On Mission

Proverbs 22:9 says “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.”

Serving & helping others helps us to grow spiritually, improves our relationships and blesses us. If that is true, why don’t we serve others more often? Why aren’t we more generous with our time & resources?

Several years ago I went on a mission trip to Biloxi MS shortly after hurricane Katrina hit. I was with a team of 40 people that worked together for a week to help everyone we could. My main job was to find work for our volunteers to do. I would walk from home to home asking how we could help. I got leads from the local church we were staying at as well. We worked hard everyday until it was too dark to work. Some groups worked into the night. WE got up early ready to make a difference; we cleaned up yards, cut up trees, built fences, repaired walls, floors, roofs, doors and even put up a mailbox. We touched many lives that week, we grew in our faith, developed new relationships and strengthened existing ones. We were exhausted, but we all felt blessed more than we could express. Since then I have gone back several times and even gone to the Middle East on mission trips.

On my way back home from that trip I kept thinking; why do we need to go on a mission trip to help and serve people. What would happen if we took that mentality of helping and serving people in need home with us? Could we take the same attitude of serving we had on that trip and apply it in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities we live in?

Most of us don’t serve others as often as we would like to because we are too busy. We miss opportunities because we are so caught up in our daily schedules and habits. When we stop long enough to go on a mission trip our focus changes. We take our eyes of ourselves and our comfort and put it on other people that are hurting and in need of help. We feel amazing, useful, we feel like our life has meaning & purpose.

What if every day could be like that? What if we all would approach this next week like we were on a mission trip? A trip that would take you to your workplace, your family and friends, your neighborhood, your grocery store, your bank, your church, your small group.

How could you serve the people you come into contact with this week? Maybe it’s just a smile and taking the time to listen to someone. It could be doing a random act of kindness like paying for someone’s meal. Maybe it’s playing longer with your kids or doing the dishes every night. Maybe it’s volunteering at your church. Get creative, look for opportunities to serve people and watch your attitude change. I promise you that the more you serve and volunteer the more you will grow spiritually, the better your relationships will get and the more you will feel blessed.

Serve On!

Plateau

The dictionary defines a plateau as a state or level of little or no growth or decline; to stop increasing or progressing; remain at a stable level of achievement; level off. Does that describe any area of your life? Maybe spiritually, physically or relationally.

I have been working out for over 8 weeks now. It is a pretty intense program with a variety of exercises. I kind of felt like I was doing pretty well. I wasn’t sore anymore and I was able to keep up with most of the exercises. On Monday I did a new workout that I had not done yet. Those new exercises were a real challenge for me. I made it through the workout, but I could tell I was being pushed to a higher level of fitness. The next day I could feel the effects of the workout. I was sore and stiff in several areas of my body.

That soreness is an indication that my muscles have been stressed and that they are rebuilding and will be even stronger. Maybe you have been working out for a while doing the same thing. It might be running, walking, biking, basketball or whatever exercise machine you like. If you don’t change up your workouts from time to time your body gets used to it and you plateau.

To go to new levels physically, spiritually, relationally or emotionally you need to change up the way you are doing things.

To keep growing spiritually we need to keep progressing on that journey with God. Many people plateau spiritually because they are not experiencing God in new meaningful ways. Sometimes we get stuck in the same old routine, doing our favorite things.

Churches can also plateau by doing the same thing over and over again. Things that once worked well and where helpful are now just something to be checked off. Churches and individuals need to try some new things and keep it fresh by using some spiritual muscles you may not have used for a while.

So if you feel like you have plateaued spiritually, physically, relationally or emotionally here are some things you can do to get back on track:

  • Get some help from a person that can coach you and encourage you – A personal trainer, counselor, executive coach, pastor etc.
  • Talk to some people that are further ahead of you in whatever area you are plateaued.
  • Try to do something you have not done before – A different workout, try a new sport, give more, volunteering at church or in the community, find a partner to train with, forgive, write some thank you notes to people that have influenced your life, read a book, write a story.
  • Change up your routines – drive a different route to work, Stop and spend time praying in the middle of the day, do a random act of kindness, Fast for a day or three, confess your sin to a trusted friend, listen more than you talk, take a break from texting, facebook or the Internet.
  • Be real – trying to fake it is the biggest way to plateau and start declining.

LifeStyle Change

I am so excited about the new series NewPointe Community Church is starting called “The Me I Want To Be”. Most of us know that the person we are right now is not the best version, the version God designed us to be. At times we get glimpses of that best version, but those times can be few and far between. One of the things that I have discovered is that to achieve true long lasting change I need to change my life style, not just a few behaviors.

About three years ago my wife and I made the decision to get healthy. We got involved in a wellness program that helped us to lose weight. We both dropped weight over the three months we were on the program. What usually happens after we lose weight is that we slowly gain it all back, because we are not on the “program or diet” anymore. This time it was different for Vikki and I. We made the decision to make this a lifestyle change. We decided to keep doing the things that gave us the great results. We continued to eat the right kinds of food in the right portions. We continued to exercise, actually we both increased our exercise over the past three years.

Guess what happened, we started to think differently about food and exercise. We started to think in a healthy way about what we ate and how we exercised. The results have been great for us both. Between the two of us we have lost over 60 pounds and kept it off. We lowered our cholesterol, mine dropped over 100 points, and lowered our body fat.

I am now running in 5k’s and hope to run my first half marathon this spring. I have been in an extreme exercise program for 7 weeks and have improved my conditioning, strength and flexibility dramatically. I guess you could say we have made significant lifestyle changes physically.

I have started making some of the same changes spiritually and emotionally as well. I am working on my spiritual growth the same way I worked on my physical growth. I have developed a growth plan for my spiritual life, my relational life, my financial life and my physical life. I now have a road map that I refer to to keep me on track.

In any area of our lives positive growth doesn’t just happen. When we are not focused on growing and being healthy spiritually, emotionally and physically we get out of shape. To get back into good shape, it takes hard work and long lasting changes.

For me to grow spiritually I need to spend time with God, in ways that work for me. Each of us do that in different ways. What works for me may not work for others.

One of the things NewPointe has done to help people grow spiritually is a new website called The Change Inside. You can go there every day for a Scripture to read and a short devotional to read. I encourage everyone to go there over the next couple months. Start to make changes in how you think about spiritual growth. Look for ways you can connect with God and draw closer to Him. You can also get a NewPointe devotional at our bookstore or at the info desk at the Millersburg & Louisville campuses.

Don’t wait to make a lifestyle change, start today by making the decision that a year from now you will be closer to the person you want to be.

Snow Path

I have a snow path that leads to our neighbors barn. Each day either my wife or I walk that path to give our goat fresh water and hay. With the snow so high, it is not good to get off this path. You need to try to step in the footprints that have packed down the snow. Tonight I made a couple of missteps and sunk into the deep snow. I got snow down my boots and nearly got stuck.

That made me think about what path I am on in life. I believe that God has a path for each one of us. He has packed down the snow for us and cleared the path. The problem is many times I do not pay attention to where I am walking and make some missteps. When I do I can sink, get stuck or even fall down. That snow path to the barn is pretty narrow and God’s path is pretty narrow as well. It also can go in unexpected directions.

So how do we stay on the path?

  • Keep your eyes on the path and not on the distractions around you.
  • Slow down, don’t be in such a hurry. Steady plodding brings prosperity.
  • Look for the footprints that God has left for you to follow.
  • When you make one misstep, don’t keep going by making more steps in the wrong direction.
  • Sometimes you just need to stop for a moment to look for your next best step and to be reminded where your final destination is.

What path are you on, yours or God’s? Where is your path leading you?

Anxiety

Did you know that about nineteen million Americans struggle with anxiety? Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States today. I work at NewPointe Community Church and have talked with many people that struggle with anxiety. Many struggle to the point that they can’t have healthy relationships, can’t keep steady employment and have multiple health problems.

Anxiety and worry go hand in hand. Worry is focused negative thinking, which can lead to anxiety which is the unpleasant sense of apprehension that comes with physical symptoms like sweaty palms, shallow breathing, rapid heart rate and general nervousness. Often worry and anxiety come from stress, it could be relational stress, financial stress, work stress, family stress. When a person is in constant stress their body produces way to much adrenaline and other chemicals that cause those physical symptoms. Over time anxiety gets worse and worse and our thinking begins to drive the anxiety.

For many people worry has simply become a mental habit. They automatically see events in their lives in terms of worse-case scenarios. Anxiety is often triggered by lies we believe and focus on in a negative way. The worrier will lie awake at night going through all kinds of what-if scenarios.

To overcome anxiety a person needs to deal with the root cause of the worry and anxiety. What lies are you believing about yourself, God and the world around you? The best way to identify lies we are believing is by reading truth. That is why I keep eleven truth statements in my desk drawer. I read through these on a regular basis and hand them out to people that are struggling with worry. These eleven statements come from the Bible. I often prescribe this to people by asking them to read these eleven truth statements out loud once a day for two weeks. What that does, is it brings your focus to something good and positive and true, even if it’s only a short period of time. If you can do that for 3-4 weeks it becomes a habit and can start to change the way we think.

To overcome anxiety you must develop new healthy habits for dealing with stress. Meditation is also focused thinking, but is focused on what is good. Meditating on Scripture is a great way to deal with stress. Prayer has also been proven to actually lower your blood pressure and reduce stress.

Philippians 4:6-7 says “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

In Mathew 6 Jesus teaches about freedom from anxiety. In verse 25 Jesus says, Therefore I say unto you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.” Again in verse 34 Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.” In other words, live in the present and don’t worry about the future which you can’t control or the past that you can’t change. Jesus is encouraging us to pray and give thanks instead of worrying. An attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving relaxes the body and calms the mind.

1 Peter 5:7 says “Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you.”