Five Lies You Shouldn’t Ever Believe

Many of us listen to lies that we really shouldn’t ever believe.  The following are five examples.

1.  You are not worth very much.  This message may have had its beginning with a harsh father or an overpowering uncle.  Years ago in Kansas City, I heard a father next door scream at his five-year-old.  He then began to tell her how sorry and worthless she was, using vile, degrading language.  Years later, I wonder about the memories that this young adult harbors.  Perhaps it is the bully who communicates to you just how stupid you are and treats you with hostility and contempt.  These are all lies.  The truth is that you are precious in the eyes of God, created in his image.  You are deeply loved by God.

2.  Your past mistakes disqualify you from God ever choosing to work through you.  The evil one would like for you to believe that no one is like you.  No one has made the mistakes you have.  No good person is ever tempted the way you are.  You may think, “What is wrong with me?  Surely no other person is like me.”  Yet, God’s grace is greater than the week you spent in jail, greater than the drug issues you had in the past, greater than the affair you had five years ago.  God’s forgiveness is larger than any failure in your past.  Your past does not have to define you for the rest of your life.  Your past may be littered with rebellion and sin.  Yet, through his powerful forgiveness and grace as he sees your brokenness, God can use you in the future.

“We Are Certainly Not Lacking Any Confidence Are We”

Some years ago, a friend of mine said to me after a certain young minister preached, “Well, we are certainly not lacking any confidence are we?”

I understand what my friend meant.  This young minister certainly did not appear uneasy.  In fact, his manner, his body language, and his words indicated that if anything, he was quite self-assured.  He had a certain cockiness that some thought was funny.  He spoke way beyond his experiences and his years.  It was awkward and almost embarrassing.  There was a certainty and self-assuredness that communicated that he really had not experienced much of life.

Fortunately, I can point to a number of young ministers with a very different spirit.  I know young ministers who love Scripture, are passionate for the Lord, and who exude humility as they talk about the human condition.  These young ministers are likely to ask others for their counsel and input regarding situations and chapters in life they have never experienced.

They do not have an unhealthy self-consciousness which seems to be preoccupied with appearance, image, style, etc.  Rather, these ministers seem to have a very healthy God-consciousness that goes way beyond referring to Jesus, talking about spiritual formation, etc.

When they preach, they call attention to Jesus instead of themselves.

May their tribe increase.

On Refusing to Live a Hurried Life

I was a young minister.  I had a few appointments and a few calls to return.  I had a lunch meeting scheduled that day.  For some reason, in those years, I thought that the busier I was, the more I was accomplishing.  Decades later, as I think about my motives for this pace of ministry, this was partially a desire to be effective.  I suspect there were also some dark motives related to my ego.

In his fine book, An Unhurried Life (p. 8), Alan Fadling writes:

As I’ve traveled this journey, a few words of counsel have guided me.  I remember reading what John Ortberg was told during a season of ministry transition in his life: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”  (John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, p. 81).  Connecting ruthlessness and unhurry has always been a fruitful piece of spiritual direction for me.  In the Life You’ve Always Wanted (p. 84), Ortberg suggests that “hurry is not just a disordered schedule.  Hurry is a disordered heart.”  And I agree.  When I’m talking about hurried and unhurried, I’m not just talking about miles per hour, I’m talking about the anxious, driven frantic heart.

5 Ways to Avoid Killing Your Marriage

1.  Put some energy and intentionality into this marriage!  Some people put more energy into creating their college basketball tournament  bracket each year than they do their marriage.  Being passive, while sitting in your emotional recliner, will bring a slow death to a marriage that could have been so much more.  Think of what you might have missed!

2.  Stop giving all of your attention to your children while you totally neglect your spouse.  This is a dead-end street.  Are you married?  One of the most precious gifts that you can give your children is a front row seat to witness their mom and dad cherishing one another.  As a Christian married man, there may be nothing I can do for my children that is more important than for them to see me love their mother.

3.  Quit talking to one another with contempt.  When you call her vile and degrading names, you are sending a strong message.  When you rip him apart with degrading language, you are sending a strong message.  Conversation with contempt intends to punish and hurt.  Do you really think this brings God pleasure when he hears you talk to your bride or groom this way?  Or, do you think it breaks his heart?

4.  Pray that you will begin to cherish her/him.  Then, put this into action.  Do something that in some way communicates that you cherish your spouse.  After all, God cherishes each one of us in spite of our sin.  God cherishes you in spite of your failures.  God certainly cherishes the one you married.  At the end of the day, I know that God wants me to treat her right.  In fact, God wants me to cherish the precious gift that he has given me.

5.  Focus on yourself, not her or him.  You can only manage yourself, not him or her.  Far too many married people are waiting on their spouse to get it together.  It is far more productive to focus on you being the kind of person that you would like to be married to.  You can not fix him/her.  You can’t make him/her better.  However, you can become the husband or wife you need to be.  The bottom line is, “Am I bringing God pleasure and satisfaction in the way I am behaving as a married person?”    

What I Learned About Anxiety that Has Helped Me Greatly

(Especially for parents, married people, leaders)

Years ago, I was preaching on a Sunday evening.  I was upset about something and it came through in the message.  (I think I had just read a book and was battling some concern as I prepared this message.) That evening, my in-laws were present.  After church was over, my father-in-law who had preached for many years asked me if he could make a comment about the message.  He said, “You know, I agree with most everything you said. However, you seemed very anxious and worried as you were preaching.  As people listening to you, when you seem anxious and worried, we begin to become anxious and worried.  We take our cues from you.”

A few years later, our family was preparing to move to a new location to begin a new ministry.  I was worried about our young children.  Would they be ok?  They would be leaving their friends and starting a new school.  Again, my in-laws said, “They will take their cues from you.  If you will smile and talk to them about the adventure you all are about to undertake, they will listen.  If you will relax and be excited about all of the new experiences you will have, it will impact them.  They watch you.”

Some years later, I would spend three years studying under Dr. Edwin Friedman, author of Generation to Generation and A Failure of Nerve.  This meant three trips a year to be with him and a small group near his home in Bethesda, Maryland.  Each trip was so valuable.  I learned so much during these years.  Maybe the most crucial practical lesson was learning how to manage myself as a husband, a father, and a leader.

Consider how we are regularly drawn to become anxious and reactive.  Part of the challenge is learning to manage oneself in such an environment.

If You Want to Live as an Encourager

Part 3

20.  An encourager may encourage another in important ways and yet be completely unaware of the significance of his/her actions.   In other words, our capacity to encourage may be much larger than our awareness of what is actually happening in the relationship.

21.  An encourager has learned that paying attention to another’s successes and failures is critical.  These are special moments for people.  Both can offer significant opportunities for others to encourage.

22.  An encourager communicates value that may be long remembered by the hearer.   In some cases, these words are the only positive, encouraging communication that person may have received in a long time.

23.  An encourager understands that many people grow up hearing disparaging, insulting, vile remarks directed toward them.  Meanwhile, an encourager’s words may feel like a drink from a fresh, cool mountain stream.

24.  An encourager pays attention to the details of another’s life.  The encourager notices what another person is doing that might be noble, good, or worthy of imitation. She takes nothing for granted.  Rather she might express her appreciation to a person who has worked hard to do a task right.  For instance, someone may have gone to a great deal of trouble to prepare a meal or to purchase a gift.  An encourager will express gratitude to that person for what they have done.

25.  An encourager understands that one size does not fit all.  What encourages one may not encourage another.

26.  An encourager is sensitive to other people and does not wish to discourage or demoralize another.

27.  An encourager is very careful with humor.  Many people have been embarrassed by someone who said something that was insensitive and even humiliating.   When a person cringes upon hearing such a thoughtless remark, the person who uttered the remark becomes defensive and says, “I was only joking.”  (Often this means, “Don’t hold me responsible for what just came out of my mouth.”)  Meanwhile, an encourager uses humor that is self-deprecating or is in some way safe.

28. An encourager steps in when someone is discouraged.  Perhaps a high school student has run for student government president and wasn’t elected.  Perhaps another person interviewed for a new job and wasn’t chosen.  These can be very discouraging moments.  An encourager is sensitive to these moments and seeks to encourage.

29.  An encourager remembers the forgotten people.  Is someone in the hospital?  Is someone in a nursing home?  Is there someone who rarely gets included at social gatherings?  An encourager encourages the forgotten. 

If You Want to Live as an Encourager

Part 2

11.  An encourager often doesn’t realize how much he or she might actually be encouraging another. Rather, this person is fully present in another’s life, fully engaged with that person.  Never underestimate the power of God working through your presence with another. 

12.  An encourager builds another up instead of focusing on how that person does not measure up. The encourager does not communicate empty, flattering words.  Rather the encourager focuses on behavior that is good, right, and even exemplary behaviors and actions.  

13.  An encourager has a way of communicating real value to another instead of communicating a critique reminding that person that she or he is inadequate or “less than.”  

14.  An encourager never loses sight of what another might be doing that is noble or virtuous.  Some people become so focused on another’s failings that the person is left feeling hopeless.  

15.  An encourager can help another  make a comeback long after that person has failed.  So many people fail and then assume that they are permanently disqualified from ever being cherished and valued by God again.

16.  An encourager understands that people are often encouraged in various ways.  For example, sometimes the most encouraging thing one can do is to really listen to another.  At other times, it might be especially encouraging for a person to be present at a significant event, such as a funeral, wedding, shower, retirement reception, etc.

17.  An encourager may be outgoing and gregarious.  Or, this person more introverted and a person of few words.  God can use a person to encourage through his or her own personality through a word, a smile, a hug, or in any number of ways. 

18.  An encourager knows the value of paying attention to another.  In a culture that is distracted through technology, social media, etc., this can be huge!

19.  An encourager communicates hope.  Some live with constant verbal abuse, put downs, insults, and words of contempt.  Far too many people live in environments that are discouraging, demoralizing and toxic.  Many people need a word of hope.

When a Minister Helps to Kill a Ministry

(How to end your ministry prematurely)

Does your congregation have a good minister?  Hopefully so.  A congregation really ought to encourage and value such a person.

Unfortunately, many other ministers start out well but then make one of three fatal errors which often brings a ministry to an end.  In this case, the problem wasn’t a cantankerous elder or harassment from a segment of the congregation.  Rather, in this case, this minister made three mistakes which are often fatal to to a ministry.

Three fatal mistakes a minister can make:

When a minister fails to be trustworthy.  When a minister lies, plagiarizes sermons, or pushes a hidden agenda with the congregation, the elders, or both, this could be a short ministry.

After all, good ministers are trustworthy.  They tell the truth and live trustworthy lives.  You don’t have to wonder what they are up to.  They are authentic (no hidden agendas) and take seriously their own transformation into the image of Jesus.  This transformation includes their ethics (which impacts how they work with a congregation) and their morals (which impacts their decision making).

When a minister continually shows poor judgement.  When a minister continues to use poor judgement with his choice of words, sermons, relationships, behavior in the community, behavior in elders’ meeting, etc., this can cause a ministry to end prematurely.  Poor judgement can get a minister into trouble quickly.

Meanwhile, good ministers consistently demonstrate good judgement.  They don’t cause others to cringe when they preach.  They are not regularly pulling surprises on a church like a magician who might suddenly pull a surprise out of his hat.  You can depend on them to handle various situations in a way that is mature.  This congregation knows their minister will handle difficult situations with wisdom and grace.  Their manner reflects they are trying to work with the congregation.

When a minister is constantly looking out for himself instead of serving the congregation. Such a minister is always trying to figure out an advantage for himself.  Many years ago, I knew a minister who approached businesses in the small town where he lived and asked for a discount solely because he was a minister.  I cringed at the thought of going in a store and asking for some sort of favor simply because I preached.  While many of us would never think of of doing this, there are some who expect to be treated as extra special and not subject to the rules because this person is a minister.  When a minister takes certain liberties with the truth, with a church credit card, with an expense account, or with someone else’s wife, he is on dangerous ground.

Meanwhile, the really good ministers serve instead of looking for what they can get from someone. They choose to give to others instead of using others.

There are many good ministers working with congregations.  Many of these people are servants who use good judgment and are trustworthy.  Unfortunately, there are others who may see a ministry come to an end prematurely because they have violated trust, consistently used poor judgement, and were focused on themselves instead of serving.

 

If You Want to Live as an Encourager

(Part 1)

If you want to live as an encourager:

1.  Know that your smile really makes a difference.  God can use you to actually brighten someone’s day through your smile.

 
2.  Know that many people are just one step away from significant life change.  That difference may come as God uses you to encourage.

 
3.  Know that God uses encouragers who are single and married, rich and poor, old and young.  Never assume that God will not use you to significantly encourage someone because you appear to be so different from that person.

 
4.  Know that an encouraging word can make an incredible difference to someone who is discouraged.  Meanwhile, a negative or harsh word can crush another and be remembered for many, many years.

Avoid These 6 Enemies of Marriage

The following are enemies of marriage.  They have a way of chipping away and even poisoning a marriage.  Run from these enemies!

Bitterness

Bitterness has a way of souring most any situation and most any day.  A bitter person can take seemingly innocent remarks and find something devious and sinister.  Bitterness is a poison that can be fatal to a marriage.

Deception.

Withholding information can become a pattern that ultimately destroys a marriage.  Some people put great energy into withholding information about those whom they are texting, what they are saying in private messages on Facebook, and whom they are calling on the phone.

Passivity.

Some husbands and wives will not take the initiative in their marriage.  Children cry while dad sits in his recliner wondering why she doesn’t deal with them.  Meanwhile, she puts more energy into Facebook and commenting on blogs than she does her marriage.  Passivity breeds neglect. Consequently, this marriage may suffer from a lack of intentional action, time, and energy.

Absence of Adoration.

A husband or wife may go to great lengths to do what they want while ignoring their spouse.  For example, a husband can make a lot of effort purchase tickets to the big game.   However, when his wife says that she would like to see a play or musical, he makes little or no effort to respond to her desire.  These spouses communicate to one another that they do not value each other enough to make the effort to give what the other might enjoy.

Constant Criticism.

Some people constantly complain, whine, and gripe about their spouse.  They are silent about what their spouse does that is right while they harp on his/her shortcomings.  A critical spirit can be a joy killer in a marriage.

Repeating Destructive Patterns.

A husband declares that he doesn’t want to be like his dad, either in his marriage or as a dad to his own children. Perhaps a young mother says that she doesn’t want to be like her faultfinding, complaining mother.  Yet, if a person is not intentional about becoming a different kind of spouse or parent, they will often resort to their default in their family of origin.  This person then repeats the same immature and obnoxious behaviors disliked in his/her father or mother.

These are six deadly enemies of marriage.  Anyone who is married and follows Jesus has been called to something higher.  Genuine self-giving love will cause us to avoid these enemies and not go near them.

(repost)