Chris Russell


Chris Russell

Chris Russell has spent the past 25 years actively involved in ministry through pastoring, church planting, writing, Christian radio, and special speaking around the country and in seven different countries. He is passionate about communicating the truths of God's Word in a creative, highly-relevant way.

Chris has three kids and happens to be married to his best friend, Leigh. He currently pastors a church on the north side of Cincinnati. When he's not pastoring or blogging (www.SensibleFaith.com), he runs a real estate company in his "spare" time (www.PlumTreeRealty.com). He believes that A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) is one of his 'spiritual gifts.'

5 Tips for Maintaining Sanity During This Election Season

Have you noticed the amazing intensity of this election season? Wow!  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen more anger between candidates, political parties, citizens, and … Facebook friends!

In order to keep us from getting hurt in the scuffle, I thought it might be useful to suggest a few tips to help us maintain our sanity during this election season!

1. Maintain a Kingdom Perspective.

There’s no sense in getting all uptight about politics when the reality is that we are just visitors in this world, anyway. We are just travelers. Tourists. Outsiders. (See 1 Peter 2:11.)

Think about it this way: do you get all wrung out of shape about the elections in Spain? No? Why not? I’m guessing it’s because you are not a citizen of that country. In a similar way, we Christians shouldn’t allow the affairs of American politics to get us overly stressed out, because this really isn’t our home country. We are from a different Kingdom altogether. And when we see the mess that this world is in, it is certainly a huge blessing to remember that this is not our eternal home.

2. Avoid Power-Over Thinking.

I recently heard a sermon by Pastor Greg Boyd in which he contrasted “power-over” thinking with “power-under” thinking. The kingdom of this world is all about grasping power and controlling others. The kingdom of heaven, on the other hand, is all about power-under. It is about serving. It is about placing the needs of others above our own. When Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant in the garden, Jesus told him that “those who take up the sword will also die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Jesus clearly came to turn this world completely upside down. He did not come to control; He came to serve and to lay down His life for all. Wow! How amazing is that?

As Christians, we must be cautious that we do not get drawn into the power-over approach. Rather than seeking to control and dominate others, we should step back and seek to love and serve. This applies to politics, and it also applies to all human relationships. Think about all the marriages that could be saved if the husband and wife sought a power-under approach rather than power-over!

3. Dodge the Emotional Loop.

One thing I have noticed this year more than any election year is the heightened state of emotions in regard to politics. I believe that Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media have made communication so open that many people seem to be getting quite carried away in the emotional surge.

In their book, The Leader’s Voice, Clark and Crossland note that our emotions run in an emotional loop with others around us. In other words, our emotions can affect the emotions of others, and their emotions can affect ours. Have you ever been having a bad day, and then someone came up to you who was bubbling over with joy? Can you recall how that had a tendency to lift your emotions? Or, on the other hand, have you ever been having a good day, and then someone approached you who was very angry or sad? Do you recall how that pulled your emotions down?

A person who is emotionally healthy can rise above that loop and stay in control of his emotions regardless of those around him. The Bible actually states that it is a strong person who has the power to stay in control of his emotions (Proverbs 16:32, Proverbs 25:28, Proverbs 29:11).

As we apply that concept to our current context, I see a lot of Christians who are getting dragged into a very negative emotional loop in regard to the political conversation. Through Facebook, TV, the Internet, talk radio, etc., many people’s emotions seem to be running wild. I am suggesting that you become intentional about rising above that loop and avoiding the damage that comes with it.

4. Seek to Shake the World Through Love.

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples: by your love one for another” (John 13:35). In a world that is filled with anger and hostility, our most penetrating weapon is love. Through intentional love we can completely shake this nation.

Unfortunately, it appears that many Christians are taking their lead from some of the leading talk radio shows on the air today.  I believe Jesus’ pattern will allow us to be much more effective than that of, say, Rush Limbaugh. Truth without love alienates, and I believe that is one of the reasons we have such a divided culture today. Imagine what could happen if we approached the political conversation in the way that Jesus did! Now, that would be revolutionary! And that is what it will take for us to have a voice in this world.

5. Pray, Relax, and Go Make a Sandwich.

I believe we should be involved in the political conversation. I believe we should vote. I believe we should do what we can to influence our culture. But even then we should keep in mind that God is in control. In the midst of your activity, continue in everything with a spirit of prayer. Then, relax. Let God take it and deal with it.

Do you realize that God is not up in Heaven wringing His hands with anxiety? God is not stressed out about the election, so we need not be stressed over the election, either.

Once you have truly given this to the Lord, relax!

Then, go make a sandwich.

Everything will be all right.

The last chapter of history has already been written. For those of us who know Christ, it ends well. For those who do not know Christ, well … not so much.

If you do not know Christ personally, now would be a terrific time to find Him. The Bible says, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be rescued” (Romans 10:13). Now is the time to ask Him for forgiveness and call on Him to rescue you from the consequences of your own sin. With that, you will avoid that ultimate Judgment and enjoy eternal life in a place that will blow your mind: the presence of God in Heaven!


Warning: This Book May Change Your Life Forever

… from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

(2 Timothy 3:15-17)

Sometimes I forget about how far God has brought me in my Christian journey since I first believed about 28 years ago. But the reality has hit me within the past year as I’ve gotten connected to some old friends through… Facebook!

What God has done in my life was highlighted when one of my Facebook friends, whom I haven’t seen since 7th grade (before I was a Christian), discovered that I am now involved in ministry. She wrote on my Facebook wall, “Chris Russell in ministry??? No way! Comedian? Yeah. Bartender? Yeah. Minister? No way! What has happened to you, Chris?”

With that I was able to share a testimony of God’s power to change lives. I told of God’s great grace that was able to even rescue someone like me and change my life forever. She was amazed, and so am I!

But my life is not the only one that has been changed. You see, God is changing millions of lives all around the world every day! God is doing a supernatural work by setting people free from bondage and bringing them into a joyful new life filled with blessing and purpose. The Scriptures claim to be able to change a life forever, and we see examples of that all around the world every day!

On the flip side, I never see people set free from addictions such as alcoholism or drug abuse as a result of deciding to drop Christianity and turn their lives over to atheism. How many people who are in bondage to self-destructive behaviors have been set free and changed forever because they turned away from God? How many airplanes loaded with atheists flew to Haiti this past year in order to help those who were devastated from the earthquakes? You don’t hear of that sort of thing, but you do hear about thousands upon thousands of Christians doing such a thing. Why? Because God has changed their lives – forever!

My encouragement to you is to saturate your heart and mind with this miraculous Book. But take warning:  it just may change your life forever!


Why Sex is So Addicting

Sex is a beautiful thing, and sex is a powerful thing. After all, God created it!

And it’s important for you to know that the reason God puts restrictions on sex is not because He is a cosmic killjoy who hates to see us having fun. That’s not it. The reason He has restricted it is because sex has a very powerful purpose in life.

The purpose for sex is to create a supernatural bond between a husband and wife that will never be broken. In line with this, sex is actually designed to be addictive!

Sex creates a nuclear-powered desire for a husband to be with his wife. It makes him think about her throughout the day. It makes him eager to be with her. It makes him want to serve her and to love her. And for the woman, it helps her to feel the closeness of their relationship as they become one in the marital act. Sex is the atomic bond that holds a marriage together.

Nuclear radiation can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. It can be good when it is used in a controlled environment for a specific purpose. It can be used to provide energy to a city, heal a person from a disease, or to heat a cup of coffee in sixty seconds.

But when nuclear radiation leaks from a controlled setting, it can become very dangerous and even disastrous. Think Chernobyl.

This is similar to the power and danger of human sexuality. When it is enjoyed within the boundaries of God’s plan, it can be a beautiful, joyful thing. But when that sexual energy is allowed to leak into inappropriate areas of life, then that can bring disaster.

When a man and woman become sexually active, there is literally a chemical that washes across their brains that is similar to the rush that is brought on by drugs like heroin. This is a very powerful experience, indeed. And this is intended to be an addictive bond between a husband and wife.

But this becomes a problem when people who are not married become sexually active. This “rush” often impairs their judgment, and they become bonded to a person who may or may not be a good partner for life. When they are in the middle of all of this, they can easily overlook serious character flaws that would have made them run had they not been involved sexually. The physical union causes them to overlook all of those warning flags that are flapping conspicuously all around them.

How many times have you seen a decent girl who continually goes back to a guy who is a mess... over and over again? And we shake our heads and wonder, “What does she see in him? Why does she stay with that guy?” Well, it’s often because she has created metaphysical bond with him that is addictive and nearly impossible to dissolve. This is one good reason why God says we should save sex for marriage.

Another example of how this plays out in real life is when a guy stumbles into pornography. Through that surge of chemicals in his brain, it becomes addictive like heroin. And when a married man expends his sexual energy on porn, he then has less energy to direct toward his wife in what should be the appropriate expression of his love. With such depleted energy toward his wife, their marriage then begins to crack and crumble as well. An inappropriate focus of sexual energy can be devastating to a marriage.

God wants husbands and wives to be addicted to one another for life. Let’s trust in God’s plan and allow that to be our guide to ultimate fulfillment.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


How to Fix Bad Decisions

I recently did a blog post called “8 Keys to Finding God’s Will For Your Life.” That post covered the big questions regarding God’s will, and it was intended to help people understand God’s calling for their lives, particularly in how it relates to ministry and vocation. I then followed up with another post called “How to Make Right Decisions.” That post offered a different slant on following God’s will. In particular, it brought it down to the day-to-day decisions we have to make that all add up to fulfilling God’s will overall.

I hope those posts were helpful to some. However, I do realize that a key question that comes up when addressing this issue is, “OK, so what do I do if I’ve already messed up? How do I fix a bad decision?” With this question in mind, I wanted to offer help for those times when we realize we’ve blown it.

How to Fix a Bad Decision

The first step is to answer the following question:

Was this bad decision a morally bad decision (right vs. wrong), or was it just a stupid bad decision? The way you deal with the bad decision will vary depending on your answer to that important question.

How to Fix a Morally-Bad Decision

1)   Confess it to God.

1 John 1:9

The first step to fixing a sinful mistake is to confess it directly to God. By “confess,” I mean that you should agee with God about how bad it was and ask Him to forgive you for what you did. Amazingly, once we confess our sins to God, He will cast them as far as the east is from the west, and He will remember them no more.

2)   Stop doing that bad thing.

Proverbs 28:13

It’s one thing to confess your sin, and it is another thing to forsake your sin. You must do everything you can to turn away from that sin. This begins with an utter commitment to do whatever it takes to change.

3)   Wrap your head around everything God has said about that issue in the Scriptures.

Joshua 1:8

It is absolutely essential that you learn everything you can about what God has to say about that sinful mistake you have made. When you learn His thoughts, you will begin to pave a path away from that sin and toward restoration. But you just can’t wing it. You must study the Scriptures to know God’s heart on that issue.

4)   Ask for forgiveness from any who were hurt because of your bad decision.

Matthew 5:23-24

When we sin, we often hurt others. Sometimes we don’t even realize how badly we’ve hurt others while we are in the midst of the sin. So, take time to look around and take an honest look at what harm you may have caused others. Then, go to those you have hurt and apologize and do whatever you can to fix that hurt. You may not be able to fix it completely, and they may not even forgive you. But you need to do all that is within your power to make it right.

5)   Set up guardrails in your life that will help you keep from doing that again.

Proverbs 27:12

Proverbs 26:11

We all have sinful desires, and so we must establish guardrails that will keep us from careening off the road spiritually and wiping out in sin. If you struggle with Internet sin, then enlist an accountability partner who can monitor your online activity. If you struggle with anger, then enlist an accountability partner (a godly friend) who will lean into you to help you do right and correct you when you do wrong. Set up boundaries that will make it impossible for you to do that wrong thing even if you wanted to do that.

6)   Seek godly counsel for solutions in getting back on track.

Proverbs 11:14

We all need people to speak into our lives to give us a fresh perspective on how to fix our problems. None of us can solve all of our own problems alone. When you find godly advisors who can help to guide you, you will be amazed at how great of ideas they can come up with at times that will help you to find victory. They will see things that you cannot see yourself. It’s sort of like you’re walking around with a “kick-me” sign on your back. Others can see it, but you cannot. A godly counselor can help to remove it from your back.

7)   Surround yourself with a godly support system that will help you to do right.

Hebrews 3:13

In addition to one or two close advisors, you need a whole network of Christian friends who can help you to do right in your life. And the best places to find these close friends will be at church, small group Bible studies, and when you get involved in ministry. These relationships will make a huge difference in strengthening you and helping you to stay on the right path.

8)   Make a long-term commitment to change.

Matthew 16:24-26

To change, you must be committed to the long term. Plenty of people get into trouble in their lives and show up at church to find a “quick fix.” But then you often see those people fade away after just a few weeks or months. They return to the same old paths of sin that got them into trouble in the first place. So, up front, you must understand that this is a long-term commitment, and you must be committed to changing over the long haul. The Christian life is not a sprint; it is a marathon.

But what if the bad decision you made was not necessarily sinful, but it was just stupid?

How to Fix a Stupid Decision:

1)   Take full responsibility.

Proverbs 28:13

If you made a mistake, own it. Don’t explain it away, minimize it, or shift the blame to others. Just admit that you blew it, and take full responsibility. If you fail to own it, then others will question your integrity, and your problems will mount. It takes guts and true character to admit when you’ve made a mistake.

2)   Wrap your head around everything God has said about this specific issue.

Joshua 1:8

The principles of God’s Word are miraculously able to help you navigate the paths of life, so take advantage of that treasure trove of wisdom. Saturate you mind with God’s very own thoughts. Allow His thoughts to become your thoughts. The principles of God’s Word will guide you in getting things back on track.

3)   Work to understand fully what it was that went wrong.

Proverbs 10:23

It’s one thing to make a mistake. And it’s another thing to make the same mistake over and over and over, week after week after week. To stop the cycle, you must take time to stop, evaluate your situation, and figure out what it was that went wrong. Do everything you can to gain knowledge and understanding that will prevent you from making the same mistake repeatedly.

4)   Stop doing the stupid thing (if possible).

Proverbs 26:11

It may seem odd to have to actually make this point, but... you need to stop doing that thing that has gotten you into trouble. The reason I’m making this point is that I have counseled with too many people to count over the years who have recognized that they’ve made a bad decision, but then they go on to do it over and over again. So, stop doing that stupid thing. This means making a COMMITMENT to putting it to an end. You’ve got to want to stop it so badly that you will do whatever is required of you to forge a new path. Make that commitment right now!

5)   Ask for forgiveness from anyone you may have hurt by your bad decision.

Matthew 16:24-26

Even though your bad choice may not have been sinful, it still may have been hurtful to others. If so, do what you can to rebuild those relationships. Humbly take responsibility and ask for forgiveness. Don’t add any qualifiers to your apology. In other words, don’t say, “I’m sorry I did that, but....” Just apologize and ask them to forgive you for blowing it.

6)   Do whatever you can to offer restitution to anyone you have hurt by your bad decision.

Exodus 22

The Bible speaks of confession and forgiveness, but it also speaks much of restitution. If your mistake has caused a loss for others, then it is your responsibility to repay that loss. And if the loss is not a clearly tangible loss that can be quantified, you need to do whatever you can to fix the problem you have caused. This is difficult at times, but it is the right thing to do. And God will bless you greatly when you pay restitution to those you have harmed.

7)   Seek wise counsel to help you formulate a solid solution. (Formulate a “board of directors” for your life.)

Proverbs 11:14

1 Corinthians 15:33

I highly recommend that you find several godly advisors who will sort of act like a “board of directors” for your life.  No, you probably won’t conduct annual meetings or hold votes, but these advisors will be your go-to people when you need input for making decisions and resolving problems. These godly friends can help you to make good decisions and help you to resolve problems that arise when you make bad decisions.

8)   Create a plan for getting yourself back on track with where you should be.

Proverbs 21:31

Proverbs 16:9

Now it is important to prayerfully establish a plan to get yourself back on track, and then allow God to lead you each step of the way as you move forward within that plan. Determine what the best potential outcome can be considering the circumstances, and then think through the specific steps you will need to take to get to that preferred outcome. Write out those steps, and then assign deadlines for when you plan to complete those steps. Once you have your plan in place, share it with your closest advisors. They can help you greatly by giving you additional input and by holding you accountable to sticking to your plan.

If you would like to hear the audio teaching of this material, click here.

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If you believe anything in this blog post has been helpful, I would encourage you to share it on the social media platforms where you are active. Chances are great that you have friends/connections who will also benefit from the post.


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


8 Practical Ways to Use Facebook for Evangelism

Paul tells us in Hebrews 3:13,

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

I believe our generation has better tools for “encouraging one another daily” than any other time in history. Take Facebook, for instance. Through this powerful website, we now have the ability to stay in touch with people like never before!

While Facebook is a great place to stay closely connected with your best friends and family members, I would encourage you to add in a ministry component to what you do online. Become purposeful in using Facebook as a subtle way of nudging your friends toward God. Use it as a vehicle for advancing God’s purposes on this planet. This all comes down to mindset. What is your purpose for engaging people on Facebook? Hopefully, you will see what a great platform Facebook can be for your ministry.

With this in mind, here are eight simple ways that you can use Facebook to advance God’s Kingdom and to help others in their walk with the Lord:

1. Use your status updates as a subtle way of identifying yourself with God in front of your friends.

I don’t like to use Facebook for rants or soapbox preaching. However, I do like posting verses that have spoken to me during my devotional times, quotes from other godly people, and other spiritual insights that the Lord gives me from time to time. Regular, subtle status updates can go a long way in drawing your friends toward God.

2. Create a group page for your church or ministry.

Creating a Facebook page for your church is almost as important now as having a website for your church. Your church website can easily create an online brochure for people to learn about you. However, a Facebook page creates more of an opportunity to develop community for your church online. Once you have that page in place on Facebook, it can also become a fantastic opportunity for outreach. When page members like updates and pictures from that Facebook page, those likes will show up in their own newsfeeds. This becomes a subtle way for their friends to begin learning about your amazing church. We have discovered that any time we post pictures on our Facebook page, those turn into thousands of impressions to people who do not currently attend our church. And this outreach is FREE!

Many churches today seem to be going to a lot of expense and effort to create their own, private online community through their church website (a member-only section). I tend to discourage this approach. I believe it’s better to keep your online community right out there in the open on Facebook where unchurched people already have their accounts and can connect easily.

3. Train your church members to “check-in” on Facebook when they arrive at your church (via their mobile devices).

Each Sunday we quickly flash a reminder slide up on the screen which reminds people to check in on Facebook. We also run this slide in a loop prior to the service, and we often have that announcement in the bulletin. Since those check-ins appear in each person’s time line, that then gives us thousands of impressions on Facebook each week. When Facebook friends see that they have two or three friends who already attend your church, that will give them a reason to consider visiting. Friends on Facebook will also begin to realize that “something’s up” at your church!

4. Regularly create events for your church or ministry for which you can invite friends.

When you create an event on Facebook for your church or ministry, this creates momentum to help boost attendance and involvement. It also provides a free tool for your church members to use to invite their friends to your event. The event does not need to be elaborate. It could merely be the title of your pastor’s sermon for that week. But creating an “event” around that topic can go a long way in attracting new people.

By the way, keep in mind that the pastor is not the only one who can/should set up these events. Anyone in the church who is outreach minded can do these things to advance the ministry. As a matter of fact, it is probably even more effective if these events are set up by non-pastors.

5. Send friend requests to guests who have connected with your church.

When guests visit a church, they often feel like they are invading somebody else’s family reunion. A great way to help break down those barriers is to send them a friend request once you have gotten to know them a bit at church. Sending them a friend request shows them that you want to think of them as more than a church visitor; you actually want to become a friend. Facebook creates a terrific opportunity to begin planting the seeds of friendship.

6. Connect with the greatest ministries that are represented on Facebook and then like and share their status updates on your own Facebook wall.

Most of the greatest ministries in the country are already positioned on Facebook. Take some time to find those amazing ministries, and then like them. I have personally grown greatly in my journey with the Lord by receiving a steady stream of status updates from these great and powerful ministries. Those updates also give me valuable material to share with others on my own time line.

7. Create light touches by liking or commenting on your friends’ pictures and status updates.

When you like a picture or status update of one of your friends on Facebook, it communicates a subtle message that you care about them. These work well because they are light touches. By the way, for acquaintances, you will likely want to use these sparingly. You don’t want to “weird-out” people you barely know by liking every photo and status update they post. But occasionally noticing their updates can help you to begin connecting at a deeper level.

8. Maintain balance with your profile by continuing the personal side of Facebook along with your ministry focus.

Facebook is powerful because it is relational. If you use it merely as a soapbox or for self-promotion, you will actually begin to alienate your friends. So work to maintain a balance here. Go ahead and post a picture of that incredible hamburger or the video of that cat falling into the toilet. But then be sure to sprinkle some occasional seasonings of truth onto your timeline from time to time.


Chris Russell has spent the past 25 years actively involved in ministry through pastoring, church planting, writing, Christian radio, and special speaking around the country and in seven different countries. He is passionate about communicating the truths of God's Word in a creative, highly-relevant way.

Chris has three kids and happens to be married to his best friend, Leigh. He currently pastors a church on the north side of Cincinnati. For more, visit Sensible Faith.


5 Great Ways to Study Your Bible

Psalm 119:11
Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. (NKJV)

2 Timothy 3:16–17
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NKJV)

I have to admit, I get pretty excited about studying the Bible! I love to dig into the Scriptures and discover the amazing depths of truth and wisdom that are there. I’ve heard it said that “the closer you look, the greater the Book!” I’ve certainly found that to be true in my journey.

Over the years, I have found five specific ways of studying the Bible that have been very helpful for me. Since they have been such a blessing to me, I thought I’d take a few moments to share them with you. Here they are:

1. Book Study

This is a Bible study in which you focus on a specific book of the Bible. The idea is that you are seeking to master the content of one specific book. As a part of this study, you will want to research many details about the book, such as the author, recipients, date of the document, general themes of the book, place where the book was written, purpose of the book, people of interest in relation to the book, etc. When doing this type of study, it is helpful to read through the specific book several times. I know one pastor who would read a book 50 times through to master the book.

2. Topical Study

The topical study is an approach to Bible study in which you start with a topic of interest and then trace all the Scriptures through the Bible that relate to that topic. When done properly, this is basically a form of systematic theology. In other words, you are systematically going through the Bible and developing a theology around a specific topic. This is helpful when you want to gain a fuller understanding about what God has to say about a specific issue.

3. Character Study

A character study, also known as a biographical study, is when you research everything the Bible has to say about a specific person in the Scriptures. It can be fascinating and enlightening to gain a fuller understanding of a character from the Bible when you begin to piece together all the things that the Scriptures say about that person. Studying great men and women of faith can help you immensely when you begin to piece together the clues about their lives as they are described from various passages in the Scriptures. And studying the lives of people who fumbled in their faith can also serve as a healthy warning about things to avoid in your own life.

4. Saturation Study

A saturation study is when you decide to completely saturate your mind with a specific portion of scripture. The idea here is that you pull out a specific passage, and then you read that passage over and over and over until your mind is completely filled with every meaning and every nuance from the selected verses. For instance, you might pull Romans 12 out for special study. In this type of study, you might read the chapter perhaps every day for 30 days or so. Or you might choose a short (or long) book of the Bible to saturate your mind. Some have chosen books such as the Epistle of James to read 10, 20, 30 or more times in order to completely soak their minds with those truths.

5. Word Study

The word study is when you take a specific word in the Bible and discover every single way that it is used throughout the Old and/or New Testaments. For instance, you may decide to study how the term Spirit is used in the Bible. And you may find differentiations between the ways that it is used in the Old Testament as compared to the New Testament. Likewise, there are many, many great words that would be helpful for you to study: grace, peace, faith, courage, discouragement, send, devil, idolatry, etc. The list of great words is never-ending.

WARNING: Be extremely careful when studying the Bible. It just might change your life forever!


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


5 Simple Ways You Can Begin to Share Your Faith This Week

Jesus said in the John 4:35, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” If you are a follower of Christ, I hope you realize how important it is for us to actively be a part of the harvest of souls in our generation. It is absolutely essential that we put our finest efforts into rescuing lives from destruction.

But as I mention this subject, I realize many readers begin to tremble with fear. We worry about rejection or not being able to give an answer for those tough questions. Some do not even know where to begin with this mission.

Let me suggest five simple ways you can begin to share your faith this week:

1. Begin by living your life consistently with what God has said in His Word.

Many people get tripped up in sharing their faith because they know their lifestyle is not what it needs to be. The solution to this is very simple: turn your entire life over to God completely. Do it now.

2. Begin to publicly identify yourself with Christ through social media.

Social media can provide a subtle approach to sharing your faith. Change your “religious views” on your profile to “Christian.” Once or twice a week consider posting a Bible verse on your timeline. Link to your church’s website or to other Christian websites on your timeline. Let friends know you are praying for them when they express a need.

3. Volunteer to serve in a ministry at your church on Sunday mornings.

God’s strategic plan for evangelizing this generation is through His Church. When you serve in any of the weekend church ministries, you are becoming a part of the evangelistic machine that changes lives forever. Don’t underestimate the value of changing diapers in the nursery at your church. By serving you are opening up opportunities for people to hear the Word and surrender to Christ. That is a big deal!

4. Keep something on your desk or counter at work that identifies you as a Christian.

I had a dear friend (who has now gone on to be with the Lord in Heaven) who kept his Bible on his desk even though he never read it during business hours. And he told me often of how that symbol brought many people to his office asking questions about his faith and asking for prayer for needs in their lives. I would suggest you do something like this to identify yourself in your office as a follower of Christ. This could mean putting a Bible on your desk or something as simple as setting a coffee mug with your church’s logo in some visible part of your office. Better yet, put candy in the mug for coworkers to swipe when they stop in to talk to you!

5. Invite someone to church this Sunday.

Research indicates that the majority of unchurched people would attend a church if they were simply invited. Don’t be bashful. Send a few text messages out to some friends right now to invite them to church! Then you can allow the entire church body to be a part of bringing them to Christ! I would suggest that you invite them to church and lunch right afterward. This will turn it into more of a relational event, and you can have a chance to see how they felt about the church service.

Some of Jesus’s last words are found in Matthew 28:19-20. In this passage we are commanded to go out and make disciples. And in Acts 1:8, Jesus promises us the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit to help us in that mission.

So then, in the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s tell the world of the joy we have in knowing Christ!


Chris Russell has spent the past 25 years actively involved in ministry through pastoring, church planting, writing, Christian radio, and special speaking around the country and in seven different countries. He is passionate about communicating the truths of God's Word in a creative, highly-relevant way.

Chris has three kids and happens to be married to his best friend, Leigh. He currently pastors a church on the north side of Cincinnati. For more, visit Sensible Faith.


How to Keep People from Sucking the Life Out of You

We are currently going through a teaching series at our church called, “come alive!”  As a part of this series, last weekend’s message was entitled, “How to Keep People from Sucking the Life Out of You.” During my sermon, I did an informal survey of the audience, and it became painfully clear that just about every one of us knows what it’s like to have hurtful people try to suck the life out of us.

Ticks are clearly one of the most revolting creatures in the insect kingdom. If you were walking through a woods, and you came across a sign that read, “Warning: Tick Infested Area,” I’m guessing that you would steer clear of that area. Ticks lie in wait for you to pass by so that they can climb aboard, dig their head below your skin, and begin to suck the blood right out of you. I hate ticks, and I have no desire to have them anywhere near me.

Some people seem to become “human ticks” around us. It feels like they want to suck the life right out of us. They put us down. They discourage us. They look for ways to trip us and cause us to stumble. When we stumble, they take great delight in watching us struggle. They are the first to let others know when we have failed – they will shout our weaknesses out for the world to know.

If you have experienced these life-suckers in your own life, you are not alone. We all have to encounter these people from time to time. Life-suckers even pop up in the Scriptures. For instance, King David was well aware of the devastation these life-suckers can bring.

Before you go further with this blog post, take a moment to read David’s life-giving words from Psalms 18:1.

As I read this passage, there were several important take-aways that jumped off of the page for me.  Let me share those with you now:

1)   When others are sucking the life out of you, lean into God.

David knew how to keep his eyes on God rather than on man. If you find people in your life who are hurting you, I would encourage you to find your hope and strength in God. Lean into Him. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. He will keep you strong and allow you to prevail.

2)   When you call on God, he DOES hear.

Have you ever called out to God and felt like He was nowhere to be found? You can get that out of your head, because God truly does hear your every cry. And He is ready to defend like a “mama bear” who wants to protect her cubs. Now, His response may not be what you expect, and it may not even be completely obvious that He is active in your situation. But make no doubt about it; He is working in the situation and in the heart of that person about whom you have prayed.

3)   Focus on keeping your own hands blameless.

It’s so easy to get pulled into the “junk” when others are assailing you. But as you can see from Psalms 18, it is absolutely essential to keep your own hands clean — even when others’ hands are covered in filth. Focus on your own spiritual health, and let God handle the life-suckers.

4)   As you walk closely with God, He will deliver you … in His time.

As I read Psalms 18, I felt like God was saying, “I’ve got this.” The reality is that we don’t have to worry or fret. He is in control, and He will make sure that justice is served… in His way… in His timing. The way God handles your particular situation may not look exactly like the way that you would respond, but you can rest assured that His ways are perfect, and He will deliver you… in His time.

5)   Worship God in good times and bad.

One big principle you can glean from Psalms 18 is that David truly had a worshipful heart. He loved the Lord. He was passionate for the Lord. And David kept His focus on worshiping the Lord in good times and bad. Can you keep that focus? Can I? If so, we will be in a much better place for keeping others from sucking the life out of us.


For more, visit sensible faith.


Where is God When God is Not There?

Psalm 13

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
5 But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. (NKJV)

One of the most excruciating experiences of human existence is to have to face an overwhelming trial while having a strong feeling that God just isn’t there for you in that dark hour. Have you ever felt that way?

Have you ever had to walk through a valley of suffering feeling alone with no signs of God anywhere?

Do you know what it feels like to sense that God just doesn’t care what you are experiencing and how you are suffering?

Have you ever felt like God is there for everyone else except for you?

I have been a Christian now for over 35 years, and I have served in ministry for over 25 years. Through these many seasons of life I have learned a few things about these lonely valleys of suffering. Please allow me to share a few of them with you.

Important Realization #1:
Even when God is “not there,” He IS there.

I am discovering after having experienced many painful valleys that God truly is there even when I don’t sense His presence. He may not respond exactly the way I want him to, but that is always because His plan is much higher and more sophisticated than I could ever imagine.

He has an amazing way of working for my ultimate good through those dark moments, and relieving the pain momentarily would not allow Him to accomplish that bigger plan in my life. So the pain continues, and God is there, and His purposes are made perfect through those experiences.

Important Realization #2:
I almost never understand the reason for the suffering while I am in the middle of the storm.

God’s plans are so high and lofty that my small mind cannot even come close to comprehending them. If He was to try to sit down and explain why I am going through a particular experience, He would likely begin explaining to me some events that took place back in the 1500s. He would then trace it through the millions and millions of different lives that were all interrelated over the course of the next several centuries. And then that would bring Him to my life and the specific experience today which then also relates to the next century or two of time.

His plan is so complex that He would lose me on the second or third sentence. So there is no way we could ever truly grasp an explanation from the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

Most of the time I never really “get” why I am suffering until a much later time in my life. Sometimes it can take months, sometimes years, and sometimes I never really have a full understanding. Some things will only make sense when I get to heaven and have a chance to ask God personally. But for now I must trust Him.

Important Realization #3:
God always has a purpose, and that purpose is always good.

There is no such thing as random pain without meaning. God uses pain to speak into our world and into our lives directly. He teaches us things through pain that we could never learn through a seminar or book or podcast. Some people reject God, because they can’t think of a reason why God would allow pain or suffering. But just because we can’t think of a reason for the pain does not mean that a good reason does not exist. (Sorry for the double negative there.  I hope you get my point.)

God’s ways are perfect, and His love for us is without end. And every single millisecond of suffering is always for a good purpose in our lives. Always!

Important Realization #4:
It’s ok to doubt God, but never deny Him.

By reading the verses from Psalm 13 above, we can see that even David at times felt like God was nowhere to be found. But he never got to the point where he denied God’s existence. As a matter of fact, he goes on to say in the very first verse of the next Psalm that “the fool has said in his heart that there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

It’s ok to doubt, but don’t allow yourself to sink to the point where you actually deny God’s existence. That will only end in disaster for you. Instead, hang onto God’s hand as you ride out the storm.

In that dark night of suffering, just close your eyes and hold His hand. You will make it through if you hang on. If you let go, all bets are off. So hold tightly to the Rock.

The Bottom Line.

If you’re reading this blog post, it is not by random chance. God drew you here to receive these words. He wants you to trust Him. He wants you to know that He loves you, and He is there for you no matter how you may feel at this present moment.

Just close your eyes and hold onto His hand.

He will bring you through the darkness.

Run TO God and not AWAY from Him.

Never jump off the Rock in the midst of the storm.

The sun will shine tomorrow, and you will again experience the amazing blessings of the God who loves you.

Trust Him.


8 Keys to Knowing God’s Will For Your Life

When I was a young man, I seemed to continually wrestle with knowing God’s will for my life. I wanted more than anything to follow His plan. Interestingly, now that I’m “old” (currently 47 years old), I still wrestle with doing His will in my life. I have come to learn that this is not just something that a young person does early in life; it is a lifelong pursuit in order to stay in the exact center of His plan.

So, then, how can we know God’s plan for our lives? Over the past twenty-five years that I have been in ministry, I have discovered eight vital keys to knowing God’s will. Here they are:

1) Walk with God.

For starters, if you are interested in knowing God’s plan for your life, then you must learn to walk with God. You need to develop a relationship with Him. Christianity is all about relationship rather than just religion.

And so you must cultivate your relationship with God. You must seek to know Him and not just seek to know about Him.

You will cultivate that relationship best by spending time in His Word, taking time for prayer, and taking every opportunity you can to be involved in church and small group Bible study opportunities. When you seek these disciplines in your life, God will begin the first steps to revealing His plan to you.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

2) Surrender your will to God’s.

Many times when we say we are seeking God’s will, what we are really wanting to say to God is this: “OK, God, here’s what I’m planning to do. Now I need you to rubber stamp this, all right?” I must tell you that this is not really effective in finding His true will.

Before God will begin to reveal His will to you, you must be committed to doing whatever it is that He desires for you to do. God will likely be slow to show you His plan if He knows you will likely not do that plan anyway.

Romans 12:1-2

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Jesus was willing to die for us, so shouldn’t we be willing to live for Him? When we surrender to Him, that is when He really begins to direct our steps.

3) Obey what you already know to be God’s Will.

Many people seem to want to know what God’s plan is for their lives, but they overlook the fact that 98% of His will is already delineated carefully through His Word. God is very clear about many, many aspects of His will. For instance, it is clearly His plan that we abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

If we do not obey the things that God has shown us clearly to be His will, why would we think He would reveal any further information regarding His plan for our lives? Obedience is an important first step.

4) Seek godly input.

One key component to finding God’s will is to seek the input of godly advisors in your life. If you don’t currently have 3-4 godly mentors, then I would highly recommend that you seek them out right away.

Think of it this way: you should understand that you are basically a composite of the five people you spend the most time with. So, then, it is vital that you choose those five people well. If you choose to surround yourself with godly advisors, they will be instrumental in helping you discern God’s plan for your life. But if you surround yourself with people who are far from God, your hope of finding His best for your life will be greatly diminished.

Proverbs 11:14

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

The church is designed to help you greatly with this. I would encourage you to be in church every single time the doors are opened. The more you involve yourself with a community of believers, the greater your chances will be of finding godly men and women who can help you discern God’s will.

5) Pay attention to how God has wired you.

God has created you to fulfill a specific role in this world. There is no one else who can achieve completely what God has purposely created you to do.

The Apostle Peter gives us this admonition:

1 Peter 4:10

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

God has gifted every one of us to perform a special mission for which we alone were created. How amazing is that? Wow!

So, when you seek to discover God’s will for your life, pay attention to how He has gifted you. His plan for you will always be directly related to the gifts that He has bestowed upon you. The great news is that you will automatically be good at whatever it is that He has called you to do!

6) Listen to God’s Spirit.

I experienced a major turning point in my own prayer life when I learned simply to shut up while I was praying. That may sound odd to you, and it seemed odd to me at first.

You see, I used to do all the talking when I prayed to God. But then, several years ago, I read Bill Hybel’s book, Too Busy Not to Pray. That book completely changed the way I approached God through prayer. Since reading that book, I have added a significant component to my prayer life: listening. I take time to listen to what God might have to say to me.

Practically, the way I go about this is to bring a notepad with me when I sit down to pray. Then I write at the top of several pages things like the following:

  • “What is the next step in my career?”
  • “What is the next step in my ministry?”
  • “What is the next step for my family?”
  • “What is the next step for my marriage?”
  • “What is the next step in my education?”
  • “What is the next step in my finances?”

During my prayer time, I meditate on questions such as the above. Often, God will start flooding my heart with ideas and information regarding one or more of those questions. I write as fast as I can as He speaks to my heart. What a glorious experience that is to sense His Spirit on me, guiding my thoughts and words.

Through experiences like this, He has shown me many times with great clarity what His will is for my life. I long for those experiences when He speaks to me like that. Those times are truly life changing.

John 10:27

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

7) Listen to your heart.

In addition to listening to the Spirit, I also recommend listening to your heart. To understand my point here, consider the following passage:

Psalms 37:4-5

4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. (NKJV)

I love this passage, because it shows me that, when I am walking with the Lord, He will actually let me do many really cool things that I actually love to do! When you are close to Him, He actually begins to shape your desires so that you desire the things that He has already called you to do.

So then, His plan actually becomes a super-exciting adventure. I always have the most fun in life when I am doing God’s will. And that is because He shapes my “wanter” to want to do the things for which He has actually created me.

8) Take a look at your circumstances.

God often clearly demonstrates His plan for our lives by lining up circumstances in obvious ways. And He also shows us what His will is NOT for us to do in that same way. It is not His will for you to take the job that is not offered to you. If you are 5’ 6” tall and weigh 125 lbs., it is not likely that God has created you to play professional football.

Over the years, I have discovered that God is pretty good at opening and closing doors. He even did that for the Apostle Paul and his enterouge in Acts. Take a look at this passage:

Acts 16:6-10

6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.

7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.

8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.

9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

So, even Paul had to face closed doors in his ministry. God often uses closed doors to show us clearly what He does NOT want us to do. And He also uses open doors at times to show us what He DOES want us to do. Of course, this does not mean that every open door is definitely God’s plan, but it does help to give you some basic direction.

A Closing Thought:

The next time you begin to ponder God’s plan for your life, I would encourage you to mull over the above eight keys. Use these principles to help you to hone in on His plan. And when you seek His will earnestly, you will find it!


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


4 Important Reasons You Should Commit to Church Each Week

Not long ago, I was reminiscing with a pastor friend of mine about the previous couple decades of our ministries.  We both noted how commitment to the church seems to be at an all time low.

As we discussed this, we both agreed that a decade or so ago, the core leaders of our churches normally seemed to attend church about five out of every six Sundays or so. Less-committed church goers would attend with less regularity, perhaps about half the time. Sadly, it seems that the core leaders today only tend to attend church about half the time (about 2 Sundays per month), and the less-committed attend even less than that.

This is a tragic shift, and nationwide figures seem to be showing the exact same trend. People just don’t seem to be all that “into” God anymore.

People are clearly busier than ever, and that does not help the situation. Others have been hurt or disillusioned by churches or “religious” people, so they use that as a “reason” for why they do not attend church often. However, most people just seem to be looking for something better to do on Sunday mornings than go to a church to worship and learn about God and His ways. Golfing, sleeping, sports, and many other things turn out to be that “better option” for them than church.

I would like to suggest to you four reasons why church is a big deal – a REALLY big deal!  Let me give you some reasons why you should plan to be in church every single possible moment you can.

Why You Should Make a Huge Commitment to Being in Church Whenever the Doors Are Open . . .

1) The local church is a central part of God’s strategic plan for your spiritual growth.

I have often heard the statement, “Well, I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” On a slight technicality, that may be true, but it is certainly far-removed from God’s true plan.

Jesus said, “On this rock [Peter’s statement that Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God] I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not be able to stand against it” (Matthew 16:18). You see, the church is Jesus’ idea, not man’s idea. It seems like we should pay attention to His plan since it came directly from Him.

When a person says they don’t need the church, that is a departure from God’s plan. I would advise against that.

2) You are basically a composite of the five people with whom you spend the most time.

When I was a youth pastor, I could easily see how friends could influence young people for either good or for bad. Now that I am a pastor to “big people,” I can see that tendency is true for them as well! Even adults are influenced by their friends and the people with whom they spend time.

I have come to believe that we are basically a composite of the five people with whom we spend the most time. It is important, therefore, that we choose those people well. That is why it is so valuable for us to be in church every time the doors are open. We need to expose ourselves as much as possible to other followers of Christ who will draw us nearer to God.

Paul said it like this: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13 NIV)  We need the support of other believers if we are truly going to grow in Christ.

3) You need the voice of the church to counteract all of the deception that is crammed into your mind all throughout the week.

Paul warns believers in Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”  (NKJV)

The word for “cheat” in this passage refers to kidnapping another person. We need to be careful that we are not “kidnapped” by false ideologies, by wrong thinking.

The term “traditions” refers to teachings. Do you realize how many ungodly teachers are speaking into your life every week? Internet. News media. Hollywood. Music. Co-workers. Friends and family. The list seems never ending. With so many messages streaming into your life every week that can “kidnap” you and take you away from God, it is extremely critical that you spend as much time in church as possible to fill your mind with godly wisdom and discernment. Soak in all you can whenever you can!

4)  Weekly ministry in a local church helps to build up your spiritual muscles.

In Ephesians 4, Paul says that we all are gifted in different ways. When we use our own particular gifts to serve within a church, it is a like a body with many body parts that all work together for a common goal.

As Paul discusses serving in this chapter, I find it interesting that he threw in the comment in Ephesians 4:14 in which he says, “... that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting….” In other words, when we use our spiritual gifts by serving within the local church community, we somehow become better-grounded theologically.  It will be more difficult for us to be deceived into thinking things that are not true according to God’s Word. Isn’t that amazing? Serving makes us more theologically astute. I’m not exactly sure how that works, but I do know that I have observed it to be true in my own life as well as in the lives of so many I have watched to grow in their journey with the Lord.

Commitment ain’t what it used to be. But I hope for you, you will go all out in your commitment to Christ and His church.

Begin this Sunday!


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


Could God Love Someone Like Me?

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Today’s big question: “Is it possible that God could love someone like me?”

Love is one of God’s most central attributes.The Scriptures tell us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God’s love is clearly shown in His plan for our salvation, which was worked out through His only Son as a sacrifice for us. God’s Word comes from pure love and, in this sense, is a type of “love letter” toward us. The very act of revelation to us is an act of intimate love between the Creator and His creation. The Bible shows us clearly how we can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ because of God’s love toward us (John 3:16).

When I was a younger Christian, I had a difficult time comprehending God’s love for me. I had knowledge of His love, but I didn’t really understand the depth of His love for me. That is, I did not fully grasp that love until December 22, 1993. That was the day that my first child was born. The day when I became a dad, I gained a whole new world of understanding about God’s love for me. I remember the flood of emotion that I felt when I saw my son for the first time. That was an overwhelming experience for me, and my heart overflowed with love for him.

I also remember the moment soon thereafter when it dawned on me: “Wow, you mean God loves me this much? I had no idea.” For the first point in my life, I began to get a glimpse of the depth of God’s love for me, and I found that to be truly astonishing.

That new sense of God’s love became a new motivation for my serving Him. You see, when you become aware of the depth of God’s love, it changes you. It changes the way you want to live your life, the reason why you want to live for Him, and the depth of your commitment toward Him.

Today’s big idea: as you become aware of the depth of God’s love for you, allow that realization to become the driving force in your obedience to Him.

What to pray: pray that God will help you to sense His love for you, and pray that He will help you to respond to His love with complete devotion to Him.


For more, visit Sensible Faith.