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.'

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.


Why Doesn’t God Heal Every Sickness, Disease, and Illness?

I am a big believer in the doctrine of healing. I have experienced God’s healing in my own life, and I have witnessed God healing myriads of people over my past couple decades I’ve been in ministry. I am greatly comforted by verses like the one in James that gives us a great hope in the power of prayer:

James 5
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

I do believe that God heals, but I also believe that healing is not always the only path that He chooses for us. Sometimes His perfect plan for our lives is to allow us to suffer and experience disease, illness, and hardship. The reason for this is that He can often teach us things through suffering that we would never be able to learn through a book or seminar, or through comfort and prosperity.

Paul had a problem with his eyesight that God never healed. When Timothy was sick, Paul told him to drink wine (not go to a healing service). The Lazarus who was raised from the dead eventually died later. Paul says that he had a thorn in the flesh which he prayed for God to remove over and over again, but God never removed it. Job suffered because God had a whole bigger purpose for him than mere comfort on this planet. And Job’s suffering was not the result of a lack of faith.

Some of the greatest blessings in this world come from God’s power in the midst of trials. God changes us, molds us, strengthens us, and builds us through hardship. And there is nothing like the experience of being comforted by God alone in that dark hour.

Over the past twenty-five years that I have been in ministry, I have seen people hurt greatly by the false teaching that God always wants to heal every malady. This is because that belief can cause a massive amount of guilt and disillusionment for the afflicted in those times when God actually chooses not to heal. The implication is that the suffering Christian just didn’t quite believe enough or is hiding some sort of sin. I have seen Christians destroyed in their faith over this erroneous teaching.

We must realize that sometimes it’s just not God’s plan to heal or to fix a problem quickly for us. And that’s ok. He still loves us. He still has a plan. And He still has a profound purpose for that pain that can end up blessing us beyond anything we could ever imagine.

Often God chooses to heal! But sometimes He teaches us more and draws us closer when we walk the dark mile of suffering. But to experience such blessing, it is important that we run to God and not away from Him in the midst of the storm.

For an epic example of how God can bless even in the midst of a tragedy, check out this post:

“Experiencing God’s Grace — Even at the Death of a Child”


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


10 Questions to Get “Unstuck” Spiritually

During this past year, I bought a vehicle that I have wanted for just about all my life: a Jeep Wrangler. I’ve always liked seeing them, but I was just recently able to get one for myself. There’s nothing quite like zipping around town with the top off and doors off. It’s basically like riding a roller coaster… EVERYWHERE.

After buying my Jeep, I got on Youtube to check out what others do with their Jeeps. I was stunned. What do you do with a brand new vehicle? You bury it in mud! Here’s one video of what others have done with their Wrangler.

When I watched that video of that Jeep that was stuck, I realized that that is exactly what people do with their lives. They often run their lives into the muck and mire of this world, and they often get stuck with seemingly no way out. Well, my hope is that, if you are spiritually stuck in your life right now, this blog post will help to pull you out of the pit.

If you feel like you are stuck spiritually and are just spinning your wheels, then I would like to suggest that you take a few moments to ask yourself some self-examining questions. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” King David said it like this:

Psalm 139:23–24
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (NLT)

Many people I have worked with over the years have been able to get unstuck by prayerfully asking these following questions and allowing God to help them find areas that need to be fixed.

1.  Is there some unconfessed sin in my life that I need to deal with?

1 John 1:8–10
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. (NLT)

2. Is there some person I have offended or hurt, but I have not apologized to or sought forgiveness or restoration?

Matthew 5:23–24
So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. (NLT)

3. Is there some person in my life whom I have not forgiven?

Ephesians 4:31–32
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)

4. Is there any idol  that I have adopted into my life in the place of God?

1 John 2:15–16
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (NKJV)

5. Am I believing lies about God, myself, others, or my situation?

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (NKJV)

6. Am I being disciplined and consistent in my pursuit of God?

Psalm 63:1–8
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (NKJV)

7. Are there any areas of my life that are out of balance?

Ecclesiastes 3
1 To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;  time of war, and a time of peace.  (NKJV)

8. Are there any areas of my life that are requiring inappropriate amounts of my time?

Ephesians 5:15–17
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (NKJV)

9. Is there some ministry that God wants me to pursue, but I have held out?

1 Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect the gift that is in you….  (NKJV)

10. Have I been 100% honest before God on each of the above questions?

 John 8:32
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (NKJV)


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


Could a God Who Allows Suffering Really Be Good?

Genesis 50:20

And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

Today’s passage gives us a beautiful glimpse at God’s amazing plan, which was set into place before the universe began. Joseph had to go through incredible heartache as a result of the horrible sins that his brothers committed toward him. They hated him with a perfect hatred. They sold him into slavery, and they hoped to never see him again. It appeared that there was no hope that Joseph would ever again be happy again.

But God was able to take an event even as terrible as this and use it for something beautiful. Through Joseph’s slavery, God was able to rescue the entire family of Jacob and turn them into the great nation of Israel. Wow! What a plan!

There is no such thing as random pain. God has a divine purpose for everything, and He can often accomplish things through suffering that He would not be able to accomplish in any other way.

Because God is omniscient (He knows everything),  He truly sees the big picture. He truly knows what’s best for us. He knows what will bring the ultimate good for mankind.  And He allows suffering at times to bring about that ultimate good –- in mankind in general, and in your life in particular.

As a parent, I occasionally have to do the same thing with my kids. My daughter may not understand why we would have to take her to the doctor to get a shot, but that medical treatment would be for her ultimate good. I can see the big picture in a way that she does not always fully understand … yet. At some point she will … perhaps.

One thing in this life about which you can be sure is that God loves you dearly. And the suffering that you experience is somehow related to His love for you. And this can only be understood fully as it is seen from His eternal, “out-of-this-world” vantage point.

TODAY’S BIG IDEA:  “Suffering can be an extension of God’s goodness when it is viewed from the perspective of God and eternity.”


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


5 Things That Cause Us to Drift Spiritually

Several years ago a friend of mine took his wife and kids to the ocean for a week of R&R. While they were there, they purchased a small, inflatable boat for recreational use on the beach. One day the wife jumped in the boat and launched out into the water to just lie back and soak in some sunshine. After what seemed like a short span of time, she opened her eyes and realized that she was several hundred yards away from the shore. In a panic, she screamed for help.

Only one person on the shore seemed to hear her call, and that was her husband. When he realized her predicament, he immediately attempted to swim out to rescue her. That did not turn out well, because he was soon in need of being rescued as well!

Fortunately the lifeguard was doing his job well that day, and he was successful in rescuing the husband and the wife. By the time he was able to get to the wife in the raft, they were nearly a half mile from the shore.

As I have thought about that experience over the years, it has often made me think about how Christians often drift away from the Lord spiritually. It really doesn’t take much time at all to drift so far from the shore spiritually that one can scarcely even see the land anymore.

As a pastor for the past couple decades, I have noted several key things that tend to cause Christians to drift away from God. Here are five of them:

1)  An Out-of-Control Schedule.

Ephesians 5:16
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

One of Satan’s greatest weapons against our generation seems to be his ability to make good people busier than ever before. We so often sacrifice the best things in life by spending time doing things that are just “pretty good.”

If you desire to walk closely with God, you will absolutely, necessarily have to begin by taking a close look at your calendar. It is likely that you are currently doing too much. And it is also likely that your overly hectic schedule is affecting your relationship with God. So take out your pruning shears and begin to cut out any activities you can that will allow you to focus more time on your relationship with your Creator.

2)  Misplaced Affections

1 John 2:15
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Be careful not to set your heart on things that really don’t matter. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen good people lured away from church life because they have fallen in love with things or activities that have no eternal merit. For example, children’s sports can certainly be a thrilling activity for your kids to pursue. But if those sports begin to adversely affect the spiritual involvement and development of your family, then pull the plug immediately.

3)  Discouragement

During the past couple decades that I have served as a pastor, I have often watched Satan using his weapon of discouragement to drag people away from spiritual activities. I have seen it many more times than I can number.

When the trials of life cause a person to become discouraged, he often begins focusing on those problems and takes his eyes off of Christ. It reminds me of when Peter walked on the water. He did great until he took his eyes off of Jesus and began looking at the waves beneath him and the clouds above him.

It is important for you to know that when life’s clouds grow dark and your trials become fierce, that is the time to run TO Jesus and not FROM Him.

4)  Abundance

1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

We Americans are so fat with our own prosperity that we often make wealth our god and not the true King of heaven. This has also been a recurring theme throughout the entire Bible. People struggle, God blesses them, they become prosperous, and then they depart from God. Ironic, isn’t it?

The chances are great that you probably do not feel like you are prosperous. But the reality is that nearly all Americans are extremely blessed and have more abundance than the vast majority of the population of the planet. If you are an American, you are most likely already a “One-Percenter” (wealthier than 99% of the world’s population).

People of abundance often choose recreation over worship. Why go to church if you could be out golfing, boating, camping, or going to movies or sporting events?

Satan wants us to be prosperous, because our prosperity and abundance often lure us away from our Creator.

5)  Parasitic Sins

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Many people begin to drift away from God, because they have sins in their lives that cause them to feel guilt when they show up at church. And they feel reluctant to pray or read their Bible when they know they have these issues in their lives.

Recently, I stumbled upon the most revolting video I’ve ever seen (through my Facebook news feed). The video showed an eye surgeon removing a parasite from a human eye. I won’t go into detail. That brief description alone is enough to send chills down the spines of many. All I can say is that the video was even worse than what you’re thinking right now!

When I watched that video, it dawned on me that many people have sins in their lives that are damaging them just like parasites in one’s body. And those sins will almost certainly affect your spiritual vision.

The solution here is not to run/drift from God. The key is to confess your sin to God who will restore you and make you whole again (1 John 1:9)!

How have you done in your journey with God over the past year or the past few months? Have you drifted? Now is the time to return. Call out to God before you are so far from the shore than you lose all sense of spiritual direction.


For more, visit Sensible Faith.