Feeling Overwhelmed?

Overwhelmed[reposted from ChurchLeaders]

The Best Question to Ask Yourself When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

by Mark Altrogge

I remember one night when I expressed to my wife, Kristi, that I was feeling overwhelmed. At that time she asked me an incisive question: “What are you believing about God right now?”

This is a brilliant question to ask any time you are feeling disquieted in spirit, or anytime you’re feeling depressed or discouraged. I answered Kristi, “Well, if I am feeling overwhelmed, I guess I’m believing that God is giving me too much to bear. I guess I’m believing that God won’t be faithful to help me. Which in essence means I guess I’m believing that God has lied to me and is not good.”

Kristi’s question revealed that I was thinking hard thoughts of God. Continue reading…

For more on correcting our concept of God, see video, Journey Home to Love and this article.

Grace: Orphans No More

Is_40_11…The writer of Proverbs addressed this issue saying, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23).

The point is, if the water is bad, don’t clean the pond; check the source. My friend John, for example, found himself constantly irritated at work, so he attended an “I will not be irritated anymore” seminar to control his behavior. But John’s primary emotion was not irritability; it was the fear that if he couldn’t produce more, faster, harder, and better, he would be terminated.

Explosive pressure dominated this primary emotional area. Driven by the root of fear, John was emotionally exhausted and angry, but couldn’t say anything. His behavior — the secondary “crabapple” of anger — originated from his primary root of fear. Life change is not about conforming to a new law — “Thou shalt not be angry at thy neighbor” — but about transforming the inside, because the outside is most often an expression of the inside heart. Establishing and following a whole new set of behavior-conforming laws will only displace the basic heart problem, not resolve it. If transformation is to take place, the heart problem has to be identified, exposed, and surrendered to the Spirit’s/Father’s scrutiny. Additionally, the believer must accept a new identity, one founded on the reality of who he/she is under the blood of the cross. In our coaching sessions, John saw his root fear. He realized he was not believing God for His provision, and the anger at others’ behavior amazingly disappeared. With an understanding of Father’s Love (Grace), treating the root led to natural changes in the fruit…

(reposted from IFEL by Dr. James Johnson)

Read the full article here.

New Audio Series

John_Shepherd

Pastor John Shepherd was an adjunct faculty member of GFI Counseling Institute. He eventually left that pastorate and devoted his life to reaching the Maasai in Kenya.  John’s mission trips there began with the old men–the “Nyankusi”–which in turn opened the door for the gospel to their communities. Through Calvary Road Ministries, thousands have received salvation through their oral, chronological Bible evangelism.  A video message of his on Exchanged life and Missions is available online in the GFI Solomon Lecture Series.  To hear an audio sermon series on the Abundant Life by John Shepherd, visit GFI’s web site, under “Resources / Audio Channel.” These MP3 audio messages can be downloaded to play at your convenience on a portable device.

Grace

[reposted from Tom’s blog and IOMamerica.org]

By Tom Price

Heartlight_grace
What is grace? The most basic definition is “unmerited favor.” God has been stretching my understanding of grace for the past ten years. He has been taking me deeper into the incomprehensible depths of His grace toward me. His grace not only saved me from eternal death, by forgiving me of all my sin and making me a new creature, but His grace also enables me to live the Christian life.

It is this second part, grace for living, which was completely new to me. As a minister of music, I sang many songs about grace from the hymnbooks. Most of those hymns were about God’s saving grace, but they didn’t mention God’s grace for living. I was dependent on His grace for salvation, but I was depending on my self-effort to be obedient to God’s commandments for living. I didn’t realize that was a broken system, even though the outcome of my Christian walk was very broken.

Over the next few years, I began to get connected with more people of like mind. They, too, understood this amazing grace and were experiencing the power of God’s grace to effect real victory in living the Christian life. As I shared what God was showing me, there were many who received this news with gladness. However, there were also those who were suspect of this “freedom” and saw it either as license or sinless perfection. Through those two distorted lenses, even I could see how “grace for living” could be rejected.

I began to notice, among the “grace” crowd, this “us and them” language. There was something that bothered me deeply about this; something deep inside that said this wasn’t right. Others noticed this also and sadly abandoned the truth of God’s life-giving grace for a watered-down version of grace. It was a mix of law and grace. To them, that sounded and felt safer.

Within this mixed law and grace thinking, grace becomes nothing more than an action word. “I should show them grace.” Or, “I didn’t mean to do that. Please give me some grace.” In this system, grace is a commodity to be given as you deem the other worthy. Of course, in this system, you hope others will give you this grace if you make a mistake.

Within the “grace” crowd, grace sometimes seems to be a secret knowledge given to those who have understanding. I have been guilty of saying, “I wish they would get grace.” It is almost assumed that you can only practice grace if you understand it. For those who don’t consider themselves a part of this “grace” crowd, they have felt criticized by those of us who understand what it means to live by God’s grace. They feel like they are on the outside of some exclusive club. (Of course, when we look down on those who don’t understand grace, we are not expressing God’s grace!)

The greatest revelation of God’s grace for me was when I understood Grace to be a person. Jesus Christ is the personification of God’s grace. Grace is Jesus and Jesus is Grace. The Scripture says that every believer is indwelt by Christ (Rom. 8:10; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27). God’s grace is not based on knowledge, but on the person of Jesus Christ. Whether I understand grace or not doesn’t determine if I have grace. If I am a container of Christ’s Life, then I have Grace.

I have seen the most legalistic Christians display grace. I now realize they were expressing Christ in those moments. I have seen Christians with a deep understanding of God’s grace display the nastiest flesh. In those moments, they are not walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-17). There is no “us and them” among believers; we are all one in Christ. Our Source to live the Christian life is the same. Our Source is Christ. We cannot intellectualize grace and then live a life of grace without the empowerment of Christ in us. That is Paul’s confession in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”

So what is the advantage of “knowing” about grace? It can be compared to having a bank account with a million dollars. If you know about the account, you can intentionally spend money from the account. If you don’t know about the account, you can’t intentionally spend from it. But more importantly, God wants us to know about His amazing gift of grace, a gift He has given in abundance (Rom. 5:17).

What does grace or this unmerited favor look like? It looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, humility, and tolerance [forbearance, in KJV] (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 4:2). Grace looks at the heart before it looks at the behavior. Grace works from the inside-out, not the other way around. God did not change our behavior in order to draw us into a relationship with Him; He changed our nature. Now, His grace pulls that nature out of us and changes our behavior!

Whether one believes this about grace or not doesn’t change the fact we have a spiritual account with unfathomable riches. We are all people of grace, because we have Grace personified living in us. Now, go out there and spend your inheritance!

Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving

President Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving (Issued, October 3, 1863 – during the Civil War)

“I, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father, who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him that, for such singular deliverances and blessings; they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union…”

Read the full proclamation here: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=4082

Finishing Well

In Daniel Henderson’s blog, he tells of a meeting he had with Peter Lord in Florida:

“As we enjoyed these rich moments of fellowship he began to muse about all of his colleagues over the years who have not finished well.  Some he spoke of by name, expressing the heartache of watching very good and gifted men self-destruct through moral failure.  We also discussed some recent high-profile instances that have brought new devastation to the hearts and spiritual homes of the faithful…”

Later in the article Henderson mentions some “warning signs” that contribute to spiritual and moral failure:

Devotions without devotion – Over the centuries we have created “forms” that we often use to describe our spiritual progress. …
Serving in place of seeking – I’ve often said that “if the Devil can’t make you bad, he’ll just keep you busy.” …
Duty without delight – Biblical standards, tradition, the needs of others, and the expectations of powerful voices in our lives can keep us on task with our duties of religious service.  However, the true life-giving sustenance for a fruitful life is the delight of abiding in Christ, drawing our satisfaction and supply from a loving experience of His life in us.  Trudging ahead with religious duty that does not spring from daily delight in Christ will lead us to empty pretense and grave spiritual vulnerability…” Read full post here.

This concern about helping leaders finish well is a core value of the “Fermata” spiritual clinics in Brazil. In these three day events for pastoral couples, the message and materials about identification are shared. Many testify of personal renewal and a new ministry potential through recognizing and appropriating Christ as Life.

See the testimony of Luis Palau as an example of the vital importance of a Galatians 2:20 breakthrough. This was Paul’s testimony…which also contributed to him finishing well (2 Tim. 4).

The Value of a Sabbatical for Pastors

The C.E.O. of Lifeway gives five reasons why he recommends that churches provide a sabbatical for their pastor(s).

…The pastor is given paid leave for rest, rejuvenation and, perhaps, deeper study. I would love to see churches of all sizes provide this requirement of their pastor, even if it’s only for a few days.

I have the opportunity to work with lay leaders and pastors. I have a pretty good view of both perspectives. And I am convinced that more lay leaders need to insist their pastors take regular breaks even beyond vacations….

read article here

Two ministries that encourage this rest for renewal are Shepherd’s Haven of Rest (retreats) and Harvest Baptist Christian Ministries (discounted cabin).

God’s Part and Your Part in Ministry

What is the balance between our part in ministry and God’s part? This question is an extension of the issue of our part and God’s part in sanctification. The latter is addressed in Philippians 2:12,13:

“Therefore, my beloved…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [it was already “in-worked” at regeneration by grace -Titus 3:5]; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure [He expresses His power through us; we need to work out the evidence and maturation process in our soul as we cooperate].

Bob Hoekstra describes the cooperation of God ministering through Paul. Notice this avoids the extremes of passivity (God not requiring my participation) and also the extreme self-effort.

Yes, Paul “labored…abundantly.” In another letter he wrote: “To this end I also labor, striving” (Colossians 1:29). Elsewhere he stated: “For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day…we preached to you the gospel of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:9). As he wrote the believers in Corinth he recalled: “Are they ministers of Christ…I am more: in labors more abundant…in journeys often…in weariness and toil” (2 Corinthians 11:23, 26-27).

How startling to learn that Paul was not the cause behind this wondrous effect. This is seen in his confession: “yet not I.” Paul exerted himself for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How can a man labor strenuously and yet not be the cause of it all? The answer is in the remainder of his testimony: “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” God’s grace at work in Paul’s life was the effective dynamic that brought forth such godly labor here on earth. “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” If we put our hope in the Lord, His grace will prove effective in our lives as well, giving us a testimony similar to Paul’s: “and His grace toward me was not in vain.”

– Day by Day by Grace 2/14

Be Born in Me

At Christmas time we especially remember the incarnation of the Son of God. Although the virgin birth is a unique miracle, there is a similarity between the Son of God developing in Mary (according to His human nature), and the Spirit of Christ residing in the life of the new covenant believer. The apostle Paul described his ministry in this way:

Music Video. Click link below

“To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” (Col. 1:27-29)

The song, Be Born in Me voices a prayer that echoes Mary’s. See a video of the music by Francesca Battistelli here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOPHkvbdOpw