Friday, July 15, 2016

California law requires teaching homosexual relations

California law requires teaching homosexual relations
Dr. Jim Denison
July 12, 2016
A popular Baptist pastor has resigned from the school board in Bakersfield, California. The reason: a new California law mandates that middle and high schools teach students how to have safe homosexual sex and how to get an abortion. It also requires schools to teach that gender is not aligned with biological sex. The pastor broke the law by voting against adopting the new legislation into policy and could be sued.

These are unprecedented days for Christians in America. Another California bill would restrict religious liberty to seminaries, jeopardizing the freedom of Christian colleges across the state. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission required that churches adopt transgender bathroom regulations and changed its stance only when a public outcry ensued.

A theologian responded to the California school law and other assaults on religious liberty: "It is time to . . . abandon the myth that the world is run by people who respect difference and diversity, and that all we need to do is behave decently in order to win their respect and earn their favor. They do not think that way. They will never think that way. And they will crush those who do. By any means necessary." The California pastor told his congregation, "We must prepare the church to live as sojourners in a foreign land, a land that feels more foreign by the day."

Here's the good news: Our Father is able to lead us where we've never been before.

In Joshua 3, God called the people to follow him across the flooded Jordan River and into their promised land, "for you have not passed this way before" (v. 4). When you are going where you've never been, it is essential that you trust and follow a guide who knows what you do not.

For their part, the people were to "consecrate" themselves (v. 5), paying the price in personal holiness to walk closely with a holy God. Then they were to follow their Lord in courage, stepping into the river while it was at flood stage.

Here's what happened when they did: "The waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off" (v. 16).

The town of Adam was some twenty miles upstream. The river would take several hours to flow from there to the place where the people were camped. So God began this miracle long before his people knew it or could participate in it. He timed the stopping of the river so that the last of the water would reach them just as they stepped into it by faith. As a result, the people marched into their Promised Land.

The river before us is at flood stage and rising. But our Lord is more powerful than any challenge we face. His will is still "good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). We can still do all things through him who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

So let us step into the flood with courage, standing for truth with grace. And "let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9). Corrie ten Boom was right: "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."
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Four Simple Ways to Help Friends Who are Hurting

Four Simple Ways to Help Friends Who are Hurting (and an Update on My Husband)

Yesterday felt like a normal day: my husband went off to accomplish a full day's work, the kids and I ran errands, and I squeezed in a bit of writing before cooking dinner. After the past month, I've a newfound gratefulness for these mundane tasks and everyday occasions. A normal day is very much a good day.

My senses were heightened by my husband's accident, likely because his were dulled by the severity of his concussion. With everything in our lives under my care, I've been on red alert for weeks, unable to sleep well, constantly protective of my husband, and trying to give my children a summer at least somewhat unaffected by our circumstances.

I slept for two hours last Friday afternoon, went to sleep again at 9 that evening, and then slept for two hours on Saturday afternoon. That's telling, not only of how exhausting and stressful this tremulous situation has been, but that I was finally able to sleep so soundly. Something has shifted. My husband is slowly coming back to himself; we are returning to normal. 

That's not to say that everything will return to normal. At least I hope not. Funny how difficult trials release to the surface what's been held down at the depths of the heart. We've been no exception in our own trial, as we've experienced the urgency of our idols--idols of busyness, self-sufficiency, self-importance, and control, idols begging for attention we've not been able to give in our weakness and desperation. What a blessing to see them so clearly, to have a moment to stop the treadmill of life and look around a bit, to realize that there are in fact ways we're living that are making us crazy and dishonoring to God and one another. I'm taking furious notes as the Lord begins to draw conclusions in my heart, and I'm praying for God to do the work He wants to do in us.

I also have taken copious notes on how to minister to others who are in crisis, because we've been so generously ministered to by God's people. I could tell you stories--many of them--of how God prepared to care for us in advance, and how the simple words and actions of others brought me to tears. Online readers, thank you for your messages and prayers. In-real-life friends, thank you for every meal, card, text, hug, prayer, and email. You've helped us through. I've taken notes from you, so I can remember what to do when someone I love is in crisis. Actually, I took notes for all of us. Here's what I've learned about coming alongside sufferers from those who have done it well for me:
Take action, any action. Don't wait for someone else to take the lead. Don't wait for permission from your hurting friend or wait for her to ask for help. People in pain don't actually know what they need, but they are relieved when you offer specific help. Text them something like this: "I'd like to bring you a meal. Is tonight or tomorrow better?" Offer to take a caregiver's children so they can rest. Send gift cards for food delivery. Write a card and drop it in the mail. It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as you do something.

Check back in again. In our situation, I didn't feel that we needed anything just after the accident, but as time stretched on, life became much more unmanageable for me. After putting people off at the start, I didn't know how to ask for help when I actually needed it, so it was extremely helpful when friends checked back in with me about needs or simply brought over food.

Acknowledge the emotions and stress of the situation. Meeting physical needs is so helpful, but hurting people equally appreciate when their friends acknowledge the difficulties inherent in unexpected circumstances. One of the best things someone said to me was, "There isn't a right way of doing this." She was referring to my caregiver role and the communication role I'd taken for my husband, and her words gave me permission to not be OK. In whatever way you do it--even if it's just a simple hug and an "I'm praying for you," it's vital to acknowledge what is happening for the ones who are suffering.

Send passages of Scripture. Stress, uncertainty, and emotions can certainly cloud our ability to think clearly. In the weeks after Kyle's accident, I found it difficult to focus when I'd open my Bible. I needed to be able to think about our circumstances through the lens of God's love for me and for my husband, but I sometimes felt too exhausted to even think at all. When friends or church members would send me passages of Scripture, it was like a drink of water in a parched land and an instant perspective shifter. They pointed me toward my Rock and one true sense of hope.

I've been told that it will take up to two months for Kyle to be at 100%. We're definitely getting there! Yesterday, he worked out for the first time since the accident, his sense of humor (one of my favorite things about him) has returned, and he'll be back in the pulpit this Sunday. Good things, all.

Many other good things are also on the horizon: I turn 40 on July 24 (another good time to stop and evaluate life, right?), and I will soon be sharing all the details about my new book, Messy Beautiful Friendship, which is already up for pre-order on Amazon even though it releases next April.

How about a few other good things? 

1) Remember the friend I asked you to pray for? Her brother suffered a much more severe brain injury than what Kyle did in the very same week. The doctors weren't sure if he would live, but I'm happy to report that he is doing well and is in rehab in Atlanta. Praise God!

2) Some of you are drowning in "not good enough" this summer. You're obsessed with comparing yourself to other believers and with trying to figure out what you're "supposed" to be doing as a Christian. There is no joy or freedom in that place, and I can say that from years of personal experience. My good news for you is that I wrote all about these very things in my book, From Good to Grace, and the ebook version is only $1.99 through July 14 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble! Grab it, girl!
3) And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have been reading and listening to the beautiful voices speaking out about the turmoil in our country. I will be writing more about racial division and my hope for racial reconciliation through the gospel in the coming weeks, but I wanted to share a few posts that I've found helpful as I've been prayerfully considering this issue. I'm thankful for those who are speaking up:

How Talking to Your Kids About Race Helps Fulfill the Great Commission by Judy Wu Dominick
Trillia Newbell is doing a wonderful series on racial harmony.
Spanning the Racial Divide with Authentic Love by Sarah Beals
Lastly, I wrote a little something on Facebook about what I've learned from my black friends.

Again, thank you for your prayers and concern for me and for my family. Let me know what good things God is doing in your life right now. I'd love to celebrate with you!
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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Why Christians Should Stop Saying “Prayer Works” (and 2 Other Things)

Why Christians Should Stop Saying “Prayer Works” (and 2 Other Things)

Prayer Works
“Just because God is silent doesn’t mean God is absent.”
One reason people stay away from Christianity is not because they don’t know any Christians.
It’s often because they do.
Our actions and our words as followers of Jesus have the power to attract or repel people from Christianity.
The number of people who never go to church or follow Jesus keeps growing. And their thinking keeps changing too (I’ve outlined 15 characteristics of unchurched people here).
So what can we do about it?
Well, in addition to modeling humility, grace, truth, love and so many other things that describe the earliest Christ followers, we Christians can watch our words.
This post was originally inspired by a piece by Scott Dannemiller, in which Dannemiller urged Christians to stop saying “feeling blessed” whenever something good came their way. He makes a thoughtful, insightful argument around that.
In that vein, here are three other things Christians should really stop saying.

1. Prayer works

Should we really stop saying that prayer works?
Well, yes and no.
Most people who say prayer works these days really mean God did what I wanted him to do. As if prayer was a button to be pushed to release exactly what they wanted from the vending machine.
Prayer is not a button to be pushed; it’s a relationship to be pursued.
Prayer does ‘work’; but it works very differently than we’d like. It still ‘works’:
When we can’t trace out any direct result from our prayer.
When the opposite of what we prayed for happens.
In those moments when we feel very distant from God.
When we bang down the door of heaven for years and are not sure anything is going on up there at all.
There are scores of people inside and outside the church whose spirits are crushed because they prayed (fervently) and:
They didn’t get the job.
Their mom died of cancer.
Their child was born without a heartbeat.
They ended up in a car crash that left them permanently disabled.
Prayer doesn’t ‘work’ because I got what I wanted and they didn’t.
The parade of saints across the centuries would have been shocked to see prayer reduced to God-doing-what-I-asked-him-to-do-when-I-asked-him-to-do-it. God is not a puppy to be trained or a chef in the kitchen who prepares food to suit our every whim. He is sovereign.
As Richard Foster says:
For those explorers in the frontiers of faith, prayer was no little habit tacked on to the periphery of their lives; it was their lives. It was the most serious work of their most productive years. Prayer—nothing draws us closer to the heart of God.
Do things happen supernaturally when we pray? Well, yes they do. But often in ways we cannot understand or even trace out.
I think Christians can take consolation in the fact that when we pray, we often don’t know what to pray for or even how to pray, yet the scriptures tell us the Holy Spirit will translate the prayer into something better than we could phrase in the moment.
So pour your heart out to God. Pray about the things the scripture says are close to God’s heart. And when something ‘goes your way,’ be grateful and offer it back to the God who gave it to you.
And when things don’t go your way, understand that God is still very much in control and very much loves you. Just because God is silent doesn’t mean God is absent.

2. God told me to…

Often, you hear people (and pastors) say things that start with, “God told me to…”
The longer I follow Jesus, the more hesitant I am to say God told me to do anything specific. Maybe that’s an issue I need to work on, but it springs from my observation that I’ve seen this misused far more than I’ve seen it used well or authentically.
In fact, I’ve often noticed that the more outrageous the claim, the more likely someone is to say, “God told me to…”
When I hear someone claim God told them to do something, I feel like saying:
God told you to do that? Really? God himself spoke directly to you and told you to specifically build that building for which you have zero money? Or leave that church that you were in deep conflict with without resolving things? Or buy that house that’s way out of your price range? Wow!
Are you sure it wasn’t the pizza? Or the voice in your head that often tells you to do the things you simply feel like doing?
For the record, I believe there are times when God does speak to people today. But let’s be realistic. What made me put this phrase on the list is the number of times I have heard the phrase used to describe a decision that is:
Selfishly motivated (come on, admit it…you’re justifying your impulses).
Contrary to scripture (the scriptures pretty clearly suggest that what you’re doing is sinful…or at least isn’t wise).
Designed to shut down debate (does anyone really think they can win a “God told me” debate?).
I’m not saying God never tells us anything directly, but I am suggesting it happens far less than most of us claim.
So what’s a better course?
Say something like, “Based on what I know from scripture, I believe this is the best/boldest/wisest course of action.”
That makes sense. And then you can have an intelligent discussion.
And you don’t pull the God card to justify something about which Christians and others can have a legitimate discussion.
Or, if you’re just trying to shut down debate, just be honest. I wanted to do it, so I did it. There. Now you said it and everyone will feel better.
If you’re dead honest, you might even realize you made a crazy decision.

3. I could really feel God’s presence

You’ve heard this before. We live in an emotional age and we’ve arrived at a place where many of us feel like we’ve become mini-authorities on when God is present and when God is not.
But analyze that.
The truth is, we tend to feel God’s presence more:
When the band played our favorite song.
When the band played five of our favorite songs in a row.
When the room was packed.
When the decision went our way.
When we felt happy during our quiet time.
Is God only present when we feel him?
Or better yet, is God’s presence synonymous with our ability to detect it?
Well, of course not.
So why do we insist on speaking like it is?
Nowhere did God promise that the Holy Spirit is a feeling or an emotion.
Jesus did explain to us that the Spirit is a Person and moves freely. The Holy Spirit is bigger than our emotions and not subject to our editorial commentary about whether he is present or not.
I have had moments when I believe I felt the presence of God palpably.
But God is just as present:
On our worst days as he is on our best days.
When we are uncomfortable as when we are comfortable.
When we are hurting as when we are healing.
And sometimes…the room was just full, and the band was just really good.
We need to learn to trust in God’s presence especially in those moments we suspect he’s absent.

What if?

What if Christians started having more intelligent, less consumer-oriented, deeper conversations with people?
What if our relationship with Christ was grounded more deeply in God’s character and less in the constantly shifting circumstances we see around us?
I’m thinking the dialogue inside and outside the church would be so much healthier for it.
What do you think?

Is There Such Thing as a Private Relationship With God?

Is There Such Thing as a Private Relationship With God?

Private Relationship
Personal, yes. Private, no.
I’ve run into a lot of people in my life who seem to think that their relationship with God is for them to know and for others to not worry about. And while I agree with them to a certain extent, the biblical text is clear that our relationships with God are called to be anything but private. Personal, yes. Private, no.
One group of passages that I frequently refer to in regards to one’s call to a life of public faith is Matthew 5:14-16, which states the following,
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
The core message in these verses is quite clear; that in the same way one wouldn’t light a lamp and then cover it to dilute its sole purpose, a Christian isn’t to discover the hope of Jesus and never share nor keep it hidden from the public eye. The life and deeds of a Christ-follower should exude out of you. This would completely contradict the calling of the Great Commission: “to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).”
It just doesn’t make any sense to stay quiet in a world that parades darkness and deceit. Our faith was made to be public. To be shared. To be discussed with those we come across. So what does this mean? It means that you’re called to be a shining example of a Christ-follower in all that you do, no matter what you do, no matter where you are, no matter who you come into contact with.
I guess I just have a hard time grasping the idea that someone can be fully devoted to Christ, yet hidden as it pertains to the public knowledge of that faith. I understand strategic evangelism as it pertains to countries where Christianity is illegal, but we as Americans really have no excuse to be silent when it comes to the existence of our relationships with God. I’m not saying you need to be on the street corner with a banner that says I Love Jesus!, but I am saying you should have no issue letting people know who you’ve given your life to. We’re called to live unashamed to the fullest extent.
“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile” —Romans 1:16
When our lives get caught up in the beauty of The Gospel, we realize our existence is no longer about us but instead the many facets that make up the person of Christ. Our vocations as Christ-followers is to share The Gospel; the alluring and jaw-dropping beauty of The Gospel. Let your faith be known and your faith be strong. Don’t keep your relationship with God private, but instead outspoken and grace-filled.

Getting Unstuck From Depression

Getting Unstuck From Depression

Unstuck From Depression
“Depression and extreme anxiety can be a crippling state to be in.”
Depression and extreme anxiety can be a crippling state to be in. If you’ve never experienced it, consider yourself fortunate. Chances are, however, in some way you have. The statistics suggest that those in America going through some sort of depression and anxiety is a very large number indeed.
There are plenty of things that people would suggest to do. Certainly as a marriage and family therapist, I think counseling is a very wise choice. Still, sometimes the paralyzing effects can make it difficult to do anything at all. Before you’re even aware, you can find yourself stuck. Even if you are in counseling, sometimes an episode or trigger might hit when no one is around to pull you out of it. I have developed three questions to help when you find yourself struggling in this way. They are designed to just get you moving again. These aren’t quick fixes. In terms of depression and anxiety there are no quick fixes. If you have experienced depression consistently I would highly suggest you seek counseling. In the short run, however, this may be the very thing that allows you to make the call.

Why does this bother me?

Depending on what the situation entails, this question can seem very obvious. For instance if you were just fired, my son would say the answer is, “duh.” However, underneath there is a reason why being fired bothers you. Although this is a common trigger for most people it is not for all people. Still, in terms of depression and anxiety, often the things that trigger us aren’t as obvious or monumental as this particular example. Often the things that commonly trigger us aren’t things that most would label obvious at all.
Regardless of the severity of the situation, determining what bothers you could be a very important step. You can probably think of some things that don’t bother you that tend to bother most people. We don’t notice these things because they seem innocuous. In the state of emotional strain we seem to only focus on the negative. There is a reason that this particular thing is bothering you. Almost always it points to something else. Maybe that something else is an insecurity, or a past wound, or a message that is particularly threatening to you. Maybe it’s the current state you are in and how this particular situation affects that. For instance if we use the example of being fired, it may bother you because you were living paycheck to paycheck or that you feel like this firing was unjust. By identifying what’s underneath, what’s making this a particularly emotionally charged situation, and/or why this bothers you, it will put you in a position for the next question.
When we feel controlled or we try to control things we cannot control…we feel crazy. That’s not an official diagnosis. Certainly it can express itself in different ways. On the mild end sometimes it’s feeling overwhelmed or frazzled. On the larger end it can be extreme anxiety or depression.
So, one thing that can help us move from being bothered to feeling a little bit more stable is to ask:

What can I control?

Certainly, overall there is only one person that you can control. That person is you. Often this question can really help us focus in on the times we’re trying to control other people or other people’s choices. Those actions can only make depression worse.
Although making sure you’re only controlling yourself is an important step, for this question to make the most impact you have to think beyond to what you can control in the particular situation. Often it may be the environment, or how you deal with what’s happening that’s out of your control, or even just taking a moment to use this as a growth moment. The thing about depression and anxiety is the fact that it does not last forever. I know it seems like it will, but it doesn’t. Depression comes in episodes and in great waves. In fact, it’s very much like being tossed around by large waves where half the time you’re battling against the tide to stay alive and the other half you’re passed out, exhausted, waiting for the next wave to hit. Knowing that means you can use this particular trigger to think about what you’re going to do the next time it happens. Despite the fact that it often feels like it will never end and there is nothing you can control, it simply isn’t true. There’s always something you can control. It is essential that you find the thing that you can actually control rather than get stuck in a spiral and feel crazy.
Another small trap that people get into is trying to control the end result. Let’s use a 10-point scale to represent this situation. If we say 10 is coming out of this healthier and happier, where would you say you are right now? Let’s say for this example you are at a 2. Oftentimes, people try to figure out how to go straight to 10. That 10 destination can seem so far away that you can feel overwhelmed and hopeless. However, in reality we don’t go from 2 to a 10 on a 10-point scale. We go from a 2 to a 3. So the next question is a very important one.

What do I need to do now?

In just a moment I’ll give you two supplementary questions that will help you hone in on this, but for now let’s just look at this particular question. You’ll want to place particular emphasis on the word “need” and the word “now.”
Just finding the very next step can be essential in the pursuit of getting unstuck and moving. That’s where the “now” comes in. Don’t think about what you need to do to fix the whole thing. Think about what you need to do next. It’s amazing what one small step can open up in terms of options and momentum.
Sometimes this can be a really broad question. So here are two supplementary questions that can help you hone in on determining that next step.

Supplementary #1: What is the wisest next step?

Sometimes there are several things possible. Not all things, however, are wise. For instance, if you were just fired you may have the ability and desire to tell off your boss. That probably isn’t the wisest next step. Now that you’ve established what the real problem is and what you can control, think about what is wise to do next. This can really help you get some momentum in the right direction.

Supplementary #2: What do I want most?

Hal Runkel, founder of the ScreamFree Institute, has defined failure as choosing what you want right now over what you want most. I think that is brilliant! Often the thing that we want right now is actually going to make it more difficult to get what we want most. What we want right now may be connection with our spouse. By choosing to be petty when our spouse hurts us may feel good right now, but we will do a lot to create disconnection rather than the connection we want most. This is definitely true in terms of trying to overcome the lethargy of depression. You might only have enough energy to do one thing. It’s important that the one thing you do actually moves you toward the path you want to go. For instance, if you’ve just been fired and you determine that the real problem is income, then the wisest next step for what you want most would be finding short-term ways to bring in income while you try to get a long-term job. That first step may simply be making a list of things to check on in terms of income or making a list of potential places that you can cut money in the budget. It might even be making a list of places to send a resume. Remember, this is just a next step. Often the next step may be just gaining enough information so that we can make a wise next effort.
As I mentioned in the beginning, in my counseling practice these questions have been monumental in helping people deal with depression and crippling anxiety. They’re not quick fixes, magic bullets or the answers to all problems. However, they can be a light at the end of the tunnel and hope to get you moving. Hopefully they will provide that for you.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Why Does God Allow Evil? #NeverForget

Why Does God Allow Evil? #NeverForget

By Pastor Rick Warren
Editor’s Note: The following article by Pastor Rick Warren originally ran just after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on American soil. The Ministry Toolbox launched six months prior. These words were on Pastor Rick’s heart as he addressed Saddleback Church and the world’s pastors that fateful week…
The horrific mass murder of innocent Americans leaves all rational people shocked, angry, grief-stricken and numb. Our tears flow freely and our hearts carry a deep ache. How could this happen in our nation?
As mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors and coworkers begin to share their stories of the horror, this tragedy will become even more personal. As it becomes more personal, it will become more painful, and as our pain deepens, so will the questions. Why does God allow evil to happen? If God is so great and so good, why does he allow human beings to hurt each other?
The answer lies in both our greatest blessing and our worst curse: our capacity to make choices. God has given us a free will. Made in God’s image, he has given us the freedom to decide how we will act and the ability to make moral choices. This is one asset that sets us apart from animals, but it also is the source of so much pain in our world. People, and that includes all of us, often make selfish, self-centered and evil choices. Whenever that happens, people get hurt.
Sin is ultimately selfishness. I want to do what I want, not what God tells me to do. Unfortunately, sin always hurts others, not just ourselves.
God could have eliminated all evil from our world by simply removing our ability to choose it. He could have made us puppets, or marionettes on strings that he pulls. By taking away our ability to choose it, evil would vanish. But God doesn’t want us to be puppets. He wants to be loved and obeyed by creatures who voluntarily choose to do so. Love is not genuine if there is no other option.
Yes, God could have kept the terrorists from completing their suicidal missions by removing their ability to choose their own will instead of his. But to be fair, God also would have to do that to all of us. You and I are not terrorists, but we do harm and hurt others with our own selfish decisions and actions.
You may hear misguided minds say, “This must have been God’s will.” Nonsense!
In a world of free choices, God’s will is rarely done! Doing our own will is much more common. Don’t blame God for this tragedy. Blame people who ignored what God has told us to do: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
In heaven, God’s will is done perfectly. That’s why there is no sorrow, pain or evil there. But this is earth, a fallen, imperfect place. We must choose to do God’s will everyday. It isn’t automatic. This is why Jesus told us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
The Bible explains the root of evil: “This is the crisis we’re in: God’s light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness … because they were not really interested in pleasing God” (John 3:19, Message Translation). We’re far more interested in pleasing ourselves.
There are many other questions that race through our minds during dark days. But the answers will not come from pollsters, pundits or politicians. We must look to God and his Word. We must humble ourselves and admit that each of us often choose to ignore what God wants us to do.
No doubt houses of worship across America will be packed in the coming days. In a crisis we cry out for a connection with our Creator. This is a deep-seated, universal urge. The first words uttered by millions on Sept. 11 were “Oh God!”
We were made for a relationship with God, but he waits for us to choose him. He is ready to comfort, guide and direct us through our grief. But it’s your choice.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Top 5 Reasons Why 700 Pastors Quit Before Retirement

Top 5 Reasons Why 700 Pastors Quit Before Retirement

“Almost half of those who left the pastorate said their church wasn’t doing any of the kinds of things that would help.”
LifeWay Research presented recent study findings highlighting a few deficiencies in churches today, which are unintentionally pushing pastors out. In a survey of “734 former senior pastors who left the pastorate before retirement age in four Protestant denominations,” we see five main reasons why pastors step away from the pulpit.
Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research Executive Director said, “Almost half of those who left the pastorate said their church wasn’t doing any of the kinds of things that would help. Having clear documents, offering a sabbatical rest, and having people help with weighty counseling cases are key things experts tell us ought to be in place.”
Almost half of the former pastors said the search team “didn’t accurately describe the church before their arrival.” This discrepancy causes a downward spiral when pastors and staff members disagree with proposed changes.
Here is what the study found:
“Their churches were unlikely to have a list of counselors for referrals (27 percent), clear documentation of the church’s expectations of its pastor (22 percent), a sabbatical plan for the pastor (12 percent), a lay counseling ministry (9 percent), or a support group for the pastor’s family (8 percent). Forty-eight percent say their church had none of these.”
“Most expected conflict to arise, and it did—56 percent clashed over changes they proposed, and 54 percent say they experienced a significant personal attack. Yet nearly half (48 percent) say their training didn’t prepare them to handle the people side of ministry.”
Most seminary programs don’t equip pastors for the “people side” of ministry. Graduating pastors are more prepared to preach than they are to lead and serve people.
Burnout and conflict understandably discourage pastors from continuing in church ministry. “Though almost two-thirds (63 percent) spent more than a decade as a senior pastor, they eventually moved on—most to another ministry role other than senior pastor (52 percent) but 29 percent to non-ministry work.”

There are a few main reasons pastors give for leaving a pastoral role. It’s true that the “job is demanding: 84 percent of current pastors and 83 percent of former pastors say they feel on call 24 hours a day, while 48 percent of each group say the demands of ministry often feel like more than they can handle.”
Overall, the sad reality is most pastors feel their church has unrealistic expectations, but don’t feel they can say “no” to these expectations. They also don’t get much uninterrupted family time and often feel isolated. The study revealed:
  • 21 percent of current pastors vs. 49 percent of former pastors believe their church has unrealistic expectations.
  • 35 percent of current pastors vs. 62 percent of former pastors report feeling isolated.
  • 89 percent of current pastors vs. 68 percent of former pastors feel free to say no to unrealistic expectations.
  • 92 percent of current pastors vs. 61 percent of former pastors believe their congregation provides genuine encouragement to their family.
  • 94 percent of current pastors vs. 74 percent of former pastors say they consistently protect family time.
Unhealthy components can add up and weigh a pastor down. Stetzer said, “But many of the gaps are preventable. It’s going to take a combination of the seminaries, academia, denominational folks, and even outside ministries putting their heads together and seeking God on how best to support pastors.”

Remember the Miracle Jesus Did with 5 Loaves and 2 Fish? It Just Happened Again!

Remember the Miracle Jesus Did with 5 Loaves and 2 Fish? It Just Happened Again!

“We saw a genuine multiplication miracle last night.”
Seth Barnes recently posted something amazing on his Radical Living blog. His team of volunteers in Lesvos, Greece was helping feed and clothe refugees fleeing Turkey after making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea.
Barnes’ team faced the challenge of having 400 hungry people to feed, but only enough food to feed 200 of them. One of the team members, Dayna Bickam, described what happened next:
“We saw a genuine multiplication miracle last night. We had almost 400 people in our block at Moria last night and enough food to give every other person food.
We prayed for Jesus to provide and thanked him for loving these people extraordinarily well. We had 7 of these black trays of food.
These are the three we had left over when we were done handing out food. People were bringing us the left over unopened meals. When we took up all the trays to stack outside there were ten of them. I know my God is able, He is true and He is good.”
So, they fed 400 refugees with seven trays of food (enough for 200 people). When the people finished eating, there were 10 trays left over.
Our God still works miracles!
But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:16-21)