How to live in peace when there’s no escape!

Today’s Reading: Philippians 4:4-9

Key Verse: Philippians 4:9 (NLT)
9  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. 

It’s interesting to me that the Apostle Paul ends the book on the joy of the Gospel by addressing anxiety among believers. Life can be hard sometimes. We can become anxious about our marriage being shaky, our kids going through growing pains, our careers being uncertain, and our finances running out. The truth is, there is no escape from the challenges of life and the effects they can have on us. Anxiety can steal your joy and peace and create unnecessary tension in your life.

Here’s the question: How do we live with joy and peace when there’s no escape from the challenges of life? 

Paul reminds us that we should always rejoice in the presence of the Lord in every circumstance. We should cultivate a praying and grateful heart by thinking about the right things. The wrong things to meditate on are the things that are negative, out of your control, weaknesses, failures and events of the past. The right things to think about are things that are of God; his abiding presence, his unconditional love, his unending strength and power in your life.

Here’s the problem: We stop doing what we know to do when life is good. 

When life is going great we pray less, read his word less, meditate on scripture less and spend less time taking care of ourselves. The result of our inconsistency is a blind-side when something goes wrong.

Here’s the solution: The thing that shapes our lives the most is what we do consistently every day. 

Paul says to keep putting these things into practice. We have to think on the right things consistently, every day. The thoughts you dwell on create your emotions and your emotions determine your actions and how you approach life. The key principle here is to shape your thinking in a way that lines up with God’s word, his character, his presence, his power, and his love for you! But it has to be done consistently – every day!

Keep REACHING FORWARD to God’s best in your life by developing a consistent habit of thinking on the right things. May the God of peace be with you today!

Feel free to share your thoughts.

Why Church is not Enough!

I love my church! We have awesome church services from the worship to the preaching to the coffee in the cafe. Before and after services I get to see my friends and say hello to many people. I even get to have a conversation or two in order to get the three-minute update on what’s happening in someone’s life. As a pastor, I hear about the hurts, the pain, the needs and the prayer requests. I have the privilege of praying with a few. Even though I enjoy church and look forward to each service, church just simply isn’t enough.

Quality of life as a Christian is realized in community with others.

Jesus never intended for his followers to walk the Christian life alone. He sent his disciples out in pairs, met with people in their homes for a meal and discussions, and gathered a small group of people around him. Jesus set an example for us to follow when it comes to walking out the Christian life. The example that he set was that we are to live life in community with others. The early church in the book of Acts understood this. They lived a lifestyle of being in community with other believers. They went to church together, but they also met in homes and had meals together, worshiped and served one another. The result was more and more people came to know Christ, people were cared for, needs were met, they grew in the Apostles’ teaching and their lives were filled with joy!

Throughout the New Testament there are approximately 54 verses that refer to “one another” or “each other.” These verses are there for a reason. They are there to teach us how to be in relationship with one another. If our weekly church service was enough for us to live the Christian life, most of these verses would be unnecessary. God’s desire is for us to be in community with one another so that we do not take this journey alone. Meaningful relationships simply cannot be built on a three-minute conversation in the hallway on Sunday morning.

What happens when we do life together?

In small groups we grow in relationships. Here are just a few things that can occur:

Mark 9:50…we learn to be at peace with one another.

John 13:34…we love one another.

John 13:35…we demonstrate to the world that we are His disciples.

Rom 1:12…we encourage one another with our faith.

Rom 12:5…we are united with one another.

Rom 12:10…we are devoted to one another in brotherly love.

Rom 14:19…we build one another up.

Gal 5:13…we serve one another.

Gal 6:2…we bear one another’s burdens.

Eph 5:21…we are accountable to one another.

1 Thess 5:11…we encourage one another.

Heb 10:24…we have the support to reach our potential and purpose.

I love church and we need to gather together for corporate worship, celebration and hear the word preached. However, quality of life as a Christian comes through the building of relationships beyond the superficial level. When we begin to experience this kind of community with one another, we realize the true meaning of what the love of Christ is really all about.

Keep REACHING FORWARD to the fullness of Christ in your life! You can’t do it alone! Get in community with others!

Three steps to the lifestyle you will enjoy!

Do you feel like life is moving so fast that you are hardly in control of your own time? Perhaps you are frustrated, tired, weary, or unhappy. The problem could be that life has taken over and you feel like you no longer enjoy life the way you should. You have a longing in your heart to laugh, do something fun, or to simply look forward to your day rather than dread what’s coming.

You often here people talk about having a “balanced life.” I’m not so sure that a balanced life is the best way to describe the life you and I desire. Here’s why:

A lifestyle that is enjoyable is about doing the right things, not balancing many things. 

A balanced life infers that you have several different aspects of your life getting equal attention. The problem is that life has too many components to try and balance everything. In fact, most people are not enjoying life because they are trying to “balance” too many things.

The things that are right for you to be doing are going to vary depending on what life stage you’re in. A young couple with children have a different focus than an older couple who are empty nesters. A lifestyle you will enjoy is not about balancing a lot of different things in your life. An enjoyable lifestyle is about knowing what you should be doing versus how many things you can fit in.

Here are three steps to the lifestyle that you will enjoy.

An enjoyable lifestyle starts with what you know, continues with what you do, and is maintained by what you protect. 

1. What you need to know:

a. Know what’s necessary.

b. Know what’s enjoyable.

c. Know what brings meaning.

d. Know what you love to do.

e. Know your goals. (Hint: Are your goals right for you?)

2. What you need to do:

a. Do away with what you don’t need to be doing. Prune, prune, prune.

b. Do prioritize.

c. Do a daily schedule or plan to be intentional.

d. Do what’s on your daily schedule/plan.

e. Do a continuous evaluation to see if you’re doing what you need to do.

3. What you need to protect:

a. Protect your time.

b. Protect your relationships.

c. Protect your priorities.

d. Protect your fun.

e. Protect your health.

REACH FORWARD for the lifestyle that you so desire and deserve. God wants you to enjoy your life here on earth and find pleasure in all your endeavors. Being able to Know, Do, and Protect will release you from the frustration of the balancing act and free you to live life to the fullest! Above all else, know God and experience the abundant life He desires for you!

Comments welcome.

How to kick the holiday blues!

There is a heightened sensitivity among most people during the holiday season. Several times over the past two weeks I’ve heard comments like “there seems to be so many breakups over the holidays” or “there’s always a lot of tragedy during the holidays.” The truth of the matter is that there are probably no greater losses or tragedies during the holidays than any other time of the year. Tragedy, loss, breakups, family disputes, illness, financial struggles, strained relationships, and the like are all examples of loss and there is no “good” time for those things to occur.

The holidays often serve as markers for remembering past experiences that brought us pain. Each time we approach that marker we immediately associate it with the pain or misfortune of the past. We also have a memory of a fantastic holiday that we endeavor to duplicate to no avail. As the spirit of the holiday arises, many of us find ourselves getting the “holiday blues.”

How to kick the holiday blues

1. Remove the holiday as a marker for the past. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that “we have to interpret and give meaning to things in order to live and think.” We must reinterpret the holiday with a focus on what the holiday is really about. A correct interpretation of Christmas is as a marker for the birth of Christ, the Savior of the world! With this interpretation, we ought to find joy, peace, happiness, and love that is for us to share with others.

2. Set realistic expectations. We can place much unnecessary anxiety on ourselves by expecting everything to be perfect. In our efforts to create that perfection we become worn out, disgruntled and stressed. Keep priorities in focus, be yourself, and for goodness sakes, don’t overspend! (caveat: teach your children restraint and the true meaning of giving).

3. Delegate to others. For all you go getters that try to do it all yourself, delegate, delegate, delegate! You are not superhuman so stop trying to be. You don’t have to do all the shopping or cooking.

4. Volunteer. One of the greatest ways to beat the blues is to get our focus off of ourselves. Volunteer to help others. Serve at a food pantry, homeless shelter, church, or bake for the neighbor. Do something to serve someone who perhaps isn’t able. Look around, the need is there.

5. Give yourself a break. Make sure you plug some “me-time” into your schedule. Spend some time off during the holidays catching up on some reading, exercising, or just sit around with a cup of hot chocolate in the peace and quite.

I pray that you will keep REACHING FORWARD for joy and peace this Christmas season. Jesus is the reason for the season. Let’s join together in celebrating the birth of our Savior in fellowship with one another. Let’s choose joy! Let’s choose fun! Let’s choose to love!