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.'

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.


God’s Words or Man’s Words? Understanding the Doctrine of Inspiration

For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

(2 Peter 1:21)

Today’s big question: whose words are these [in the Bible], anyway?

The doctrine of inspiration is the teaching that God has literally breathed the very words of the Scriptures. This comes from 2 Timothy 3:16 where Paul tells us that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The term for “inspiration” here is the Greek term theopneustos (literally, “God-breathed”), and that is quite different from what we typically think of when we think about being inspired today. You see, the writers of the Scriptures were inspired in a wholly different way than a songwriter might feel inspired or an author today might feel inspired. When it comes to the Scriptures, God was actually breathing His words through those writers. Amazing, huh?

But some people then wonder how that works. If the Bible is made up of words that have come from God, why are the writings of the 40 different authors of the various books of the Bible distinct in their style, approach, vocabulary, and perspective?

To give us a better understanding of this, I find it helpful to think of the writers of the Scriptures as functioning as a sort of “box of crayons” with which God has “colored the pictures” related to their own specific books. God is the actual artist, but for each book, He is tapping into that specific box of crayons for that writer. This box of crayons represents the vocabulary, personality, experiences, memories, etc. of each writer.

Thinking in these terms, we see that the Apostle Peter had a rather small “box.” He was not as well educated, which limited him to write with a smaller, simpler vocabulary. The Apostle Paul, on the other hand, had a larger “box” due to the fact that his education and background were so rich and full.

When God wrote through the hand of Peter, He used the vocabulary, experiences, background, etc. of Peter to communicate His message. When He wrote through the hand of Paul, He used more sophisticated language based on Paul’s larger “box of crayons.”

In each case, God used the writers to write from their own background and experiences. However, their writings were ultimately still the Word of God in that God selected precisely what to write from each writer’s “box.”

With this in mind, let us marvel in the wonderful miracle of God in giving us the Scriptures.  And let us strive to know His Word better each and every day!

Today’s big idea: God personally crafted the Holy Scriptures for us, so we must put great effort into studying them thoroughly and applying them to our lives.

What to pray: ask God to guide you through His Word and show you any changes in your life that you need to make for Him.

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The Two Edges of the Sword of God’s Word

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

(Hebrews 4:12)

The Bible truly functions as a “sword” in its ability to cut through to the innermost depths of a person’s heart and soul. God’s Word can penetrate through all the layers of impurity and get to the true central issues of life.

In line with this conception, we can see that the Bible truly has two edges: condemnation and restoration. These two edges represent the beauty and wonder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me explain.

First of all, the Bible condemns us. Now, this may sound rather bleak to you, but it is a critical part of your journey toward enjoying a full relationship with God. Before you can truly connect with God on an intimate level and enjoy His presence in your life each day, you must come to a proper recognition of the depth of evil in your heart. When we read God’s Word, we get a clear picture of just how bad we are in light of God’s holiness. We must get this. We must have an accurate picture of our own state of heart.

Once we understand our need for a Savior and His forgiveness, then we can begin to experience His restoration. When we confess our sins to Him, He will forgive us and redeem (“buy us back,” i.e., receive us back to Himself; 1 John 1:9).

I’ve heard it said that “we must be lost before we can be found.” In other words, you won’t turn to your Savior until you realize your need to do so. You won’t confess your sins until He shows you the true darkness of your heart.

The Word of God acts as a mirror by giving us an accurate picture of who we really are (James 1:22-25). Once we see that image, God can begin to change us into what we really ought to be. So dig into His Word in order to experience both the sobering reality of your own condition as well as the healing forgiveness that you need to walk with God.

What to pray: ask God to show you your true condition through His Word, and then confess those things that are hindering your journey with Him.


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


Connecting with God Through Holy Living

1 Peter 1:15-16

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Throughout the Scriptures we see a huge celebration of the holiness of God, and yet most of us really don’t have a full grasp of what it means to be holy. The original word for holiness in the Hebrew meant to be “set apart” or to be “separated from” something. As it applies to God, we see that He is exalted above and completely separate from any type of sin, flaw, or moral imperfection.

It’s interesting to note that God’s Word actually proceeds from His holiness. The Scriptures are perfect and infallible, and they can be trusted in every way. It is the fact that God is holy that allows Him to be able to produce such a document.

The Scriptures also indicate that, even as God is holy, so should we be holy in all manner of lifestyle. We are to follow that divine example. Now, on this planet, we certainly will never attain complete holiness, for we are ever warring with our old, sinful nature. But holiness is the target for which we are to direct our actions. Sin puts a barrier between us and God. Holiness brings communion and fellowship with Him.

As we grow in our journey with God and become stronger in our own personal holiness, we will actually begin to hate sin and its effects. We grow to despise those things that interfere with our intimacy with God and those things which bring so much pain to others here on this earth. And we will seek to avoid those things with a passion.

Toilet water may appear to be clean, but you would never be so foolish as to take a drink of it! That’s because no matter how pure it may look, you still know that it is contaminated. And it does not take much impurity to make that water unclean! In a similar way, we must understand sin to be a filthy contaminant to our spirit, and we must avoid those things through the power of the Holy Spirit.

TODAY’S BIG IDEA: “Seek to live a holy life, and you will enjoy an amazingly-close relationship with the Holy God.”

Today’s prayer:

Pray that God will help you to see those areas in your life that are contaminated and that He will help you to turn away from those things … toward Him!


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.