Chris Russell

  • Commitment Ain’t What It Used to Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Begin this Sunday!


    For more, visit Sensible Faith.

  • How to Keep People from Sucking the Life Out of You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    3)   Focus on keeping your own hands blameless.

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

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

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

    5)   Worship God in good times and bad.

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


    For more, visit sensible faith.

  • 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.

  • Could God Love Someone Like Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    For more, visit Sensible Faith.

  • About 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.'