Today, I was reminded on multiple levels how blessed I am to have community in my life. When I say “community”, I mean great co-workers, family, faith community, and friends who I can talk to. I am blessed with many who genuinely care. Because of my introverted tendencies, I could easily isolate myself and miss out on this blessing.
When I first had the courage to talk to someone about my struggle with depression, this pastor who also struggled told me the importance surrounding himself with people and doing things for others. He reminded me that isolation is breeding ground for the devil to tear people to shreds.
I almost find it hilarious that the devil tempted Jesus in Matthew 4 when Jesus was isolated. Jesus had removed Himself from the crowd and had been fasting and praying. The devil, knowing who Jesus is, still tried to tempt Jesus at His physically weakest moment. The devil even sunk so low as to twist Scripture. But Jesus had an arsenal.
Jesus began to correctly use Scripture against the devil. You and I can do the same. That’s why we better know what the Bible says and know what it means in context. God has given you all the tools you need, but we must be keenly aware that we are the devil’s prey when we isolate ourselves and refuse to dwell in Christian community. That’s why Hebrews 10:25 is in the Bible, not as a guilt trip for those who don’t attend a fancy building with a steeple and stained glass three times per week but to encourage us to not forsake getting together as believers for the purpose of encouragement as the days are becoming increasingly wicked.
When faced with the temptation to isolate yourself, pray for the courage to reach out. Even if it means picking up your phone. When God said “It is not good for man to be alone”, its implications go beyond God giving Adam a female companion. He wants you to have healthy community in your life.
I have heard those who know nothing about burnout or breakdown criticize those who have been through it. They have all the answers (so they think). The “spiritual” are especially critical and want to cast the first stone, accusing you of some sin(s) that brought you to this point. I would like to share some of my experience with burnout and breakdown and give some of what helped me. This is not a diagnosis or prescription for everyone across the board, but maybe you can identify.
- Bad boundaries. I was quick to do everything that someone asked of me. I did not use the word “no”. After taking on multiple projects that were outside of my gifting or time allowance, I found myself in a bad place.
- Bad motivation. First Corinthians 13 says that what we do should be motivated by love. Duty was my motivation. Because I did these things out of a feeling of obligation, I had no joy in doing things. When you lack joy, you burn out.
- Bad focus. Colossians 3:23 says we should do things as if we were doing them for the Lord. I was doing things to please me or someone else. The Lord had nothing to do with it.
- Quality time with Jesus. This involves being still and just listening. Sometimes you’re moved to praise Him. The key is enjoying His presence.
- Prioritize your overall health. That is physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Eat right and exercise. Do things that bring you joy and weed out negativity as much as possible. And do not neglect prayer, Bible study, and time with other believers.
When I hit the brick wall in 2012, I was pushing myself too hard. So much of my life was driven by obligation that I missed the joys of life. If you see yourself heading this way, these things may help. It’s better to address it now rather than later. It’s worth it!
I wish we who are married could say that we have had a conflict-free marriage. Some tend to be more “exciting” than they should be. I am thankful that my wife and I can discuss things in a civil manner, but as people who have been in previous marriages we have not always had that. I remember hearing one of my favorite evangelists say, “In 50 years, my wife and I have never gone to bed angry at one another.” I sat up because I wanted to know his secret. He continued, “We’ve stayed awake all night, but we’ve never gone to bed angry.”
You may wonder how your marital conflict can stay out of the World War III zone. You may do nothing but fight, yell, scream, and however else you choose to negatively express yourself. I would like to make a few suggestions of things I have learned from experience or from watching and listening to others.
- Understand your role in the relationship. Let me clarify that I am not coming from a “man bosses the woman around and the woman bows down to him” philosophy, nor am I coming from a “woman is the queen and should get whatever she wants even if it leads the couple to bankruptcy” philosophy. Husband and wife, you are partners. God has called the husband to lead the home, but lead does not mean to bark orders. You have a great responsibility to love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. That’s called sacrifice. No one dominates the other. You should coordinate not ask permission. Discuss your schedules. Discuss your finances. Be on the same page. If you’re not, ask God to put you on the same page.
- Don’t blow off offenses. You might wonder what I mean by that. I don’t mean to harbor them. When you are hurt or offended, don’t just say, “I’ll get over it” and push it to the side. Eventually it piles up. Before you know it, you have a ton of hurt that explodes like a time bomb. No wonder Paul said in Ephesians 4 to not let the sun go down on your wrath. When you do, it turns into bitterness.
- Put the other person before yourself. The biggest problem I see in marriages is selfishness. Men blow money on boats and lawn mowers, or women spend lavish amounts of money on clothing and put it all on credit. Or the husband acts like a baby until he and his wife go out to his favorite restaurant. Selfishness in relationships expresses itself in many ways. When one is always fighting to win, the other one caves in begrudgingly. When both are type-A personalities who fight for their way, it’s a nightmare. Philippians 2 says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” He is talking about humility. I love what Dolly Parton said in the movie “Straight Talk”: “Get down off that cross because somebody needs the wood.”
- To those who may not be married, don’t let the physical cloud your thinking before you marry. Many couples have a primarily sexual relationship prior to marriage and think that marriage is going to be all about good sex and satisfaction. Then reality hits. You tried before you bought, thinking your multiple test drives divorce-proofed your marriage. If you didn’t live together, you were really in for a shock. I’m not condoning living together or having sex before marriage. God planned it this way for a reason. You might say, “Well my marriage didn’t work.” You may have married out of God’s will, or the person you married chose to violate God’s will. God sets pre-marital boundaries because He wants Christ-centered relationships not hormone-centered relationships. He wants a couple to have a good foundation before they ever marry.
I realize that what I have shared definitely contradicts modern thought. I just share what the Bible says about these matters. It is up to us whether we chunk God’s Word out the window or embrace it as the final authority of our life.
Some of these things I learned the hard way. I made mistakes, ignorantly and some knowingly, and I try to help others on this journey. If you want a joy-filled marriage, I recommend this order of priority:
J – Jesus
O – Others
Y – You
I know you want to. Seriously, many of you have probably been on one without your consent. Someone came along and told you that you should be ashamed of yourself for telling the church nominating committee no when they asked you to teach the youth or how the wrath of God was going to be poured out on you because you missed a church service.
While sometimes God does call us to bring something to someone’s attention, Scripture says that it is the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. A genuine Christian has the Holy Spirit who will convict a person of sin. Those who do not have a relationship with Christ will be convicted by the Holy Spirit of their sinful condition and drawn to repentance and faith in Christ.
Someone recently asked me how I go about converting my hospice patients. My answer: “I don’t. I am simply the messenger. I tell people how to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. God does a much better job working in their hearts than I do.” I can tell multiple stories of how God worked in changing hearts. I was never forceful. I never used scare tactics or made anyone feel guilty, and God still drew them to the point of salvation.
You might have someone in your family who dreads being around you because you constantly hound them about their need for Jesus or their need to quit some sinful lifestyle. The greater thing to do is pray that God will change their hearts. Acts 9 records the story of God radically changing a man who killed Christians. That man ended up becoming a follower of Christ and writing most of the New Testament.
You may be an addict, a thief, a murderer, or a sex offender, but you are never too far gone that Jesus can’t change you. God will never force you to Himself. He lovingly draws you by the Holy Spirit through the message of the gospel. To those who guilt trip, I will say this as lovingly as possible – Please step back, pray, and let God do His perfect work. Then give Him the glory when your prayer is answered.
Many of you may remember this phrase from the prayer of Jabez found in I Chronicles 4. I have prayed that frequently throughout my years in ministry. In every season of life, it has meant something different.
In this season, I never imagined how it would be. God has increased my territory through an online audience. I now receive messages from those who read this blog. These people are from various parts of the world who reach out to me. I am honestly humbled. I began this blog to satisfy my itch to write and get a message out. God has used it to expand my territory for His glory.
The most recent endeavor is a partnership that is slowly growing. I met TJ Petri through dontlabelmykid.wordpress.com. We have both been through forms of treatment that are nothing more than ideas that pad pockets. He and I have a heart to provide authentic help in various areas of mental and spiritual health, nutritional health by Mike Carey, and help with addiction, parenting, and countless other issues that we all face. I also have a heart for pastors and other ministry leaders. We are providing our services to give people more than a bandaid. We want them to have permanent victory.
We are excited to introduce our Facebook page, Don’t Label My Kid Coaching Team. Please go there, like the page, and inquire about the services provided.
We look forward to serving you in the near future.
I believe that one’s conduct on Facebook often reflects one’s personality. This is an expansion of a previous post, but I think you will find this funny and even identify to some degree. So let’s look at the various Facebook personalities.
- The counterfeit. This person tends to glamorize everything he or she does, but the truth is much less glamorous. The counterfeit is all about keeping up appearances.
- The obsessed. The obsessed Facebooker posts a play-by-play of everything. You will know about every snack, meal, and every activity you can possibly think of.
- The self-absorbed. They will post all about their life and never comment, like, or acknowledge someone else’s posts unless they have something to gain.
- The busybody. Busybodies either have a Facebook profile to simply know what everyone else is doing while never posting or commenting, or they are all up in your business, sending you private messages to find out the latest and greatest about you (or not so greatest).
- The stalker. Stalkers are close relatives to busybodies. They look your profile up and down, analyzing every post, every comment, and will often reveal themselves by commenting on and liking multiple posts within a 5-minute period.
- The fair weather. Fair weather Facebookers will be your friend only when you make them happy. If you do something they don’t like, they are quick to unfriend or even block you. Some will even come back to you multiple times.
- The pot-stirrer. This person LOVES drama. He or she will always be starting something. If there is somewhere they can divide and turn people against each other, they are there.
- The pessimist. Every post is all about what they don’t have, how they’ve been mistreated, what went wrong at work, etc. This person’s Facebook profile will send you into a deep depression.
Do you have one to add? I know this cannot be exhaustive, but these are the top Facebook personalities that come to mind. Did you find yourself in here? Please share your thoughts.
I know some of you who are reading this are acting like I just used God’s name in vain or slapped you in the face. I have heard from countless people about what a pastor should or should not do, and they have no Bible to back it up. Some family member, deacon, or other misinformed person said, “The preacher should…” or “If the preacher doesn’t do this or that, we should fire him.”
I’m going to be so bold and daring and ask this question: If you love God enough and say you’re His child, why wouldn’t you be willing to visit the sick, talk about the Lord, feed the homeless, help encourage a grieving family, or any other thing people say only pastors are supposed to do? Is it that you don’t get paid for it? Do you expect it from the pastor because he gets payment from the church with part of your tithe? (The sad part is that some who expect so much from the pastor don’t give a dime or time to the Lord. Did you notice I said “to the Lord” and not “to the preacher” or “to the church”?)
I used to be bothered by church members who walked up to me like a hired hand and told me to do something. They had these great ideas and were physically capable to help, but they expected me to do so since I was paid by the church. The last time I checked, we are co-laborers. We work together. No one person is more important than another although we function differently in the body of Christ.
Let me leave you with this Scripture about humility and servitude: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:5-11 KJV
Many of my readers know that I stepped out in faith to start a church in January. I had no money, no Ministry team, and one or two other families that I knew would potentially join me. I took the leap, knowing that the idea is extremely crazy in a place where churches are almost on every corner.
I also knew that my vision from God would be no easy task. Starting a nondenominational church in denominational territory is either misunderstood or not understood at all. Going after people who are either disillusioned with church as they know it or those who have been ostracized by the traditional church is a huge challenge. And the vision to be multi-ethnic in a rural area that is still very segregated pretty much sounds impossible. I asked God why He would pick me, and I continue to ask God that weekly. It is certainly not because I have this amazing talent to do these things. It is because He wants to do a miracle and use me in the process. This will probably take a long time, but I cannot give up on God’s desire to build something healthy here in our area. I’m not saying that all the other faith communities aren’t healthy, but many aren’t. We need more with this kind of vision.
I would ask you to pray for us. Please pray for God to send us people who are called to lead and serve in worship, student ministry, and children’s ministry. Ask God to send us those who understand addiction and abuse and know how to help people be Overcomers in this area. Join us in asking God to send us people of different ethnicities to be a part of what He is doing here. Ask God to break down the walls that divide so that we may see an unprecedented unity in our midst.
To the blogging community and other readers, I love and appreciate you all. You have encouraged me since I began blogging and have cheered me on to be the best I can possibly be in every area of life. God bless you all. If I can pray for you or assist you in any way, do not hesitate to reach out to me.
I recently posted about how to build a church. I don’t know if some of the readers were looking for the latest formula, but I laid out the truth that the Lord has to build the house. What if He does? What if God really sends you more people? What do you do?
- Make sure growth drives any changes. A pastor I worked with a few years ago has lived by this principle. Don’t go to two Sunday morning services because it’s “cool” or go into a building program when your seating capacity is only 1/4 full. Growth must demand the change.
- Do a trial run with the change. The same pastor mentioned before told the church, “We will try this for a month. If it doesn’t work, we’ll learn the lesson and move forward.”
- Teach the church through the change. Your body of believers will accept it better when they can see the proof, understand it from Scripture, and know that it is not the agenda of a pastor or committee. This teaching should lead up to the change. Don’t wait and use your preaching to clean up a mess!
- Always rely on the Holy Spirit. Prayer and Scripture must guide you in ALL things! People will accept a God-idea before they will anything else.
These truths are fundamental. Most of these I learned from the ministries of others. Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun. If you are a pastor or someone who leads an organization, these things may not perfectly fit your context but it will benefit you to allow the situation to drive the change rather than force an idea on someone just to fluff your résumé.
I am amazed by how many people disagree over this subject. Some people use this verse as their proof text that God wants Christians to be uneducated and ignorant: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 KJV). Sounds like God makes ignorance sound spiritual, right? But look closely at this. The emphasis is not on their lack of education but on the fact that they had been with Jesus. Something in their life and conduct indicated that they had encountered and had learned from the Lord Jesus. The time you spend with the Lord supersedes any education a textbook or professor can give, but Scripture does not condemn education.
Paul was a very educated man. During the days of his education, he was also religious (not a follower of Christ). Apollos was another person in Scripture whose education is addressed. “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus (Acts 18:24 KJV).” Both, along with some of the other disciples, were educated and skilled. The big picture is that God uses all people with all varying levels of education and backgrounds to accomplish His purpose.
My grandmother is a prime example of someone who understood the balance here. She had an eighth grade education, but she never used that as an excuse to refrain from learning and being knowledgeable about life and current events. She understood what Paul said to Timothy: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV).” She did the grunt work and studied to be the best she could in every endeavor, especially in her relationship with Christ.
A lack of education does not indicate ignorance, nor does a number of college degrees indicate intelligence. The importance thing is that you walk with the Lord and allow Him to teach you what only the Spirit of God can teach you through the Word of God.