Tag Archives: discouraged

The Promise

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Ps. 23:6

The Shepherd has taken us on quite a journey. We have lain in green pastures, drank from still water, walked righteous paths, and gone through the valley of the shadow of death. He has fed us, bound our wounds, and overfilled our cups. Now He wants to leave us with a promise to hold onto as we continue on our journey.

The first word “Surely” is the Shepherd’s way of telling us that we can count on this… just as surely as we can count on every thing else He has said. For the rest of my life — no matter the pain, sorrow, good times, or bad times — His goodness and His mercy will follow me. Oh, if we could only understand this concept. He is not ever going to leave you in need. He has walked the trail before many times with many sheep. He knows the danger and trials that you will face. He has provided His goodness as a gift to help us as we walk. He knows that we will struggle so He reminds us that He will always be there to provide good things for us.

It is so easy in the midst of a trial to think that God is taking a board and hitting you just for good measure. In our pain, we lash out and think that He no longer cares. Yes, the Shepherd will chastise a disobedient sheep, but He never strikes us for His pleasure. Our Shepherd is good and wants us to know His goodness is always there. We must go through trials and testing to strengthen and grow our faith. We tend to expect a Christian life in a bubble of protection; however, if you take a baby and place him in a bubble with no germs, nothing to learn, and nothing to stimulate him, he will die. As humans we need to get sick to build our immunity. We need to learn how to walk, talk, and live on our own. We need difficulty to stimulate us to persist and try again. The Christian life is no different. Just as we would provide goodness and encouragement to a child who is growing the Shepherd provides us that same goodness.

 Our Shepherd is good and He wants us to know that His goodness is always there!

As if it was not enough to have his goodness, He also provides His mercy. The Shepherd knows that we will fail Him. We were born falling short of His Glory, and salvation does not change the fact that we will fall short. Knowing this, the Shepherd has provided His mercy; not as a license to sin, but as a way to continue the journey. If not for His mercy He would strike us down on our first offense. We live our life each day in His mercy and with that mercy comes responsibility. We must rise after we have fallen. (Proverbs 24:16) “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” His mercy demands that we get up and go on. Satan will use your falling and tempt you to remain down. The Shepherd never intended you to fall and not get up. If He did, He would never have given His mercy.

Some may ask: “Can I run out of this mercy?” According to the verse, not until He takes you home. I do believe that some sheep go home early, but as long as He gives you breath you have His mercy. In my opinion, for what it is worth, I think that many Christians who quit do so over guilt of their sin. Satan uses past failures as burdens to hold us down, but His mercy allows us to stand again.

To close it all off and finish this journey the Shepherd has taken us on, He has one more thing to say. “and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” After the journey is complete and when the path has ended – Heaven awaits. The pain of today leads to the joy of tomorrow. The trials made us able to reach more people for Christ. Our faith in the Shepherd was built to its ultimate purpose: He awaits us with nail scared hands. No longer stretched out for our sin, but now stretched our to welcome us home.

I leave Psalms 23 with some words that Paul gave those Christians at Ephesus … and having done all, to stand. Stand…
(Ephesians 6:13,14)

Article by David Wagner

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Postmortem for a Dream – Part Four

In February 2011, I wrote a series of blog posts for ChurchWorks Network about what has been by far the most acutely painful time of my ministry life. Though nearly two years have passed, I remember everything like it happened yesterday.

rowell2In the time between my announcement and the last gathering, some of the original people came back into the picture and expressed, with some degree of smug satisfaction, their disapproval of my leadership. These were people whom I’d ministered to as spouses became sick and either died or regressed irreversibly, whose bedsides I’d sat next to, weeping and praying. Their rhetoric stirred up emotions in me that I hadn’t felt in a couple years, emotions I thought were behind me.

So it became clear to me that the church had never fully moved on from what it was, because some people had never moved on. If I were to list the lessons I’ve learned, perhaps the first would be that some people will never change, and it’s better to know as much as possible ahead of time whether they will or not. In retrospect, I have to take responsibility for never asking them that question.

I’ve learned that I was irresponsible in going into a situation without having planned, as much as possible, for how I would provide for my family. Almost from the time I got here, I reacted to changing realities (in terms of the church’s ability to pay me, what kind of job I’d need, raising support, etc.), instead of proactively preparing.

I’ve learned that a dream is only as valuable as the plan for accomplishing it. And I’ve learned that the dream of healthy, deepening relationships with my God, my wife, and my children is of far greater importance.

I’ve learned that, even as the odds were stacked against me, God was shaping me and my ministry style. And I’ve learned that the end result of this chapter of my life does not invalidate who I have become and what I have come to value as a leader and pastor.

I’ve seen the grace of God, in giving a dying congregation five more years to advance His mission. I’ve watched God used a dying church to reach out to and completely, beautifully change the very life trajectory of some very special people. And I have every confidence that God will use our experiences in their lives to impact the churches they engage.

So there is pain, and there is joy. There is frustration, and there is gratitude. There is doubt, and there is faith. There is the end of one chapter, and there is the beginning of another, even as it’s fuzzy at the moment.

And above it all is God, Who gives and takes away, Who comforts and frustrates, Whose ways are not my ways.

I trust Him.

Article by Mike Rowell

@redhedrev

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Stuck?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a 1-day conference in Middle Tennessee at GVBC called ‘Stuck.’  This was not their first rodeo and you could tell.  They knew how to encourage pastors and church ministry leaders.  It was well-worth the 400 miles!  Kudos to Pastor Locke, the staff, worship team, and the church ladies who took care of the eats!  I feel compelled to pass on what I got out of the keynote session called

Top Reasons Churches Get
-[& Stay]- STUCK:

1. The lead pastor is not growing.  He is a catalyst for growth.  Everything rises and falls on -you guessed it- leadership! (-Lee Roberson)

“I’m not dying without trying.” (-GL)

2. No clearly-defined DNA.  If you can’t write down your church’s mission / vision on your palm – it’s too bulky and people will never remember it.  Not even your best people!  The church needs to know who you are and why you exist.

3. An aversion to technology and cultural advancement.  The website is the new front door of your church (more).  The hot-word today is contextualization.  Preach like they did in the past – but apply it to the days of the present!

4. An unwillingness to ask people to leave.  Some people are not part of the team.  They are not on board with your DNA and never will be.  Trying to keep them involved only deepens the problem (and your discouragement as a leader).  It’s not worth it!

New converts are never the ones who complain about the paint, the drum, etc.  It’s always the ‘transfers’ who are the most petty!

5. It’s structured for control rather than growth.  BR Lakin said: Beware of the church with two last names.  Some churches are run by a select few (a key family, the deacon board) and will never grow beyond those who dictate it.  It’s possible to have too many voices speaking into the vision of the church.  If you can’t trust your leadership, then you’ve got the wrong team!

6. Operating totally out of context.  Know your demographic.  You have an era – serve your “generation.”  You have an area – serve your “nation.”  Has your ‘target‘ audience been identified?  Do you really mean it when you say: Everyone Welcome!?  Really?  What about addicts, the homeless, hookers, the deaf, the bi-polar?  Are you ready to help them?

People want to hear your heart, but they are tired of hearing your head.

7. A lack of faith to operate out of the box – but by the book.  Zeal is the forgotten virtue, replaced by knowledge.  Look at the Old Testament prophets (Jeremiah, Hosea, etc.).  They totally destroyed the box of ‘How-to-Do-Ministry.’

8. An understanding of the gospel is merely assumed (especially in the Bible-belt / South).  Lost people are filling churches and, with their votes, controlling them.  Jesus gave no concessions for people claiming Christ who are not involved in church.

In Addition, Pastor Locke Gave 5 Pieces of Advice of Getting Unstuck…

1. Don’t pastor from a bitter heart or with a point to prove (spite and anger are terrible motivators).
2. Don’t allow the church to become to dependent on your personality as pastor – build a team of leaders.
3. Don’t build the church your critics want – build the church your community needs!
4. Don’t allow angry church people to make you an angry family man (leave that junk in the office).
5. Don’t read the Bible for material – develop the discipline of personal, private meditation for your own soul.

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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Remembering the One Who Will Never Forget

As part of God’s work in my life he has allowed me to have many different illnesses. Of all the things He has chosen to bless me with, dementia is the hardest to deal with. It was two years ago when the physiologist told me about early onset dementia. Sitting in my family doctor’s office a few months ago, he asked me if I was scared to lose my mind. Thankfully, so far it has only been little things. Forgetting how to do simple tasks, forgetting who people are, and sometimes – like a blanket thrown over me – I forget it all.

I cannot put into words the concern I was under about forgetting God. For these many years of my ministry He has been my constant companion. I do not know how I would get through a day without the special touch He gives me each day. To lose that connection would be unbearable.

The Holy Spirit brought to mind the last part of Hebrews 13:5. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake me.” I have that part of a verse burned into a small wooden plaque I can hold in my hand. There is a picture of God’s Hand, and the verse. During dystonic storms and times of confusion, I hold this in my hand to give me strength. There is no magic in the wood… the power comes from the Word of God.

One other scripture the Holy Spirit gave me was John 10:27-30. In these verses, God tells us that He holds us in His hand. In this place I am safe, and no one could take me from God.

The answer was not what I thought it would be. I thought I would find that you could never forget God no matter what. The evidence of my studies, however, took me to another place. God could not forget me. God would never leave me. God would never forsake me. God would never let me out of His hand. I may forget God, but He would never forget me. What is stronger that I have a hold of Him, or that He has a hold of me? I can slip, and I can get tired; God, however, holds me in His hand.

So nothing really will ever change. He has held me though over 23 years of ministry. Seven years of Bus Ministry, seven years of pastoring, seven years of working with a local church, and two years of total disability. In all that time He has never left me. There have been hard times, but He has not left. There have been others who have left, but He has remained. In all that time he has never forsaken me. Sadly, there have been people who have forsaken me. Some good friends in ministry have walked away. In all that time He has never taken me out of His hand. If I take a look back at what He has done, how can I fear that He would not continue?

Herein is true faith. We must trust that God will continue to do what He has promised even when we are unable to be aware of it. We must realize that we might not always remember the One who will never forget. God has promised to keep on remembering us.

I wish to say something to those to whom God’s blessings are health and a sound mind. My walk with God began way before I became ill. The faith I have today is a result of the faith of yesterday. I did not wait until I became ill to start living for God. Your today is very precious. The things you do for God today will effect your tomorrow. As I look back on my years of ministry, it seems that each step ended before I was ready. I miss working with children on buses. I miss being a pastor. I miss being a Sunday School teacher and superintendent. Those days are behind me now. Today, my ministry is one of edification. Whatever God is allowing you to do for Him today; do it with all your heart. I am not trying to lift myself up in your eyes. I am rather hoping to lift your eyes to Him.

Every day God gives is a gift that should not be despised. If today was the last day you were able to serve God in the capacity that you do, how would you serve? The day will come to me and others with dementia were our service for God will be out of our hands. Until that day, take the gift of today and use your talent to serve God.

Article by David Wagner

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When God Goes Silent

There is absolutely NOTHING that creates a greater sense of despair and hopelessness than feeling that God has quit listening or speaking to you. Everyone has felt it — and if we were to be honest, most people LIVE with that feeling. Is that what God wants?  How can that be possible when Hebrews 13:5, which is referencing Joshua 1:5, says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee….”?  Was He lying? Does He take pleasure in seeing His children squirm, hurt, and cry? The Psalmist asked that exact same question in Psalm 102:1-2

1  Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee. 2  Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.

Again, look what David said in Psalm 55:6-7 … He wished he could sprout wings and just leave all of his problems:

 And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.  Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.

Depression sometimes got so bad for some in the Bible that they wanted to just die right there. Look at the cries of Jonah and Job:

Jonah 4:3  – Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

Job 3:11 – Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?

In all actuality, very little is said as to what goes through the mind of God when He does place Himself on “Mute” in our lives. In my studies and own experiences, I feel that the reality of the situation is this: WE are the ones who pressed the “Mute” button — we just didn’t realize it! It is not an act of defiance against our Creator, but rather it just happens — Has anyone accidentally rolled over and pressed a button on the remote? IT’S THAT SIMPLE — Most of the time, when God is Silent, we simply need to find the “remote” and get to enjoying life again… Look at an example of this in the life of Elijah the Prophet from 1 Kings 19.

1  And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2  Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. 3  And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer–sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. 4  But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

1. You Are Not Alone

The GREATEST heroes of Faith and Men of God suffered great depression and even wished for death! During times of “silence” and depression, never give in to the lie that you are just a poor Christian and no one else suffers. Just one chapter earlier, Elijah had called down fire from Heaven! That just goes to show that anyone, at anytime,  can fall into a “spiritual funk” if you will. Since we all experience seasons of “silence” at times, WHY does it happen at all? Point 2 …

2. It is hard to ACCEPT that which you do not UNDERSTAND

After the battle against Baal in the previous chapter, Elijah was confident that he was God’s man. He was on the “Mountain Top” spiritually, so to speak. What happened next no doubt took him by surprise: an execution order from Queen Jezebel! Certainly Elijah pondered about how this could be happening. When he didn’t have the answer HE RAN; unable to accept or understand this next chapter in his life.

Our “Execution Order” can come in variety of ways: Job Layoffs, Financial Turmoil, Family Issues, Illness, Loss of Loved Ones — The list goes on and on. When whatever the given situation hits, and we realize that it is BIGGER THAN US, we roll away from God. It is at that moment, that we accidentallyhit “mute” on God. I sometimes call it the “Recoil Effect” … A quick, knee-jerk reaction AWAY from who apparently “caused the pain”.

3. Routes of DELIVERANCE always open after our DEEPEST DISCOURAGEMENTS

The toughest part of an “escape route” is realizing that it actually is one…

 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. 6  And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. 7  And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.

Before God showed up to answer Elijah, He sent an angel. It would be 40 EXCRUCIATING DAYS before Elijah would have a one-on-one conversation with God. During the “Silent” mode, God knows that He is on “Mute” and wants to help. However, the help He sends often isn’t what we are looking for.  At times our “Angel” sent to refocus us may be a loving spouse. Other times it may be an event, an opportunity, a sermon, a visit … Whatever it is, it’s not the “answer” to our problem and we  far too often reject it. That is why the Angel came TWICE; because Elijah didn’t get it. He told Elijah in a sense, “Hey, I’m here to help … Eat and get yourself together!” It was the Angel that was sent that got Elijah to realize that he needed to get to God!

8  And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.  And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

4. FAILURE to FULLY rebound will FORFEIT God’s perfect plan for your FUTURE

Around our church I sometimes preface a point or principle as being an “IMO” or “In My Opinion”. This point would fall into that category because it is a little controversial. It seems that whenever you deal with GOD WILL, people get real defensive on what it all entails.

Elijah gets his audience with God and pours out his heart. He was upset that he felt like he was the only one trying to do right and serve God. In an amazing display of power, God sends a strong wind. Next, He follows it up with an earthquake, fire, and the “Still Small Voice”. After that display, God asks Elijah the same question He had asked earlier:

13  And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

Elijah, after an amazing display from God, had left Him on MUTE! Nothing had changed in his answer … And IN MY OPINION, Elijah turned in his “two weeks notice” as the Prophet of God. He was unable to shake the discouragement! IMMEDIATELY after that exchange, look what God commands:

15  And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: 16  And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel–meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.

With the exception of calling down fire one last time before he is taken to Heaven, Elijah performed no more miracles. With the exception of confronting Ahab over Naboth’s death, Elijah prophesied no more. There would even be an “unnamed” prophet doing Elijah’s work before turning the show over to Elisha.

We all have down times and dark days. There are times when we question whether God is listening at all. Just remember, God IS LISTENING — and the reason we can’t hear Him, is simply because we don’t want to…

Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me. – Psalm 86:6-7

Article by Kevin Crozier

@kevcrozier

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Finding Real Hope

“It’s hopeless.  You’re alone.  You’re trapped.  You are a failure.  No one cares. It will never change.  You’re doomed.  You can’t do anything about it, so why even try?  It’s over.”

Lies We Believe

These words ring out long and loud in many hearts. We hear the message so often, we begin to believe it: it’s hopeless!  Experts
predict that depression will be the second-most common health problem in the world by 2020.  Some will look for hope in relationships, in accomplishments, in more wealth, in better health.  Some will seek for it in pills or in a bottle, while others will try to find it through fantasy and escapism.  But all of these just leave us more empty, more broken, more hopeless… further from the truth, buried deeper in the pit of despair.  Just remember, John 8:44 reveals the source of these lies: Satan himself!

Mythbusters

According to leading psychology professors, in order to overcome hopelessness, you must “examine the emotional evidence” (Age of Anxiety, by Scioli & Biller).  We’ve got to refocus our attention onto the truths that will transform our emotional state from one of powerlessness to one of possibilities, from depression to determination, from overwhelmed to overcomer, from victim to victor.

These mythbusting truths are abundant in the Bible; we often refer to them as promises… God is with you: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).  Things that happen to you happen for a reason: “All things work together for good” (Romans 8:28).  You were made for a purpose: “We are his workmanship, created unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10).  God is greater than anything in this world: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  God’s thoughts are on you: “I know the thoughts I think toward you…to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11).

Keep the Door Open

Charles Allen said, “When you say a situation is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.”  Hope keeps the door open!  God is a God of the impossible… NOTHING is too hard for Him!  Jesus told his disciples (Mat. 19:26), “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  The truth is, the only hope we have sometimes is in God. No one is ever hopeless whose hope is in God!  The message of Ephesians 2:12 is simple: ‘Without Jesus, you are without hope.’ A new twist on the bumper-sticker says it best:  No Jesus, No Hope. Know Jesus, Know Hope!

If you’re experiencing a season of depression, it’s here for a reason.  Its likely God is allowing this in your life so you will turn to Him and find real & lasting hope.

 

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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