Jumat, 25 Maret 2016



Men at a coffee shop
by Tim Popadic
When you were growing up, did you ever see the following Public Service Announcement come across your television screen: “It’s 10 p.m. – do you know where your child is?” Before my children were born (now teenagers, by the way) that question would go right over my head. It’s not until you have adolescent kids of your own that a PSA like that becomes relevant. You can probably think of several things like this PSA that begin to take on meaning over time.
Showing appreciation in our culture today is a lost skill. It’s often viewed as an irrelevant Public Service Announcement rather than an amazing opportunity to model Christ-likeness. Building a culture of appreciation requires focus and intentionality. It demands self-awareness as well as an awareness of others and sensitivity to the needs of those who are serving alongside us.
Pastors, do you recognize and enjoy the good qualities of the people around you? Do you take time to truly understand their contribution to the team? Do you have your finger on the pulse of how they perceive your leadership and whether or not you appreciate their contribution?
Most pastors I know come from humble beginnings. Most came right out of school and into ministry. They bypassed the marketplace scene in pursuit of their calling. I remember my first position as a pastor. I was all of the twenty-one years of age. The church had two secretaries who came into my office to see what I needed them to do for me. I had no clue what to say. I remember saying to them, “Well what did you do yesterday? Keep doing that.” Years later I would reflect back on those early days of ministry and realize the importance of recognizing the team that is already around me.
Moses knew how to express that kind of appreciation. When his brother-in-law Hobab wanted to part ways with the Israelites and go back to his own land, Moses said, “Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes” (Numbers 10:31).
Moses complimented Hobab’s wilderness skills and let him know that he was needed. In the same way, the people who are serving with you need to be told of your appreciation of them. They need to know that their contribution makes a difference. If you desire to build lasting relationships and help your staff feel valued, build a culture of appreciation.
Start with making a list of the people who helped you out this month. Once you’ve got your list in order, there are a number of simple things you can do to show your appreciation to the people on it. Here are a few examples:
  • Give them a handwritten note from you (not your assistant).
  • Text them acknowledging how much their service meant to you.
  • Record a quick “Appreciation Video” on your phone and send it to them as a text.
  • Take them out for a coffee or lunch (don’t forget to pay this time).
  • Tweet them a shout out and create a larger than life funny but true hashtag like #ServingTogetherMakesMyDay.
  • Catch them in the act of serving and post a picture on Instagram (make sure to tag them).
  • Mention them inside of your sermon as an example of service.
If you are truly ready to see this principle of appreciation multiplied in the life of your congregation, the next step is to make an all-out effort to Celebrate Appreciation. There are lots of ways to do this. Here are a few suggestions that I’ve seen successfully implemented in other churches:
  • VIP Awards Dinner: A once-a-year celebration to highlight service within the church. Make it fun and themed. You will want to make sure that your volunteers understand the importance of service.
  • Newsletter highlight: Once a month feature a different volunteer who is really making a difference. Highlight their ministry and show your appreciation for their dedication and sacrifice.
  • Use T-shirts to help build the team and create a fun way of reinforcing unity. Attach a high level of achievement and appreciation to the process and timing of “earning” this swag. Perhaps the T-shirt can be given out as an expression of appreciation for each individual’s service.
  • Create a “show and tell” video that features a particular teammate serving within the church. The video can also function to showcase his or her particular ministry.
  • Name an Award after a person in the church who exemplifies Christ-like servanthood. Then give out that award every month. Have others inside your congregation nominate servants for this award. This gets everyone involved in the culture of appreciation.
Once you get a culture of appreciation moving inside the walls of your church you’ll find that serving becomes more relevant. The bottom line is that people want to be appreciated for their service. As a leader it is your role to help celebrate their service and call them up to even greater things.

The Quiet Before the Storm

The Quiet Before the Storm

Mar 24, 2016 07:00 pm | Mike Glenn

As I’ve studied Holy Week, I’ve noticed something I’ve overlooked before. Jesus is unusually quiet during the week. With my nature, I guess I was always looking for the dramatic moment—the arrest, the trial, the betrayal and of course, the crucifixion. As intense as these moments are, Jesus spends most of Holy Week withdrawing from the public and praying.
There were people looking for Him, but Jesus wouldn’t be found.
There were crowds waiting on Him, but Jesus wouldn’t go teach.
His enemies were searching for Him, but Jesus wouldn’t engage.
Not now. This wasn’t the time. There’s a time to speak, and there’s a time to be quiet.
So, Jesus withdrew. He got quiet. He listened. He prayed.
When the enemies came, He was ready.
When He was tortured, He endured.
When He was abandoned, He remained faithful.
When it came time to die, He surrendered.
The silence prepared Jesus for the chaos. He knew what to say and what to do because He had hidden Himself in prayer.
This got me thinking about the noise in my life. My phone is always with me. Music or the television is always playing. I’m always connected, always wired in—afraid something will happen and I’ll miss out on it. Which is why, more times than not, I’m caught totally off guard when the storms come. I never see them. The music is too loud. The noise is deafening. I’m blown off course by a storm I never see approaching.
This is the lesson I’m having to learn. It’s in the silence before God where the noise of the world is swallowed up. It’s in the solitude of prayer where the pressures of the crowd are resisted, and it’s in the life of His presence where death is defeated.
The post The Quiet Before the Storm appeared first on MikeGlennOnline.com.
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Rabu, 23 Maret 2016

How to Help Your Kid Fall in Love with Scripture

How to Help Your Kid Fall in Love with Scripture

by Cynthia Hopkins on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 11:13 AM
bible, kid, reading, scripture
Ask a teenager what his or her favorite verse is, and you might get a cute answer, like Psalm 127:2, or at least select parts of that verse:
“It is no use for you to get up early ... working for a living. The Lord gives sleep to those he loves” (NCV).
At least that’s the answer my 16-year-old niece gave when choosing a verse to be printed on her varsity letter jacket.
If you’re a dad asking the favorite verse question early in the morning, you might get this sarcastic answer from your teenager:
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children” (Eph. 6:4a, NIV). 
Or maybe your teenager’s most loved Scripture verse is found in 1 Kings 18:27 (ESV) when Elijah is making fun of the prophets of Baal, telling them their god is not answering their prayers because he’s probably busy using the toilet.
Something happens between the ages of 9 and 12 that seems to flip a switch, at least for a time. Our sweet children who once sang with conviction, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes, that’s the book for me,” become teenagers and typically treasure God’s Word only when it’s funny, or for about one week out of the year at youth camp.
Oh well, at least they’re searching the Scriptures. Right?

We All Have Excuses

Truth be told, teenagers are really no different than adults when it comes to their attitudes regarding God’s Word. They have the same reasons we do for not reading their Bibles:
These excuses are common, and some of them might even be true. But it’s also true that none of our excuses can ever outweigh or overcome the value and necessity of God’s Word in our daily lives.

5 Ways to Help Your Kid Fall in Love with Scripture

Here are five ways to help your teenager learn to treasure God’s Word (and these will blow up their excuses for not reading it, too):
1. The Bible is hands-down, the best Book ever.
We don't read the Bible because it's an item on our checklist. We read it because it's the best Book ever. Reading the Bible isn’t a chore you have to do, like homework, washing the dishes or mowing the lawn. We get this messed up all the time, and sometimes mistakenly present Bible reading as though it is an item to mark off a daily list. It’s not. Maybe instead of pushing a “daily quiet time,” you could start by grabbing a Bible to search Scripture together when your teenager has questions, heartaches or struggles. (TIP: If you need advice for buying your next Bible, check out our official Bible buying guide.)
2. Reading the Bible is rebellious.
“If you really want to be a rebel, read your Bible, because no one’s doing that. That’s rebellion. That’s the only rebellion left.” That’s a quote from Lecrae’s song “Rebel.” That’s right, it’s not just parents and preachers who think reading the Bible is important; Lecrae thinks so, too.
3. Reading Scripture is NOT the Pythagorean Theorem. 
When learning high school math, teenagers want to know, “When am I going to ever use this?” The Bible isn’t like that. It is full of stories and truths that you need every single day of your life.
4. Reading the Bible will help them get a girl (or guy). 
Before you start silently arguing about this, hear me out. Your teenager needs to know God’s Word will help him or her become the type of person another godly person will one day want to marry. This is not to say that God has plans for every teenager to get married, but the subject does cross each of their minds. Even if they’re not dating, most of them are thinking about it. Their instruction about relationships shouldn’t come from listening to Drake or watching “The Bachelor.”
5. Explain the benefits of Scripture.
It’s like a mirror. And a hammer. And an LED lamp. This is where it gets a bit uncomfortable. We want the Bible to be like a selfie, using filters and crop tools to ignore the imperfections and feel good about ourselves. But the Word of God doesn’t work like that. The Bible shows us who we are and where we need to make changes (Jas. 1:23-25), breaks apart the hard places of our hearts (Jer. 23:29), and illuminates the way we should go (Ps. 119:105).

Continue Reading:

4 Valuable Tips on Children and Bible Reading
Article courtesy of Parenting Teens magazine.

1 Curious Little Detail in the Easter Story

1 Curious Little Detail in the Easter Story

by Michael Kelley on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 05:42 PM
There's a detail in the Gospel of John that not only describes Jesus' resurrection, it helps us see it.

What does it look like to rise from the dead?

Society's Idea of Resurrection

We've all seen the TV dramas in the operating room when the heart monitor suddenly goes flat with the ominous and unceasing tone. Then the shock paddles are brought in and the formerly and technically dead person is brought back to life.
Maybe it's like that—jolts of electricity running through the body.
Or maybe it's the way most of us feel on a particularly early morning when the alarm clock goes off. We jump out of sleep, but as we switch the near blinding light on, it takes a few moments to rub the sleep out of our eyes. We have a sense of weakness in our hands and fingers as the blood starts to get going again, until we can eventually stagger to the bathroom to turn on the shower.
Maybe it's like that, only greater—we need a couple of hours to regain control of our faculties and get some strength to just sit up.

What Really Happened on Easter Morning

Something tells me that Jesus didn't stumble out of the tomb. Something tells me He didn't cough and gurgle, or need the blood flow to return to His extremities on Easter Sunday morning. Sure, His death was messy. Undignified. Bloody. Gruesome. Embarrassing even. But His resurrection? That was different.
Can't you just see it?
I love the fact that John, right in the middle of his Easter morning account, drops a little detail into the narrative that not only describes the resurrection of Jesus, but helps us see it. Feel it.
We see Mary coming to the tomb—hopeless and despondent, her faith dying with Jesus. We hear the night sounds starting to fade as the sun begins to rise. We sense the stillness—even the emptiness—of the air. We see her tears and feel the crushing weight of her even greater grief as she discovers in the darkness of the morning the stone rolled away. We hear her shrill cries as she sobs out her testimony to Simon Peter and John that grave robbers have come and stolen the body.

One Curious Little Detail

Then comes the running. We hear the panting. We feel the hot breath. We see the younger of the two outrun the older. Then, by the first rays of light, we see along with, first, John and then Peter, that the tomb is indeed empty. That's when we get the detail:
"The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself" (John 20:7).
It's a curious little detail to include, don't you think? John was there; he saw the whole thing. It's possible that the memory was so ingrained into him that he wanted to record every last detail.
But maybe too, buried in this little detail, is a commentary about the nature of the risen Lord. Jesus was raised to life, and when He was, He took on the dignity befitting Him. He simply got up in an unhurried manner.
Like the Lord of All Creation that He is, He took a few moments to put things in order, even going so far as doing something like making His bed. Jesus didn't stagger and stumble, bleary-eyed and numb from the coils of death; He rose as a conquering hero. And He strode out of the tomb like He owned the place. Because He does.

Out of Death and Into Life

This is not like the resurrection of Lazarus whom Jesus pulled out of death. Just a few chapters earlier in this Gospel, he came out of the grave "bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth" (John 11:44). Jesus Himself gave the order to "loose him and let him go" because Lazarus couldn't do it himself.
Jesus took a few moments to give us a little glimpse into the fact that centuries before the cross and the tomb, creation was broken by sin. It was set in a spiral of disorder where up was down and left was right. Everything was flipped on its head, but when He stepped out of the tomb, He announced to that broken creation that He was setting everything back the way it was always supposed to be.
Out of disorder and into order. Out of death and into life. Out of brokenness and into wholeness. And maybe that reordering started with that simple act of taking what might have otherwise been a wrinkled, tattered mess and folding it up neatly.
Then He walked out into the light …

Continue: Read More Easter Articles

Article courtesy of HomeLife magazine.

He Has Risen!

He Has Risen!

by Beth Moore on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 12:08 PM
Best-selling author Beth Moore reflects on the Easter story and Jesus' resurrection.

"An angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it."
Can you fathom the angel's horror when humans mocked, spat on, beat, flogged and crucified the Son of God?

A Thunderous Arrival

Imagine the joy of the angel whose thunderous arrival caused the ground to shake. God chose him to be the one who rolled back the stone not to free Jesus but to reveal Him already missing!
Can you picture the angel's gleaming face as he perched on that stone?
The guards were so afraid that they shook and became like dead men. The graveyard needed a few folks acting like dead men since a number of the formerly dead were suddenly walking the streets (see Matthew 27:52-53).

Jesus Is Alive!

I'm about to have to shout hallelujah! The women entered the tomb, but they did not find the body.
Some things are simply impossible, and death keeping its hold on Jesus is one of them. Mind you, the women didn't yet understand. Luke 24:4 tells us "while they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them."
John's version hints at these two celestial ambassadors' assignment.
According to John 20:12, when Mary Magdalene looked inside the tomb, the angels were positioned in a particular way. Quite possibly, three angels also guarded the body of Jesus while it lay "in state" in the sepulcher.

An Old Testament Foreshadow Brought to Life

The Old Testament tabernacle contained a marvelous picture foreshadowing this moment. The ark of the covenant represented the very presence of God. In Exodus 23:17-22, read the instructions for the "mercy seat" (KJV) or "atonement cover" (NIV) on the ark of the covenant.
Do you see the picture? I can't be dogmatic that the cherubim prefigured the angels as Christ's head and feet, but I am convinced. Jesus has always been the means by which God would "meet with" humanity (Exodus 25:22). If the cherubim prefigured the angels in the tomb, can you imagine how they guarded the body through the wait?
With their wings overshadowing Him, they faced each other, looking toward the cover. Picture their reactions when the glorified body of Jesus sat up from the death shroud and walked out of the tomb, right through the rock.
Wouldn't you have loved to hear as Christ thanked them for their service?

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

Glory to God! Though the news echoed throughout the heavenlies at the moment of Christ's resurrection, the angels probably longed for God to turn on their volume in the earthly realm and announce it to the mortals.
At the sight of the angels, the women fell on their faces. The celestial guards announced to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
The what? The living! "He is not here" (Luke 24:5). Oh, Glorious, Merciful, Omnipotent God! He is risen indeed!

"Remember how He told you."

I cherish the next five words of the angels: "Remember how He told you" (v. 6). Beloved, have you forgotten something He told you? Christ, our Lord, is faithful to His promises. If you're not presently "seeing" Him at work in your situation, do not live as if He's lifeless and you're hopeless.
Believe Him and expect Him to reveal His resurrection power to you!

Continue Reading: Read More Easter Articles

Article courtesy of HomeLife magazine. Article excerpted from Jesus the One and Only, Week 10. Dig deeper with Beth Moore and her Bible study, available here.

Why is church attendance declining – even among committed Christians?

Why is church attendance declining – even among committed Christians?

SoccerFamilyWe’ve all heard how church attendance is declining in America. The religious “nones” are rising in number. Nominal Christians are falling away.
But even more disturbing: fervent believers are becoming irregular in their church attendance, too. (Ask any pastor if this is happening).
When my father-in-law was growing up in the Bible belt, you attended church three times a week, 52 weeks a year. You did not miss church unless you had a fever of 102. If you were traveling on Sunday you were expected to visit a local congregation in your denomination. There was no skipping a Sunday – no sleeping in. Church attendance was the barometer of spiritual health.
My generation relaxed the attendance rules a bit – especially if we had to travel or work over the weekend. But we still made it to church almost every Sunday.
Our children have become even more casual about weekly worship attendance. I recently interviewed the leaders of a large church in Arizona. They surveyed their young families and discovered they attended church an average of 1.6 times per month (out of a possible 4.3 weekends/month). In addition, only 20% of their members attend at least 3 times a month. And just 4 percent are “full attenders” like my father-in-law – in the pews at least 48 weeks a year.
I’m not here to argue whether a faithful Christian must go to church every Sunday. But I am curious how churchgoing changed from being foundational to optional in the minds of many Christians. Let me offer nine possible reasons:
  1. Social expectation and pressures have lightened. People used to live their lives according to social convention. Those who strayed from accepted norms were ostracized and shamed. Churches used this power to “guilt” people into a variety of behaviors, including weekly church attendance. Obviously this doesn’t work any more.
  2. Church is no longer the best show in town. For centuries, Sunday morning was an entertainment desert. Shops were closed. Sports commenced at noon. There was no cable TV or video games. Church was literally the only thing happening on Sunday morning – so people went. Sunday now presents lots of attractive options and everyone – including Christians – is taking advantage.
  3. Increased mobility. People travel as never before, so more and more churchgoers find themselves out of town on Sunday. Relatively few see the need to visit a nearby church.
  4. Weekend work. Blue laws used to keep businesses shuttered on Sunday. Now many people work on the Sabbath, which makes attendance difficult or impossible.
  5. People need a day of rest. For stressed-out couples Sunday may be the only pajama morning of the week. Can we blame families for wanting a little downtime with each other? After all, aren’t we supposed to take a sabbath?
  6. The rise of do-it-yourself Christianity. The Internet and various media offerings allow believers to tailor a spiritual life to their own liking. They get Christianity without the challenge of having to interact with other Christians.
  7. The expectation of choice. Modern Americans are used to getting exactly what they want. Amazon.com offers more than 200 million items. Petco sells more than 100 varieties of dog food. Christians shop for pastors they connect with. Megachurch attenders often have favorite teaching pastors – and will skip a Sunday if “the other guy” is preaching.
  8. The most faithful saints are burning out. I know a number of very committed Christians who no longer attend – or do so sporadically – because their churches worked them so hard in the past.
  9. Churches increasingly model individuality in weekly worship and teaching. We’ve trained people to pursue Christ on their own – so that’s what they’re doing.
Let me spend a little time on that last one. One of the hallmarks of 20th century evangelicalism was the focus on individual unction: personal salvation, a personal relationship with Jesus, personal devotions, etc. Pastors taught people to dig into the Bible themselves; to self-feed by reading Christian books and listening to Christian radio; and to share their faith with others – all without much support from the church.
But by placing the individual in charge of his own spiritual life the church unwittingly de-emphasized the importance of community. This produced a generation of spiritual James Bonds – lone wolf agents who imagine themselves serving God without much help from headquarters.
Contemporary worship is feeding the trend. These hip worship services mirror the individualism we see in the wider culture:
  • The service has a starting time, but people show up whenever they want to.
  • We simply stand or sit as we feel like it. No one tells us when to sit, stand or kneel.
  • Many churches have jettisoned the creeds and unison readings.
  • Some churches place communion elements on small tables and let folks partake as they “feel led.”
  • Many people choose not to sing at all.
We do nothing in unison any more – and we wonder where our unity has gone? We are no longer a body of Christ – functioning together as one, but a collection of appendages and organs each doing its own thing. Is it any wonder why even our most faithful members attend sporadically? Why it’s getting harder and harder to get our members to show up and volunteer?
All this individualism is having a corrosive effect on men. Guys go to church, pick up the scent of individualism, and decide that it’s OK to hold congregational life at arms’ length. I know a number of very committed Christian men who have turned their backs on weekly worship – not because they are angry or lazy – but because they believe they can serve God better on their own. It started when they skipped a week. Then another. Then another. Nothing bad happened. In fact, sleeping late felt good. Seeing their kids felt even better. But over time they became disconnected from regular Christian fellowship – and their families with them.
Pastors and leaders, as you plan your worship services, ask yourself: how are we modeling teamwork in our services? Are we doing things in unison? Or are we gathering together and letting everyone do their own thing?
You may say, “We preach unity all the time!” Good. Start modeling it.

To the Husband who Watches Porn: A Wife’s Perspective

To the Husband who Watches Porn: A Wife’s Perspective

Every week, I receive numerous messages from wives who have discovered that their husbands are looking at porn, and it’s heart-breaking.  Porn can wreck a marriage.  I know this pain, because I, too, have walked through it in my own marriage.

Early in our marriage, I logged into our computer and discovered that Dave had been looking at porn.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  My heart was beating out of my chest, and I seriously thought that somebody had broken into our home and surfed the web for porn.  Not Dave.  Not my Dave.  We had a great marriage–at least I thought we did.
All I could think was,
How could he do this to me? To us?  
Am I not enough for him?  Am I not pretty/skinny/sexy enough?
Doesn’t he know this is wrong?  
Didn’t he know this would hurt me?
I took an hour or so to process what I eventually realized and accepted as the truth: Dave had been looking at porn for awhile.  He had a porn addiction.  My Dave.  My husband.  My hero.
I knew I had to address it.  I called him at work and simply asked if he had something to tell me.  He immediately confessed to the porn.  It was like he’d been waiting for me to find out.  He told me that he was glad it was out in the open now, and he knew it was wrong.
I would love to tell you that the days that followed were easy, but they weren’t.  I was so hurt.  I felt ugly and unwanted.  I could tell that Dave felt horrible about it.  He wanted to stop doing this a long time ago, but he said he just couldn’t stop through his own willpower.
As a Christian, he understood that he was lusting after the women in those images.  He knew what Jesus stated so clearly in the Bible, that to lust at a woman is committing adultery in your heart.  It goes directly against our marriage vows.
Dave knew this, and yet, he struggled with it.  For more on Dave’s story, please read his blog post below.
Husbands, I share this with you, not to point fingers or make you feel bad.  I share this because I want you to know what your porn habit does to your wife.  
It breaks her heart. It makes her feel like you cheated on her.  It makes her doubt her beauty and sexual appeal.  It causes her to have a deep insecurity with your marriage.  It causes her anxiety and even depression.  It makes her feel cheap, and she sees you as sleazy.  It fractures the trust she has in you, and it immediately makes her lose respect for you.
You may tell yourself the lies that so many other husbands in our culture believe.  Lies like,
I’m not hurting anyone.
I’m not actually sleeping with another person, so it’s not cheating.
What’s wrong with me spicing up my sex life?
This is something I do alone, so it doesn’t affect her.
Porn actually enhances my sex life, because it gives me ideas for what we can do in the bedroom.
I’m a grown man, and I can do whatever I want to do.  It’s none of her business.
It’s okay if I look at porn to meet my needs, because she doesn’t want to have sex as frequently as I do.
All of these are excuses that mask a HUGE problem and keep husbands intertwined in a terrible habit that can become a full-blown addiction.
Husbands, if you are looking at porn, please get help and STOP immediately.  Go confess this to you wife.  Don’t hide it any more. Seek God’s forgiveness and your wife’s forgiveness.  
Then, take the steps necessary to regain her trust.  Put accountability in place.  Remove computers or other devices from hidden places.  Get blockage software that will alarm a trusted friend or your wife any time you look up porn on your computer.  Get rid of any television channels that show porn at night.  Be willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to beat this and save your marriage.  You can do this if you are willing to put in the work.
You must show your wife that you only have eyes for her.  Show her that you want her and love her with all your heart.  Give her your time and attention daily.
Those porn stars can’t love you back.  Don’t trade the love of your life for a temporary, empty fix.  Go to your wife and talk about your sexual desires and needs.  Listen when she shares hers as well.  Work together on having a God-honoring and sexually satisfying marriage.  Don’t settle for a counterfeit image to fulfill a need that only your wife should meet.  
Porn is never the answer.  It doesn’t spice things up.  It chokes out real intimacy between a husband and wife.
Please know that there is hope.  Dave and I grew stronger through this struggle, and you can too. Be blessed!
For more on how wives can also struggle with porn, please read, “The Truth about Women and Porn,” by clicking here.
For resources on how to beat your porn addiction, check out XXX Church.
For an honest conversation and information on improving your marriage and intimacy, check out our latest video resource, “Best Sex Life Now,” by clicking here.

Andy Stanley’s real errors

Andy Stanley’s real errors

LimboAndy Stanley, pastor of one of America’s largest churches, stirred up a hornet’s nest when he implied that big churches do a better job raising children in the faith than small churches. You can read the offending excerpt here.
Stanley called parents who raise their children in small churches “stinkin’ selfish” for putting their own comfort ahead of the spiritual development of their children. He implied that a church without a large enough youth group could cause kids to grow up hating church.
What ensued was a fierce debate over the power of large vs. small churches to influence young people for Christ.
To his credit, Stanley quickly apologized for disparaging small churches. But his comment was based on two other questionable assumptions: 1. Youth group and Christian peers are the biggest influence in a teen’s spiritual life; and 2. Parents should choose their church based on the spiritual needs of their children.
At Church for Men we believe both assumptions are flawed.
The most powerful witness to children is not a dynamic youth group or a great preacher. Sure, these things can help. They do help. But any youth leader will tell you: parents have the most influence over their children — by far. There is no more powerful witness to teens than seeing their parents consistently transformed by Jesus through their local church. Research bears this out.
It’s like the flight attendant always says: Adults should don their own masks before assisting other passengers. When it comes to choosing a church, parents should put their own spiritual development first — before taking their children to a church with a better youth group.
Your kid needs to see church as something you love – not something you hope he will come to love. Children don’t do what they’re told – they do what they see modeled. If your son thinks you’ve chosen a church to keep him on the straight and narrow, he’ll run for the exits.
I understand what Andy Stanley was trying to say. He was trying to point out the importance of a good peer group – which is impossible to find in many small churches. You don’t want to raise your kids in a dull, lifeless church that makes a life of faith seem like a bore.
But dull, lifeless churches are no good for adults, either. At Church for Men we strongly advise adults to attend a church that helps them connect with Jesus. As Christ changes you he will change your family.
The Lord said, “I am the vine. You are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing.” That includes influencing your children for Jesus.

Do you worship your pastor?

Do you worship your pastor?

SuperPastorAs you might have guessed, I’ve talked to a lot of guys who’ve quit going to church. Their reasons vary, but a significant number fell away when they became disenchanted with their preacher.
My own father was among these men. Dad became angry with our minister over some petty disagreement. We stopped going to church when I was seven years old. Dad never attended regularly again.
Women see things differently. They are much less preacher-centered. When you ask a woman about her church she’ll tell you about her women’s group. Or the wonderful children’s ministry. Or the great worship music.
But when you ask a man about his church, the first (and often only) thing he talks about is the pastor. He doesn’t talk about the facilities. He doesn’t talk about his friendships. He talks about his pastor and the quality of his sermons. “Oh, Pastor Jimmy is just a regular guy. His sermons are awesome!” Or, “Our new pastor is a lousy teacher. I’m starving to death.”
Men don’t follow religions. Men don’t follow philosophies. Men don’t follow ideas. Men follow men.
Why is this?
For millennia men have organized themselves into hierarchical units to achieve their objectives – hunting, battle, seafaring, etc. Their very survival depended on the strength and wisdom of their leader.
So for men, competent leadership is subconsciously linked to survival. Men are greatly comforted when led by a man they trust. But they panic when their leader shows signs of incompetence.
As a result, men tend to lionize heroic leaders. This is why men pay $10 to watch cinematic heroes like James Bond, Jason Bourne and Iron Man. We are drawn men who can make the right decisions under pressure.
We bring this hero-worship into our daily lives. If an employee loves his boss, he loves his work. If a soldier loves his commanding officer, he loves the military. If an athlete loves his coach, he loves his team. And if a parishioner loves his pastor, he loves his church.
Pastoral competence isn’t the only criterion by which men judge their church. Good music, a nice facility and of course, a palpable sense of God’s presence all figure into the equation. But in most cases a man’s love for his church depends in large part on how he feels toward the minister.
So what are men searching for? A leader they can look up to and respect. They want a father who will instruct, encourage, and guide them. They seek a leader who is strong enough to confront him them the truth—without crushing them under a hammer of judgment.
So how about you? Does your attitude toward church rise or fall based on your respect for your pastor? If so, repent. You may be worshipping your pastor — not Jesus.

The day my marriage blew up

The day my marriage blew up

Six years ago I thought everything was fine with my relationships. Sure, there were the usual tensions between me, my wife and my adolescent children. Things were far from perfect, but compared to the home I grew up in the situation was pretty good.
Then my wife and I had an argument. In a period of 24 hours everything fell apart. I sat in my living room as one by one, my family members asked me to get help for a problem I didn’t know I had.
A year later I told my story in a book: What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You. In that book I shared the secrets and frustrations that were poisoning all my relationships. The book is written to women, but many men have written to say how much my story has helped them understand themselves. Here’s an excerpt:

drowningPicture your husband standing in the middle of a swiftly flowing a river. Every day, a steady current of joys, frustrations, compulsions, temptations and pressures comes flooding downstream and washes over his heart.
It’s exhausting work, standing against this current. Some disciplined men are able to do it pretty well. Others try to dam the river – but frustration eventually spills over the top. Some men eventually drown, taken under by pressures and sorrows they cannot fathom.
Most men have no idea where these feelings come from. Many try not to feel anything at all. Some are so skilled at denying their emotions they aren’t even aware they exist. Very few men know how to deal with their feelings in a healthy way.
So instead of living fully and freely, the majority of men resort to survival strategies in order to stand against the current. Instead of being honest about their feelings and asking people to meet their needs, they learn destructive, manipulative ways of getting what they want. Game playing. Displays of Anger. Pointless bickering. Destructive behaviors. Habits they can’t kick and don’t even enjoy. It takes so much energy fighting back the current (or trying to control it) they can’t be fully present in the moment. They veg out in front of the TV or computer not because they don’t care, but because there’s nothing left to give.
Every man fights these currents. Even the good husbands. Even Christians.
I am such a man.
I’m what you’d call a nice Christian guy. I had it pretty good as a kid – middle class upbringing, plenty to eat, a roof over my head. I made good grades in school and had lots of friends. But my mom and dad were caught in a spiral of codependence – he was a raging lion and she was a pacifying lamb. Dad was a ticking time bomb – and you could never predict when he would go off. Mom taught us various survival strategies – don’t upset dad, be quiet, stay in your room, get outside, eat quickly, get good grades, and most important, always be right.
I gave my life to Christ at age 15 in large measure because I didn’t want to become like my Dad. I’ve been serving Jesus ever since. I went to a Christian University and married a Christian wife. We’ve been faithful churchgoers and we raised our three kids in Sunday school. God gave me the grace to forgive my father years ago, and when he died we were at peace.
But something still wasn’t right.
For decades I did not know my own secrets. I could not explain the crazy dialogue that ran constantly through my head. At times I felt so overwhelmed I could barely hold everything together. Although I was mostly satisfied with my life, I occasionally fantasized about leaving everything behind – or ending it altogether. A secret death wish lurked just beneath my consciousness.
Then, in 2010 I was taken under.
I landed in a residential drug and alcohol treatment program three thousand miles from home. I was cut off from my family. My phone and computer were confiscated. I was placed in an apartment block with seven other men, most of whom were addicts who had lost nearly everything.
What made this situation so unfair was the fact that I had never been drunk or high in my life. How could a guy who’d never smoked a cigarette or touched an illegal substance end up in rehab?
Nevertheless, there I was, drowning. I had lost control of my life.
In times past, I’d have become angry about my false imprisonment. I’d resort to one of my survival strategies to get through the indignity of my situation. I’d tell myself that I was right – and everyone else was wrong. Or I’d try to work the system and gain the upper hand over my captors (in this case, counselors).
But instead, I gave in.
At the age of 49, I finally began the process of meeting the real me. I began asking the foundational questions: What’s bothering me? Why do I feel so ignored? Why is there always tension in my house? Why am I so afraid to speak up for my own needs? Why do I feel like I’m disappearing – and another man is taking my place? And why is this happening to a born-again Christian man, who is not supposed to have these kinds of problems?
In terms of the river analogy, I had stepped out of the current and climbed onto the bank. And I began a trek to the headwaters of my soul. I went back to the source – to the place where the frustrations and temptations came from.
Once I saw the source, the currents began to make sense. I realized I was still living my survival strategies from childhood – be quiet, stay in your room, get outside, eat quickly, be right. I was like a World War II Japanese soldier stranded on a remote island, fighting a war that’s been over for decades.
Today the currents still buffet me, but they no longer overwhelm me. I know why I feel the way I do. I know who the real enemy is, and how to fight him.
Gina+DavidAfter seeing the change in my heart, my dear wife set off for the headwaters of her soul. Turns out we were both in denial about how we were really feeling. We’re getting healthy together. Instead of playing games or manipulating one another to get our needs met, we speak honestly and openly about what we truly think and feel. I’m finally willing to speak up – and she is finally willing to hear what I’m really saying. Just as Jesus said, the truth is making us free.

WhatYourHusbandCoverIf this excerpt rang true to you, please order a copy of What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You. If you want an open, honest marriage read this book together with your beloved. You can order a copy direct from me in Alaska, and I’ll autograph it and personalize it for you and your wife. Shipping is free through April 1.
Mothers Day is coming. Give her the gift of your true heart.

Selasa, 22 Maret 2016

The Problem in Your Marriage Isn't What You Think

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The Problem in Your Marriage Isn't What You Think

4 ways we may be destroying our marriages.
In today’s world, so many fingers point to “the number one marriage killer.” Some are quick to attack technology while others blame children or infertility as the cause. Experts cite pornography, work stress and financial problems as the top reasons why so many couples choose divorce.
But, in reality, marriages aren’t failing because of any of those reasons. The number one marriage killer is us. Here are four ways we may be destroying our marriages:

We Embrace the Bare Minimum

We watch the movie instead of reading the book. We agree to a single session with the counselor and select the one-day seminar, hoping the easy way will revitalize our marriages. But a week later when we are back in the grind, we demand the money-back guarantee because the change didn’t happen overnight.
We don’t want to commit to a year of therapy, regular date nights or reading all 31 chapters of the book. We expect our spouse to change, to do the hard work, to make the sacrifice. We desire a thriving marriage without the work. Sadly, we prefer the life of ease over effort.

We Are Impatient

We require everything microwaved, instant and delivered overnight. If there was an Amazon NOW for relationships, we would download it, because we don’t want to wait for anything.

We expect our spouse to change, to do the hard work, to make the sacrifice. We desire a thriving marriage without the work.
We dream that our spouse will drop 20 pounds, become a gourmet chef, find a better job, make more money, anticipate our every need, and read our mind in the bedroom—yesterday. If there are hurts in the relationship, we demand immediate change instead of embracing the process. But all of our expectations actually sabotage any sincere effort because they are both ridiculous and unattainable. Instead of slow and steady we expect fast and flawless.

We Fear Conflict

We prefer distraction over conversation. When there is potential for a meaningful exchange, we steer it in the other direction because we don’t want to risk vulnerability.
We never discuss the tough things, like porn or money problems. Instead, we whisper our feelings once a year, on Valentine's Day, over dinner and cheap wine, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. We are convinced that if we reveal what’s really bothering us, we will end in an explosive argument. So we endure instead of engaging one another, burying our concerns deeper and deeper.

We Don’t Like to Admit Weakness

We are prideful. We hate to disappoint people, and we cringe to think of them muttering “I told you so” about the guy they labeled a loser or the girl they begged us to “get to know better” before rushing to get married.
Admitting marital problems is even more terrifying if we ourselves are children of divorced parents. There is also the dread of ruining our kids’ lives with the truth that “mommy and daddy are having problems.” So we plod along, raising children, vacationing and running successful businesses in what appears to be an amazing life. But the truth is, we are silently killing our marriage in our people pleasing.
So what can we do? How do we keep from thwarting the thing we committed to “until death do us part”?
We try.
We get back in the game, realizing there will be hard work ahead. We stop taking each other for granted, showing our spouses we love and cherish them instead of assuming they already know. We close our mouths when it’s easy to blame and instead shower them with kindness and respect. We touch—we hold hands and give back rubs and recall the fun in flirting and dating.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/problem-your-marriage-isnt-what-you-think#65sMyvc3dbV53lB6.99

What We Get Wrong About 'Finding God's Will'

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What We Get Wrong About 'Finding God's Will'

God's will is not a mystery to be solved but a road to be traveled.
What is God’s will for your life?
This question tends to haunt us while we go through our college years. We struggle through it by choosing our major, deciding where we will spend our summer, figuring out where to go to grad school, and so many other decisions.
If you are like me, anxiety creeps up on you every time you think about your future plans.
But why do we get so anxious? For me, I start thinking about how I have one opportunity at every decision I make, and when I choose one path, I am saying no to another. But how do I know the path I choose is the right one?
The phrase we have all heard in answer to this question is we need to find God’s will for our life. And for the past 21 years, I thought I had to keep praying for God to open my eyes to the will he had laid out for me. That if I just kept searching long enough and hard enough, I would know exactly what I was supposed to do in the future.
But Kevin DeYoung blew up this idea for me while I was reading his book Just Do Something.

We Never Find God’s Will for Our Future 

In the beginning of the book, DeYoung says, “We should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tight-rope, or a bull’s eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.” This rocked my world. I always thought that if I made a wrong decision or took a wrong turn, I would be removed from God’s plan.
We are free from the burden of trying to discover God’s will ahead of time.
But what he is saying here is that we are free from the burden of trying to discover God’s will ahead of time. It is not a maze for us to perfectly navigate in order to reach our end goal, but instead, God desires for us to trust Him with all of the twists and turns.
Yes, God is sovereign over my life. Yes, He has specific plans for my future, but He does not expect me to find out the details of His plan before I get there. So this whole idea of finding God’s will for my life has been me searching for something God does not want to reveal. But why does He choose to withhold His plans from us?

An Unknown Future Leads to Faith in a Known God

If we knew every step and detail of our lives, there would be no reason for us to have faith in God. When times get tough, we realize we need someone greater than ourselves to direct where we are going. That’s why God doesn’t always want us to know the perfect road He has laid before us. It would be like someone spoiling the incredible plot twist of Fight Club or Inception. What makes the story great is the  confusion and uncertainty, and then in the end, every puzzle piece comes together to create a beautiful picture.
Not only does God have an epic plot for your life, but He wants you to trust in Him. God has given us these tough decisions not to be stressed out but to make us realize we can’t do this on our own. He gives us more than we can handle, so we are forced to lean in on Him to find strength. Just as Provers 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” So instead of praying to find God’s will, let’s start praying to find faith in God’s guidance.

God’s True Will for Our Lives

Now if we never find God’s will for our future, then what is Paul talking about in Ephesians 5:17 when he says, “Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is?” What Paul is describing here is a different definition of God’s will than we normally think about.
Many times, we only think of God’s will for our life in regards to the future, but there’s so much more to it. No matter what your future plans are, God wants you to seek and glorify Him right now. Simply put, God’s will is your growth to be like Christ and glorify Him in all things.
We need to do away with the idea that He wants us to go to Him in order to find out our future. Instead, God wants us to go to Him to be transformed in our heart and mind. God’s past, present, and future plans for your life have one constant: His glory. And if God has transformed our hearts, our decisions will be made with His glory in mind.
As DeYoung says, “God is not a Magic 8-ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him.”

So Make Decisions With Confidence

If God has given us a new heart that desires what He desires, our decisions are going to line up with His plan.
If God has given us a new heart that desires what He desires, our decisions are going to line up with His plan. We work through these decisions with the wisdom He gives us through the Spirit.
We are often so intent on looking for some hidden plan God has laid out for us that we forget to consult the passions and desires He's given us.
We will never find the perfect road God has laid out, but He will give us desires He wants us to chase after.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/what-we-get-wrong-about-finding-gods-will#obx6GLLum9RIcUCW.99

C.S. Lewis' Top 5 Tips about Christian Living

C.S. Lewis' Top 5 Tips about Christian Living

  • Holly Mthethwa www.ruggedandredeemed.com
  • 2016 10 Mar
C.S. Lewis' Top 5 Tips about Christian Living Simply put, Christian living is God’s way of living. We could make an endless list of what a Christian does and doesn’t do.
It would likely include things such as: read the bible daily, pray daily, love one another, or attend church. And, while all of those things are highly important aspects of living life God’s way, it often helps to look at some specific ways we can live a Christian life in direct relation to the obstacles we’re facing today.
C.S. Lewis, a well-known apologist and Christian thinker, wrote well before our time, but he wrote highly applicable and practical truths about Christian living that still ring true today.
While Lewis provides a wealth of wisdom, here are five tips relevant in today’s age taken from his book “Mere Christianity.”
A Christian living in any era, but especially in today’s age:
1. Possesses True Humility 
“True humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We have a Gospel message and a Gospel mission, and we’re walking the tightrope between promoting a message that points to Jesus and promoting ourselves. While not always bad, we’re living in an age where self-promotion, selfies, and self-help books are prevalent. We battle with either thinking too highly of ourselves or not thinking highly enough—both of which consume us with “self.”
Lewis’s words are beautifully simple and powerful. To be truly humble, Christians must think of themselves less.
2. Chooses Truth Over Originality 
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We’re told to just “be you” by nearly every person we encounter. And, while it’s important to remain true to oneself, we can become consumed with being unique, original, or different.
I love Lewis’s advice: when we simply tell the truth according to scripture, we become original without ever noticing it. A Christian in today’s world chooses truth over originality.
3. Pursues God Over Happiness
“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Whether I’m logged online or driving in the car, I’m confronted by people, places, and things promising happiness. I want to be happy—we all do—so I often find myself chasing the next thing I believe will make that happen. If I can just {fill in the blank}, I’ll find true happiness.
The Christian living in today’s age chases God over the pursuit of happiness. Catching glimpses of God becomes more important than grasping feelings of happiness. The irony is that it’s when we seek God that we experience true and lasting joy.
4. Understands Progress Often Means Turning Back
“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.” –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Turning back or turning around is essentially the definition of repentance, which means to turn away from sin and turn to God.
In today’s world, we applaud progress. We want to climb higher, faster, longer. We blaze ahead, often knowing we’re going in the wrong direction. We know that if we make a wrong turn, the GPS will re-route us.
The Christian living in today’s world knows that the man who realizes he is on the wrong road and turns back soonest is the most progressive.
5. Listens to the Holy Spirit
“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.” –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We’re busy, we’re overwhelmed, we’re stressed, and we’re anxious. We listen to our to-do lists, our well-meaning friends, and ourselves.
The Christian living in today’s world—the one who truly wants to live for Christ—pauses to listen to the Holy Spirit every moment of every day. She slays busy and stays quiet, even among the chaos.
As always when we talk about living a life that reflects the fullness of Christ, it’s important to remember that it is only by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit that we’re able to live a life pleasing to God.

Holly Mthethwa is passionate about sharing God's word in everyday life. She has been a missionary advisor in Peru and India, led bible studies in the U.S. and South Africa, and is the author of the Christian memoir, HOT CHOCOLATE IN JUNE: A TRUE STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND RESTORATION. She resides just outside of Washington, D.C. where she lives an adventure with her husband and daughter. Holly writes regularly about faith, family, and moments that have hooked her heart at www.ruggedandredeemed.com.

Senin, 21 Maret 2016

You Don’t Need to Take On the World All By Yourself

You Don’t Need to Take On the World All By Yourself

People Praying
Ted Cunningham
Recently I heard a pastor say, “I want to make a huge impact on the kingdom with the time I have left.” This pastor’s enthusiasm to reach his community and the world is contagious. It inspires me. And yet after a few days of meditating on his sermon, I started to wonder: “What exactly qualifies as huge impact?”
Sometimes our preaching takes on a tone of “do more, get bigger, reach more, expand and build.” While growing the church and kingdom is part of our church mission, I don’t think we should take on the Great Commission like a bunch of Lone Rangers.
Jesus gave the Great Commission to a group, not an individual. I take personal responsibility for sharing the Gospel with family, friends and strangers, but the weight of the world is not on my shoulders. It takes the entire church to make disciples, not just me:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20.
How do we take on such a monumental assignment? How do we make disciples, expand the kingdom and grow our ministries as a team? Here are four thoughts on reaching people without burning out.
Serve one person today. Pastor Andy Stanley taught us years ago to “Do for one what you can’t do for all.” I love hearing leaders around our church say this to each other. This one thought completely changed the way we do missions, benevolence, evangelism, and a whole host of ministries around our community. It also freed me up personally. I love striking up conversations with strangers, but now I don’t feel the pressure to engage every stranger I meet. My goal is to talk to somebody new every day and engage them in deep conversation.
Remind the congregation often that every member is a minister. It’s a teaching I received from Pastor Rick Warren that I have quoted hundreds of times. Years ago, a member of our church called the office to say they saw a homeless man on a street corner in town. The member said, “I just think we should do something as a church.” We encouraged that member to be the church and minister to this man on the spot instead of waiting for a meeting or a benevolence offering. The Body of Christ has the freedom to be the church 24/7.
Celebrate how God is using the church down the street. Rather than competing with the churches in town, rejoice that you are not the only church or pastor reaching people. It takes all kinds to reach all kinds. Refuse to compare your ministries, budgets, and numbers with the church down the street. God uniquely placed you where you are and wants you to reach people with the personality, giftedness, and passion he gave you.
Allow God to determine your growth. Pastor Joel Thomas recently said, “I am responsible for obedience. God will take care of the outcome.” When we focus on being the church, rather than growing the church, God takes care of the numbers. In Acts 2 we read about God’s response to the activity of the first church:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47.
The Lord added to their numbers. He determines our size. Rest your weary head on the pillow tonight knowing that God has the size of your ministry taken care of.
What if we try something new? Instead of waking up each morning and asking, “What do I need to do to get bigger and better?” what if we ask, “How can I serve better today?” For me, that means less time on social media and more time enjoying my family. I want to have deeper fellowship with friends during the week rather than catching up on their latest post.
Reach people. Love people. Spend time with people. Work hard. Enjoy the ministry opportunities God places before you today. Here at Focus on the Family, we’re cheering for you and your church!

Jumat, 18 Maret 2016

3 Ways to Love Others Better

3 Ways to Love Others Better

Jesus commands us to do it. So how do we do it well?
The scene could not have been more inauspicious: a low-lit room, full stomachs and the dirty feet of a dozen grown men. This is not where you’d expect to find one of the world’s greatest lessons in loving one another.
But it was here, nonetheless, in the upper room of a common house in first-century Palestine, the night before Jesus died, that we learn how to live together as the church in this world. The apostle John tells us the story, showing us three unforgettable parts.

1. Put an Apron on Authority

The apostle is so crystal clear here. He wants us to get the timing down of when this event transpired. It was before the Feast of Passover, when Jesus knew that he was about to depart from this world, when Judas was already conniving to betray him, when Jesus understood that the Father had given him all authority and his earthly ministry was almost finished. We’re supposed to see this context in John 13:1–3, and having all this in our minds, we read: “[Jesus] rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist” (verse 4).
This is not the set-up for a snazzy TED talk. Jesus, knowing that he is the sovereign Lord over everything, puts on an apron and prepares to wash the dirty feet of his disciples.
This is a picture of Christian paradox—that wondrous, confusing, upside-down dimension of the gospel that we couldn’t make up. It is especially important for local churches that might too easily buy into the modern mentality that bigger is better. It might seem that the most impressive operation is the most sophisticated one, or that distinguishable value is really found in the bells and whistles. But then Jesus says that the last is first, and the least is greatest. He points us to a mustard seed—this teeny, incredibly unimpressive seed that, once it’s planted and grows, becomes a tree so big that birds make it their home (Matthew 13:31).
The sovereign Lord washing the feet of his followers—this upside-down dimension of the gospel—redefines the nature of relationships. Where the world has its ranks and high-profile untouchables, the King of glory puts on an apron. This means that we, his people, are never too important for ordinary relationships.

2. Do What Jesus Did

John makes this point clear for us, too: We do what Jesus did. Jesus served his disciples and tells us, therefore, that we should serve one another. “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
Jesus says that his humility is an example for us—that we do what he does. And this means, profoundly, that one of the ways we identify with our Savior is by caring for others in the same manner he has cared for us. We show ourselves to be his disciples when we humble ourselves and seek the good of others at our own expense.
This is important because there is a degree of suffering we will experience in serving one another. It always costs something to seek someone else’s good, and there will be times when it feels like we’re not getting any encouraging return on our investments. In these moments, because of Jesus’ example, we know it doesn’t mean we turn and run, but instead press in and hold on. When the serving gets especially tough, we shouldn’t necessarily serve less, but perhaps more. And in doing that, we go deeper with Jesus.
Consider the context of Jesus’ own serving in John 13. Look at the group sitting around him. John is sure to tell us, right in the middle of all this, how Judas is in the process of betraying Jesus. And then Peter, who is so vocal, will soon deny Jesus. We see something here that is true of Jesus’ wider ministry: You didn’t have to reach a certain status of friendship for Jesus to serve you. He washed his disciples’ feet knowing all along that soon, in the garden where he’ll be arrested, they would all scatter.

3. Know the New Commandment

The instruction and example from Jesus now becomes a bona fide commandment—a new commandment (John 13:34). The meaning behind our serving one another is our love for one another. The church loves one another, even in ways deeper than flesh-and-blood family.
This has to be true for my family to make it. Years ago, in a move from one school to another, my wife and I relocated our growing family based on Jesus’ words in Mark 3:35: “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” We left a loyal home-base that had loved us for years—not to mention an endless supply of free babysitting—to come to a community we didn’t really know. All we did know was that they followed Jesus, and if what Jesus says is true, we would be OK. More practical than anything else I’ve experienced, Jesus’ words have been true. We live where we do primarily because the family of Jesus is a group that loves one another.
And when this happens, Jesus says all people will know that we’re his. Our love for one another is a witness to our identity as the redeemed sons and daughters of God. This is such a brainteaser for those of us who have put a lot of thought into the mission and structure of the local church. So often we tend to think of in-reach and outreach as two different arms of the church, both extending in opposite directions, doing their own thing; but then Jesus comes and says one can’t exist without the other. A church that is “missional,” and wants to make Jesus known in their community, must be a church that loves one another. And a church that is intentional about loving one another can’t help but be a church that makes Jesus known. That’s the way it works.
And that’s how we live together as the church in this world: We go against the grain of societal expectations, we help one another when it hurts, and we love one another to represent our King.