We Were Made to Lead

God did not create human beings to sit around.

He wanted them to take leadership and do something.

Here’s what God said: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28).

In other words, don’t leave things the way you see them. Take leadership to do significant things that bless yourselves and others and glorify God. Continue reading “We Were Made to Lead”

God Uses Leaders

Leadership is a common topic in the modern world. Because it is so common, some people might think it’s just a secular topic and not a Christian one.

Consider, though, that God Himself is a leader. He is leading the world where He wants it to be.

But how does He lead? How does He move things forward in redemptive history? Generally, through leaders. Continue reading “God Uses Leaders”

A Pastor’s Response to Disaster

Last December, I stood next to a woman looking with sad eyes at the burned out remains of a building. “Did you live here?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. She then went on to tell me about how she had escaped the fires that overwhelmed the town of Gatlinburg. She had left her pets behind, fleeing for her life.

I told her that I was a Pastor and that I would like to pray with her.

After the prayer she asked me, “Since you’re a Pastor, can you tell me, was God punishing me by taking away my pets because I left them behind?”

I assured her that though we all had sins, God had shown His love for us by sending his Son to die on the cross, and that if we believed in Him, we could be certain that all of our sins were forgiven and that we stood before God as if we had done everything right. She said that she believed, and I assured her of God’s love for her, even though times were tough right now.

I prayed with her again. I gave her my card. I left, and she left. I was gratified a few weeks later to get a text from her. “Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. It really helped.”

On November 23, 2016, fires worked their way down the mountains to the town of Gatlinburg and destroyed 2400 buildings, killed 14, and left thousands displaced. It was a disaster like I had never experienced before.

The next few days were filled with making sure our members were alright, crying with people, watching the news to get updates, and trying to figure out what to do.

Over the next few months, I had a lot of opportunities to work with and talk to people affected by the fires. One was the woman I mentioned in the opening story.

As I watch another disaster unfold in South Texas, my mind has gone back to those days in Gatlinburg, and tears have returned to my eyes as I think of the trauma of them. It’s still hard to believe.

I think of Pastors who will be confronting this disaster in Texas. I think of other Pastors who will experience similar disasters. To them, I’d like to offer here a few lessons I learned from living through disaster.

1. Call your congregation together for prayer and worship. The fires were Monday. We had a worship service on Wednesday. The fires on everyone’s mind. We needed to give ourselves a proper outlet for the horror we had just witnessed.

2. Drop what you’re doing and make the disaster a priority. The fires gave me opportunities to connect with people I never would have been able to connect with. The whole experience was very difficult, but it provided some amazing opportunities to experience the love of Christ given and received. Continue reading “A Pastor’s Response to Disaster”

God Will Supply All Your Needs

We all need things we don’t yet have, don’t control, or worry we’ll lose. We’re dependent on other people and things for our survival, much more than we think.

This worry about our needs can become all consuming. We can get consumed with worry about food, shelter, and savings. We can get consumed with whether or not we’ll be loved. We can get consumed about making sure we have security and protection from harm.

Into the midst of our worries, we have this promise from God, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

This promise is a rock of refuge in a sea of anxiety about our needs. It is a foundation on which we can build our lives as Jesus taught us (see Matthew 6:25–34). Continue reading “God Will Supply All Your Needs”

Being Content When Other People Won’t Cooperate

We can get discontent with things. We want a better house, car, guitar, gaming system, phone, etc. It’s easy to struggle with wanting what we don’t have.

But discontent with things pales in comparison with discontent with people.

Here’s why. No matter how much money I have or how many resources I employ, other people will always do something slightly different than what I want. Oftentimes, totally different!

So, if we are dependent on the cooperation of others for our contentment, then we are in for a bumpy ride.

That can be really hard. We want people to like us. We need love. We are concerned about the people for whom we have some responsibility.

So, how can we be content when people don’t cooperate? Continue reading “Being Content When Other People Won’t Cooperate”

The Secret to Contentment

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. Continue reading “The Secret to Contentment”

Hardwiring Happiness

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). Continue reading “Hardwiring Happiness”

The Anxiety Cure

“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.

How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

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). Continue reading “How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?”