Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day to every married and courting couple reading this today. May you know the bountiful blessings of God in and over your marriage. Today is a fresh reminder to not take our spouses for granted, to love our spouses more than our ministry, and to keep in mind that God deeply cares for our marriages.

Below are ten scriptures that show what true happiness in a marriage look like, and so are keys for how a godly marriage should work. (Steven Arterburn – CBN)

Never bring up mistakes of the past.
Stop criticizing others or it will come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37).

Neglect the whole world rather than each other.
And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? (Mark 8:36)

Never go to sleep with an argument unsettled.
And don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry (Ephesians 4:26).

At least once a day, try to say something complimentary to your spouse.
Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit (Proverbs 15:4).

Never meet without an affectionate welcome.
Kiss me again and again, your love is sweeter than wine (Song of Solomon 1:2).

“For richer or poorer” - rejoice in every moment that God has given you together.
A bowl of soup with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate (Proverbs 15:17).

If you have a choice between making yourself or your mate look good, choose your mate.
Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them (Proverbs 3:27)

If they’re breathing, your mate will eventually offend you. Learn to forgive.
I am warning you, if another believer sins, rebuke him; then if he repents, forgive him. Even if he wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, forgive him (Luke 17:3, 4).

Don’t use faith, the Bible, or God as a hammer.
God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17).

Let love be your guidepost.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5).

 

Finding Happiness Beyond Comparison by Max Lucado

Happiness is a deeply rooted sense of contentment that does not depend on circumstances. And the fact of the matter is, happiness matters to God. There’s no call to naivete or superficial happy talk. Jesus spoke candidly about sin and death and the needs of the human heart. But Scripture has more than 2,700 passages that contain words like joy and happiness and gladness and merriment and pleasure and

celebration and cheer and laughter and delight and jubilation. I could go on and on. Our joy level matters to God because joy is always in such short supply on the planet. Our happiness is contagious, and nothing brings greater glory to God than a population of happy people whose happiness is rooted in our identity in Christ. At the same time, nothing shadows our testimony more than cranky, grumpy Christians. And so I think we have a moral obligation to pursue a sense of happiness.

The sooner I can begin to celebrate the success of others, the happier I’ll be. Comparison is the bane of ministry.

There is always someone who is apparently more effective than I. There is always somebody whose church is growing faster, somebody whose books are selling more. Somebody who has more speaking invitations than I. Somebody whose Easter service is more extravagant than mine. There’s always something that can pull me down. Ministers must be super careful not to give in to this. We must be very careful not to strive for affirmation but to work from affirmation. We have been affirmed by the almighty God. We have to operate out of that sense of affirmation. Whenever we find ourselves beginning to feel a sense of envy or inadequacy because of the effectiveness of another person’s ministry, we’ve got to reel it back in.

It is wrong to compare ourselves with other churches because every church is different, every circumstance is different and every season is different. I do not have your giftedness. You do not have my giftedness. So for us to compare ourselves to one another is like an eagle being compared to a fish. They have two different assignments, two different groupings of capabilities, so it is an exercise in futility. I almost wish we didn’t take attendance in churches. I almost wish we didn’t know how many members were in churches. I realize practically and pragmatically that this has to happen, but my goodness, we’re all in this together. This is a kingdom business, a kingdom enterprise. We don’t say, “That church is growing.” We say, “We are growing.” There is only one church. We cannot indulge and say, “That’s a great preacher.” We must say, “We are a great preacher,” because we’re all in the same family. We can find happiness as we share it with others.

It really is better, Jesus said, to give than to receive. I don’t know how a statement could be more succinct and equally profound. Now, the challenge is that we live in a culture that is telling us day by day that it’s better to receive than to give. We’re getting bombarded more than any time in history. Only one in three people in our society are saying they are genuinely happy. That’s the lowest it’s ever been since the Harris Poll began documenting happiness. That’s terrible. Can you believe only one in three people you see when you go to a restaurant have enough happiness to check “I am happy” on the questionnaire?

The media tells us happiness happens when we retire, when we aspire to have more, when we park a new car in our driveway or have new clothing in our closet. Happiness happens when we lose weight, get the date or find the mate. That’s what we keep hearing. So it takes a full-court press to stand against that and follow the side door to happiness that Jesus talks about. Happiness happens when you give it away. That’s the consistent story throughout Scripture, and that’s why I focused in How Happiness Happens on the “one-another” verses. Those are practical ways we can not only make others happy but find happiness ourselves.

Some of the challenges in the “one-another” verses are pretty severe. Forgive one another. Accept one another. Even serving one another can be difficult. But you know what? We can all encourage one another. All of us can. Every person is an opportunity to give a word of encouragement.

Another one that is very practical that’s often forgotten is to greet one another. The apostle Paul said that in every single epistle: Greet one another. Sometimes he said greet one another with a holy kiss. Now, I think that’s a little cultural. I think we’d get in trouble doing that today. But we can greet one another. If a person is down and out, they can lift their own spirits by giving an honest, heartfelt greeting any time they see somebody. How are you doing? How’s life going? Tell me your name again.

Imagine if every person in a church decided they were going to make 100 people happy over the next 40 days. Christians nowadays are really known more for what they’re against than what they’re for. If we as Christians could be known as the happiest people in the city—not necessarily the people who’ve got it all figured out, or the holiest people in the city—I think only heaven can imagine the great things that would happen.

Max Lucado

 

A Book To Save Your Life

Every so often a great book comes out that is the latest ‘must have’ about ‘something’. Today I want to share about such a book for those who serve in ministry. It is so much more than just a good read, it could literally change your whole life! I devoured it. Page after page of the author being real, relevant, and transparent in a humbling manner. It reels the reader in.

I’m referring to the latest best seller from John Mark Comer- “The Ruthless Elimination Of Hurry”. Odds are that most of us reading this post know at least one pastor/leader who has had to demit from ministry due to burnout, stress, depression, moral failure, or sickness. Perhaps we have been or are close to that place ourselves. We may be on a continuous loop of sustaining appearances, juggling diaries/year planners, preaching and leading, pastoring and praying, whilst never feeling fulfilled or on top of it all. Add to that a gnawing sense of guilt of not enough time to date your spouse, bond with your children, or even enjoy some time off for yourself. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Ever since I heard this quote, I have repeated it more times than I can count. “Jesus alone died for the church, no one else has too”. Yet something’s not working because so many are literally feeling like they are dying in ministry. Pressures, people, opposition, worries and fears, demands and deadlines, and not enough hours in the day, or even the night for it all.

At the time of writing, we are a week away from the end of the first month of this new year. How are you feeling so far? Tired already? Emotionally drained? Exhausted? Plagued by problems, over stretched, running from meeting to meeting? Perhaps you’re even scared to face the ghost like thoughts at the back of your head  - ‘I can’t do this anymore’ or ‘I want out’. A pastor told me recently they wished they could work in a shop 9-5, 5 days a week, then go home and enjoy switching off and days off. The grass always looks greener I know, but the heart was confessing that anything looks better than a present reality of feeling utterly and constantly overwhelmed.

Living out the call of God on our lives is done so much better when :- A-We’re actually alive to do so and B - We are able to know God’s peace in the day to day rhythm of life and ministry. Something has gone so wrong when as a society we are living under the tyranny of time. We must take the reins of our own lives and get a healthy balance of living.

This book will help you not just benefit from the honest testimony of the author, but also form the wonderful solutions and spiritual disciplines he has managed to now incorporate into his life. Modelled on the example and truths Jesus left us to live by.

I’m delighted that John Mark Comer is still a pastor and still in ministry, that’s good news! He literally recalibrated his life. What a wonderful story that could also be ours if we need to get repositioned at the very start of this New Year. Over to you.

D.MacNeil

 

 

 

Ten Fears Of Church Leaders ( Thom Rainer)

 

I have not hidden my love for pastors and other church leaders. And I have said and written on many occasions that these church leaders often have a very difficult work. In fact, I recently told a large gathering of seminary students to consider very seriously their calling. No one should enter the ministry unless the calling is clear and secure.

As I converse and hear from church leaders across the country and beyond, I often hear of their challenges and fears. We all know that God has commanded us not to fear but, in our humanity and sinfulness, we do lapse into fear. I certainly did as a pastor, and I still succumb to that sin today.

So what are the most common fears of church leaders today? Here are ten I hear often, listed in my perceived order of frequency.

Fear of critics. Leading a church means the leader will have critics. Sometimes the criticisms become so frequent that it seems easier not to lead. For pastors and other church leaders, the steady inflow of negative comments becomes emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining.

Fear of failure. This fear is almost universal, and church leaders are not exempt from it. Leadership requires faith-based steps, what the world calls risk. Some church leaders do not lead forward because they fear they will not succeed.

Fear of power brokers. These church members often are the informal but true decision makers of the church. Some of them have great influence. Some of them are big financial givers to the church. Some of them are both.

Fear of failing to please. All of us want to be loved, and church leaders are no different. Sometimes this desire develops into a people-pleasing attitude. When it does, the leader is constantly confronted with the reality that any decision or action is likely to displease someone.

Fear of change. Most of us have our own comfort zones. Some pastors and church staff are willing to move and lead out of their comfort zones. But some are not.

Fear of nit-pickers. There is obvious overlap in this fear and the fear of critics. The nit-pickers often don’t view themselves as critics; they offer suggestions about points of minutia. For example, this group includes those who remind the pastor to make announcements of minor matters five minutes before a worship service begins.

Fear of finances. This fear takes at least two different forms. The first is a general fear of anything financial because the church leader was not trained in this area. The second is a fear to take prudent steps of financial faith lest the finances of the church are harmed.

Fear of others seeing weaknesses. Pastors, in particular, are often expected to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. But the reality is that no leader or no pastor is good at everything. Some leaders are fearful that those areas will be exposed to church members.

Fear of offending others. Those who are in vocational ministry often must take stands and speak truth that goes against the grain of culture, and even can offend church members. While all church leaders should speak truth with an irenic spirit, many do not do so because they don’t desire to hurt the feelings of others.

Fear of success. A number of pastors have shared with me their fear of doing well in some area of ministry, but then not having the ability to build on their successes. One pastor told me in a moment of vulnerability that he tries to keep his church small, because he fears he doesn’t have the skillset to lead a larger church.

So what is the purpose of this article? Am I trying to shame pastors and other church leaders for their lack of faith and their succumbing to fear? Not really. More than anything else, I am offering it as a reminder and a challenge. We all are prone to different fears and insecurities at times. And, yes, our fear of these types of matters does reflect a lack of faith in God.

Perhaps more than anything else, I am encouraging church leaders to lean more upon the God who called us, the One who promised He would always be with us.

In the meantime, here are a few verses from Psalms as good reminders:-

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom should I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all fears.” (Psalm 34:4)

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3)

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust, I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:4)

“He will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7)

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a church and denominational consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co- author of 24 books, including his new release, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church + 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive.”

This article first appeared here - https://thomrainer.com/2014/04/nine-fears-church-leaders/

 

Ponder, Plan and Position

If you haven’t managed to yet, then be sure to make some time this month to ponder and plan for this new year that lies ahead. There is still plenty time to do so.

A day retreat, a sabbatical, or just fencing off some hours one day for ourselves can be so very beneficial. We may find life too busy, but unless we are intentional with self-reflection and a view to making changes, then too busy can become our norm.

In looking to make beneficial changes I wonder what needs laying down or newly implemented into our lives?  What needs to change in daily life, in marriage, family, ministry and spiritual walk with God?

We hear the slogans of a ‘new year- a new you’. What if that could be the case? Not procrastinating any more but taking definitive steps towards good physical and mental health, prioritising times of relaxation in our weekly diary’s, getting enough sleep and rest, spending more time with family and friends etc. To have a vision for your life in God is great. To want to look after ourselves in order that we can actually fulfil that vision is even better!

Life really is a gift. Let’s be careful not to waste it living mindlessly going through the motions or same old routines. As well as contemplating how we live, it’s helpful to contemplate how we do ministry. Priorities, boundaries, time management. Be sure and have friends out with ministry that are encouragers and good to be around. Take study leave, plan a sabbatical, go to a conference, etc.

Taking time to plan ahead and prepare means we are then in a good place for the months that lie ahead. There will always be the unexpected, but if we manage to find healthier rhythms of life and prioritize well, then we can position ourselves to go through this new year in a much better place physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually than we ever have before.

Finally, remember in all our planning not to omit times with God. Dedicated times of personal fellowship, planned into our day. Prayer and worship really are the oxygen to our souls and what sustains us through each day, week and month and indeed life itself.

I’ll leave you with some quotes to reflect on today.

“Always plan ahead, it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark” (Richard Cushing)

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream another dream”

(CS Lewis)

“The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.”

( John Maxwell )

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

D.MacNeil

 

The Gate Of the Year

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

( Minnie Louise Haskins)

Wishing you all a very blessed and Happy New Year.  May we walk confidently toward the many blessings God already has in store for us in 2020, knowing the loving presence of our Lord right by our side.

Love and blessings from All at ESPS Ministries