Chris Russell


Chris Russell
Pastor, Veritas Church

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

I’ve been in pastoral ministry for over twenty-five years, and the most difficult experience I’ve had to help people through is the death of a child. Most of us cannot even conceive of the anguish of a parent who has had to endure such a loss.

Recently, I officiated at a memorial service for a precious baby who passed away just ninety minutes after birth. While a memorial service like this would normally be filled with indescribable grief, this particular service was filled with a special sort of joy, which I have only witnessed a few times in my life. While this young couple from my church, Erik and Jessica, were grieving over the loss of their beautiful little girl, Ella, they were able to experience God’s grace in a profound way.

This was most clearly demonstrated by the words they each read as a part of the service. Following is a transcript of their words which brought tears to every eye in the auditorium:

Erik’s words:

I had never expected that nearly five months ago Jess and I would receive life changing news after what I had thought would be a simple, routine ultrasound. I remember the day that the doctor told us that Ella had a severe brain deformation and was likely to have an impaired and very short life. That was the hardest day. The shock of going through the experience was jarring and devastating. It crashed headlong into my dreams and ambitions for Ella, destroying them and leaving in its wake a landscape of fear and uncertainty.

The night of the diagnosis I remembered lying in my bed, hoping I would wake up the next morning to find out that everything had been a horrible nightmare. I hoped that I would awaken the next morning and the memory of what had transpired would fade from my recollection quickly and painlessly. But when the morning came and I asked my wife, “Was it just a dream?” I was again confronted with the harsh reality of our circumstance.

That morning I sat with Jessica on the floor of what would have been Ella’s room, and I held her hands, and together we prayed. I opened my heart up to the LORD, and I cried out to Him with tears in my eyes. Between sobs of desperation, I pleaded with God to give us direction for Ella’s life. I asked the LORD to give me strength to lead my wife through this time of hardship. I asked God to take away our fears and help us to give Ella the unconditional love any child deserves from his or her parents. I asked God to protect our hearts from the despair and depression that loomed around us and to give us His spirit of peace that surpasses all understanding.

I thanked God for the many blessings in our life, and I acknowledged Him for His sovereignty in all things, including Ella’s life. I thanked Him for giving her to us to be her parents. I prayed that he would lead us to be the parents he wanted for Ella. I asked that God would give us the strength to honor him during our hardships and not turn our backs on Him, our only shelter from the storm.

During this time in our lives,  Jess brought a verse to my attention, and I think it is has great relevance. Psalm 34 is a beautiful psalm that encapsulates much of what I want to convey to you today. Here is what it says:

 Psalm 34:

1  I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.

2  I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart.

3  Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.

4  I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.

5  Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

6  In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles.

7  For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

What I would like everyone to know is that the LORD holds true to every promise he has made to me. The LORD freed me from the bondage of all my fears and my troubles. The LORD has given me joy in this dark hour of my life. The LORD has surrounded me with his angels which are those of his children whom I am blessed to know as friends and family. The LORD is truly great, loving, and deserving of exaltation. HIS grace has overwhelmed us, and the power of HIS spirit has overtaken our weakness.

Ella’s life on Earth was tragically short, but it was entirely sweet and filled with joy. I miss her and long to hold her. But I am comforted by the truth that her life hasn’t ended but only begun. HIS promise to us is that we will be reunited with HIM in heaven some day.

This is the reason Jess and I wanted this to be a celebration of life, because we are grateful for the one she was given! It was filled completely with love. And Ella’s life hasn’t ended! It has merely been transformed from the one here on Earth to the one the LORD has created for those who love and believe in Him in heaven. Thank you all for coming and being with us tonight as we remember her short life on Earth and celebrate God’s greatness and His eternal life for us. It is our honor and privilege to share our little girl’s life with you so that you can know her as we did.

Jessica’s words (a letter from her to Ella):

Dear Ella,

Today is the day we have chosen to celebrate your life and acknowledge the impact you have made in your very short time here on earth. You were a true gift of God to your Daddy and I, and we know that our lives will forever be changed because of you. Your Daddy and I are closer to each other now and stronger as a couple because of you. Most importantly we are closer to God and so thankful that, because of you, we know what it means to truly surrender our lives and trust to Him each day.

The day you were born seems like a blur to me now. I remember checking into the hospital and getting things in place for your arrival, and before I knew it, the doctor was in the room telling me that it was time! You were so beautiful. You had a full head of dark hair and the most wonderfully unique features. Your little lips reminded me of your big brother Ethan when he was a baby. You cried when you were born, which filled mommy’s heart. It would be the first and last time I heard you cry, but I treasure that sound you made. You even opened your eyes which I took as your way of saying hi to me. We knew, little girl, that you might not know how to breathe once you didn’t have mommy’s help anymore, and that turned out to be the case. Thank you for trying to figure it out, though, for so long. Thank you for letting us love you and hold you and share you with all of the people that came to meet you. I am happy to have filled your short life with love. I have learned so much about unconditional love from carrying you. I would have traded my own life so that you could have experienced the joys of this world, and I understand so much clearer now the love our Savior has for me. I know that you are made perfect now, though. And I also know that part of my love included being okay to let you go and be with the Lord instead of getting to raise you here. My perfect healed baby girl, you are experiencing a life that Mommy could have never given you here. I am so happy for you that you get a headstart into eternity!

In the book of James he says we should consider it a joy when we face trials of any kind, and now I know what he means. I consider it a joy to have walked this journey with you Ella and a true privilege to be the one that God chose to be your mommy. He has a strong purpose for your life with us, and we are only beginning to see the impact you are making in this world. I will treasure every minute that we shared together and have great expectations for our time in eternity together. Your Daddy and big brother Ethan and I will never forget you. Fly high sweet angel girl. Mommy loves you very much.

Love,

Mommy

———————————

I have known Erik and Jessica for many years now — since they were teenagers. And I can tell you that the reason they were able to find God’s grace in this difficult trial was because they knew what it means to walk with God. I have watched them for many years as they have sought the Lord, served Him in ministry, and surrounded themselves with a support system of godly friends.

When you find yourself in a dark hour of trial, my encouragement to you is to lean into God.  That is where you will find strength, hope, and courage.

When the storms of life approach,

run to God and not away from Him!


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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Rock Star Pastors

I hate to speak against the Church or various movements within the Church, but I have to admit that it has always bothered me to see the way many pastors seem to set themselves up as “rock stars” within their congregations and within the Christian world. And sometimes it’s not that they set themselves up as rock stars, but it’s their churches or Christians in general who elevate them to that status.

I am happy that these pastors and ministries often win souls to Christ. At least the message of the good news of Christ is being proclaimed (Philippians 1:15–18). That is why I normally don’t speak against others or write blog posts like this.

However, in the past few weeks we’ve seen the sad events unfold around the indiscretions of Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and this has renewed my concerns about this approach to Christianity. Let me say here that I am not trying to say that Mark has sought that rock star status. I have no way of being able to discern his motives. He has clearly done many great things for God’s Kingdom and has rescued many souls along the way. And I don’t believe the last chapter has been written for his ministry.

I just feel like pastors, ministries, churches, etc. that have a rock star mentality are extremely vulnerable to Satan’s attacks, and there is a huge risk of hurting a lot of people who are watching. The rock star model for ministry leadership is certainly not a healthy, sustainable approach.

Jesus never set Himself up as a rock star. If anyone could have done so, it would have been the Son of God. But that was not his approach. No laser light shows, no smoke machines, no tour buses. Jesus modeled servanthood, humility, and sacrifice.

Consider the most amazing sermon that has ever been delivered on this side of the universe: The Sermon on the Mount. Here are a few snippets that contrast greatly with the rock star mentality that we see so often today:

>Matthew 5

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 

5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 

7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 

12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 

14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 

15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Later in the same sermon, Jesus rebukes those who do their spiritual work in order to be seen and honored by men. Ponder His words here:

>Matthew 6

1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 

2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 

3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 

4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. 

5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 

6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 

7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 

8 Therefore do not be like them.

Likewise, Paul also echoed this humble approach.  For instance he made these statements to the believers in Philippi:

>Philippians 2

3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 

4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 

6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 

7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

My hope is that pastors and churches and ministries will work to make Christ the true Star of their ministries. Self-promotion needs to go. Celebrity status should be rejected.

Pastors, resist the seductive lure of fame and popularity. Do not allow people to lift you up, and certainly do not engage in self-promotion. Work to become invisible so that others can see Christ through you.

Church members, avoid the tendency to elevate Christian leaders to rock star status. They are simply people, just like you.

For another interesting twist on this subject check out this podcast by Brant Hansen here (Brant and Sherri).

By the way, I’d love to hear your comments about this subject. Do you agree with me here? Disagree? Let me hear your feedback!


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


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.


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.


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Invite someone to church this Sunday.

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

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

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


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

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


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.


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 Have a Half Day of Prayer with God

Mark 1:35
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.


Many years ago I learned about a spiritual discipline that literally changed my life: a half day of prayer. I learned about this concept through leadership training with The Navigators, and it has stuck with me ever since. One of the most dynamic experiences I have come to enjoy in life is to take a half day to get away to a place of solitude and just … pray! I highly recommend it to any who are reading this post.

But as you ponder this concept, you are likely asking yourself something like, “What in the world would I do for 4–5 hours of prayer? What would I say to God? What would I do with that much time?” Great questions! Let me give you some suggestions!

First of all, I would suggest that you break the time up into two key divisions: speaking to God and listening to God.

Speaking to God

For the first division of your time, you can take time to pray according to the acronym ACTS. Each of those letters stand for a specific theme of your prayers to God: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

Adoration
A great way to begin your half day of prayer is to spend some personal time in worship with the Lord. Sing. Listen to worship music. Contemplate everything you can think of that makes God so great. Write down everything you can think of that demonstrates the awesome majesty of God. And then ponder the things you have written. Contemplate the greatness of God while you are there before Him.

Confession
After your time of adoration, then take time to confess to God any sin you can think of in your life. David said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Ask God to show you any sin that you have in your life that is interfering with your journey with Him. Ask for God’s forgiveness, and then ask Him to help you to turn from those sins.

Thanksgiving
Now spend some time thanking God for every blessing you have in your life. I have found it helpful to write these items down as they come to my mind. Make a list, and make it as exhaustive as you can. Don’t leave anything out. Thank God for every single way He has blessed you and those around you.

Supplication
For the supplication portion of your prayer, invest time into praying for every single person who is close to you in your life.  Remember every family member, every coworker, every friend, every neighbor, every church member you can think of, etc. Again, write down the names of the people as you pray for them.  This will help you to think of others who should be on that list.

Listening to God

The next section of your half day of prayer will be the “Listening to God” section. This is likely to become the most important, life-changing experience of your half day with God!

Years ago I read a great book by Bill Hybels called, Too Busy Not to Pray. One of the eye-opening suggestions for me in that book was the idea that we should actually take time to stop and listen to God. I realized after reading that book that, in my own prayer life, I had always been the one who did all the talking! I never stopped long enough to actually listen to God. Most relationships that operate like that end up failing, so we should assume that our relationship with God will struggle as well if we are the only ones doing the talking.

So, then, how do we go about “listening” to God? Bill Hybels gave some recommendations for that, and I have expanded on those a bit in my own practice of listening.

When I get to the listening portion of my prayer, after spending time going through the vital sections of ACTS, I then take out a notepad and write these questions on the tops of separate pages:

“What is the next step in my journey with God?”

“What is the next step for my family?”

“What is the next step in my ministry?”

“What is the next step in my career?”

“What is the next step in my finances?”

“What is the next step in my education?”

“What is the next step in my relationships?”

Sometimes I will add more pages with headings like these, and sometimes I will have fewer pages. After I have these pages ready with these questions at the top, I then just stop talking. I stop asking God for things, and I just let Him do the talking. You will find that if you stop to listen to the Lord, He will speak. He will begin to flood your heart with ideas around each of these questions. He may focus on just one or two of these areas of your life, or He may broaden to many of the subjects you’ve listed.

Of course, sometimes God will not speak as you want. There have been times when I haven’t heard Him say much. But more often than not, He has flooded my soul with myriads of ideas, thoughts, and impressions about how I am to move forward in my life. This is epic. It is life changing. In today’s fast-paced world of technology, we rarely take time to just stop and let God speak to us.

Furthermore, I must warn you to be aware that not all ideas come from God. Occasionally my flesh will start talking, and sometimes it might be Satan himself who is chattering in my ears. That is why it is so important to take time for worship, confession, and adoration before you begin your time of listening. It is also good to check the things you have heard with the Scriptures to make sure they are not in conflict with any biblical principles. If the ideas go against the Bible, then that was not God speaking. I have also found it to be helpful to check my notes with godly friends who can help me to make sure I am hearing God.

With all of that in mind, I have to say that the biggest step forward for me in my Christian journey was when I stopped talking and started listening to God! It’s one of the greatest experiences of my Christian journey!

The first step for you to experience a half day of prayer will be to put it on your calendar. Set aside a day, and then go out into a place of solitude to meet with God! You will never be the same afterward!


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.


8 Keys to Knowing God’s Will For Your Life

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

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

1) Walk with God.

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

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

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

Proverbs 3:5-6

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

2) Surrender your will to God’s.

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

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

Romans 12:1-2

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

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

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

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

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

4) Seek godly input.

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

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

Proverbs 11:14

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

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

5) Pay attention to how God has wired you.

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

The Apostle Peter gives us this admonition:

1 Peter 4:10

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

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

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

6) Listen to God’s Spirit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 10:27

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

7) Listen to your heart.

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

Psalms 37:4-5

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

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

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

8) Take a look at your circumstances.

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

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

Acts 16:6-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Closing Thought:

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


For more, visit Sensible Faith.


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.


Writing Someone Else's Story

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

1 Peter 1:10-11

Today’s big question: whose message did the writers of the Scriptures write?

In the above passage, Peter gave us an interesting insight into the doctrine of inspiration. He mentioned that the prophets who gave us the message regarding the coming Messiah actually searched their own writings to try to figure out what those writings meant. What author has written a book and then gone back to figure out what it meant? This is only true of the Scriptures, because the Bible is not man’s word but God’s Word.

The writers of the Scriptures were not writing their own stories. They were merely writing the words that God gave them. Jeremiah described it like this: “Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.’” (Jeremiah 1:9) The content of the Scriptures comes from the mind of God and not from the mind of man.

This past June I attended a graduation ceremony in which they asked the graduates to stand who were planning to go from high school into the military. Dozens of young men and women stood, and the crowd gave them an enthusiastic standing ovation for their willingness to risk their lives for their country. When I saw that, I felt “inspired.”

We all experience that feeling at times. However, we must understand that when Paul said that the Scriptures are “inspired” (2 Timothy 3:16), the Greek word he used there actually means “God-breathed.” The writers of Scripture were not merely “inspired” in the human sense. They actually wrote the very words that God gave them. These are God’s words!

With this concept in mind, we must seek the great truths that are found in the Scriptures. Through that we can actually know the heart and mind of God Himself!

Today’s big idea: when we dig into the Scriptures, we can know the heart and mind of God Himself.

What to pray: ask God to reveal Himself to you personally through His Word so that you can enjoy an intimate relationship with 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.


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.


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!


Who's Running This Place?

Colossians 3:16-17

16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Imagine a universe in which everything is completely random. There is no order; there is no consistency; there is no purpose. What a horrible place that would be! Yet those who believe in a purely naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe find themselves in precisely such a place.

I’m thankful that we can know that there is purpose, there is direction, and that there is order in the universe. This universe was designed, laid out, and is maintained by the Creator, the God of the universe, Himself. The laws of physics are such a beautiful picture of the great order that God gives to His creation. Not only has God created this world, but He is intimately involved in keeping everything running according to His perfect plan.

This truth actually brings us great comfort. I don’t know if you’ve figured this out, but I have noticed over the many years that I’ve been alive that life does not actually turn out the way that I thought it would when I was much younger. As a matter of fact, life regularly takes turns that I never would have ever imagined in my early years.

Unexpected tragedies come. We experience loss. We experience pain, heartache, sorrow, failure, and despair. But knowing that God reigns on His throne on high is an incredible comfort. We can be assured that nothing takes place that is outside of His control. Take a moment to think about God’s perspective on this universe. Consider God’s perspective on your problems. God is not stressed out. God is not sitting on His throne wringing his hands in worry about how things are going to turn out.

As you go throughout this day, take time to ponder God’s sovereignty. Meditate on the reality that He is in control of everything. Take time to ponder His sovereignty and how it makes a difference in your life. Consider how big of a deal that is.

TODAY’S BIG IDEA:  “God is in control, and you can relax and trust in Him.”


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