Why Most People Don’t Have What They Want

 

Cardiovascular problems cause thousands of deaths every day.  The main problem is neglect.  Every day there are thousands of divorces, often because of neglecting problems, and each other.  The relationships and things we neglect are damaged and deteriorate faster than the relationships and things we care for and pay attention to.

Think about your car.  If you never wash it and never get it serviced it won’t last very long.  It will start to break down and soon will quit running.  Or think about a garden that is neglected.  All kinds of weeds start to take over and they can choke out everything you planted.  Our bodies and our relationships are the same way.  If we neglect them they will stop working or weeds start to take over.

So what or who are you neglecting in your life?

The longer you neglect your health, your teeth, your weight, your finances, your marriage, your spouse, your character or your faith the worse it will get.

Why do we neglect things that are important in our lives?  That’s a big question, because most people want to be healthy, most people want a great marriage, most people want financial freedom, most people want a good reputation, most people want a closer relationship with God.  The problem is most people are not willing to do the basic principles that lead to health, growth and success in those areas of their lives.

It takes discipline to lose weight and get healthy, it takes discipline to work on your marriage and become a better person, it takes discipline to get out of debt and be generous, it takes discipline to grow in your faith and trust in God.

Our natural tendency is to do what’s comfortable and easy.  We avoid conflict, we avoid the scales and going to the doctor.  We eat our favorite foods and only think about exercising.  We avoid having that conversation or going to a trusted advisor for counsel.  In other words we neglect some of the things that are most important in our lives and stay busy with things that don’t improve those parts of our lives.  Many people simply hope it will get better or that the problem will just magically go away.

So what should a person do if they have areas of their lives that have been neglected and damaged?  Here are a few simple steps that can help get you back on track:

  1. Set some goals – We all have two choices, making a living or designing a life.  When you write down goals and review them often you are paying attention to parts of your life that you want to improve.  The first step in improving an area of your life is to pay attention to it.  The ultimate reason for setting goals is to keep us focused on the things that will bring out the person God created you to be.  To be a better man or woman, husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter.  Setting goals is the first step toward being a better person.
  2. Ask for help – Trying to accomplish major changes in your life is very difficult without the help of others.  Whether it’s losing weight, reconciling a marriage, improving a relationship, transforming your financial condition or deepening your faith, find trustworthy people that can walk with you.  Find people that want something for you not something from you.  Look for people of integrity, honesty and character.  Remember that God created you and has a purpose for your life.  Talking to God and reading His words in Scripture can be a huge help in making changes in your life.
  3. Think long-term – Short-term fixes don’t work.  Cutting out carbs might help you lose some weight but long-term weight loss only happens if you change the way you eat and exercise for life.  The same in relationships, you can learn to do some nice things for each other but if you don’t address your core issues your right back in the same place a year later.  Address why you eat too much, address why you get so angry, address why you spend so much money.  That is the hard part of change, not just putting a bandage on the wound but cleaning it out and stitching it up.
  4. Don’t give up – The hard work is always worth it.  When you exercise on a regular basis you get sore and hurt for a while, but as your muscles and lungs and heart get stronger you feel so much better.  When you learn what your hot buttons are and how you defend yourself, then you can start working on changing your responses, which will improve your relationships.  Put in the hard work, face your fears, keep pushing to get better and don’t give up.

So if you’ve been neglecting areas of your life start making plans to change that today.  A year from now you will be glad you did.

 

Be Generous

F81ABBC8-9EB7-2769-67EBF258A0BD8E18It’s the most generous time of the year.  For many people Christmas time is a time to be generous with family, friends and even strangers.  It’s also the end of the year and people are thinking of year end giving.  I want to talk about generosity and what that really means.

As a follower of Jesus one of my desires is to be known as a generous person.  Jesus was very generous with his time, talent and treasure.  He taught many life-changing messages and stories about being generous.  He even gave his life for our sins.

Generosity is demonstrating the nature of God by wisely reinvesting the resources that He has entrusted to us.  There are several key traits that go into making someone generous.  Without these in our lives we cannot be truly generous.

  • Loving – It is not possible to have love without generosity, but it is possible to have generosity without love.  If you have the love of Christ in you, then generosity should flow out of you.  It should be a part of your nature to be generous and look for ways to give and serve others.  1 John 3:17 says “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
  • Sowing – Generosity follows the law of the harvest.  The more generous we are in sowing, the greater will be our harvest in true riches. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
  • Honoring – Honor means “to place value upon.”  We are instructed in Ephesians 6:12 to honor our parents.  We honor civil authorities by paying taxes and following laws.  When we give to the poor, we honor the Lord and He promises to repay.  Proverbs 19:17 says “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”  Generosity is not just giving, it is giving abundantly or joyfully.
  • Grace – It is through God’s grace that we are able to give and be generous, and that giving is an expression of the grace we have in Christ Jesus.
  • Stewardship – A steward is one who is entrusted with the assets of the master and is responsible to make wise investments with them.  A wise steward understands that the assets he has under his control do not belong to him and should be returned to the master with increase.  We are stewards of all the people, possessions, abilities and talents that God has blessed us with.

Generosity brings light into a dark world.  It makes people smile and feel good.  Generosity also draws us closer to God because it’s when we are most like Him.  Giving also reminds us that God owns it all and that He is the one that can give us more or take it all away.  Being generous also breaks the bondage of greed and overcomes the love of money.

Here are some simple steps to help you be more generous:

  • Dedicate everything to God – This includes all your money, time, possessions, strength, abilities, and relationships.  Truly acknowledge that God owns it all.  That takes a lot of pressure off of us.
  • Practice living simply – Try to simplify your life.  This could mean selling or giving away some of your stuff.  It might mean giving up some luxury items so that you can live at or below your income.  It may mean saying no to some things in order to say yes to being more generous.
  • Give as God directs – The goal of generosity is to demonstrate the love of God so that others will be drawn to Him.  Start being generous by doing random acts of kindness.  You can also start giving to your local church.  Consider giving a percentage of your income.  Start giving your time by volunteering at your church, in the community or at a non-profit.

So how generous are you?  Do you see God as the provider of all wealth?  Do you see yourself as a steward of God’s resources?  Do you honor God with a generous portion of all His increase in your life?  Are you living as frugally as you can so you have more to invest in God?

Generosity is the result of focusing on God’s riches rather than our resources.  CS Lewis said this “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”

Ask God for opportunities to be generous and see what happens.

Five Key Spiritual Habits

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We are all busy, there are many things competing for our time and energy.  Leadership can be defined as having influence in someone elses life.  If you have faith in Jesus Christ you are also a spiritual leader, because now you are an ambassador for God.  The influence we have with people, whether it’s at work, home, school or church is often a reflection on what daily habits we have.

Jesus gave us a great example of things we can do to stay focused on the right things and keep the right perspective on life.  It’s easy to drift and be consumed by the day to day activities of life unless we develop these essential habits.  So here are five things we can observe in the life of Jesus that can contribute to our development of faith, character and leadership.

  • Solitude – This is a challenging behavior because it’s countercultural.  It is a rare and often unsettling feeling to stop doing and just be.  Solitude is being completely alone with God away from all human contact for extended periods of time. It is in these times of solitude that we can seek to refill our spiritual fuel tank, hear from God, think clearly and honestly.  It helps us make better decisions, work through grief and pain and strengthen our spirit and resolve.
    • Jesus spent 40 days alone in the desert.
    • Before he chose the 12 disciples he spent the entire night alone praying and thinking.
    • When a close friend John the Baptist was killed he went off in a boat by himself.
    • After a great ministry event of feeding the five thousand he went up into the hills by himself.
  • Prayer – How’s your prayer life?  Prayer is essential for our spiritual and emotional well-being. Regular connection with God through prayer is what sustained Jesus while he was here on earth.  For us as leaders it’s vital to be able to talk with God about anything and everything.  Prayer is the way in which we plug into God’s power, receive God’s comfort and encouragement, vent our frustrations and pain and intercede for other people.  Prayer helps prepare us for the day by focusing on God first.  Praying with people and for people is a powerful leadership principle.  Praying for your spouse, family, friends, co-workers, employees, small group, boss and other leaders is an effective way to lead and love people.  When prayer becomes a habit it becomes part of our DNA and normal way of life.
  • Bible – It’s the greatest resource known to mankind.  It’s more than a how-to manual for life, it’s an intimate love letter written to you from your Heavenly Father.  I’m currently reading through the New Testament in 60 days.  I’m on day 51 and I love it and look forward to it.  There are five practical ways you can cultivate this habit of getting into God’s Word.
    • Hearing God’s Word – That is why it’s important to go to church, to hear God’s Word and messages about how to listen and obey and put it into practice.  You can also listen to the Bible through great Bible Apps like YouVersion.  Have your spouse or friend read the Bible out loud to you, not only will you get into God’s Word it will build that relationship with your spouse or friend.
    • Reading God’s Word – There are so many great translations of the Bible that it’s much easier to read the Bible today.  I use my Bible App on my phone a lot.  There are great reading plans for all parts of the Bible.  Don’t take on too much but be consistent.  Reading the Bible daily or most days will help you lead better, even if you don’t understand everything at first.  Great leaders read a lot and the Bible should be at the top of the list.
    • Study God’s Word – This is more than just reading, this is examining and looking into the meaning and application of God’s Word.  This is great to do with other people in a small group, but we also need times when we dig in on our own.  Using a study Bible is helpful because there are study notes that explain what the Scriptures are saying.
    • Memorize God’s Word – When was the last time you memorized something?  A great way to go deeper in God’s Word is to memorize it.  Every year I lead a group of men and one of the things we do is memorize Scripture together.  Jesus used Scripture to fight against the devil and we can do the same.  When you memorize it you can recall it later when you need courage for the fight.
    • Meditate on God’s Word – Memorizing Scripture puts it into your head, while meditating puts it into your heart.  It’s focusing on a verse or several verses over a period of time.  Writing it down, reading it out loud, emphasizing different words, personalizing it by putting your name in the verse, praying the verse to God.  It’s praying while your focus on that Scripture and asking God to reveal what he wants you to know or do.
  • Trusting God – Jesus completely trusted God with absolutely everything.  In our culture we tend to only rely on or trust ourselves.  Trusting others and God is a struggle for most people.  Pride & fear fuel this lack of trust in our lives.  Many people have also been hurt or let down by important people in their lives so it’s hard to trust again.  Only in our relationship with God can we trust for complete unconditional love.  Because of God’s incredible, never changing love for us He is trustworthy.  When we understand who God is and how much He loves us it changes our perspective on life, ourselves and the world around us.
  • Intimate Community – Jesus had the 12 men that he spent significant time with.  But he also had 3 men that he was even closer and more intimate with.  It was his inner circle, the ones he did life with and passed on the leadership of the church to.  It’s vital for leaders to have soul-filling relationships with people where you can give and receive.  A safe place to share your heart, your struggles and your victories.  We need to be around people that know us well enough to tell us the truth, challenge us, question us and love us.

I hope these are habits that become a normal part of your life.  I encourage you to take small steps toward applying these habits into your daily, weekly and monthly routines.  If you do it will transform your leadership and your relationships.

 

Local Missions At NewPointe Millersburg

This past Sunday I spoke briefly about some of the local organizations that we support.  Here is some information on those organizations.

Each campus at NewPointe has a local missions budget that allows us to support and partner with local organizations and help people in our community. Here in Millersburg we have a partner relationship with several organizations. Some we support monthly with a financial contribution and some we work with by providing volunteers, promotion of their services and fundraisers.

We work with organizations that are well run, that help people in need and that are Christ centered.

The three organizations we support financially on a monthly basis are:

  • Love INC (In the Name of Christ) is a non-profit organization that works with all other non profits, churches, government agencies and individuals to help people in need. Basically they try to match people in need with churches, organizations and individuals that can help them best.  They also identify services that are not being offered and help churches get those ministries started.
  • For more information about how to volunteer or send support, contact:  Vicki Conn Executive Director of
    Love INC of Greater Holmes County, Director
    PO Box 144
    Millersburg, OH 44654
    330.473.6017 (office) or email loveincofghc@gmail.com
  • Young Life of Holmes & Tuscarawas CountyTheir vision is that, Every adolescent will have the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ and follow Him.  Young Life is active at West Holmes they also are active at Garaway.  For more information about how to get involved contact Libby Pacula at mlpacula@gmail.com.
  • Here are some of the things that the volunteers at Young Life do:
    • Praying for young people.
    • Going where kids are.
    • Building personal relationships with them.
    • Winning the right to be heard.
    • Providing experiences that are fun, adventurous and life-changing.
    • Sharing their lives and the Good News of Jesus Christ with adolescents.
    • Inviting them to personally respond to this Good News.
    • Loving them regardless of their response.
    • Nurturing kids so they might grow in their love for Christ and the knowledge of God’s Word and become people who can share their faith with others.
    • Helping young people develop the skills, assets and attitudes to reach their full God-given potential.
  • CRU at Ohio State University – Quin Strouse– to contact Quin about how you can help, email him at qstrouse.9@gmail.com
    • Cru at Ohio State (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ).
    • Quin is a graduate of Ohio State, he got involved in Cru there, it changed his life and he felt called to continue in the footsteps of staff that changed his life and do the same for future students .
    • Quin Provides leadership to a ministry called GreekCru specifically for Greeks/men in fraternities, 40 young men are involved.
    • He has worked with Cru for 2 years.
    • Cru at Ohio State has 700 students involved.
    • Quin is passionate about this ministry and is pouring his life into these students every day. I’m so encouraged with his ministry because he shares stories of life change and keeps us up to date on what is happening in the ministry.
    • Students are realizing and reaching their full potential in Jesus Christ through the work of Quin and others at OSU.

We support and promote these organizations as we are able, through one-time donations, volunteers, promotion and participation with events they organize:

  • Local Food Pantries
    • Millersburg Church of God Food Pantry – We are currently partnering with them to distribute food to elementary school students in West Holmes School District that are on the lunch program.  We package food and send it home with them on Friday so they have food for the weekend during the school year.
    • The Love Center – Food pantry and free medical clinic
    • Glenmont Food Pantry
  • H15 Teen Center in Millersburg – still being organized: for more information email the director at director@h15ministries.com
  • OneEighty formerly known as Every Woman’s House
  • Share-A-Christmas – We participate every year
  • Blessing Design Team a ministry of Barb Chalmers
  • The Christian Children’s Home of Ohio located in Wooster.

I want to encourage you to be generous and give to NewPointe so that we can continue to support these organizations or give directly to them.  If you have any questions you can contact me at cstutzman@newpointe.org

Top Ten Proverbs

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Recently I challenged a group of guys I meet with to read through the book of Proverbs and identify their top ten.  We all found that very challenging as there are so many great Proverbs.  So here are my top ten:

  1. Proverbs 3:5,6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
  2. Proverbs 4:23  “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
  3. Proverbs 11:2  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
  4. Proverbs 11:25  “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
  5. Proverbs 12:18  “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  6. Proverbs 19:11  “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
  7. Proverbs 19:21  “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
  8. Proverbs 27:1  “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
  9. Proverbs 28:13  “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
  10. Proverbs 27:17  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

If you can’t read through all the Proverbs take some time over the next several days and read these 10 and ask God to help you understand how they apply to you personally.

 

 

Meditation

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Meditation has a different meaning to different people.  For some it’s emptying your mind and focusing on yourself, for others it is focusing on a higher power or something they think is good.  I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and so what I meditate on is God’s Word or the Bible.  For me this is one of the most powerful and helpful things I have ever done.    There is now a lot of scientific proof that meditating on good things like Scripture actually renews and changes our brains.  Brain science shows us the benefits of this focused thinking. The Bible talks about renewing your mind and taking your thoughts captive.  God designed our brains to be able to be changed depending on what it takes in.  The mind controls the brain and can make positive or negative changes.

To me meditation is considering and pondering a part of Scripture, a story in the Bible or a chapter or even sometimes a few words or one word.  What I try to do is pick something to focus on and then read through it 10-15 times in different ways.  I’ll read it silently several times, then out loud, then with a different emphasis on certain words and sometimes even adding my name.  Then I think about or ponder what I read.  I will then bring it back up a different times of the day for just a few moments.

The Bible talks about the power of meditation in Psalm 1:1-3 it says this: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither-whatever they do prospers.”

Did you catch that?  Biblical meditation is so powerful that God promises that everything you do will prosper if you meditate on His Word day and night.  That may sound a bit intimidating or too hard to do.  For me meditating day and night does not mean 24/7 it means that in those times where I’m idle, waiting, resting, driving or by myself I need to meditate on God’s Word.  Those are the times that I am most tempted or that my thoughts are most likely to be negative or sinful.  So in those moments if I’m able to chew on a Biblical idea or a story from the Bible I can renew my mind and gain incredible strength, encouragement and hope.

Meditation is similar to a cow chewing the cud or rumination, which means to chew, swallow then regurgitate and chew again.  A cow does this several times to get all the nutrition out of the food and to digest it in a healthy way.  Biblical meditation is similar, in that we take it into our minds ponder it and then keep bringing it back up and chewing some more.

I have started on a 21 day journey leading up to Christmas Eve of meditating daily on a Scripture and reading through a document of Biblical Truth Statements.  It will only be about 7-10 minutes a day, but I believe God will use that time to strengthen my mind and nourish my soul in a powerful life-changing way.  The Scripture I have chosen is one I memorized 15 years ago.  It’s 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and the earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and Yours it is to be exalted as Head over all.  Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all.  In your hands are power and might; in Your hands it is to make great and to give strength to all.”

I want to encourage you to pick a Scripture or two and meditate on it over the next 21 days.  Chew on it over and over again and pull out all the nourishment you can get.  Then pick another Scripture and do it again for another 21 days and then do it one more time.  If you can do that for 63 days in a row, it will be habit and you will be able to continue to meditate on God’s Word day and night for the rest of your life.

Lessons Learned at Eight Days of Hope

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Last week I went on a mission trip to Tupelo MS with the organization Eight Days of Hope.  This was the second time I’ve gone on one of these trips with 8DOH.  Back in late April of 2014 Tupelo was hit with a devastating tornado.  The damage was far reaching and the city is still trying to rebuild and regroup.

Basically 8DOH goes into a community and works with local churches, non-profits and the government officials.  They only go to communities that want the help and are open to a Christian organization.  They focus on homeowners that are uninsured, under insured or that need help beyond what insurance will pay.

3,023 volunteers from 37 states served at Eight Days of Hope XI. There were around 60 people from NewPointe Community Church that went.  We worked on 235 homes, multiple churches and multiple parks. We finished 451 jobs with 159 homes being completed. Three homes were built from the ground up. Total amount of work done exceeded $4.4 million dollars. BUT…the most important thing was we had a chance to share the joy, the hope the love of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Here are some lesson’s from this trip:

  • Team work is vital in accomplishing big things – This trip showed me once again how important teamwork and unity are in getting a lot of work done.  It takes humility, patience and trust to make it all happen. It takes multiple leaders, taking responsibility and working toward the same goal.
  • When planning and hard work meet up with God amazing things happen – A lot of planning and preparation happened before and during those eight days, but God was invited into the process and He accomplished more than anyone would have expected. God moments happened every day.
  • Every job is important – I was reminded that every project was important because it touched a person or a family.  Whether it was cleaning up a yard, building a fence, roofing a house, building a deck or fixing a door, it’s all important. No job was too small or too big, it all mattered, because it was an expression of love.
  • It’s important to serve the volunteers and minister to them as well – 8DOH did a great job of serving the 3,000 volunteers and focusing on ministry to the many people that were giving such a significant amount of time and energy.  They had programmed times for worship, fellowship, entertainment and free time.
  • People love to tell their story – I heard several stories from the local people about how this storm had impacted their lives and how 8DOH brought hope back to them and their families.  Talking about their story helped the people to move forward and get past the tragic event of the past. I also got to hear stories from other volunteers and got to know them better.  Ask questions and find out more about the people around you.
  • You get to know people much better when you work along side them – on a trip like this you get to see the real person.  You get to see them when they are tired, frustrated hungry and uncertain.  You also get to see the fun side of people when they let down their defenses and be themselves. I encourage everyone to consider going on a mission trip at some time in their life.  Here is a picture of the group from Millersburg:10559719_10202362331839757_1586175141656029044_n
  • It’s all because of Jesus – The reason people give up their vacation or personal time to go on a trip like this is because they love Jesus and want to help other people. We are the hands and feet of Jesus and this is one way we as followers of Christ can show love to other people.

I’ve been on many mission trips and every time I have been deeply impacted in a positive way.  I have gotten to know other cultures and other people in different parts of the world.  I gotten to talk with people I would never have met, if I wouldn’t have taken the risk and decided to go.  Maybe God has been nudging you to consider go on a trip like 8DOH or maybe another mission trip.  But the cool thing is we don’t need to go on a mission trip to love and serve people.  There are many people in our own communities that are in need that we can serve and love and help.  All it takes is a willingness to give some time and talent and muscle or to listen and encourage.

If you would like to get involved in changing your local community or want to go on a mission trip, please contact me via email – cstutzman@newpointe.org

 

Life Verse

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NewPointe Community Church is currently in a series called “Life Verse”.  A life verse is a Scripture that someone keeps coming back to over and over again and that guides them in their life.  As I thought about that several passages of Scripture came to my mind.  As I thought about which one I should write about I realized that this Scripture is the one that I often quote and talk about.  I’ve used it at weddings and funerals and in mentoring sessions with individuals and couples.  This Scripture is challenging to me and a constant reminder of how I should live my life.

It’s often called the Love chapter because it gives us a very clear description of what love is.  It’s not just one verse, it’s actually 4 verses.  So here it is:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.”

I’ve often put my name in place of love, which makes it personal and very humbling, because I realize that I have a ways to go in understanding and living out this idea of love.  So here are some points about this powerful passage of Scripture.

  • Love is a verb not a noun – This passage is all about the actions that we take not thoughts that we have.  It deals with what kinds of emotions direct our lives and what kind of behaviors come out of us.  Love is all about doing and showing the people around us that we love them.  To be patient, kind and trusting takes actions that show those traits.
  • Love is others focused – When it comes to understanding love it’s all about being focused on the people around us and not on ourselves.  It’s paying attention to the people in our lives and taking the time and energy to love them and serve them.
  • Love is powerful – If love is your base, it can overpower all the negative emotions we struggle with.  Love brings us back to the way God designed us.  It fights against the resistance that pushes us to be selfish, self-centered and negative.  Everyone wants to experience love whether they admit it or not. When we love it shows strength and character.
  • Love is long-term – When we love the way this Scripture says to love it keeps us focused on the big picture and the long-term health of all our relationships.  It looks beyond the current situation or pain and sees how things could and should be.  It allows us to be patient and to trust when the situation doesn’t feel like we should.  Love is what gets us through the dark times in our lives. Love is what picks us up and gets us through.
  • Love Works – We all want to be around people that love well. We are drawn to people that live out these actions.  Jesus was the perfect example of love.  When we put his name in place of love we can say yes that’s Jesus.  I think that is why people were so drawn to him and why so many people are still following him today.  Love really does work, love gets results and changes lives.

So here is the challenge.  We can all grow in this area of love because non of us are Jesus. Love is the key to life because when everything else is stripped away love remains.  Whether it’s loving other people or loving God, that is what changes lives.  When we allow God’s love to penetrate and take over our hearts, our behavior starts to change, our thoughts start to change and our perspective starts to change.

If your relationships are not working ask yourself how much love you have in your heart.  If there is not much there, then turn to God and ask Him to fill it up with that kind of love.

Verse 8 starts off with this – “Love never fails.”  God never fails, he never gives up on us and always believes the best about us even when he knows the worst about us.  Love Well!

Thoughts on Prayer

I have been reading a couple of books on the subject of prayer. Both are very good, one is an older book originally written in 1937 by Oswald Chambers called “If You Will Ask”. I am reading the 1989 edition. I am also reading a new devotional book by Mark Batterson called “Draw the Circle”. Both have inspired me and challenged me. I find myself praying differently, more often and more boldly. There are so many take-aways I could share, but I want to focus on one part of Chambers book entitled The Submission of Life.

He starts the chapter with this: “We are not built for ourselves, but for God. Not for service for God, but for God. That explains the submission of life.” Submission is one of the most difficult things to do and yet one of the most powerful things we can do. It seems odd that submission is powerful, but with true submission comes peace, unity and rightness with God. Chambers goes on to say this: “God is not concerned about our aims. He does not say, “Do you want to go through this bereavement, this upset?” He allows these things for his purpose. We may say what we like, but God does allow the devil, He does allow sin, He does allow bad men to triumph and tyrants to rule, and these things either make us fiends or they make us saints. It depends entirely on our relationship with God. If we say, “Your will be done,” we get the tremendous consolation of knowing that our Father is working everything according to His own wisdom. If we understand what God is after, we shall be saved from being mean and cynical.”

God isn’t checking in with us to see if his plan is ok. God sees all things and knows all things, therefore he knows what is best and how to work all things for good. When we fully submit to his will we can stop worrying about everything in the world around us and focus on how we are responding to the things in our lives. We can look to what God wants to do in us. Listen to what else Chambers says:

“The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women, or they are making us more captious, more insistent on our own way. We are either getting more like our Father in heaven, or we are getting more mean and intensely selfish. How are we behaving ourselves in our circumstances? Do we understand the purpose of our life as never before? God does not exist to answer our prayers, but by our prayers we come to discern the mind of God, and that is declared in John 17:22 “That they may be one just as We are one.” Am I as close to Jesus as that? God will not leave me alone until I am.”

When I read that I said Wow outloud. Prayer is really about getting to know God, becoming more intimate with him and understanding his heart. The more we pray the more we change. God wants to be one with us, but that can only happen if we submit to His will and His ways. The more time spent in prayer the more clear our purpose in life becomes. What would happen if we would start praying for God’s will to be done in our lives, for us to become one with Him and see as He sees and think as He thinks. What would happen if we would do what He says and be obedient to His will. God’s will is that we become one with Him as Jesus was one with Him. To become more like Him in all our ways.

How People Change

I have been studying a workbook called “How People Change” by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp with a group of people. This is the material we use to prepare mentors for ministry at NewPointe Community Church. The material is great but the conversations we have is even better. We finished up last night and everyone in the group agreed they had grown a lot and experienced a sense of community with the other people.

Here are some quotes that really stood out in this last session:

“God does more than deliver us from the Heat (hardships of life), he delivers us from ourselves so that we can stand up under the heat and not merely survive but bear good fruit. Under the pressure of family difficulty, love can grow. Under the heat of unappreciated sacrifice, perseverance grow. In the middle of suffering, peace and sturdy faith can blossom. In the midst of want, giving can grow where thorns of greed and selfishness once lived. Under the heat of life in a fallen world, new and surprising fruit can and does grow.”

That is some amazing insight. That God does some of the most incredible work in our lives in the midst of the most difficult times. We all face challenges, hardship, struggle and even celebration moments. That is part of life in this world. Keeping God in the center of our lives during these times allows him to work deep within us. Only when our hearts are changed will our behavior and responses change. So if you are in the middle of a great struggle, look inside your own heart and ask God to do a work there.

Here is another great quote: “We all know that sin causes us to be more committed to ourselves than anything else. It causes us to love ourselves more than anything else. Sin makes us self-centered and self-indulgent as we give in to desires of the sinful nature and feed its cravings. Such selfish living destroys relationships and harms people. Our chief problem in relationships is not the fallen world we live in, but the fact that we ourselves are deeply self-centered and have trouble loving one another.”

Wow, that is very convicting. This speaks to the importance of understanding our human nature and how much we need God to transform our hearts. Only when we surrender to God and allow the Holy Spirit to flow inside our hearts can we change all of that. Our relationship suffer when we allow self-centered behavior or thinking to rule.

It is important to remember that Jesus asked us to follow him. He didn’t say follow these rules or go and do these certain things. He said simply follow me no matter where you are at. If you stumble and fall, Jesus waits for us to get up and continue following him. God has provided the Holy Spirit to help us follow him and help us get back up when we fall. If you want to change, it starts in your heart.