Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Not everything happens for a reason

Not Everything Happens For a Reason. By  


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Have you ever found yourself, in the midst of unimaginable grief, pain, heartache, or despair, wondering how you are going to make it through another day? Wondering where your next breath is going to come from? Your world has crumbled beneath you and you are left feeling shattered, empty, and hopeless.

And then a well meaning friend or family member comes along and drops the infamous “Everything happens for a reason” bomb. You smile kindly and nod- that’s all you can do to keep yourself from punching them in the face.

You can’t possibly imagine a reason for what just happened. 

The more you stew about a possible reason for your pain, the angrier you become. You try desperately to make sense of a situation that won’t ever make sense. You reach for answers but none come.

I spent years searching for answers, trying to find reasons that would bring an end to my pain. I thought that if I could find the cause, I could treat the condition. But what I found through years of searching, experiencing, and living is that often there is no reason for why tragedy has occurred.

Sometimes bad things happen for no reason other than we are human beings having a human experience. Pain, heartache, grief, loss, disease, and death are inevitable parts of the human experience. 

We hear people say “Life dealt me a crappy hand” as if pain and hardships are not the norm. We assume that life is supposed to be easy and when things don’t go our way, we feel like we have been wronged. Human beings seem to have an innate sense of entitlement. We think that we are owed a pain free existence.

But the truth is that human beings are not exempt from the human experience. And struggle is an innate part of the human experience. None of us are exceptions to this rule. We all struggle. We all suffer. We all experience pain, heartache, and loss. And sometimes, there’s just no reason other than we are human and pain is a part of the process.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was struggling to find peace with “God’s plan” for her life including the recent death of a loved one.

“How could this possibly be God’s will?” she asked.

Here’s what I’ve come to know about God’s will:

God’s will is not the path we walk, but rather how we walk the path.  

God’s plan is never for someone to have cancer. God’s will is not for an innocent child to be brutally murdered. God’s will is not for a teenage girl to be raped. God’s will is not chronic pain, illness, disability, or death.

God’s will is not an event that happens to us, it’s how we respond to what happens. 

God’s will for us is to walk with Him through the cancer. Through the abuse. Through the death. Through the illness. God’s will is for us to draw close to him in the midst of pain. God’s will is for us to use our painful life events to carry his message of hope, grace, forgiveness, and mercy. 

God’s plan was never for pain to be part of the human experience. His plan was for us to live in peace and harmony with Him. The human experience became painful when sin entered the world. Our own free will weaved threads of tragedy, loss, heartache, and pain into the human experience

God is not responsible for our pain. We are not responsible for our pain. What happened in the Garden of Eden is responsible for the human condition. And the human condition is hard wired for pain and suffering. God is not causing us to hurt. He is hurting with us. What we do with our hurt is what matters. How we handle tragedy is what brings purpose into our pain.

There’s hardly ever a justifiable reason for the bad things that happen in life. Tragic loss is not laced with inherent specs of good. I used to get so mad when people would say, “you can find good in every situation.” That’s just not true. There was nothing good about being raped. There is no good in murder or abuse. We have to create the good. We have to choose to respond in a way that brings good into an impossible situation. We have to choose to give purpose and meaning to our suffering.

Not everything happens for a reason. But in everything that happens, there can be a reason to bring hope and healing to others. God can use our pain for a greater good if we choose to let Him in. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Family and Church Attendance

I Won’t Force My Kids To Go To Church

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My parents forced me to eat three times a day growing up. No joke. Three times. Every. Single. Day. And it wasn’t always stuff I liked, either. Matter of fact, I complained a lot about what my mom made. ‘Ewww, gross! Meatloaf? Seriously? Mom you know we hate this stuff!’ So as I approached adulthood I made an important decision. Since my parents forced me to eat while I was growing up, I decided I was done with meals. Oh, here and there I’ll eat out of obligation. I mean, family traditions like Thanksgiving and Christmas, yeah, I’m there. But daily eating? No way. I’m done.

Set in any other context, excuses people make for not going to church sound completely ridiculous. But set in the context of Christianity, people say these things in all seriousness while others nod sagely in somber agreement.

My son told me a few weeks into school that he didn’t like the teacher. He wasn’t getting excited enough about learning, and he didn’t really feel connected to the other kids in his class, so I told him he never had to go back to school again. Who wants to waste their time going somewhere they aren’t being fulfilled?

We’ve never forced our daughter to stay off the road when playing. We don’t want to restrict her imagination. We allow her the freedom to make her own choices in life.
– Ruth Meyer

Now maybe the above analogies sound ridiculous. Maybe you’re thinking, “No loving parent would let their kids decide whether to go to school or not, and they definitely wouldn’t let their kid play in traffic. That’s endangering their lives.  Its a matter of life or death.” And that is exactly the point. This is a matter of life or death for your child. Eternity is at stake.

In our family, church is a non-negotiable. Its a non-negotiable because we understand that how we raise our children, and what we teach them (or don’t teach them) about Jesus carries eternal consequences. And as parents we have a responsibility to share with them what God has done in our lives through the love of Jesus. So we read the Bible together at night and we pray together. We got to church. We talk about God at home and in the car and at the park. Will they always be excited about getting up and going to church? I hope so, but I doubt it. But regardless, my wife and I still make them go because we are their parents and we know whats best for them. And so, when they complain we will tell them why gathering together is a non-negotiable. Just like when they complain that we serve them healthy meals we explain why we eat vegetables and not just cake. We take them to school every morning; no matter how much they complain or bellyache. And we explain why school is so important. We set boundaries and limits while they are playing outdoors. We tell them to look both ways when they cross the street, not because we said so, but because to do otherwise means possibly being hit by a car. We do these things because we love them and we are looking at the long term outcome, not what will make them happiest in any given moment.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6

Will all of that insure that they turn out to be the model upstanding citizens that my wife and I hope? No. Its even possible for children to be brought up in a loving Christian home and still turn away from Jesus later. That is out of our control. As parents, our responsibility is to teach our children about the world and about God. We teach them how God created this world perfectly. We teach them how the world became broken through that first sin of Adam and Eve. When their own brokenness shows itself, we point it out, and then we point to the One who came to heal that brokenness; Jesus. And they are never too young to begin learning these things. Each of our children learned to pray while still in highchairs. Our responsibility as Christian parents is about so much more than just taking our kids to church on Sunday mornings.

To say, as a parent, “I won’t force my kids to go to church. I’ll let them decide on their own.” sounds so enlightened. But its the most dangerous thing a parent could say. It would be safer for you to let your children play on the highway in rush hour traffic than to let them decide whether or not they wanted to go to church. One of those options carries temporary consequences (if you let your child play on the highway in rush hour traffic they will die); and the other carries potential eternal consequences.

Church isn’t just one good choice among many. Church isn’t a building. Church, properly understood, is the body of Christ; the gathering of believers in a specific place. And as such, it is a place where we all belong. We are all equally sinful before God and equally in need of a Savior. Church isn’t just a place you go to. Its not a place that you go to feel better about yourself. Its not entertainment. Its purpose is not to give you ten easy steps to fix your marriage. Church is the gathering of believers to receive what God has come to give in Jesus.

Jesus himself said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” – Matthew 18:20

So when we come together we confess our sins. Then, having confessed our brokenness and need, we hear words of forgiveness. We hear that, though our sins are many, God in Jesus has forgiven them. We hear God’s word spoken to us as Scripture is read, and we speak those words to each other through various parts of the service. We sing songs and hymns praising and proclaiming what Jesus has done for us. We hear hear sermons that proclaim the good news of forgiveness in Jesus.

Don’t give up and don’t give in to those outside voices that tell you how much more important sleep, or schoolwork, or band, or sports, or anything may be than church. Instead, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

 

Is God Angry Anymore

Is God Angry Anymore?  

 by Jim Elliff

When I was in public high school, we had to read part of a famous sermon called Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, by Jonathan Edwards. He graphically pictured sinners as spiders dangling by a thread over the fire of Hell. He also asserted that God is angrier at this moment with some who are living than with others who are already in Hell.
Do you believe that? Is God angry? I don’t believe my teacher thought so. When I later studied the Bible on the subject, I was surprised by what I found.
I learned that God’s anger is pure. The biblical command, "Be angry and sin not" reminds us that there is an anger that is justified. God always has this kind of perfect, holy anger.
The Apostle Paul said, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men…" Romans 1:18a
King David said, "God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day." Psalm 7:11 (NKJV) And the Apostle John said, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him." John 3:36
Note that these verses teach that God is not only angry with sin but also with the sinner. Since God sees everything (Hebrews 4:13), He evaluates perfectly. Whenever God is angry it is for holy reasons.
Sometimes we think of God as a judge sitting on the bench who passively issues sentences to guilty persons. But is God like this? The original words used for God’s anger are passionate words. Why? Because, unlike our court judges, God Himself has been sinned against.
Notice the emotion in Nahum 1, where God is identified as jealous, avenging and filled with wrath (verse 2). Verse 6 is even more pointed. "Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him."
However, even in the midst of His fury, God is self-controlled. The Bible teaches that He is slow to anger (Nahum 1:3), and most of us learned long ago that God is love. But while a loving God certainly is willing to hold off His judgment, it is just as certain that He will judge sin.
Romans 2:5-6 describes it this way: "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’" In verse 16 of the same chapter it says that this will occur "on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares."

Why is God so angry? There are at least three reasons.
1. Because of the sheer number of your sins. If you were to sin only 10 times a day for one year, you would disobey God 3,650 times. But if you sinned 10 times a day for 15 years, you would sin 54,750 times! You are a professional sinner! Yet, how many times did Adam sin before he was cursed by God?
2. Because you have sinned against such an infinite God and high command. There are different levels of sin and punishment (Luke 10:12; 12:42-48). A crime is weighed according to the seriousness of the command and the stature of the person who is sinned against. It is one thing to disobey your coach at school. It is another thing to disobey a judge. It is one thing to turn in a late term paper. It is another thing to murder the president. The highest command is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength." The greatest being is God. Each time you sin, you commit the highest crime against the greatest being! God ought to be angry.
3. Because you have sinned against God’s greatest act of love. Christ was sent into the world of men and women out of love (John 3:16). But many of your friends, and perhaps you also, have rejected Christ up to this very moment. This rebellion is a sin against compassion. Is it any wonder that God is angry with those who think little of His love?
How can you be rescued from this holy anger? Only through propitiation. But what does that mean?
The word "propitiation" (pro-pish-ee-ay-shun; sometimes translated, atonement) means this: Jesus fully satisfied the just anger of God for people like you by dying in your place, taking on himself all the wrath you deserve. We learn about this in Romans 3:24-25 and Hebrews 2:17. God’s just fury, indignation and anger for sins were poured out on Christ for every sinful person who will come to him by faith.
And that is great news!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Courage to be a Godly man...

Dr. Crawford Loritts ...53 leadership quotes about the courage needed to be a Godly man:

1. Spiritual gifts are not a path to self-discovery. The only reason is for the wholeness and the blessing of the body of Christ.

2. Adversity and inadequacies are gifts from God.

3. What you don’t have forces us to rely on God.

4. God hits straight licks with crooked sticks.

5. Having gaps does not limit what God can do.

6. It is a miracle God would use me to do anything.

7. It is more important for us to have a big vision for God than it is for us to be looking at if we’re capable of something.

8. We all are deficient.

9. Spurgeon struggled with depression his whole ministry. Feeling of worthlessness.

10. Listen to God speaking through your wife.

11. No one can be the husband of your wife but you. No one can be the father of your children but you.

12. Some of us get in trouble not because of the work but other things.

13. You have to speak in one voice as a couple.

14. It is the wife and mother that creates the environment that creates the attitude about dad.

15. If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. If daddy ain’t happy, nobody cares.

16. Kids need to know there are justifiable sacrifices.

17. It takes courage to be a man.

18. Nothing in life happens apart from courage.

19. There is no movement in life apart from courage.

20. Somebody has to own the responsibility to do something. That is the role of being a husband and father. Someone has to go to a place nobody wants to go so others can arrive at a place they always wanted to be.

21. Great disclosure comes greater responsibility.

22. Great understanding brings greater accountability.

23. The first pillar of courage rests upon a clear assignment from God.

24. When a man of God dies nothing of God dies. Don’t get arrogant.

25. Our hearts are to be filled with what God wants done apart from our personalities and feelings.

26. There is no such thing as courage apart from clarity.

27. Faith does not exist apart from opposition.

28. You are courageous for something. There is an assignment from God. There is something that needs to be done.

29. Courage is always in the verb position. It is always moving somewhere.

30. If you are the head of your household, God expects us to listen to Him and do what needs to be done inside that house.

31. Seek God’s will about our lives. Why are we here? What were we born for? What are our assignments? What is He telling us to do? Too many of us are too passive.

32. Courage rests upon the assurance of God’s presence.

33. God never called anyone to do anything in the Scriptures that you don’t see a promise of His presence. When you do what He wants you to do, there is a manifestation of His presence.

34. God’s will and God’s plan is about the manifestation of Himself. Your neck is not on the line.

35. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the direction of your fear.

36. Don’t ever follow anyone who never said they were never afraid. That person is an idiot.

37. If you fear God more than people, you will always come out courageous.

38. Courage rests upon on focused determination.

39. God does not negotiate with Joshua whether he is courageous enough to handle the assignment. He commands him to be courageous.

40. If you act with courage, you’re going to get courage. Don’t wait to feel like you have it.

41. Courage is like a muscle. It gets stronger when you exercise it.

42. Leadership is not for the faint of heart. The devil is not sitting back while we determine to raise Godly kids. He is going to come after you. You are on the right target when you are being shot at.

43. Success and failure is really in your hands.

44. Your success or failure is determined by your relationship to the Word of God.

45. A leader means you are a portrait of the desired destination at which others should wish to arrive. We’ve got to be it.

46. Our culture and society is going down the crapper because we have ignored Truth.

47. You’ve got to proclaim Truth. You’ve got to possess Truth.

48. When they cut you, you ought to bleed Bible. – Tony Evans

49. You’ve got to practice Truth.

50. Leadership in the Bible is all about character because the leader needs to be worth following.

51. People follow you because of who you are.

52. We’ve got to organize our life based upon what God is calling us to do and be.

53. Pull the trigger. Get up and act. Take responsibility. Apologize for where we have been passive with our wives and kids.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

10 Things Generation Y Christians Need To Hear

January 20, 2016
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Ten somewhat blunt pieces of advice to myself along with any generation Y christians.
  1. You don’t have to have a certain theme going for you in order to be a christian. You do not need to know how to do calligraphy. You do not need to own anything North Face and no, not even Patagonia. You are allowed to not like Chacos. An Eno is not a necessity. You do not need to have a certain look to be a christian. You just need a certain heart; a broken one- a broken heart in need of repair. Priceless.
  2. There is a big difference between showing off your God and showing off your relationship with God. It is all about your motives. If you are Instagramming a picture of your bible and notes to glorify your God, continue on but if you are deep down glorifying yourself and how prideful you feel for spending time with the Lord, just post the picture of your dog from last Thursday instead.
  3. Don’t let your holy phone life take place of your good actions in real life. If you text sincerely and genuinely, you better be talking even more sincerely and genuinely in person. If you remind others of true Love via social media, you better be showing them even more of it when you see them in the real world. Don’t hide behind your phone. Show Jesus in your actions, not just in your captions.
  4. Age should not discourage you but you don’t need to have it all figured out either. You will never know the full reality of Jesus Christ until you have made it to His feet in heaven. Don’t act like you know it all. There is a reason why they call it growing in Jesus Christ. There is no christian who has it all figured out because God is so great and mighty, He has made Himself impossible to completely figure out here on earth. Give yourself a break, no one else in the room knew how to pronounce Ampliatus either.
  5. Don’t expect nor give yourself any glory for doing what you have been called to do. Stop celebrating yourself when loving others. Celebrate God being so grand and personal that He loved the ones you love through your actions. He chose to do it through you and you could not have done it without Him. It is all His. We need to stop being proud for loving others. Loving others should be the norm.
  6. Pray to the Ruler, not the room. When we pray to the room for affirmation from others, our prayers are stationary. When we connect our prayers to the Ruler, our prayers have power basked in power because the greatest Power is the receiver of these prayers. Powerful, real prayer are linked to the One above, not the ones around.
  7. Never stop being amazed with how abundantly free and full God desires you to live. Jesus did not just die for you so you could lay down your life the day you handed it over but so that you could choose freedom in each day, so that you could touch the fullness of life He created in every day. He gave up perfection so you would not have to run in fear of it. Never stop realizing how good He is, how free you truly are and how loved you will forever be.
  8. If they aren’t leading you, you better be leaving them. I have said it once. I’ll probably say it about fifteen more times this month. If they are not leading you to the cross-recklessly, lovingly, boldly, and your number one goal in life is to be with Jesus Christ intimately and closely, something is off. Make sure their heart is for Jesus before their heart is for you. Make sure your relationship with them is not the most significant one in their life.
  9. Do not be scared if your perception of God shifts as you grow. Do not shy away from learning about who God truly is just because He is becoming a clearer, more real and personal God, perhaps an even more straight to the point kind of God. His love still endures forever. He is still good no matter how complicated He may seem at a certain valley during your growth.
  10. Stop freaking out at the cash register. Stop trying to find your credit card. Stop trying to dig for your checkbook. Stop trying to find any coins. They are not present. Someone who went before you has already paid for all you owe and you can never return the favor. All you can do is live your life like a big, “Thank you!” and go in peace, freedom and love. That’s it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tithing....

Tithing is Not Taboo: Generosity is Better Than Greed

OfferingPlateTithing is the spiritual practice of honoring God by giving the first tenth of your entire income to your local church. Tithing is not taboo, meaning it is not banned, prohibited, or forbidden. Your church may not emphasize the importance of tithing from your entire income, but it is a very important part of the Christian life.

Generosity is a lifestyle that gives freely and lives openhandedly. Generosity is the amount beyond the first tenth you give to your church. I can assure you that generosity is better than greed.

Greed is an insatiable desire for more. Greed is about grasping, craving, acquiring, and hoarding, while generosity is about giving, charity, blessing, and handing.

Greed is Not Godly

Christians ignore and mock God’s Word when they do not honor God with giving at least the first tenth of their entire income to their local church. They try to rationalize or even justify it, and some even attempt to explain it away biblically. I have never discovered anyone who practices tithing and generosity try to explain why tithing and generosity are not biblical.

Somehow, we must grow in our faith enough to understand that when we do not give biblically by both tithing and practicing generosity, we are not walking in godliness. Greed is not godly.

No One is Exempt from Tithing and Generosity

Pastors, staff members, elders, deacons, lay leaders, and all Christians are not exempt from tithing and generosity. In fact, when we do not practice giving the first tenth of our income and enter into the sphere of generosity, we are practicing and choosing greed.

Greed is like a rattlesnake that many of us want to snuggle up with in our hearts. While on a run last week, I ran upon a Copperhead snake lying right beside the curb. I did not cuddle with it; in fact, I ran with a chill up my spine for the rest of the week.

Greed is not about how much a person has or does not have. Greed is a matter of the heart. I have seen greed exist in the lives of those who have little and I have seen it exist in the lives of those who are overwhelmed with wealth. Nice things are not wrong until you violate God’s principles of giving in order to attain them.

There is Only One Way to Avoid Greed

There is only one way those with much or those with little avoid greed: Giving the first ten percent of their entire income to their local church and moving into the sphere of practicing generosity. They completely embrace a lifestyle of giving freely and living openhandedly.

Pastor James MacDonald is correct when he says that giving the first tenth of all God has given to you is the on ramp to the highway called generosity. Wherever you are in your life educationally, vocationally, or financially, ALL BLESSINGS flood the person and family that get on this on ramp that leads to the highway called generosity. 

Living on 90% with God involved will go much further than living on 100% without God involved.

When you obey God’s Word about giving and generosity, you are getting God involved in your life supernaturally. You are never more like Jesus than when you give.

Living on 90% with God involved will go further than living on 100% without God involved. I have never met any person who practiced giving the first ten percent of their income through their local church that ever regretted it or did not have their needs met in life.

Three Important Things to Remember

1. Pastors need to preach unashamedly and uncompromisingly what the Bible says about tithing and generosity.

When you speak on tithing and generosity, there will always be some who will complain or crank up the rumor mill. But just remember pastor: Many who do so do not give as they should biblically. Many who cause this stir are carnal and do not want to face the reality of their greed. Pastor, you and your family should model giving at least the first ten percent of all God gives you through your local church and practice generosity beyond that.

2. Laypeople, encourage your pastor to preach on tithing and generosity. 

Lead the way laypeople, encouraging your pastor to preach on tithing and generosity. Encourage and defend him both privately and publicly. Rebuke people who want to criticize him for doing it. People who do not want to hear and be challenged in giving are people who are not practicing giving God’s way.

3. Give freely and live openhandedly.

Be a giver, not a grabber. Live generously, not greedily. Give freely because God gave all He has given to you freely. Live openhandedly, sharing it with your church and other people because none of it is yours anyway. You own nothing; God owns everything. Give it away freely and live your entire life openhandedly. By the way, even when you die, leave at least the first ten percent of all God had given you in your life and legacy to your local church. Additionally, practice generosity by giving to your church even beyond the first ten percent and then to other Christian ministries that are advancing the gospel globally.

We are never more like Jesus than when we give. Allow God to be part of your life in a supernatural way by giving biblically. 

Now is the Time to Lead, 

Ronnie W. Floyd


Monday, July 27, 2015

I Am A Grateful Pastor

I Am a Grateful Pastor (repost from Thom Rainer

I am a grateful pastor.
I admit I get discouraged at times. And I admit that I can get frustrated and weary as well.
But I have so much for which to be grateful. There are so many church members who bring me joy and encouragement.
I am a grateful pastor.
I am grateful for the church member with a great attitude, the one who encourages me, who prays for me, and has a ready smile for me.
I am a grateful pastor.
I am grateful for that church member in worship services almost every week. He has his Bible open and his heart open to hear God’s Word proclaimed.
I am a grateful pastor.
I am grateful for the lady who is in a Bible study group every week. She loves to study the Word of God in fellowship with others.
I am a grateful pastor.
I am grateful for the young mom who serves in the church with joy and commitment. She is busy, and her family does come first, but she makes time for her church as well.
I am a grateful pastor.
I am grateful for that dear man living his retirement years sharing the gospel wherever he can. He is a witness in both word and deed.
I am a grateful pastor.
I am grateful for that single mom who gives abundantly. I know she has to stretch her dollars, but she trusts God and is generous without hesitation.
I am a grateful pastor.
I am grateful for that business executive who was tempted to drop out of the church but didn’t. He was hurt by other church members, but he chose to forgive and to stay.
I am a grateful pastor.
I am grateful for the young man who recognized he was playing church games. He committed in God’s power, to become a truly functioning part of the body of Christ. His change is evident
I am a grateful pastor.
I am grateful for that 40-something lady who dropped by my office to tell me she had recommitted her life to making a difference for God through her church. In just a short while, she has touched countless lives.
Indeed, I am a grateful pastor.
I could focus on the tough times and the critics, and sometimes I do. But I have so much for which to be grateful, so many church members who bless me week after week.
I am a grateful pastor.
And I thank you, God, for letting me serve at this great church.