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.'

Beware of the Door With Too Many Keys

While listening to an audiobook this morning, I heard the author quote an old Portuguese proverb: “Beware of the door with too many keys.” He was applying the proverb to a different subject, but it brought my mind to the simplicity of Christianity.

I am thankful that there are not “too many keys” to our faith. The message of Christianity is very simple: “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

To elaborate a bit,  you could look at that message delineated like this:

That’s it. Very simple.

False religions, on the other hand, tend to complicate and confuse. In light of that, I would say, “Beware of the door with too many keys.”


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.


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.


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.


I Tried Christianity, But It Just Didn’t Work for Me

Over the years, I have heard many people say something like this: “I have tried Christianity, but it just didn’t work for me.” My observation has been that people who say this generally attended church for a short time period, watched what was going on, and then decided they weren’t really interested.

But there is a big problem with “trying” Christianity like this. You see, Christianity isn’t meant to merely entertain us or stimulate us intellectually. Sure, at times it may do these things for us. But that is not the essence of the Christian faith.

That “trying” approach puts a picture in my mind of a person walking down the city sidewalk until he passes a bakery. He stops in front of the bakery to peer through the window at all the delicious treats. He sees brownies and cupcakes and a wide assortment of fabulous pastries. He can even smell the scent of cinnamon and chocolate wafting through the air.

So, he decides he will give it a try. He leans forward and licks the glass. He then leans backward and feels like he has somehow been cheated. He tasted what he saw, but it just didn’t seem to be satisfying. So he walks away unimpressed. He “tried” the pastries, but they just didn’t seem to do anything for him.

I would invite you to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). But I don’t want you to remain standing on the sidewalk. Jesus said he has provided an open door (Revelation 3:8) for you into a relationship with Him. Don’t just lick the glass. Open the door and walk inside to experience all the fullness of God himself.

My suggestion to you is that you don’t just “try” Christianity. I want you to jump in with both feet. Call on God right now to ask for forgiveness of your sins, and commit your life to Him... fully (Romans 10:13).

When you truly turn your life over to Him, He will change you forever.

I promise.


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


5 Terrific Ways to Ruin Your Life (from Proverbs)

The Book of Proverbs gives us some amazing wisdom for life. Along with that, Solomon also exposes some common ways that people end up messing up their lives. There are many listed in this great book, but allow me to highlight five of them. Along with each point, I have included some brief comments about avoiding these disastrous mistakes in your own life.

OK, here’s how to ruin your life:

 

1. Live your life as if there is no God.

The greatest mistake you could ever make in your life would be to live as if there is no God. Some people choose to believe that there is no God. Big mistake. Others claim to believe in God, but they still seem to live their lives as if he does not exist. Another big mistake.

Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
A
nd the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
(NKJV)

Proverbs 3:5–6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
I
n all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
 (NKJV)

Proverbs 10:9
He who walks with integrity walks securely,
But he who perverts his ways will become known. (NKJV)

2. Choose people who are spiritually foolish to be your closest friends.

You are basically a composite of the five friends you choose to spend the most time with. It is important to choose them well. John Kuebler once made the great statement, “Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.”

Proverbs 13:20
He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will be destroyed. (NKJV)

3. Never learn to control your emotions.

Many people seem to live with the misguided notion that it is healthy to just let your emotions go with whatever you are feeling. “Just let it out!” However, the Bible tells us that it is a position of great strength and character to learn how to control your emotions. I have never met a truly happy person who fails to control his/her emotions.

Proverbs 29:11
A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back.
(NKJV)

Proverbs 16:32
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
(NKJV)

Proverbs 25:28
Whoever has no rule over his own spirit
Is like a city broken down, without walls.
(NKJV)

4. Stay down once you have fallen down.

Everyone fails at various points in their lives. But not everyone gets back up after they have fallen. The ability to get back up once you have fallen is one of the greatest indicators of your overall success in life. Never, ever give up. Whether you stumble spiritually or with some other area of your life, always be sure to get back up when you fail.

Proverbs 24:16
The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.
But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked. (NLT)

5. Fail to spend your entire life learning.

Wisdom and great success in life tend to follow those who are on a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. I once had a professor who told me in relation to learning that, “You should get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can.”

Proverbs 9:9
Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.
(NKJV)

BONUS!  

If you’ve made it through the list to this point, then I will give you a “bonus” way to ruin your life (straight from the words of Proverbs)!

Disregard God’s principles for financial stewardship.

God’s Word is so amazingly practical that He has even given us many, many great principles that apply to our finances. Soak them in and thrive. Reject them, and you will struggle perpetually.

Proverbs 23:5
Will you set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.
(NKJV)

Proverbs 22:7
The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender.
(NKJV)

Proverbs 17:18
It’s poor judgment to guarantee another person’s debt
or put up security for a friend.
(NLT)

Proverbs 10:2
Tainted wealth has no lasting value,
but right living can save your life. (NLT)

Proverbs 6:6–8
6 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
    Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
    or governor or ruler to make them work,
8 They labor hard all summer,
    gathering food for the winter. (NLT)

Proverbs 13:4
Lazy people want much but get little,
but those who work hard will prosper. (NLT)


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.

____________________________________

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.


How to Make Right Decisions

I recently published a blog post called “8 Keys to Knowing God’s Will For Your Life.” That post was directed toward helping believers to figure out the big picture in regard to God’s will. For instance, those keys have much to do with God’s plan for you vocationally, in ministry, and in the important stages of life.

This post, on the other hand, lends help for the “smaller” decisions that we make from day to day.  In order to continue in the middle of God’s perfect will, it is vital that we make right decisions each day and each week. But that is not always easy. As a tool to help you make right decisions from a biblical perspective, I have pulled together 13 questions you should ask when facing a choice. Here they are:

1)  Does God already have a clear teaching about this?

Joshua 1:8
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

If God has already spoken clearly about this, you do not have to wonder any longer. Just do what he has told you.

Simple, right?

Well, the problem here seems to be that most people in our culture today seem to have a fairly low level of knowledge of the Scriptures. They are “low-information believers.”

So, I would encourage you to saturate your mind as much as possible with God’s Word. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Learn it. Once you have done so, you will be amazed at how much better you are at making good, solid decisions in life.

2)  What do my top spiritual advisors tell me about this?

Proverbs 11:14
Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

It is vital that you surround yourself with godly friends who will be able to speak into your life about life’s decisions. Do you realize that you are basically a composite of the five people you spend the most time with? It is crucial to choose those people carefully. If you don’t have those types of friends, I would encourage you to increase your involvement in church and small groups and ministry in order to establish those godly relationships.

3)  What do authority figures in my life have to say about this?

Titus 3:1
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.

(Also see Romans 13:1-7; Hebrews 13:17)

God often works through authority relationships in our lives. For instance, it would be extremely rare for the best choice to be something that is illegal. Look at this choice from the vantage point of authority figures in your life, and at least use that as an important reference point for you.

4)  How will this affect me spiritually?

1 Corinthians 10:23
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

There is much more to this life than just earning a bigger paycheck or improving your status amongst peers. When you make choices, make sure you consider how this decision will affect your spiritual development. Will this draw you nearer to God or further from him?  Will this decision interfere with your ability to attend church, maintain godly relationships, or spend time cultivating your spiritual disciplines?  If it harms you spiritually, then I would suggest pulling the plug on that choice.

5)  How will this affect my family? Will this draw us closer to God or further from God?

1 Corinthians 8:9
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.

Not only must you consider how this decision will affect your own spiritual development, but you must also consider the affects it will have on the spiritual state of your family. Will this help your family to grow in Christ, or will it interfere with that spiritual growth? Will this pull them away from godly friends and away from a healthy, godly church environment? Will this divide your family in any way? Be careful not to make decisions that will cause your family to pay a big price.

6)  Is this going to bring more peace or less peace to my life?

1 Thessalonians 4:11
That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.

Did you know that God actually wants you to have a peaceful life? Of course, this is not the “American way,” but it is definitely an important consideration when it comes to making decisions. Be cautious that you are not stacking your life with more and more “stuff” that will send you over the edge with stress and anxiety. And make sure it is not going to steal the peace from your family as well.

7)  Is this consistent with the way God has wired me?

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 created you for a purpose, and He has designed you specifically to fulfill that purpose. You are a gifted individual, and His plan will be for you to function within that area of giftedness. When we veer outside of the way He has wired us, we often feel excessive stress, anxiety, and burnout very quickly.

When it comes to making decisions, make sure you evaluate the choice in light of the way that God has designed you. Are you creative? Are you detail-oriented? Are you relational? Are you task-oriented? Are you a communicator? Pay attention to how God has wired you.

8)  Am I paying attention to the risks that are associated with this?

Proverbs 27:12
A wise man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.

When making decisions, it is very important to honestly assess the risk that is involved. Sometimes we can become so mesmerized by a “golden carrot” that we overlook the risks that are associated. For this one, I would suggest that you have an outside voice speak into the situation.

In his book Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey says that anytime he has made a business decision that has gone against his wife’s advice, it has cost him at least $10,000. Sometimes others, like a spouse, can see the risks that we overlook.

It is a sign of wisdom to be cautious. Not fearful, but cautious.

9)  Do I have total peace from God about this?

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Sometimes everything can look right on the outside when I’m making a decision, but there will still be angst within my spirit. I have learned that making a decision without that inner peace is nearly always a mistake. God gives us peace as a protection and a guide. Seek His peace, and be cautious of making decisions that move against that peace.

10)  Are the doors of circumstances clearly open here?

(See Acts 16)

God often works through obvious circumstances. For example, He did that for Paul in Acts 16. In that chapter, Paul and his entourage kept facing closed doors as they were seeking where they were to minister next. And then, one door to Asia flew open while all other doors were closing.

God often directs me more by closing doors than by opening them. But there have been times in my life when I have attempted to force open a door that was not truly open. That never ends well.

It’s always good to look at how God is opening or closing doors in front of you. And while an open door does not always mean that you are to pass through, it is often an indicator that God is at work. Pay attention to open doors, and be cautious of forcing doors open when they are closed.

11)  Is now the best time for this? Could waiting be better?

Ephesians 5:16-17
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Haste does not always produce the best decisions. Sometimes everything might seem right about a choice, but making the decision at a later time might make more sense. This isn’t always easy, because we often want to move forward quickly when we see an opportunity. But sometimes the wiser decision is to slow down, plan more, get more input, and give it more time to develop.

12)  Am I willing to let God close this door?

(Again, refer to Paul’s journey in Acts 16.)

An important element to making good decisions is to make sure that you are completely submitted to God’s ultimate plan for your life. Sometimes we get it into our heads that we want to do a certain thing, and then we struggle immensely when we begin to realize that God may not want us to move forward with that particular choice.

The disaster comes when we place our desire above God’s plan. Let me be clear here. That never turns out well. The best decision you can ever make is to submit your choices to God’s plan and be willing to give up an opportunity when you sense God does not want you to move forward with that decision.

13)  Am I willing to trust God if He asks me to step forward?

Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Closely related to the above question is this: Are you willing to trust God if He asks you to step forward? This is basically the flipside of question 12. It’s important to stop when God says, “Stop,” and it is equally important to move forward when He says, “Move forward.”

Are you willing to do that thing He might want you to do? What if it makes you feel uncomfortable? What if it moves you out of your comfort zone? What if it requires faith?

I can testify to you that the most exciting moments of my life have been when I have submitted to God and stepped forward with Him in faith. I hope you can experience that same joy.

Wrapping It Up

OK, so when you have a tough choice to make, I would encourage you to go over these questions before confirming your decision. Perhaps print these questions out and keep them as a reference point for the future. Talk through each of these questions with your spouse or a friend in the context of a decision you are currently making in your own life. I know of some parents who have used these with their kids to help train their children to make good decisions as well. In essence, these questions can serve as guidelines for helping you and your family make decisions that you will not regret.

* All Scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


Is God Capable of Forgiving Even That?

Psalms 136:1

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

One thing that all of us as men and women have in common is that we are all very, very sinful. We are dreadfully evil in the sight of the Lord. We can read about this in the Scriptures. For instance, Isaiah says, “All of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.“ (Isaiah 64:6) This reality is written so deeply into our souls that we all have a sense of it whether we admit it or not.

Many people approach this reality in different ways. Some people claim there is no real thing as sin. Others believe that sin really isn’t such a big deal. However, no matter how we attempt to sweep this reality under the carpet, we will never escape its grasp or consequences.

From a Christian perspective, we have the ultimate deliverance from this pervasive presence of sin in our lives. We have… forgiveness! We have… mercy! The God of heaven and earth has told us that, when we confess our sins to Him, He will gladly forgive us. I love the message of 1 John 1:9. This verse says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What an amazing release from the bondage of guilt and remorse for the many ways we have fallen short of God’s standard!

Furthermore, there is no sin that is so evil that it escapes God’s ability to forgive. God can reach all the way to the bottom of the barrel to offer His forgiveness. What a tragedy it is when people live their lives in this sinfulness but fail to seek God’s forgiveness. It is such a terrible thing when people miss out on the gift of forgiveness.

TODAY’S BIG IDEA: “God’s mercy is beyond human comprehension. His mercy endures forever!

Today’s prayer:

Pray that God will forgive you of any sin that you can think of that you have not yet confessed, and then live in peace knowing those sins have been cast as far as the East is from the West!

Chris Russell

Veritas Church (Cincinnati, OH)


10 Ways God Wants to Stretch Your Faith Today

Not long ago I read a book called Fitness After 40. It was an intriguing book that helped me to understand pretty much everything that has gone wrong with my body over the past couple decades!

The list of changes was quite lengthy, but one of them had to do with the way we tend to become less and less flexible in our muscles and joints as we grow older. Every athletic coach I’ve had over the years has always told me how important it is to stretch, but this book seemed to flip a light on in my mind as I began to understand just how important stretching is for our bodies... over time.

In a similar way, we must also remember to stretch SPIRITUALLY as we grow in the Lord over time. And when we stretch spiritually, it always has to do with our faith. God wants us to stretch in our faith.

Paul lays out an amazing list of Bible personalities in Hebrews 11 who demonstrated their faith in powerful ways. This passage has come to be known as the “Faith Hall of Fame,” and we can find many examples of how to live by faith.

Hebrews 11:6 says,

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Faith is absolutely central to the Christian experience. We enter into a relationship with God through faith (Romans 10:9-10), and Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is a big deal!

And faith is powerful! Jesus said that if we will have faith as a grain of mustard seed, we can pray and see mountains cast into the ocean. I wonder how small my faith must look in that type of comparison!

As you read this, I’d like to suggest to you that it is likely that God wants to stretch your faith. And just like physical stretching, spiritual stretching is not easy. Stretching requires us to push beyond our normal level of comfort.

I’ve seen some pretty amazing feats when watching MMA fighters on TV. It’s stunning to see how a fighter can effortlessly swing his foot over the head of his opponent with no thought at all. But one thing I know about that fighter is that he took many, many years to stretch those muscles so that he could get to that level. And the stretching in his gym was always designed to push him beyond what felt comfortable.

And so it is with our faith. God wants to stretch you beyond your normal comfort zone. And that is where you will begin to see growth and progress like never before.

An Important Point:

It is likely that God wants to stretch your faith today.

Consider the following when it comes to the ways God may want to stretch you:

  • God may want you to DO something.
  • God may want you to STOP DOING something.
  • God may want you to GIVE something.
  • God may want you to SAY something.
  • God may want you to STOP SAYING something.
  • God may want you to SELL something.
  • God may want you to BUY something. (presumably for a person or ministry in need)
  • God may want you to START something.
  • God may want you to END something.
  • God may want you to LOVE someone.

The chances are great that God likely wants to stretch you today!

When it comes to your spiritual fitness, don’t forget to stretch!


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


Beware of the Lion (1 Peter 5:8)

I recently saw several news articles about a sweet young woman in California named Dianna Hanson who was cleaning a Lion cage when she sadly met her fate. The lion was in a separate cage that had apparently not been secured properly. The lion somehow managed to pry the door open and then dashed into the main exhibit area where he quickly killed the young woman.

I was saddened to read this horrific story. The young lady was an intern at the wild animal park, and she was well-known within her community for serving others and mentoring those who were younger. She was a model citizen with great dreams for the future.

As I read about this great tragedy, I could not help but to be reminded about God’s warnings to us in 1 Peter 5:8:

Be serious-minded; be alert; for your enemy, the devil, walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

Sometimes I forget about the danger that Satan wants to bring to my life. He is like a vicious lion that would love to destroy me.

I see Satan destroying lives all around the country every day. Marriages are being blown apart.  Young people are constantly being lured into a world where morals no longer seem to exist.  Drugs, alcohol, and a myriad of other addictions seem to be taking people wildly out of control in their lives.  And yet people do not seem to understand that these perils often come from the Ruler of the darkness of this world:  Satan.

 

I hope you fully understand that Satan is very real.  And he doesn’t just want to inconvenience you; he wants to completely destroy you.  

Last week I stumbled across an intriguing video of a man who appears to have no fear of lions. You can see that video here. This man calmly wrestles around with lions that have the power to rip him to shreds should they so choose. It appears that this man is bumping so closely up against a complete disaster. It seems like all it would take would be for a lion to barely, accidentally nick him, get a taste of his blood, and then decide this “friend” would actually make a rather delicious meal. Things could “go south” very quickly.

I see so many people today who seem to have no fear of Satan… the Lion. They “wrestle” around with him in a playful way just as this man plays around with these creatures in real life. But you must understand the truth: the Lion is not your friend. He wants to destroy you completely.

Make sure the gate is securely latched so that he cannot have access to your life. Every time you entertain a temptation, you allow Satan to tug on the gate. If you allow that enough, he will eventually force the gate open and end up destroying your life.

Be careful.  Be very, very careful.


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


4 Reasons You Must Work on Your Spiritual Fitness

1 Timothy 4:8
For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

We certainly live in a health-conscious world. Everywhere we turn we see advertisements for fitness equipment, nutritional supplements, health food, gym memberships, and more. Many people are obsessed with taking care of their bodies—and it’s for a good reason, because our lives depend on it!

But even though our physical health is important, Paul reminds us in the above passage that our spiritual fitness is even more important than our physical fitness. We don’t want to neglect our bodies. But even more so, we must not neglect our spirits.

Here are four reasons why your spiritual fitness is such a crazy-big deal:

1) Your eternal life depends on it.

The life we spend on this earth is nothing compared to the eternal life we will enjoy with God in heaven someday. At least this applies to those of us who have put our faith in Jesus, the Son of God, and have called on God to rescue us (Romans 10:13). If you have not yet turned your life over to God and committed to following Him, I plead with you to make that commitment in your heart right now. We must not lose sight of the fact that life on this earth is temporary, but life after death is permanent.

2) Your current happiness depends on it.

When I was young, I used to think that Christianity was all about the “next life.” But over time, I came to learn that the Christian faith also has everything to do with enjoying a joyful, meaningful, happy life NOW. There is no greater life than a life that is lived walking with God… TODAY!

3) Your family depends on it.

If you’re not willing to take care of yourself spiritually for your own sake, I would still implore you to take care of your spirit for your family’s sake. Your kids need to see you walking with God. So many parents spin out spiritually in front of their kids, and their kids end up suffering greatly as a result. Your siblings need to see you walking with the Lord. Your parents will benefit when you are doing well spiritually. Your cousins and grandparents and nieces and nephews will be blessed when you are well spiritually. And it could be that you will be the only “Bible” that they will ever “read.” So do not neglect your spirit.

4) The world depends on it.

I often wonder how many unbelievers trip over unhealthy Christians when they are stumbling away from God. This world needs to see Christians who are healthy, passionate, and genuine. We are God’s vehicle for His message of love to those who are lost. But we must be healthy if we are going to effectively deliver that message in a way that will change lives forever.

Physical fitness is important. But spiritual fitness is even more important. So make plans to strengthen your spirit today!


For more, visit Sensible Faith.