Wes White http://www.weswhite.net A Tennessee Pastor's Blog Wed, 16 Aug 2017 12:16:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 http://www.weswhite.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/cropped-Wes-White-2-1-32x32.png Wes White http://www.weswhite.net 32 32 17757251 The Secret to Contentment http://www.weswhite.net/2017/08/the-secret-to-contentment/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/08/the-secret-to-contentment/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 12:16:45 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=13124 Continue reading "The Secret to Contentment"

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Have you ever had a big event where you expected a lot of people to show up? You planned for a Bible study and had 25 people tell you that they would come. Then, only 5 showed up. You planned an anniversary party for 100, and only 50 showed up. Disappointment.

Getting involved with people can be disappointing. The Apostle Paul was involved with a lot of people. He was dependent on people to give him money to fund his work.

We might expect that when people didn’t give what they had promised, he might be frustrated. But he wasn’t. He had learned the secret to contentment: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil. 4:11-12).

Most of us walk around thinking that we would be happy if other people would change. If my kids would act differently, if my spouse would show me respect, if my employer was more understanding, if I had more money, if I had a better car, if I lived somewhere else, I’d be happy.

The trouble with this approach is that things outside of us will rarely match up to our expectations inside us. So, we’ll always be unhappy.

There’s another option. We can adjust to our circumstances. That’s the secret to contentment that the Apostle Paul had learned.

Notice that he had learned it. He does not say that he knew how to be content the moment he became a Christian. It’s something he learned.

So, we can learn it, too.

Here’s the sum of what he learned: leave the past in the past, leave the future in the future, and embrace the present good and opportunities.

Leave the past in the past. We often can’t let go of the failures, hurts, and losses of the past, and so we can’t be happy in the present. The Apostle Paul had learned to let those things go. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Leave the future in the future. Worry about the future robs us of contentment in the present. Here’s what Paul had learned: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). We can be sure that our heavenly Father will take care of us in the future and that our future is bright. We just need to lay these worries on Him and let Him carry them.

Embrace the present good. As I pointed out here, our brain is like velcro for the bad and teflon for the good. We need to start taking in the good. Since we normally don’t take in the good around us, it’s not surprising that we’er unhappy.

Here’s what the Apostle Paul said: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). Don’t ignore the bad. Just take in the good. That’s the secret to contentment.

The most important present good is the love of Christ. We can rejoice in the Lord. In Him, we are the forgiven, justified, adopted children of God who are being made like Christ and transformed into eternal glory. If we would take this one thing in, we would be much less concerned about our circumstances.

Finally, we need to embrace the present opportunities. We are often stuck in the opportunities of the past or looking for those of the future, but there are opportunities for us to do significant things today. The Apostle Paul prayed that they would find this, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more” (Phil. 1:9). Not tomorrow but today.

For example, people often lament that their family relationships aren’t what they had hoped for, and they lose sight of the opportunity that they have the opportunity to work on those relationships today.

Embracing the opportunities we do have and letting go of the opportunities we’d like to have but don’t will bring us contentment in the present.

God has so much more for us than we tend to think or often notice. He has love and peace for us that transcends our understandings. He has blessings in abundance. He wants to use us to do significant things that bless ourselves and others and glorify God. So, let’s leave the past in the past, leave the future in the future, and embrace the present good and opportunities.

This may seem like a tough task. Another part of Paul’s secret is that we can’t do it on our own. It’s Christ in us: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength.” It’s ultimately Christ who gives us the very peace that produces contentment.

In the church, we often talk about receiving Christ as our Savior. If you haven’t done that, I would encourage you to do so. But that’s just the beginning. Christ is not only the one who saves us. He’s the one who continues to empower us and shower us with His love. We need to continue to embrace that by the same faith by which we first believed.

Unlike some cynics, I don’t think Tim Tebow is wrong to apply Phil. 4:13 to football. God is pleased with our work and play in creation as well as activities that relate to salvation.

However, let’s note the immediate context. This is about contentment. God wants us to experience joy and peace. He’s not only calling us to experience it. He’s empowering us to do it. Let’s believe and claim this promise.

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Hardwiring Happiness http://www.weswhite.net/2017/08/hardwiring-happiness/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/08/hardwiring-happiness/#comments Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:07:17 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=13104 Continue reading "Hardwiring Happiness"

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Our brains present an interesting paradox. When it comes to bad things, we worry about them and go over them again and again.

When it comes to good things, we don’t even hold them in our mind for ten seconds.

Rick Hanson, in his helpful book Hardwiring Happiness deals at length with this paradox from the perspective of brain science.

Hanson notes that our brain “has a hair-trigger readiness to go negative to help you survive” (20). He describes the way our brain works this way, “when the least little thing goes wrong or could be trouble, the brain zooms in on it with a kind of tunnel vision that downplays everything else” (21).

In contrast, Hanson notes, our brains hardly give any attention to good experiences. “Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones” (27).

Think about it: “how often do we stay with a positive experience for five, ten, or twenty seconds in row?” (27).

We just don’t take in the good.

In a previous article, I pointed out that part of the cure of anxiety is prayer and trust in our heavenly Father. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6; you can read my post on this topic, “The Anxiety Cure,” here).

Another direction from which we can attack anxiety is by taking in good things. Notice that little prepositional phrase that Paul adds to his statement about prayer, “with thanksgiving.” That means, even in our stress, we need to take in the good and be thankful for what we have.

That’s also what Paul mentions immediately afterwards. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8).

What does this look like? Obviously, for the Christian, it means that we take in the good news that we are accepted by God and adopted as His children in Jesus Christ. We need to dwell on this in our minds for a period of time (see more on this here).

But we shouldn’t limit it to that. God has given us good things all around us. For myself, I go out onto my deck in the morning and enjoy a time of meditation, prayer, study, and coffee. I need to take this experience in and enjoy it. I need to dwell on the fact that I have beautiful trees around me and that God has blessed me with a beautiful place to live. I see all the places where my children play and enjoy the beautiful property where God has blessed us to live. He has given me a mind to know Him and interact with Him. He blesses me with the quiet of the morning. He provides me with good things like coffee that give me pleasure.

This is not a call to ignore hard things. It’s a call to balance, to really see and experience the good.

But what would happen if we really took in these good things consistently throughout the day by meditating on them for 10 or 20 seconds or longer? Wouldn’t thinking on what is good and lovely have a significant effect on our mental well-being?

What if we accompanied every request we made with thanksgiving that dwelt on the goodness of God and the resources He has available for us?

Rick Hanson gives a helpful description of the science of contentment, but we have more. We have the promise of God. “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).

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The Anxiety Cure http://www.weswhite.net/2017/08/the-anxiety-cure/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/08/the-anxiety-cure/#comments Mon, 07 Aug 2017 14:01:11 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=12709 Continue reading "The Anxiety Cure"

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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6–7

Sometimes the things I need to learn are the most basic things.

This week, I attended a conference in Mississippi. I tried to go with an open heart to what the Lord would teach me.

What the Lord showed me was that there are many places in my life where I let frustrations or anxieties just sit there. In virtually every area of my life, there are low-grade frustrations. I don’t think I’m particularly weird because of that. Most of us have these types of frustrations.

But what had I been doing with those frustrations? Nothing. In some cases, they would build up with unpleasant results.

God reminded me this week that there is a cure to my anxieties and frustrations: prayer. God was inviting me to let go of my frustrations and seek Him in prayer through passages like Phil. 4:6–7.

So, I resolved by God’s grace that instead of letting frustrations sit there, I would bring them before the Lord. All throughout the week, I used frustration and anxiety as a signal to send me to prayer.

The results were remarkable, not in the people or circumstances I was praying about, but in myself. I felt more peace than I had felt in a long time. But that’s what God promised: “the peace of God, which transcends understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Lord, help me to remember to use my frustrations and anxieties as signals that point me to You.

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How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell? http://www.weswhite.net/2017/08/how-can-a-loving-god-send-people-to-hell/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/08/how-can-a-loving-god-send-people-to-hell/#comments Thu, 03 Aug 2017 13:33:36 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=13094 Continue reading "How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?"

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Few issues are more difficult or controversial than the idea that a loving God would send people to hell.

In his book The Reason for God, Tim Keller takes up the challenge and seeks to explain and defend the Christian doctrine of hell to a modern, secular audience.

Keller suggests that people have several hidden assumptions that lead them to reject hell and a God who would send people there.

Issue 1: A God of judgment simply can’t exist
Reply: Most people assume this, but their reason for believing it is emotional and cultural rather than logical. It is people from Western culture that our most likely to ask this question, and it subtly assumes that our particular culture is the ultimate standard of truth. Keller describes a conversation he had with a woman in one of his after-service question and answer sessions:

. . . a woman told me that the very idea of a judging God was offensive. I said, “Why aren’t you offended by a forgiving God?” She looked puzzled. I continued, “I respectfully urge you to consider your cultural location when you find the Christian teaching about hell offensive.” I went on to point out that the secular Westerners get upset by the Christian doctrines of hell, but they find Biblical teaching about turning the other cheek and forgiving enemies appealing. I then asked her to consider how someone from a very different culture sees Christianity. In traditional societies the teaching about “turning the other cheek” makes absolutely no sense. It offends people’s deepest instincts about what is right. . . . I asked the woman gently whether she thought her culture superior to non-Western ones. She immediately answered “no.” “Well then,” I asked, “why should your culture’s objections to Christianity trump theirs?” (74–75).

Keller then situates this point in a broader context: “If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place. Maybe this is the place, the Christian doctrine of divine judgment” (75).

Issue 2: A God of judgment can’t be a God of love
Reply: “[A]ll loving persons are sometimes filled with wrath, not just despite of but because of their love” (75). It’s not true that loving people don’t have wrath. They are opposed to that which would destroy peace and goodness in people. Keller quotes Becky Pippert to that effect: “God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion, but his settled opposition to the cancer . . . which is eating out the insides of the human race he loves with his whole being” (76). So, it’s entirely consistent for any person, including God, to be loving and to have wrath.

Issue 3: A Loving God would not allow hell
Reply: It’s important to note here that people often have a misunderstanding of hell. People often think of hell as a place people go against their will, but this is not correct. As Keller notes, “hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into eternity (80).” Evil is more stubborn than we tend to think. It is amazing to see those who are trapped in some vice and simply refuse to get help, even though it is wrecking their lives. This stubbornness is the trajectory of hell. God allows hell because He allows people the choice to trust Him or live their own way.

Hell and the equality of people
Reply: Many people today are concerned that if people believe that others are going to hell, they will treat them with violence or cruelty. Keller explains that we cannot look at someone today and conclude definitively whether they will be in hell. So, it would be wrong to treat someone as if they were going to be in hell.

In spite of the seeming distance, the secular and Christian views may be closer than many expect: “Both the Christian and the secular person believe that self-centeredness and cruelty have have very harmful consequences. Because Christians believe souls can’t die, they also believe that moral and spiritual errors affect the soul forever” (83). If future consequences for moral error do not mean oppression and violence in the secular view, then why should anyone conclude that they do on the Christian view?

I believe in a God of love
Reply: Keller had his own spiritual journey. He studied a variety of religions seeking after the truth. One thing that struck him is that the idea of a God of love who unites himself to us in intimate union of love is not universal. “Not only is there no evidence for it in the natural order, but there is almost no historical, religious textual support for it outside of Christianity” (86). If the Bible is really the only basis for believing a God of love, then how can we accept that claim without also accepting the Bible’s equally clear claim to a God of judgment?

We have just skimmed the surface here. I would encourage you to read and consider the whole book and to study it carefully. Look at some of the resources which Keller cites, if you have further questions. There are more to these issues than one would often think based on popular culture.

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The First Thing We Need to Hear http://www.weswhite.net/2017/08/the-first-thing-we-need-to-hear/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/08/the-first-thing-we-need-to-hear/#comments Thu, 03 Aug 2017 11:58:56 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=13021 Continue reading "The First Thing We Need to Hear"

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When we talk about the Gospel, we think of how someone becomes a Christian. Once you believe in Jesus, then you need to learn how to live a Christian life.

There is some truth in this, but there is also something really wrong.

The Gospel is not just for the beginning of the Christian life. It is for the whole Christian life.

This just means that God’s love and care for us is our foundation, and we need to hear about it again and again. As the Apostle Paul said, “It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (Phil. 3:1). We always need to go back to this starting point.

What does this look like?

Someone’s job is coming to an end, and they don’t have a plan as to what to do. They need help in finding a job, but they also need to hear, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

A husband is frustrated with how his wife speaks to him and feels like she does not respect him. He needs guidance in how to communicate better with his wife, but he also needs to hear that the foundation of his worth as a man is not in his wife but in God “who created him in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Eph. 2:10) and wants to partner with him in service.

Two siblings have been in a fight. Even in the midst of this, they need to hear that God still loves them. “You are the beloved’s, and his desire is for you” (Song of Solomon 7:10).

This is really the first thing we need to hear. God loves us, values us, and wants to use us.

As you speak to people about various problems and especially as you talk to your children, remind them that they are loved and valued by God. This continues to be the first thing that people need to hear.

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How Could a Good God Allow Suffering? http://www.weswhite.net/2017/07/how-could-a-good-god-allow-suffering/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/07/how-could-a-good-god-allow-suffering/#comments Mon, 31 Jul 2017 13:52:12 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=13087 Continue reading "How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?"

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If you or someone you love has questions on this issue (as most of us do!), I would encourage you to read Pastor Tim Keller’s New York Times Bestseller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. I really can’t recommend this book highly enough.

In this post, I’d like to summarize what Keller says about this important question: how could a good God allow suffering?

Whether you are a believer or unbeliever, it’s likely a question you’ve asked at some point in your life, maybe often.

Keller says that there are two ways we can ask this question. The first is intellectual. How can we logically say that a good God could allow evil? The second is emotional. We get angry at a God who would allow such evil.

Let’s consider what Keller says about each in turn.

The Intellectual Issue
In regard to the intellectual question, Keller begins with the objection of a philosopher who states essentially: “because there is much unjustifiable, pointless evil in the world, the traditional good and powerful God could not exist” (23).

Keller responds: there is a hidden premise, namely, that there is much pointless suffering in the world. The problem with this objection is that it assumes that what appears pointless to us actually is pointless. On what basis can we make the claim that because we don’t know the reason for the existence of suffering that it has no reason whatsoever? There seems to be hidden beneath this statement an unwarranted but very strong belief in our own analysis.

This is more than just an artful escape from a logical dilemma. He describes tragedies in his own life and the life of those whom he knows and states: “Though none of these people are grateful for the tragedies themselves, they would not trade the insight, character, and strength they had gotten from them for anything” (25). I myself can testify to this same reality.

Second, Keller notes that suffering and evil may actually be an argument for God’s existence.

The reason is this: on a naturalistic worldview, there is little reason to complain that the world is unjust. He notes:

. . . the evolutionary mechanism of natural selection depends on death, destruction, and violence of the strong against the weak—these things are perfectly natural. On what basis, then, does the atheist judge the natural world to be horribly wrong, unfair, and unjust?

In short, the problem of suffering is a problem for everyone, and it is at least as big of a problem for unbelief as for belief.

The Emotional Argument
To discuss suffering in this way can easily seem cold and unfeeling, especially to those who are in the midst of great suffering.

Keller responds this way:

[A real-life sufferre] might say[,] “I’m still angry. All this philosophizing does not get the Christian God ‘off the hook’ for the world’s evil and suffering!” In response the philosopher Peter Kreeft points out that the Christian God came to earth to deliberately put himself on the hook of human suffering. (27)

According to Keller, the emotional argument is best answered in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the death of Jesus on the cross, we see God experiencing some of the worst suffering that one can experience in the world. He puts Himself right in the center of it. We may still wonder, Why does God allow suffering in the world? We may not know the whole answer; however, as Keller notes, “we now know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he is indifferent or detached from our condition” (31).

The second part of the answer is the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus teaches that God is going to restore everything that was lost. That is the Christian hope. Keller cites Russian philosopher and novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky who captures this point powerfully:

I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that happened. (33–34)

I know that such a short explanation will not satisfy everyone, but I hope that it can be of an aid to you, if you are struggling with some of these issues. At the least, I hope it can whet your appetite to dig in further to Keller and some of the resources he points to in his book.

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Why Your Church Needs Small Group Ministry & Two Ways to Make It Better http://www.weswhite.net/2017/07/why-your-church-needs-small-group-ministry-two-ways-to-make-it-better/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/07/why-your-church-needs-small-group-ministry-two-ways-to-make-it-better/#comments Thu, 27 Jul 2017 12:32:19 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=13058 Continue reading "Why Your Church Needs Small Group Ministry & Two Ways to Make It Better"

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Simply put: small groups allow interaction and building of relationships that cannot exist in the large group setting of worship.

Small groups are simply smaller groups of people (typically 12 or less) that gather together to accomplish some specific purpose. In the church, these purposes generally include worship, prayer, ministry, outreach, study, or fellowship.

Many people put their own definition of small groups into the word “small group.” They may think it is a home Bible study, a time of fellowship, a group that doesn’t meet on Sunday, or a group that is like a little church. None of these things are necessary to the concept of small groups.

When you realize that a small group is a just a small group of people gathering together for a specific purpose, then you realize that every church has small groups. Sometimes they call them Sunday schools. Sometimes they call them boards. Sometimes they call them committees. Sometimes they call them Bible studies. But all of them are small groups.

The universality of small groups in churches demonstrates that virtually all Christians believe that small groups are necessary for the health of the local church. There is a level of discipleship that requires a more intimate group, and ministry is best organized by a small group of people.

So, the question is not really whether or not you will have small groups. The question is whether you are using your small groups to their full potential.

So, how can we do them better?

There are many spiritual graces that contribute to good small groups: humility, prayer, courage, and hope.

However, simple practical wisdom is also important for running small groups. My dear friend Art Stump has written a helpful article on meetings (one form of small group), “How Not to Bore People to Death with a Meeting.” Most of the insights there apply to running a small group as well.

Let me suggest two important ways that we can make our small groups better.

First, get everyone involved. The strength of a small group is that everyone can contribute. So, get everyone involved.

We have all been to meetings (and maybe led meetings) where the leader of the group thinks he’s figured everything out. He or she goes on and on about what they are going to do and then simply asks people to agree.

This can make a small group worse than one person deciding everything on their own. A small group dominated by one person gives people the false impression of a consensus that doesn’t actually exist. It gives outward assent without a commitment of the will.

In whatever way you do it, get people involved in the discussion. That doesn’t mean that there can be no teaching time, but allowing people to share their thoughts will make everyone feel that they are a part of the group and have a stake in it.

Second, use your small groups to build relationships. Small groups provide a unique context in which people can connect and build relationships.

As I think of my own church, the people I have met with regularly are those to whom I feel closest. Every time I’ve come to the end of a small group, I’ve felt much closer to the people who were involved. Those connections stay with me, even when the group no longer meets.

One reason we forget that small groups are about relationships is because small groups are also about doing some sort of task. It’s easy to get focused on the task and forget the people (we can also make the mistake of enjoying the people and forgetting the task!).

Small groups provide such great opportunities to build relationships that we should not let that opportunity pass by. In every small group setting, we can add something that will help us connect. We can have refreshments, share a meal, share something about ourselves briefly, have one person share what they are learning, or pray in smaller groups. All of these things help build relationships.

Every church has small groups of some sort. These are essential to the ministry of our local churches. As leaders, we should work to make our small groups more effective in accomplishing what they can do best: building relationships that can help us grow in Christ.

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Your Best Days Are Ahead of You http://www.weswhite.net/2017/07/your-best-days-are-ahead-of-you/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/07/your-best-days-are-ahead-of-you/#comments Wed, 26 Jul 2017 14:26:13 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=13051 Continue reading "Your Best Days Are Ahead of You"

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How much can you grow? How much could you improve if you really worked at it?

Many of us think that our days of growth are behind us. We think we’ve mastered most of the things we can master. We think we’ve learned most of what we need to learn.

True, we might not say it, but that’s our operating assumption. We don’t think of ourselves as people who have a lot of growing to do.

I’m going to recount an embarrassing story that illustrates these points. Around 2012, I spent some time studying leadership principles. I enjoyed that study, and I learned a lot.

By 2014, I felt (this is the embarrassing part) that I had learned most of what I needed to learn from the leadership gurus. My learning was over in that area.

Earlier that year, I had reserved my spot at a satellite campus presentation of the Global Leadership Summit. By July, I was not excited about it because I felt that I wouldn’t learn that much from it.

Well, I was wrong. That year, I listened to Susan Cain talk about introverts and leadership and Joseph Grenny talk about how to have crucial conversations. Both of these talks (and later the books) introduced me to extremely important concepts that I’ve continued to incorporate into my life and ministry.

If you think about people who have mastered Christianity, the Apostle Paul is probably near the top of your list. But listen to what he said about knowing and experiencing Christ: “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it” (Phil. 3:13). That’s why he had to press on toward the goal (see 3:13ff.).

That might be discouraging to you. Even someone like the Apostle Paul felt that he had a long way to go!

But there’s good news in that, too. One reason we get discouraged is that we think that our best days are behind us. We’ve done what we can do and grown as much as we can grow. Now, we have to just settle in for a long decline.

In this passage (Philippians 3), we have a different perspective. We have a lot of ways in which we can grow. So, our best days are ahead of us, not behind us.

This is especially true if we take the long view. This life is not the end. We are headed to eternal glory. We may even die, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20–21).

Our best days are ahead of us.

This is true even in this life. God is still working with us. He is transforming us.

And He won’t stop. God is going to continue renewing us. He who began a good work in us will carry it to completion!

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

This process isn’t always easy. We often grow through suffering. The Lord conforms us to Christ’s suffering so that we can share in His glory.

But our best days are ahead of us. God has so much more in the present and the future than we could possibly believe. Let’s press on to attain what He has for us.

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4 Weights from Our Past that Keep Us from Running in the Present http://www.weswhite.net/2017/07/4-weights-from-our-past-that-keep-us-from-running-in-the-present/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/07/4-weights-from-our-past-that-keep-us-from-running-in-the-present/#comments Tue, 18 Jul 2017 16:46:29 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=13038 Continue reading "4 Weights from Our Past that Keep Us from Running in the Present"

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God has so much more ahead of us than we could possibly believe.

That’s why the Apostle Paul said that he resolved to keep moving forward: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13–14).

But forgetting the past is easier said than done. The past continues to haunt our present, weigh us down, and keep us from running.

We need to resolve to leave the past in the past so we can run in the present, but we also need help with how.

Below are four weights that keep us from running the present and how we can “forget” them and leave them in the past.

  1. Losses

    Losses include more than people. We can experience loss when our dreams collapse, when we lose a job, or when plans or relationships fail. These losses weigh us down and make us feel like there is no hope.

    How to leave it in the past: grieve. God has given us a way to deal with losses: eyes that cry. That’s why we have funerals. We gather friends and relatives and grieve together. Sometimes we need to have a funeral for a lost dream, vision, or relationship.

  2. Wrongs

    People have hurt us in many ways. We hang onto these things because we rightly feel that justice needs to be done against wrongs.

    How to leave it in the past: forgive. Forgiveness means that we commit it to God as a Just Judge and release ourselves from needing to do anything about it. When we commit to letting it go, we can have peace. This is something we will often have to repeat mentally several times before we are really able to leave it in the past.

  3. Failures

    Our sins and failures from the past make us believe that we are unlovable and worthless in the present. They keep us from taking hold of the gifts and opportunities that God has for us now.

    How to leave it in the past: trust. Believe the promises of the good news about Jesus Christ. God loves you and wants to forgive you no matter what you’ve done. He values you and wants to use you no matter how many times you’ve failed. You’re still His workmanship.

  4. Blessings

    Ironically, the blessings of the past can keep us from enjoying the present. We liked what happened before so much that we can’t enjoy the present (see Ezra 3).

    How to leave it in the past: give thanks. We should be thankful for the blessings of the past and not try to re-create them. Be thankful for the place you grew up, your old job, your old friends, or a loved one who has passed on. Give thanks to God for the blessing in your life, and recognize that the same God who blessed you in the past wants to bless you in the present in new ways.

  5. We must not let these things weigh us down and keep us from running in the present. Why? Because God has so many more opportunities and blessings for us! “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18–19).

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    One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Isaiah 53. I think it is probably a favorite for most Christians. This is the passage where we read: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Vv. 5 & 6).

    I have enjoyed reading what some famous Christians have said about this passage. I hope that you will find them edifying as well:

    “This in many respects may be regarded as the most important in all the writings of the Old Testament, and which is better adapted than any other to lead us to a right understanding of the whole. The partial obscurity which usually accompanies the representations of the prophets seem here to have entirely vanished.” — E.W. Hengestenberg

    “Though some things need explanation, this alone is enough, which is so plain, that even our enemies, in spite of their disinclination, are compelled to understand it.” — Augustine

    “What now follows affords so plain a testimony concerning Christ, that I do not know whether anything more definite can be found in the Scriptures, or even whether a more explicit passage could be framed.” — Huldrych Zwingli

    “There is, indeed, in all the writings of the Old Testament, no plainer text nor prediction, both of the sufferings and the resurrection of Christ, than in this chapter. Therefore all Christians should be well acquainted with it, even know it by heart, in order to strengthen and defend our faith.” — Martin Luther

    “How many are there whose eyes have been opened when reading this ‘golden passion of the Old Testament evangelist,’ as Polycarp the Lysian calls it! In how many an Israelite has it melted the crust of his heart! It looks as if it had been written beneath the cross upon Golgotha, and was illuminated by the heavenly brightness. It is the most central, the deepest, and the loftiest thing that the Old Testament prophecy has ever achieved.” — Franz Delitzsch

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