God is trying to get me to see things through His eyes and to focus on what is most important not to me, but to Him and His Kingdom. Instead of always worrying about how this affects me, I am beginning to ask, “How is God working this for my good?”

It is a stretch in my thinking, but in the end, I am learning to ask the right questions and allow my heart to be shaped by the plan and purpose of God. For the first time in a year, I am seeing forward. It has been long journey but I am excited for what is ahead.

This Sunday, we begin a new series called REGROUP. You don’t want to miss it.

Inconsistency

How many times can we fall?
Only to find God forgives it all?

A mess-up here, a wrong word there
A lack of compassion when we should care

Disobedience when we know we should obey
And we do not heed His voice, when He tells us the way

Why is He so gracious in all of our inconsistencies?
Because He loves us, in spite of our unreliability
-Danny Cheney-

Things To Say To Visitors

I came across this article today that I believe is a good reminder to us about how we can impact the visitors that come each week.  God allows us to see visitors each week and if we will continue to love them as well as go the extra step to build relationships with them, we could see an increase in how many guests we see coming back.

Here is the article by Thom Rainer:

One of the more common questions I’m asked relates to growth barriers. For example, church leaders may want to know how to move past the 150-attendance level of the past five years. Or other leaders desire to know how to break though financial giving barriers.

Those questions are tough because they often presume a brief response to be adequate. In reality, there are many theological and methodological issues at work in growth barriers. Today, I am looking at a very basic barrier: lack of friendliness to church guests.

In a previous blog post, I noted things we should not say to a guest in our worship services. In today’s post I look at the positive perspective: seven things we should say to guests.

1. “Thank you for being here.”It’s just that basic. I have heard from numerous church guests who returned because they were simply told “thank you.”

2. “Let me help you with that.”If you see someone struggling with umbrellas, young children, diaper bags, purses and other items, a gesture to hold something for them is a huge positive. Of course, this comment is appropriate for member to member as well.

3. “Please take my seat.”I actually heard that comment twice in a church where I was speaking in the Nashville area. The first comment came from a member to a young family of five who were trying to find a place to sit together.

4. “Here is my email address. Please let me know if I can help in any way.”Of course, this comment must be used with discretion, but it can be a hugely positive message to a guest.

5. “Can I show you where you need to go?”Even in smaller churches, guests will not know where to find the nursery, restrooms and small group meeting areas. You can usually tell when a guest does not know where he or she is to go.

6. “Let me introduce you to ___________.”The return rate of guests is always higher if they meet other people. A church member may have the opportunity to introduce the guest to the pastor, other church staff and other members of the church.

7. “Would you join us for lunch?”I saved this question for last for two reasons. First, the situation must obviously be appropriate before you offer the invitation. Second, I have seen this approach have the highest guest return rate of any one factor. What if your church members sought to invite different guests 6 to 12 times a year? The burden would not be great; but the impact would be huge.

Let’s look at one example of breaking attendance barriers by saying the right things to guests. Presume your church has two first-time guests a week. Over the course of a year, the church would have 100 first-time guests. With most of the members being genuinely guest friendly, you could see half of those guests become active members. Attendance could thus increase by as much as 50 persons every year.

Good interaction with guests is a huge step toward breaking attendance barriers, but it is obviously not the only step. We are launching a new subscription ministry called Church Answers. One of the three resources you will get every month is called “Breaking Barriers.”

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

Sunday’s Coming

It’s Good Friday, the day we remember the brutal death of Jesus Christ.  He willingly laid down His life that we might have redemption from our sins.  It is called Good Friday because of the good that came out of His death.  It was on this Friday that they laid Him in a tomb.  The Savior was dead!  But as the famous preacher once said, “It’s Friday! But Sunday’s comin!”

Repost – Changing Sweettarts

Here is a repost of the number 2 article on life of a pastor blog. It’s still get hits after 6 years.

I am finally coming out with something that has been bothering me for years.  It has to do with candy.  I love candy.  But for the last five years the candy makers have made some changes that I am not happy about.  For some reason they thinking every body likes sour apple flavor.  Sour apple does not belong in a box with other flavored candies.  I am okay with sour apple Jolly Ranchers by themselves, but don’t mess with my box of Sweet Tarts.  I love Sweet Tarts!  This is one of my all-time favorite candies along with Skittles.  Both of these candy makers replaced the traditional beautifully flavored green candy with a sour apple flavor.  I am ticked off because of that.  I don’t want sour apple I want whatever the green flavor was before.  The problem is I love Sweet Tarts so I am not going to stop eating them because they throw in a sour apple.  I will just not eat that one.

There is a good change that Sweet Tarts has made though.  It is the blue sweet tart.  That is my favorite Sweet Tart.  I can over look the sour apple as long as the blue one is in there.  As a matter of fact, the blue ones are the ones that they have the least in the box, but I still like the blue ones.  In Sweet Tarts defense, they made a good decision in making the blue ones, even if I am not happy about the green change.  Some changes are good and some are bad.

To be honest, no body likes change.  I don’t like change…I like the familiar and you are probably the same way.  The truth is things must change.  There are some changes we like, some we don’t but we must overlook the ones we might not like and focus on the ones we do like. 

In the church world, change is a necessary part of preparing for the future.  I am not a proponent of just throwing away anything old.  I believe we can add to what has already been done.  However, there might be things that need to change because they aren’t working.  Even if we cannot see it.  For the future and building a church for the generations, we must allow God to lead us to the changes He feels necessary for our church.  We cannot focus on one thing (the sour apple) but on the whole picture of what God is doing and wants to do.

Thinking of the candy makers.  It wasn’t a conspiracy because they knew I didn’t like sour apple.  The truth is there are probably more people that like sour apple than don’t.  I am just picky with my candy.  I challenge you to evaluate things by the big picture not just the sour apples.