Monthly Archives: June 2008

Growing through adversity

I have been thinking about this topic for awhile now. I am passionate about growing in faith, character and leadership. That has been my personal mission statement for many years. Often times we forget that to grow, we must face adversity. If we do not have adversity we don’t fully develop. The Christian life is intended to be one of continuous growth. We all want to grow, but we often resist the process.

So how can we learn and grow through adversity? The first thing is to accept the fact that we will have adversity in life. We need to submit to the fact that life will have difficulties and we need to look for the lessons involved with each adversity. We also need to apply God’s word when we face adversity. There are many Biblical principles that we can put into action in times of adversity. Can you show Christian love when someone offends you or treats you unjustly? Lastly we must remember the lessons learned in times of adversity

Adversity does several things in our lives. It prunes us of the the unfruitful stuff in our lives. An unpruned vine will produce a great deal of unproductive growth but little fruit. I was talking with my Amish neighbor that runs an orchard. I asked about the peach trees they had been working on. He said that they had to knock of three fourths of the budding peaches in order to get the best crop of peaches. If they would not do that they would get a bunch of peaches that are small and not very tasty.

Adversity also helps us to become more like Christ. This is called holiness. God uses adversity to enlighten our minds about our own needs as well as the teachings of Scripture. He uses adversity to shape and mold us into the men and women He desires us to be.

Adversity causes us to be more dependant on Christ. God teaches us through adversity to rely on Him instead of ourselves. Adversity forces us to look to God for strength, wisdom and courage.

Adversity also develops perseverance. Hebrews 10:36 says “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised,” and in 12:1 it says “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” To persevere means to press forward. To keep pushing on despite hardships and roadblocks. To stay on track with God’s will for your life no matter what gets in the way. This can sometimes be a long drawn out process that can take years. That process will develop your character and prepare you for what God has in store for your life.

God also uses adversity to equip us to serve more effectively in ministry to others. Adversity allows us to identify with others that are suffering or hurting. It allows us to help them through similar times.

A great example of what I have been talking about is the cecropia moth. This moth is a beautiful creature, but it must go through a great struggle to get out of it’s cocoon. I read the story about someone that was watching this moth go through this struggle. In an effort to help, the viewer snipped the shell of the cocoon. Soon the moth came out, with its wings all crimped and shriveled. But as the person watched, the wings remained weak. The moth, which in a few minutes would have stretched those wings to fly, was now doomed to crawling out its brief life in frustration of ever being the beautiful creature God created it to be. What the person that “helped out” the moth did not realize, was that the struggle to emerge from the cocoon was an essential part of developing the muscle system of the moth’s body and pushing the body fluids out into the wings to expand them. By unwisely seeking to cut short the moth’s struggle, the watcher had actually crippled the moth and doomed its existence.

The adversities in our lives are much like that moth in the cocoon. God uses them to develop our spiritual, emotional and relational muscles. Many people go undeveloped and never realize their full potential because they sidestepped adversity or did not learn from it. Sometimes we can do the same in others peoples lives by “helping them out” and not allowing God to develop their character. We need to be careful how we face adversity and how we help others face adversity.

James 1:2-4 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Stuck

Have you ever been stuck? I don’t mean stuck in a ditch, I mean stuck in life, stuck in a rut or in an addiction. The definition of stuck is to be brought to a standstill, blocked, baffled, halted, obstructed, a state of difficulty or hesitation.

Everyone gets stuck sometime. Getting stuck shows itself in many different forms: Alcohol, drugs, workaholism, people pleasing, food, disease, suicide, death, molestation, pornography, divorce, relationships, rebellion, anger, guilt, phobias/fear, handicaps and loneliness. Some of these seem much worse than others, but they are all a problem. We can sometimes look at our problems and think, “they’re not so bad. I can handle them on my own.” By not seeking help or facing these problems head on we can allow our problems to control us. They quickly become our focus and get us in a downward spiral.

Today I read the story that Major League baseball player Josh Hamilton shared. He was a very talented player and was drafted number 1 overall in 1999 by the Tampa Devil Rays. Soon after that he got stuck in drugs and alcohol. He was in a downward spiral that nearly took him out. After reading that story it reminded me of many people that I have talked to that are stuck in similar things. Stuck in bondage and not living free like God wants us to be.

A lot of people are stuck, the divorce rate remains very high for both Christians and non-Christians. Drug and food abuse are on the increase. Alcoholism negatively affects one-third of all American families. A recent study on molestation predicts that 28 per cent of girls will have been molested by the time they reach fourteen, and by the time they reach the age of 18 that figure goes up to 38 percent. Most people know about life, but they still don’t know how to live life. They may know about God, but not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They may even have a personal relationship with Christ and still be stuck.

So whatever you are stuck in, God wants to help you get unstuck. The first step is admitting you have a problem. You need to step back and realize that you are not God and that you are powerless to control your tendency to do the wrong thing. Next you need to earnestly believe that God exists, that you matter to Him, and that He has the power to help you recover. Then consciously choose to commit all your life and will to Christ’s care and control. After that you need to openly examine and confess your faults to yourself, to God and to someone you trust. Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in your life and humbly ask Him to remove your character defects. You also need to evaluate your relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt you and make amends for harm you’ve done to others except when doing so would harm them or others even more. You also need to reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading,and prayer in order to know God and His will for your life and gain power to follow His will. Finally yield yourself to God to be used to bring the Good News to others, both by example and by your words.

These 8 principles of recovery are found in the Beatitudes in Mathew Chapter 5. Celebrate Recovery is a ministry that uses these principles to help people recover form addictions. There is a group currently meeting in Uhrichsville, OH. You may not be addicted to alcohol or drugs, but you may have other things you are stuck in. Start taking these steps to get unstuck and find some people along the way to help you. Sometimes is just takes someone to hold you accountable and ask you some questions to get you unstuck. Someone to coach you and encourage you. Start praying today that God will bring the right person or people at the right time to keep you moving forward. Don’t remain stuck in the same old stuff year after year. Live life the way God intended you to live it, Free.

Outward Focused Church

Whose lives are different because of your church? I asked myself that question today, and I could think of dozens of individuals, families and organizations that have been touched by my church. It is so exciting to be a part of a church that is thinking about how to reach out and really make a difference in peoples lives. Not just talking about it, but putting it into action.

We are in the middle of something called the BIG GIVE, where we gave out grants of $400.00 to small groups to do community outreach projects. Over 60 small groups participated and well over $30,000 was handed out. Some groups helped families in need pay bills, others helped local organizations like the homeless shelter and Harbor House with improvements and food. Others did home improvement projects for families and individuals and still others handed out gas cards to people in need. There are many other projects as well, each touching people in different ways.

We also are working with local organizations to do home improvements for elderly, disabled and handicapped people in our communities. These projects are ongoing throughout the year,and we hope to complete over 20 such projects this year.

In July, we are doing a food drive for four local food pantries. Our goal is to fill 1,500 boxes with food and bless those pantries, by filling their shelves for a month. We will end that with a serving Sunday in which we will serve our local communities instead of having a church service. Hundreds of people will go out and serve that morning, instead of sitting in church.

Later this year we are hoping to do a coat and shoes drive to supply needy families and children with coats and shoes.

That is just a taste of what has been and will be happening at NewPointe Community Church. I know there are many people that call NewPointe their home church that do random acts of kindness on a regular basis. I hope this becomes the DNA of NewPointe attendees, too serve others and impact people up close. I have heard many stories of people reaching out and helping people. Calling someone that is going through a hard time and offering to pray for them or bring a meal. Giving someone a gift anonymously. Writing a note of encouragement. Helping a neighbor with outside clean up. Helping people move. Volunteering to help local non profit groups. Visiting elderly in nursing homes and hospitals.

The local church should be the most generous, outward focused organization around. The local church is what should bring hope to the communities it is in. The local church should be the first place people think of when it comes to helping people in need. The local church should be actively working with other community organizations to make a difference and help them reach their goals. The local church should be reaching out to the business community to partner with them and serve them. Local churches should be working together to help those in need.

I am seeing some evidence of these things happening. 8-10 local churches have come together to run a food pantry for the Dover/New Philadelphia area. Local churches are working together on projects like Habitat for Humanity and to raise awareness for foster care and adoption.

Jesus said that we should be salt and light. Salt preserves and enhances and light helps people to see clearly. Is the church doing that? Are we adding value to our community? Are we helping people to see God clearly? Are we being real and relevant to the world around us? Do we really care about lost people? Hurting people? Poor people?

Resolving Conflict

Everyone has conflict at one time or another. If you are married, you probably have a good bit of conflict. If you don’t, then there might be something wrong with your relationship. Maybe you are still in the “in-love” stage of your relationship. Maybe you just ignore it and pretend everything is just fine.

It does not matter if you are single or married, conflict happens at work, with friends, at school, at church and with neighbors. So if we all experience this from time to time, how do you resolve it?

Resolving conflict is something you learn as you grow up. Unfortunately many of us did not have good role models to learn from. All parents make mistakes and we tend to pick up some of the same bad habits our parents had. Some people ignore conflict and deny it is happening, others get loud and yell, others simply shut down or leave. Maybe you had a great role model and have mastered conflict resolution. If so, you can stop reading.

In my experience most conflict comes from either a misunderstanding, a lack of information/unclear expectation or hurtful language. So if you would like to reduce your conflict, start using words of encouragement more, share information openly and frequently and make sure you are clearly communicating your message (Think before you speak).

One of the best things you can do to resolve conflict is to listen. Often in a conflict situation we get defensive and don’t really listen to the other person. If you stop and try to fully understand what the other person is trying to say it often helps to diffuse the situation. A simple exercise that can help in this area is called “having the floor”. Only the person with the “floor” may speak. The speaker must be brief, so the listener can paraphrase. The speaker must not be accusatory or mind read. The speaker needs to avoid beginning sentences with “you”. The listener paraphrases only what they thought they heard the speaker say (without comment, even if they disagree, responding with statements such as “I hear you saying…”). The listener may ask questions or seek clarification while the speaker still has the floor, but may not respond until the floor is passed to them. The floor then changes hands and the listener becomes the speaker. You might want to use an object like a pen to represent the floor.

This simple exercise causes you to slow down and listen, which often helps to communicate much better. If people feel like you are at least listening to them and trying to understand, it helps to resolve the conflict. You can focus in on what the issue really is. Was it a misunderstanding, maybe an unclear expectation or a lack of information. In those cases you can talk it out and get it resolved. You can even agree to disagree at this point, but you are talking and moving forward.

When hurtful language starts flying or maybe a sarcastic tone is used, there is usually an underlying problem. Usually a core fear has been triggered. What I mean by a core fear, is that we all have these inner fears, things like a fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being inadequate, or a fear of being judged or humiliated. When these inner fears are touched by a situation or words, our emotions flare up. We often get defensive and try to make it stop, usually by trying to change the other person. We will say or do something to try to get the other person to stop hurting you, often by hurting them. You see that person as both your problem and your solution. This is the “fear dance” and it doesn’t get you anywhere, it only causes more damage and more conflict.

To stop the fear dance you have to stop hurting back when you get hurt. You have to take personal responsibility for your actions and words. Someone has to stop and listen and try to understand. Start asking questions and explore why the other person got so defensive or why you got so defensive. What inner fear has been tapped? You can’t control what the other person says or does, but you can control what you do and say. By not letting a conflict situation get out of control or escalate you have a much better chance of resolving it.

Resolving conflict starts with each one of us. It means having the courage to admit when we are wrong and ask for forgiveness. It means extending forgiveness to others. It means having some difficult conversations and being clear about your feelings and thoughts. It means taking the time to try to understand the other persons point of view. Resolving conflict helps us to grow emotionally. It is also a time of spiritual growth because we can look to God for the strength, wisdom and courage we need to work on the relationships in our lives.

Sometimes you need a cooling off period before you have the talk. You simply need to let the other person know that you need 30 minutes to cool off and then you will talk. During that 30 minutes ask yourself why you got so mad? What made you go off or feel so hurt. Spend a few minutes in prayer and ask God to reveal what needs to change in you. If you focus on the behavior of the other person and how that behavior made you feel, it will help the other person understand better. When you use words that accuse and attack the other person will not want to try to understand. When you are ready to talk don’t wait, make the call or call the meeting. The longer you procrastinate the worse it will eat at you and the more damage it will do to the relationship.

Resolve away.

Encouragement

Earlier this week I was out running. About half way through my 3.6 mile run, I was getting tired and thought about slowing down. Then I started thinking about if I was actually running in a race. There would be other runners and people watching. There would be people along the side of the road to encourage and maybe give water. Just that thought caused me to pick up the pace.

Then I started thinking about encouragement in general and how important it is in life. A runner is encouraged by people cheering for him. Sports is like that, when you are playing in front of people you tend to try harder. If people are encouraging you instead of discouraging you are more motivated to improve or finish.

What about life? When noone is encouraging you, do you slow down the pace or give up? I think it is easy to do that and we all need a certain amount of encouragement. We need people cheering us on. We also need to be cheering other people on. When was the last time you intentially encouraged someone? Encourage means to give courage to another. Who in your life needs more courage?

When you think about this spiritually, it becomes even more important. As I was running I thought about how God and all of heaven were cheering me on every day. What if you could hear that? Wow, that would be a rush, to hear Paul or Nehemiah say; you can do it Chad! I thought how cool is it that the God of this universe is cheering me on. That He wants what is best for me, and HE is interested in my small little life. Just thinking about that encourages me. If God is for us who can be against us?

I want to encourage you today; you matter and you are important. You are uniquely created for a purpose and God has a special plan for your life. Keep seeking Him with all your heart and keep growing closer to God by being real with Him. God is in control and you can trust Him, because He loves you. It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past, He wants to carry your burden for you, and wants you to be free.

Go and encourage someone today.

Is God Really in Control?

Maybe you have asked that question in the past, or are asking it right now. When bad, horrible things happen around us or too us, we often ask that question. A question I hear some times is why do bad things happen to good people. My standard answer has been that we live in a fallen sinful world. Well that is true, but there is more to it.

I started reading this book by Jerry Bridges called “Is God Really In Control? – Trusting God In A World Of Hurt.

This book has been very helpful in getting a better picture of who God is, and why we should always trust Him. The author does a great job of answering some of the tough questions we have about God and the things that happen in this world.

I thought I would share some of the authors thoughts with you. Here are some of the things that I highlighted in the book:

“In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith, not of sense.”

“God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty He has the power to bring it about”

“In order to trust God we must know Him in an intimate personal way.”

“To corral our anxious speculation about God in times of suffering, we must shape our vision of God by the Bible, not by our experiences.”

“All people – believers in God as well as unbelievers – experience anxiety, frustration, heartache and disappointment. Some suffer intense physical pain and catastrophic tragedies. But what should distinguish the suffering of believers from nonbelievers is the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God; our suffering has meaning and purpose in God’s eternal plan, and He brings or allows into our lives only what is for His glory and our good.”

“Prayer is the acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and of our dependence upon Him to act on our behalf. Prudence is the acknowledgement of our responsibility to use legitimate means. We must not separate the two.”

“As we watch tragic events unfold, or more particularly as we experience adversity ourselves, we often are prone to ask God, “Why?” The reason we ask is because we do not see any possible good to us or glory to God that can come from the particular adverse circumstances that have come upon us or our loved ones. But is not the wisdom of God-thus the glory of God- more eminently displayed in bringing good out of calamity that out of blessing?”

“The good that God works for in our lives is conformity to the likeness of His Son. So His good is not necessarily our present comfort or happiness, but rather conformity to Christ in ever increasing measure for eternity.”

“But real change, down in the depth of our souls, is produced as the tenets of Scripture are worked out in real life. This usually involves adversity. We may admire and even desire the character trait of patience, but we will never learn patience until we have been treated unjustly and learned experientially to “suffer long” (the meaning of patience) the one who treats us unjustly. If you stop and think about it, you realize that most godly character traits can only be developed through adversity.”

I have been challenged and encouraged by this small book. The author uses a lot of Scripture to back up his thoughts.

I am only half way through the book and looking forward to the rest. What I have taken away so far is this: God has a much bigger plan than we can comprehend, and we are playing a small part in that big plan. When adversity hits us, it is often a big growth time in our lives and develops godly character. God also uses our adversity to bring others into relationship with Him and transform lives. God really is in control!

Between this book and our current series at NewPointe called “What Lies Beneath” I am really doing some self-examination. I am seeing that I have a lot of work to do in many areas of my life. I am realizing that God loves me so much that he wants me to become more like Jesus in every area of my life. He is cheering me on and encouraging me to grow and mature in my faith, character and leadership.