Jumat, 27 Maret 2015

5 Times a Once-Good Marriage Slips Away or Falls Apart

5 Times a Once-Good Marriage Slips Away or Falls Apart

“A good marriage doesn’t deteriorate overnight. It diminishes gradually.”
How does a once-good marriage slip away?
I get asked that question when it becomes public that a marriage everyone thought was rock solid falls apart.
As the song goes — It’s a slow fade. A good marriage doesn’t deteriorate overnight. It diminishes gradually.
There are probably lots of reasons. There are usually a few common causes in my experience.

Here are 5 ways a once-good marriage slips away — or falls apart:

Other interests come between them. It could be a relationship — even other good relationships — or a hobby, or work, but something gets a higher priority than the marriage. Distractions will destroy a good marriage.
Unresolved conflict. Conflict left unattended sometimes sits like it never existed. But, oh it did. And, it does. Someone is holding on to it. Trust me. And, the longer it sits the deeper the wedge it causes.
The couple stops dreaming together. When a couple is dating they have lots of dreams together. They discuss their future. They dream about where they will live and travel. They dream about family and adventure. It’s an energy that fuels the relationship. When it stops. The fuel it brought stops.
Boredom. I’ve long said this is one of the leading causes of marriages unraveling. Couples quit dating — quit laughing — quit having fun together. They get caught in the routines and busyness of life. Boredom sets in and the closeness they once shared begins to drift. The enemy love this and suddenly one or both spouses seek excitement elsewhere. Dangerous.
Living separate agendas. It’s okay to have separate identities. Even encouraged. It’s okay to have separate interests. It keeps things interesting. But, it’s not okay to have separate agendas. The agenda should be two very different people blending those differences into one. When that’s not happening — the strength of the marriage will slowly — or quickly — fade.
I’m praying for your marriage — as I continue to pray for mine. Stand firm.  
Ron Edmondson Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years. More from Ron Edmondson or visit Ron at http://www.ronedmondson.com/

Leading through Transitions

Leading through Transitions

Caterpillar transitioning into a butterflyBy Jamaal Williams
In 2009 I was called to pastor Forest Baptist Church, a 147-year-old, historically African-American church in Louisville, Kentucky. Forest is an incredible place to serve and I’m grateful for our members!
I came to the church in the midst of turmoil after the previous pastor was forced to resign. Things were tight and we had some major transitions to make. The Lord saw us through these transitions, and I’m grateful for what I learned.
Like Forest, most churches go through changes. Whether it’s new staffing, significant budget changes, sudden deaths, or the releasing of beloved employees, shifts are inevitable in the life of your church. We might as well make them as smooth as possible! Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about making transitions.
Cast and recast your vision with passion and clarity
Everyone longs to belong to something great and meaningful. The key to making a strong transition is showing people why the new direction is necessary and better. We can do this in a way that makes people bored – or excited. If we can’t cast a vision with infectious passion and clarity, we are not ready to cast it!
Neither are we ready if we can’t cast it with humility and patience. After casting the vision, it’s important to keep it before the congregation. We do this by constantly demonstrating the need for and benefits of such an initiative.
Feed the sheep and starve the goats
When I was serving as interim pastor at Forest, I called my former pastor to get his input. Perhaps the best advice he gave me came in the form of an aphorism: “Feed the sheep and starve the goats.” Translation: “When in the pulpit, preach the Bible. When outside the pulpit, avoid giving people anything to gossip about.” That was my main job during the transition.
Times of transition can be tricky. Some people will approach you with genuine questions and concerns, while others will seek to bring confusion and disunity. Our job as ministers of the Gospel is to preach refreshing good news and to protect God’s presence by not becoming entangled in nonsense.
Talk to a variety of people about how the transition affects them
As pastors, one of the most dangerous things we can do is make decisions in a vacuum. After meeting with our leadership council and casting the vision, we must interact with church members and see how they are processing the transition. When we don’t, it’s as if we are assuming that our plan or vision is error-proof. No vision ever is.
If we’re open, a teenager, a married mother of four, or a widowed man of seventy can always teach us something and give us a better perspective than we had before. Transitions are most effective when we take the time to see things from many vantage points.
Admit mistakes and make corrections as you go
One thing we can learn from the American public is that they are forgiving when a leader or celebrity gets “ahead of a story” and apologizes for making a mistake. Believe the same is true in the church. As leaders we are going to make bad decisions sometimes. When we do, it’s important to lead with repentance. People admire strength, but they also respect a broken and sincere leader. Don’t be afraid to say, “I believe in our vision and our overall direction, but changes need to be made because I underestimated something. Forgive me.”
Transitions aren’t easy. They weren’t easy for Jesus when Lazarus died, when He struggled and suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, or at many other points in his ministry. Jesus sympathizes with us in our weakness, but He also reminds us that we must do our Father’s will. He can empower anyone to lead well in the midst of any transition.
Copyright © 2015 by Jamaal Williams. Used by permission.

Jamaal Williams is Pastor of Forest Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. He is a native of Chicago, IL. Jamaal received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University where he served as president of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s black chapter. He has the M.A in Church Ministries and is currently pursuing a D.Ed. Min in Black Church Leadership from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jamaal serves on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Leadership Council. He is married to Amber, and they are the parents of Nia, Kayla, and Josiah.

Rabu, 25 Maret 2015

7 Attitudes that Hinder Recovery from Sexual Sin

Hasil gambar untuk 15 Practices Of Aging Leaders Who Stay Relevant

7 Attitudes that Hinder Recovery from Sexual Sin

Why is recovery from sexual sin so incredible difficult? I believe millions of Christian men and women have realized that they have become hooked by this powerful sin and feel so defeated because it seems like no matter what they do they keep coming back for more. I know because I wrestled with it for 41 years.
One piece of the recovery puzzle is realizing what you are up against. We all have a “flesh” or “sin nature.” We all live in a fallen world that has made access to sexual materials immediate and limitless. We are at battle not with flesh and blood but with the principalities and powers of darkness.
7 Attitudes that Hinder Recovery from Sexual Sin
However, let’s dig a little deeper and reveal some spirits or attitudes that we have developed over time that only cause stumbling and make recovery more difficult.

1. The Spirit of “I Don’t Care”

This spirit springs to life at the most inopportune times. When we are stressed by other things and driven by busyness it whispers, “Hey, you deserve a break from all this. Acting out will make you feel good.” Your Prefrontal Cortex of your brain shuts down as the animal instinct of your Amygdala kicks in. Reason has left the room and you act on instinct.

2. The Spirit of Curiosity

This spirit tends to show up when we are bored. Online for no specific purpose or channel surfing late at night is the breeding ground for curiosity. What can I find? I’ve got news for you…you can find anything and everything you want but should not want to find. There is a master fisherman who will cast a lure near you hoping to catch your attention, but the lure will always have a hook hidden inside.

3. The Spirit of Denial

How long have you been in denial before realizing that you really have a problem and you need help to break free from sexual sin? I lied to myself for eight years believing I could stop and that I was not addicted. Also, while in recovery we may have a slip or a fall—and denial keeps us from taking a serious look at what led to the fall. Denial is always pulling us back into isolation and screams into our ears when we are trying to head into the light.

4. The Spirit of Self-Loathing

There is an image that I found online that sums this one up. It is a cartoon of a man pulling his head apart and there is a parrot inside where his brain should be. The parrot is saying, “You are sh*t.” We heap condemnation upon ourselves and wonder why we are feeling so horribly about ourselves. You probably have a library of condemnation tapes playing in the background.

5. The Spirit of Fear

Fears are the chains that keep us in isolation. We live in fear of someone discovering the truth about what we have done. We panic at the thought of our lives becoming a train wreck. The shame of our failures being revealed keeps us from telling the truth. If I had been a better man I would have admitted long ago that I had a serious problem and gotten help. My silence only took me deeper into my sin and caused even more pain.

6. The Spirit of Pride

Pride is thinking too highly of yourself. It is believing that you are more important than you are and more important than others. Its counterpart is false humility, which is a form of pride by appearing that you are less than you really are. Pride keeps us out of touch with reality. It tells us we are really good at this recovery stuff and we are not as bad as all those others. So, we really do not have to do the hard work of recovery.

7. The Spirit of Laziness

A spirit of laziness will take us to a place where we are fat, dumb, and unhappy. This creates more feelings of self-loathing and more urges to act out. As this takes place over the years, a little bit at a time, we find ourselves in horrible shape mentally, physically and spiritually.
I have only touched briefly on these spirits. A fuller discussion on all of them can be found either in eBook form on Amazon Kindle or on my blog: 180blog.org.
I send out daily encouragement e-mails for those in the fight to stay pure. Just send me a request at doyel180@gmail.com.

John Doyel was a pastor for 26 years before resigning his position of Senior Pastor due to his sexual addiction. For the past 9+ years he has been living one day at a time, experiencing the grace and healing of God in his life, his marriage, and in his family. He began a ministry at Vineyard Columbus in 2009 called 180: Helping Men Return to God. He has written three devotionals for men to help in their recovery: 40 Days of Purity, 31 Ways Your Father says “I Love You” and Unconditionally Surrendered to the Spirit.

4 Lies Culture Tells Us About Sex

4 Lies Culture Tells Us About Sex

As '50 Shades of Grey' hits theaters, a look at a few of the biggest myths our culture teaches us about sex
Last year, we broke down the 4 biggest lies the Church told us about sex. Of course, the Church is far from alone in misleading facts about sex. We get plenty from our culture as well—this time of year, in particular.
From the entertainment industry, to literature and music, all the way down to a basic car commercial or advertisement for a bar of soap—we use sex for pleasure, for money, for intimacy, for power, for manipulation, and—as portrayed by the latest runaway best-seller set to hit theaters this weekend—even for pain.
It’s clear that we are a culture completely immersed in sex, and that’s telling. First and foremost, it’s telling in that our culture’s obsession with sex is really a symptom. It’s a sign that we were made for relationships, because, at the heart of it, our desire for sex reflects our desire to connect. We were made to connect, by a God who made us for relationships; with Him and with the community He has given us.
The problem then, isn’t in our desire for sex, but rather with how we’ve learned to define sex. Sex is an important and God-given part of the human experience, but our perspective of sex has been tainted and twisted to reflect something that it was never intended to be.
While much of this has occurred due to the false messages we’ve learned in church, much of this distortion also comes from outside the Church—in the way that we have allowed our culture to influence us, rather than us influencing our culture.
Our culture’s obsession with sex is really a symptom. At the heart of it, our desire for sex reflects our desire to connect.
Here are four simple but dangerous lies our culture is feeding us about sex:

That the Context of Sex Doesn’t Matter.

This is a really dangerous lie because it fails to take into consideration the power of sex. There is a reason God’s word clearly warns us of the dangers of having sex outside the context of a loving, respectful, committed marriage. God knows that sex is powerful, and He gives us guidelines so that we can engage in sex in ways that are both protective and pleasurable.
According to modern science and psychology, sex is like a drug. It’s powerful because it is both a binding and addictive experience. It’s physically binding in that as we engage in sex, our bodies release a powerful neurochemical that neuroscientists call the “bonding chemical” that triggers feelings of connection. And it’s emotionally addicting because of the feelings of intimacy (even false intimacy) that it facilitates between two people. Those feelings have the power to trump logic and keep us in relationships for all the wrong reasons.
When our society takes the power of sex out of the context of marriage and into temporary relationships, we’re left with heartbreak, pain, trauma and wounds that can be very hard to heal.

That Sex is an Act of Taking, Rather Than an Act of Giving.

Our society tends to portray sex as an act of self-service. It’s all about “getting some” and going “as far as you can go.” This perspective on sex perpetuates a consumerist mentality where it’s all about what you can do for me.
This is a starkly different perspective on relationships compared to what we’re offered in Scripture. As pleasurable as sex is meant to be, a huge part of the pleasure is in learning to give, rather than to receive. It’s in learning to find pleasure through the pleasuring of the spouse that God has given us to love. It’s about creating an environment of trust, of security, and of intimacy based on the God-driven principles that motivate each partner to seek the best interest of the other. We’ll never get sex right, unless we learn to start here.

That Sex is a Physical, One-Dimensional Experience.

Sex is just sex. That’s what our society wants us to believe, anyway. It’s a biological need, they tell us, just like eating, drinking and sleeping. And because sex is just physical, it doesn’t really matter who we’re doing it with as long as everyone consents, right?
Wrong. Because when we see sex as a superficial, one-dimensional part of the human experience, we’ve failed to recognize some of its most valuable components. Sex is emotional, psychological, mental and spiritual. It influences and impacts us on so many different levels. It’s not just a co-mingling of bodies, it’s also a co-mingling of souls.
The more we can understand and appreciate the multi-faceted impact of sex on every level, the more our appreciation of this God-given gift will begin to grow.
Sex is emotional, psychological, mental and spiritual. It influences and impacts us on so many different levels.

That We Can’t Control Sex, Because it Controls Us.

This is likely the most widely accepted lie perpetuated in our society (both Christian and non-Christian culture alike). It’s the rumor that causes us to believe that we are slaves to our sex drive. It’s a myth that defines us as hormone-driven, sexually-motivated human beings that either need to fill our sexual appetite or completely starve it, because ultimately, we can’t control it.

The Divine Purpose

Hasil gambar untuk The Divine Purpose
The Divine Purpose
(En Español)
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
Even before I came to Christ, the phrase, "it all works for good," was a familiar coping mechanism for life's ills. Yet this spiritual truth really is not a promise for everyone. What I mean is that there are many things in life -- horrible things -- that are not working for good: Millions die who do not go to Heaven. Others languish in prolonged agony, suffering from unspeakable diseases, physical trauma or war. What of abortion, human trafficking and drug addiction? Do these work for good?
You see, Romans 8:28 is not a promise directed to everyone; it is, in fact, addressed to a unique category of Christians: "those who love God" and who embrace a lifestyle "according to His purpose." Therefore, let us search our hearts and honestly ask ourselves, Am I loving God, and am I reaching for His purpose in my life?
Equally important, we must know what is that specific, singular purpose that transcends all other earthly goals? You see, there is one purpose that God so loves so much that He will rework every challenge we face until even our setbacks are transformed into setups that conform our lives to Christ's.
The next verse in Romans explains:
"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn of many brethren" (v. 29).
Beloved, do not skim past this verse: it contains the very core reason for our existence. Our Father's purpose is that "many brethren" come forth in the "image of His Son." You see, possessing the likeness of Christ is the reason of our existence!
This is the purpose of God for us: Christlikeness. Yet many Christians are sleepwalking. In response to this passive condition, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we established our online school, In Christ's Image Training.
I believe this training is like an archer's bow; it will launch you into a new level in attaining your purpose in life. However, the arrow that determines how far and how high you will fly will be your vision and steadfastness in the Holy Spirit.
Finally, the world needs to see and experience Christians that manifest Christ's nature and demonstrate His power. A new anointing is on the horizon for miracles of healing and deliverance. Imagine Christ manifest through you in your church and community! I believe in this very hour of darkness the Holy Spirit is bringing many sons to glory (see Isaiah 60:1-3).
Let In Christ's Image Training be a means of grace to help you reach your divinely appointed destiny: conformed to the image of God's Son.
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In Christ's Image Training
Class begins April 3, 2015
Accepting registrations through March 26, 2015

In Christ's Image Training
is a six-month, online course developed by Pastor Frangipane. It is based on 44 years of seeking God, study and revelatory insights. These are proven truths that break chains and lead to power in our Christian walk
ICIT provides focused training in four essential stages of spiritual development:
The vision of attaining Christ's likeness
Possessing Christ's humility
Developing a strong prayer life
Becoming one with other Christ believers
The course comes right to your home via email and audio messages and is designed to lift one's focus toward the actual presence of Jesus Christ. The complete course not only includes 48 lessons and 39 audio messages, but the discerning student will actually find the Lord using the weekly lessons to stage opportunities to deepen the truths found in the training.
For those with limited funds, the entire text is free by email. Please choose the Free Lesson Plan when enrolling.
Enrollment overview:
     1) Go to www.icitc.org and read through the Level I page, FAQ         page Level I Syllabus page and Tuition page.

     2) Choose an enrollment plan

     3) Next, complete the Level I Registration form

     4) Submit the registration any time between now and March 26, 2015.
         Class begins April 3, 2015.
Feel free to forward this offer to friends and family members.
For more info, please see www.icitc.org
Training also available in Spanish / Español

Senin, 23 Maret 2015


Hasil gambar untuk VERSE TO PONDER
"He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
~Isaiah 53:5-6

What Does Jesus Say?

What Does Jesus Say?
(En Español)
Great Gain
We must relearn how to think. We must learn how to pause before we speak -- give ourselves a moment to enter the secret place of God's presence -- and then listen to what Jesus has to say. For Christ Himself is the source of our discernment. In listening, we create the opportunity to hear the Lord's voice; postured before Him we can receive answers, wisdom and insights that we otherwise would not discern.

Indeed, using the gift of discernment, we can counter the advance of the enemy and reverse the gains he might have otherwise obtained. Consider the gospel story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). As experts in the Mosaic Law, the Pharisees knew well that the woman had sinned. Wishing to publicly discredit Jesus, they brought her to Him hoping, perhaps, to prove Him a heretic:
"Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?" ---John 8:4-5
This is the big question: What does Jesus say? Everything we will learn about discernment is found in knowing the answer to this question. There will be pressure to answer. It's likely that turmoil may surround us. Yet we must stay sheltered in the calm of God. The woman is obviously guilty; witnesses have condemned her, as does the Law of Moses. Stones are waiting in the hands of her accusers. But if we will actually possess true discernment we must stop, listen, and actually hear: What does Jesus say?
Christ recognizes her sin. However, His thoughts were higher than that of the Pharisees. He saw this situation as a means to bring redemption to the woman, repentance to the Pharisees, and glory to His heavenly Father. Stooping down, He wrote on the ground. Then, as the Pharisees persisted with their accusations, He stood and said, "He who is without sin … let him be the first to throw a stone" (John 8:7).
The hardened hearts of the Pharisees were so deeply pierced that, "one by one, beginning with the older ones," they departed (v. 9). Scripture does not tell us what Jesus wrote (some say He wrote one of the Ten Commandments or perhaps some other Scripture). What He wrote is unknown. However, in the Lord's response He made it clear: in His kingdom, the merciful and the pure in heart decide when, and if, stones will be thrown.
The issue I seek to underscore is not that Jesus drew on the ground but that, in the heightened turmoil of the moment, Jesus drew upon the Father. He remained calm. He waited, listening in His heart to hear the voice of His Father.
This is the pattern for true discernment: we disown the limits of our opinions and reactions, and we learn to wait and listen to the Lord.
As the Voice Comes to Me
Jesus expands this discipline of focused waiting. Consider His comment in John 5:

I am able to do nothing from Myself [independently, of My own accord -- but only as I am taught by God and as I get His orders]. Even as I hear, I judge [I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision]. ---John 5:30 AMP
Jesus said, "As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision." This small statement unveils such a large truth!
When we accept Christ into our hearts, He does not enter simply as a doctrine. No, He enters us as a living voice. His Spirit brings conviction and direction; He speaks through dreams, visions, revelation, and understanding of the Scriptures. He illuminates our hearts, speaking to us of repentance and the renewal of our soul. He lifts us, reminding us of the faithful promises of God.
Yet this voice -- the sacred voice of God -- refuses to compete with the clamor of our fleshly minds. This is God, King and Creator of the universe. He requires the honor of our full attention! He will not yell as though we were disobedient children and He a frantic mother. He will not chase us. He waits.
Yes, there are times when He may resist us, gently pushing against our prideful efforts. He will wait until we stop our harmful activity. Our problem is not that God won't come to us; it's that our anxious souls fail to give Him time to speak.
Remember, His thoughts are "higher than" our thoughts (Isa. 55:9). He would speak to us, but our opinions monopolize the conversation. Our ideas and preprogrammed reactions rush out of our mouths and into the world of men. We hurry by the narrow path that leads to His presence. He is left out of the conversation; He wants in.
Jesus taught, "Take care what you listen to" (Mark 4:24). Do we truly know how to listen? Discernment is the art of listening to Him who does not speak audibly and perceiving Him who is otherwise invisible. And the one great question that leads to all we need to know is this: What does Jesus say?
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Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ available at www.arrowbookstore.com.
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Fight with Wisdom and Discernment
Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ
How can you defeat your enemy if you don't know who or what you are fighting? Pastor Francis shares biblical insights on the gift of discernment and what it means to possess the mind of Christ. A few of the chapters are classics from Francis' previously published books; they have been rewritten, updated, and included here as foundational to our understanding of spiritual discernment.
Includes extra chapters from several of pastor's other books, including three from The Three Battlegrounds. These additional chapters give continuity and additional insight into the important subject of spiritual discernment.
Includes a training CD titled, Society of the Redeemers.
Book and Free Training CD - $7.50 (Retail $12.85)
Ebook - $5.75 (Retail $12.85)

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~
The Three Battlegrounds
Any time the Spirit of God's kingdom is truly manifested in the earth, it will ultimately confront the strongholds of hell. Indeed, wherever evil spirits have either a foothold or a stronghold, you can expect that the overcoming church will be engaged in warfare, and expect also that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church that Jesus builds.
In this book, Francis Frangipane explores the three arenas of spiritual warfare that the maturing Christian will face: the mind, the church and the heavenly places. It provides a foundation of insight, wisdom and discernment on the nature of the battle and the keys to victory.
Book - $7.50 (Retail $11.75)
Ebook - $5.75 (Retail $11.75)
~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Both books - $14.00
(Retail $25.30)
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Jumat, 20 Maret 2015

5 Gifts That Will Greatly Bless Your Pastor

5 Gifts That Will Greatly Bless Your Pastor

In this post, I want to share some gifts you can give your pastor.
How’s that for a self-serving post?
Those from the church where I serve as pastor should read this post knowing I minister to hundreds of pastors every month. In my latest blog survey, over 50 percent of my readers are in vocational ministry. But even more important, only about 10 percent of my readers actually know me personally. So, this is not a personal plea. It’s written for the hopeful benefit of others. Thanks for being the kind of church that—for the most part—protects the pastor.
Most churches love to bless their pastor. I get asked frequently how the church can help me.
To be a pastor of a local church is a privilege and a high honor. But it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done.

Here are five gifts you can give your pastor:

1. Your understanding of time
Acts 6:1-2, Ephesians 5:31 (applies to the pastor’s marriage too)
The pastor needs time away from the ministerial responsibilities and activities of the church so that he can commit time to his family and to the ministry of the Word of God. Every activity done in the church is important, according to God’s Word, but the primary responsibility of the pastor is to teach God’s Word. I have witnessed so many pastors who burn out because too many demands are placed upon them. If there is a social or an activity in the church or among its people, most people expect the pastor to always be there. There is often little consideration of the fact that the pastor needs time with his family; and certainly time to prepare the message of God’s Word.
If you want your pastor to be prepared to deliver God’s message of the week to you, and if you want his family to be strong enough that he can model family life for you, then give him time alone with God during the week. Make sure he has time to study and for his family. Too many demands on his time will make a very stressed out pastor!
2. Your financial partnership
1 Corinthians 9:11-12
Your pastor needs to be personally supported financially and needs your partnership in funding the mission of the church.
I haven’t met any strong, biblical pastors who don’t realize that the ministry is a sacrifice. Most pastors don’t expect to be wealthy. Most pastors know that the ministry is a life of faith, even in the area of finances. They shouldn’t, however, have to beg for support. The burden of support should be on those receiving the ministry.
Operating any size church takes resources. The stress of “fundraising” on a pastor usually is outside of their comfort zone and expertise. What a blessing it is to a pastor when people willingly sacrifice to fund the vision!
3. Your personal support
2 Timothy 4:16-17
Paul knew what it felt like to feel all alone. It’s a scary feeling. Many pastors today know that feeling. Of course, God is “our refuge and strength and ever present help in time of trouble,” but the pastor needs to know that he has the support of a few people. There need to be some people he can always depend on to encourage him in his daily walk with the Lord.
I want you to know that being a pastor is sometimes a lonely place to be. God has given us human relationships in order that we might provide physical strength and encouragement to each other to help us along life’s journey. The pastor often feels left out of this plan. Please don’t let that happen to your pastor!
If your pastor has an idea for the church, support him unless you have a better idea or what the pastor is proposing is unbiblical. Be willing to not only voice your support but provide physical, financial and moral support to the pastor’s plan. Be a physical encourager by complimenting the pastor, praying for him, sending him an occasional note or email, and simply putting an arm around him and saying “thanks.” Don’t forget to encourage his family as well.
Our pastors need our support. They need to know we care. They need encouragement. There has never been a more stressful time to be a pastor than in the world today. Tell yours you care about him (or her) today!
4. Your unconditional love
Philemon 7
Your pastor needs you to love him … even when he makes mistakes.
Do you love your pastor? Do you thank God for the person God has sent to lead your church? Here’s a more important question: Does your pastor know of your love?
By the way, that will be evidenced by your actions more than your words.
I can tell you that there are many pastors today that wonder if anyone cares for them. Most pastors hear far more complaints than they hear encouragement. Everyone always shares burdens with the pastor, but few people stop just to share love with their pastor.
Have you figured out yet that your pastor is not perfect? Your pastor is a flawed individual, just like you are, who God has appointed to shepherd your church. Many times they didn’t even ask God for the assignment but are simply trying to be obedient to God’s call upon their life. Can’t you just love a person like that? They may have put their career objectives on hold just so they could do God’s will and minister to you! Have you ever thought about it like that?
Why not think of how you can show your love for your pastor today?
5. Your growth spiritually
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
The greatest compliment you can give to your pastor is to personally be growing spiritually. If you want to really get your pastor excited, let them see you excited about your relationship with Christ.
The pastor’s job is to help you become more like Jesus. A pastor is assigned by God to shepherd the church, equipping the saints to do the work of the church. The pastor is not the doer as much as the the equipper. (If that’s not a word let’s make it one.) The pastor should be building people who are doing God’s work in the church, the community and around the world.
That’s the pastor’s part, but how is the pastor successful in their work?
When people are doing their part: growing in the Lord, doing the work of the church. The catch is this. The pastor can’t make you do your part. They can’t force you to be molded into the image of Christ. They can’t demand that you obey the Word of God. They can only encourage, teach, pray and lead by example, but you’ll never be made to do what you are not willing to do.
Give your pastor a great gift. Grow in your Christian walk!
Pastors, any other gifts come to mind?  

Ron Edmondson Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years. More from Ron Edmondson or visit Ron at http://www.ronedmondson.com/

A Humble Letter To Big-Time Pastors

A Humble Letter To Big-Time Pastors

Dear Big Time Pastor,
I’m a young pastor who is just getting started in ministry. Like many other young pastors, I have immersed myself into church culture and mainstream Christianity. I’ve been reading your books, listening to your podcasts, attending the big conferences and learning from experienced pastors like yourself. I watch you from a distance. I see you leading people well, I see you celebrating,and I see you making timely, risky decisions that grow your ministry. I also see how you handle difficult situations, and sometimes I can read between the lines and see when you are under spiritual attack. I pray for you during those times. You don’t know me personally, but you have had a huge influence on my life and my ministry. Much of what I’ve learned in ministry, I have learned from you.
I have to be honest with you, though. I have learned a few things from you that have hurt more than they have helped. Some of what I have learned from you has crippled me as a spiritual leader and local church pastor. I know this wasn’t your intention, but after years of following you, paired with my sinful, selfish ambition, I’ve developed a lopsided framework by which I view ministry. I have made many decisions from this framework that I regret. As I’m putting together a new framework, I’m finding myself praying that the next generation of pastors could be better informed. It bothers me deeply to consider that they, like me, might be viewing ministry through the same broken, clouded lens that I have for so long. Here are a few examples:
#1. I have learned how to grow a church, but I’m still learning how to grow people.
You have taught me a lot of church growth techniques that really do work. I feel like I actually know a ton about growing a church. I know statistics, tricks, marketing techniques and all kinds of church growth “hacks.” You taught me well. However, I’m still fumbling the ball when it comes to helping people grow spiritually beyond Sunday morning. Sure, I know how to create church environments where people can grow, but I don’t know how to actually help someone move from “here to there” in their relationship with God. Personally, if Sunday morning didn’t exist, then my ministry probably wouldn’t exist either. Please teach me how to grow people instead of a church. 
#2. I have learned how to build a personal following, but I’m still learning how to build Jesus’ following.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve watched you build a following. It’s been really cool to watch your journey. You were on the cutting edge when social media hit and you leveraged all kinds of technology to build a huge personal brand. I was fascinated by you. I loved your personality, your passion and your brand. I loved you so much that I began to mimic you, and in mimicking you I began to see fruit in my own ministry. You taught me so much about building a following. Then, one day, I realized that I actually liked you more than I liked Jesus. I know you didn’t intend that, and I’m sure that it would break your heart to know this, but it’s the reality. Then, when I realized that I liked you more than Jesus, it occurred to me that if I continued this journey of mimicking you, people might start liking me more than Jesus. And that would suck. That’s the last thing I want. So now, I’m on a journey trying to figure out how to build Jesus’ following, not my own. How do I do this? Please teach me how to build Jesus’ following, not my own.
#3. I have learned how to create an impactful Sunday morning church service, but I’m still learning how to live a life that makes a difference.
My entire view of Christianity centers around Sunday morning. Sunday morning is my big day. And I get it, in this culture, Sunday morning is very important. If there is no Sunday morning then people don’t even consider us a church, they won’t participate and … they won’t give financially. So we all do Sunday morning. And you taught me how to do Sunday morning really well. But I’m afraid I’ve learned how to do ministry in a way that sustains my salary instead of learning to live life in a way that sustains Jesus’ legacy. I haven’t lived my life in a way that makes a big impact for God beyond Sunday. I haven’t served the poor. I haven’t cared for orphans. My church has, but I haven’t. I haven’t lived my life in a way that would leave my neighbors (the actual people who live beside me) asking faith questions. When I take an honest look at my life, I do not see where I have made an impact beyond Sunday. Can you help me learn how to live a life that makes a difference, even on Thursday?
My motivation for writing this letter isn’t to bash anyone. I’m writing because I genuinely see these gaps in my life and I’m inviting you to leverage your influence in such a way to help me. I really want to make a big deal out of Jesus, not me, or my church, or anything else. This year, I will live my life intentionally so that people can have new life in Christ. 2015 and beyond isn’t about a church, or my name, or my platform. From this day forward, it’s about Jesus.   
A Young Pastor
Bill RoseBill Rose grew up in Dallas, TX. A series of events led to his placement in an orphanage at age 9. He came to faith as a teenager and immediately knew that one day he would lead others to that same faith by becoming a Pastor. Adopted at age 16, Bill has overcome all odds and has since shared his story with hundreds of audiences. Today Bill and his wife, Whitney, are the lead pastors of a brand new church in Holly Springs, NC called Oasis Church.
More from Bill Rose or visit Bill at http://www.billrosespeaks.com/

7 Things to NEVER Say to a Depressed Christian

7 Things to NEVER Say to a Depressed Christian

As many of you know, I’ve been depressed for almost five years now. I had a major break in March of 2010. It came out of nowhere and has been a frequent uninvited guest in my home ever since.
I won’t go into it now, but almost seven weeks ago I came out of the depression. I think I know the triggers. But I often tell people not to get too excited. I can never be sure which “me” is going to wake up tomorrow. Will it be joyful me (whom I love)? He’s the one who sees life positively and has no time for worry (too busy serving God)? Or will it be broken me (whom I hate)? He can’t dwell on anything but the bad and sees no hope in life (and doesn’t even act like there’s a God)? But while I have my thoughts straight, I’ve been able to dwell on so many positive things. One of these is the subject of this post. I’ve accumulated a list of seven things depressed people (Christians especially) are told. They’re meant to help them out of their depression. I’ve even had these things said to me. But these things are wrong.
Please Note: None of these things necessarily come from evil intentions. These come from people who sincerely want you to recover. However, they do come from the evil flesh that dwells in all of us: judgmentalism. I hope this becomes clear as you read.
Further Reading: Dealing With My Depression #1: Muffling Its Voice

“Just Snap Out of It”

I don’t know how many times I said this to my depressed sister before she took her life. “Just snap out of it, Angie.” From my perspective, I thought you could. I thought that being depressed or happy was an act of the will. If you just make the right decision, you can think your way out of it. But more often than not, depression is not an act of the will. It is an interplay between the mind and the brain that you can’t snap out of. Don’t you think that people who are depressed would “just snap out of it” if it were that easy? Remember, they don’t want to be depressed. It is the worst torture that one can possibly imagine.

“Think Positively”

Again, this might seem right. Please realize that most of the time a depressed person can’t think positively. That’s why they’re depressed. If I were to tell you there’s a giant elephant in your room, would you believe me? What if I said that all you have to do is close your eyes and trust it to be true? You’d probably say, “I can’t!” Telling someone who’s depressed to “think positively” completely misses the problem. They can’t think positively any more than you can believe there’s an elephant in the room. They don’t want to think negatively. They just can’t stop.
Further Reading: Depression—When We Want to Die

“Confess Your Sins”

Trying to find a sin trigger in the life of the depressed is a hard proposition. There may be some evident sin in their lives that they need to deal with, but consider this:
1) Everyone Sins, but Not Everyone’s Depressed. There is evil in everyone. According to Martin Luther, we’re all simul justus et peccator, which is Latin for “at the same time just and sinners.” Additionally, according to the Gospel of John, we have to admit to sin in our lives:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. —1 John 1:8 (ESV)
All too often, a lengthy (and often judgmental) assessment of every sin the depressed person has takes place. Once they’re identified, they’ll try to get rid of them one by one. This is both impossible and can cause deeper depression. The depressed may believe you and think getting rid of all these sins is the answer. When they realize that this cannot happen this side of heaven, the depression deepens.
2) They Can’t Change the Past. Sometimes the sins that led to depression are from a years of lifestyle choices. They build up over the years. It’s usually the little ones that end up getting us. However, bringing this to the conversation with the depressed does little good. They can’t back up and change their choices. If they could, they would.
3) They Already Know They’re Sinners. The depressed person likely knows if it’s sin that’s causing their depression. If it’s alcohol, drugs, etc., bringing this up early will only harden the person. It will make them defensive. If sin is causing the depression (and that’s a big “if”) tact and prudence should be used in abundance. This will allow them to recognize their sin without becoming defensive.

“Get on Some Meds Immediately!”

I am no Tom Cruise. I believe that psychiatric medications are often the answer and are a gift of God. I believe that there are many out there who are not taking meds due to a taboo or stigma attached to them that should be. However, the use of mind altering drugs also needs to be considered very deeply. I also think that they are prescribed too easily without a plan of attack.
Briefly, I believe that some people need to go through the darkness without an immediate way out. Many of the Psalms might not have been written had these drugs been available to David. His ups and downs would have been leveled by a script from the doctor. But we needed David to go through his mental bipolar disorder (if that is what it was). The same might be said of Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation. He definitely needed to be on something! However, God used his mental anxiety for great things.
Book Suggestion: Genius, Grief, & Grace: A Doctor Looks at Suffering & Success (Biography of great saints of the past who suffered greatly, but were used greatly.)
For some people—as hard as it is to hear—God wants you to go through this darkness. But this is not for everyone. These drugs are a blessing of God when used properly. For some, they can get you over the “hill” of darkness and are only needed for a short time. For others, they are needed permanently for the stability of the mind.
All I am doing is asking you to consider that the depressed person may be a David or a Luther to the church. Don’t immediately demand that they get on these drugs.

“I’ve Been Through Worse”

I had a relative say this to me with absolute resolve and conviction in her voice. She said, “Michael, whatever you have gone through, I have been though worse! So don’t try to give me your sob story.” She meant well, but this is not something to say to a depressed person. It may be true that you have been through worse and been able to get out of it. What you mat not know is that this is meaningless to the depressed for two reasons:
  1. Once you’re in the black hole of depression, the hole itself is the worst thing you’ve gone through. The tragic events that might have brought you there often pale in comparison.
  2. Suffering is relative. There are always going to be people who have it worse than you. This isn’t the issue. It’s how you perceive and internalize your suffering relative to who you were before. For some, the loss of a job can make them suicidal. For others (who live in harsher climates of society) even the loss of a child is expected and absorbed with less depression.
So depression is a very relative thing. Letting people know that you’ve been through worse—while it might be objectively true—can be both unwise and irresponsible. It will only harden the person in their depression.

“God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”

This is in my top 10 things of what the Bible does not say that Christians often quote as Scripture. There is nowhere in the Bible that says God will not give us more than we can handle. It does say that he will in temptation provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). But never does it say that God will not give us more pain and suffering than we can handle.
Many Christians have suffered to the point of death at the hands of executors. Many suffer to the point of death at their own hands. All we can say is that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). This may not solve our depression, but it does give us perspective. Even if our depression has caused us enormous doubt, this can be helpful.

“Depression Is a Sin—You Should Have Joy in Your Life”

This always comes from the person who has never experienced real depression. Once you have, you would never say something like this again. Unfortunately, this often comes from those who feel that it’s their job to deliver us from this evil. But is depression a sin? I don’t think so.
Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” This mourning should not be thought of as some temporary bout with suffering. It’s not purely circumstantial (like mourning for the death of a loved one). The Greek word for mourn (pentheo) is a present active participle. It is actually the best word to use for “sadness” or “depression.” Christ is saying that those that are always (present, active) sad and down, will be comforted. The comfort, in the context, does not come in this life, but in the life to come.So far from being a sin, depression is often going to be the progressive state of the “blessed.”

How You Bear the Burdens of the Depressed

So, if these are the things you don’t do, what do you do? If you have a loved one who’s depressed, it is hard to handle. It can cause depression in you if you are not careful. All you want to do is solve it. Please understand, it’s not your job to solve the depression. You may be able to be a great influence in getting the depressed to feel better, but God has not given you the responsibility to deliver a loved one from depression. Let yourself off the hook. Don’t make yourself responsible for something you cannot do. Though you may be used by Him to bring the depressed to wholeness, you are not the Holy Spirit.
Most of what you “say” will only cause more depression, as shown above. This was the mistake of Job’s friends. They stayed silent for seven days (Job 2:13). They should have stayed silent for good. After seven days, they couldn’t take it any more and made all the mistakes we’ve looked at.
Silence, with your arm around the depressed, is the best advice. There may be a time for verbal inquiry, but this needs to come naturally and without judgement. You’re not given a podium to preach to the depressed; you’re given arms to hold them. Even if this doesn’t “work,” your goal should not be to bring them out of their depression. Your goal should be to be there for them their entire life if necessary. It is a terrible burden to bear when this is a loved one, I know. But this is how we bear the burdens of the depressed.
“Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.” —Margaret Runbeck
When someone is there for you without all the answers and requiring you to follow their advice “or else,” you have a true friend. And, unfortunately, these friends have been rare from the beginning of time.  

C. Michael Patton Michael received a bachelor of arts in biblical studies at University of Biblical Studies and Seminary in Bethany, OK. He received a master of theology degree in New Testament Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. Michael is the president of Credo House Ministries. He is also a speaker on Theology Unplugged, an Internet radio broadcast found at credohouse.org. He currently resides in Oklahoma with his wife and four kids. More from C. Michael Patton or visit C. Michael at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/

Stop Shopping for a Spouse

Stop Shopping for a Spouse

Jan 12, 2015 |Suzanne Hadley Gosselin
Stop Shopping for a Spouse
Tired of Christian dating? Start looking at relationships differently.
I was in my late 20s and unmarried when I began to think something might be wrong. I had imagined that I would marry in my early 20s and start a family soon after, but instead, the years slid by with few potential husbands and fewer dates.
On the surface, it seemed the problem was that the Christian guys I was interested in dating didn't seem to be asking anyone out. Often they were engaging in buddy relationships instead. And while the guys seemed noncommittal (or the other extreme — desperate), my female friends and I were accused of being overly picky. We wanted strong Christian men who possessed leadership qualities and were attractive. Was that too much to ask? I sometimes thought so.
Then I met my husband, Kevin. Things just fit, and we got married after knowing each other a little over a year. That didn't stop me from grappling with the dilemma I described above as I watched it continue to play out among my single friends. Something is broken with Christian dating. I know far too many single women and men who desire marriage but seem to be blocked from … well, getting married.
Two Roads Diverged in a Wood
It's helpful to consider the influence "what not to do" has had on a generation of Christian singles. Let's face it — the world's road to marriage is not really an option for the serious believer. In 2011, Susan Olasky interviewed college students about relationships.
She discovered that among non-believing young adults, hooking up and cohabitation were commonplace, and marriage was merely one road among many to achieving personal happiness. As we know, the Bible advocates a much different philosophy. Designed by God, marriage eases loneliness, provides a context for sex and children, and offers a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.
The question I think today's Christian singles are asking is: "What does the path from singleness to marriage look like for us?" There doesn't seem to be one effective method for getting from Point A (singleness) to Point B (marriage). And as the world's perspective on marriage has drifted further and further from God's plan, the result is even greater confusion about what to do.
During the '90s, I experienced the surge of the courtship movement. What I took away from this alternative to dating was that young people interested in marriage should group date to get to know one another and avoid temptation, involve their families, and not enter into a romantic relationship unless the guy was being "intentional," essentially committing to the woman.
I'm pretty sure this trend scared some guys spitless. All of a sudden, they had to decide on a group date if they were interested in marrying one of the ladies in their crew. Then they had to have a scary "singling out" conversation with her (or maybe even her dad). This created a lot of pressure to know she was "the one" without a lot of relationship happening first. (This pressure was probably responsible for creating the "burning bush" phenomenon of Christian guys waiting for a supernatural moment of clarification before asking a girl out on a date.)
I think girls were scared, too. I remember having a fear of "leading on" guys who were showing even a hint of interest in me, because I hadn't decided (gasp) if I could marry them!
Those who encouraged intentionality meant well, but I think their philosophy inadvertently promoted a consumer mentality. Guys thought, If I have to choose a wife based on very little information, I'm going to ask out the most beautiful, smart, funny girl I can find. Similarly, women thought, I'll only go on dates with the most handsome, smart, financially stable guys who ask. I noticed many of the best-looking guys and best-looking girls effortlessly found each other during the courtship era, while the rest of us kind of stood on the sidelines.
Hyper-intentionality created division between Christian singles as we sized each other up, hoping to get the "best deal" we could. And in the process, we abandoned some basic principles of Christian relationships, such as loving one another, building each other up and considering others better than ourselves. I was as guilty as the next person.
I often observe Christian singles consumed by expectations of perfection in their future spouses. They may even demonstrate a certain disdain for those who don't embody these ideals. Recently I heard a woman making fun of a guy who once asked her out — a guy I know to be a wonderful husband and father today. And while I appreciate the hard-hitting truth contained in an article like "Brother, You're Like a Six," in a way, it reinforces this idea of rating one another and treating each other like commodities.
Think Again
As Christians, our relationships should not be about labeling one another worthy or unworthy. We are all unworthy apart from Christ, and we are all made worthy through Him. As we engage in relationships, we need to remember that truth. Romans 12:2 says:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I think the key to transforming Christian dating lies in allowing God to renew our minds in how we view and relate to one another. Here are three ways to get started:
1. Learn to see. When I was single, I often found myself evaluating people rather than really getting to know them. Remember that children's picture book, Are You My Mother? Sometimes I felt like I was walking around in groups of singles silently asking each guy, "Are you my husband?" Instead of viewing men as individuals created in God's image, I interacted with them based on my own agenda.
Jesus was great at seeing people. Matthew 9:36 says, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them." In another account, Mark tells us of the rich young ruler, "And Jesus, looking at him, loved him" (10:21a).
As we look beyond what other people can do for us and appreciate who they truly are, we allow Christ to dwell richly in us. Tweet This Instead of zeroing in on the top "possibility" in a group, get to know everyone and see if someone captures your attention based on less superficial and more meaningful characteristics.
2. Learn to value. Our culture has trained us to gravitate toward those who seem to be winning at life. She's hot. He's engaging. She's popular. He's got a good job. The checkmarks add up in our brains as we evaluate whether someone is worth our time. This keeping score is the opposite of what God tells us to do, which is, "in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).
God wants you to view each person as valuable and keep a humble estimation of yourself. This opens up the opportunity to get to know others in an authentic way. Instead of viewing intentionality as the "buying process" to secure the best spouse possible, see it as a characteristic to be applied evenly to all areas of life. If you wish to marry, pray regularly for God to provide a spouse. Study what His Word says on the subject. One young woman told me that as a single she read as many marriage articles as possible to prepare for that future relationship, should God provide it. Now she is engaged and on the brink of putting that knowledge to work.
3. Learn to serve. In many ways, singleness is a season of unprecedented freedom. And culture encourages you to live it up, indulging in every pleasurable experience that you can.
Galatians contains a powerful little verse that challenges this notion: "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (5:13). My experience as a single taught me that we're bad at serving each other. Sure, I served at my church, but most of my time revolved around me and thinking about what I wanted. (Marriage, and especially parenthood, were a rude awakening!)
Thinking about how we can serve others changes the way we treat people. Do men serve women by looking at pornography and holding women to an impossible physical standard? No. Do women serve men by failing to respect them and undermining their God-given leadership? Of course not. We serve others by embracing the values of purity, love and sacrifice God calls us to in His Word.
One area of service God challenged me to grow in was how I engaged with others relationally. Going back to the "worthy or unworthy" thing, I used to only invest encouraging words and meaningful conversations in guys I was interested in. God challenged me that instead of judging the worthiness of the men I knew, I should be looking to spur them on in love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). That was a way I could serve them.
Maybe Christian dating isn't broken so much as our thinking is. As we learn to see, value and serve one another, we quit being consumers and begin to truly emulate Jesus Christ. I can't think of any more valuable preparation for God-honoring marriages.
Copyright 2015 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.