Archive for: April, 2014

Let It Go

Apr 28 2014 Published by under Life

By Rev. Doug Clay

Clay_Douglas_Casual_100Have you ever heard the expression “holding a grudge?”  OK, have you ever thought about what a grudge is, what it looks like or how you actually “hold it”?

A grudge comes from one of those negative inherent instincts that, if not managed well, can make quite a mess for you.

‘Grudge’ is an actual word.  It means “to have feelings of persistent ill will toward someone, or to harbor resentment over a grievance.”

To “hold” a grudge means “to deliberately carry around a feeling of resentment over being hurt.”  In other words, it’s an unforgiving attitude that can lead to bitterness and a prolonged season of hurt.  Just saying the word has a negative sound—“Grr…udge.”  Sounds like a growl that won’t budge!

Grudges come as a result of being hurt by someone you love, trust and/or respect.  The more you dwell on the hurt, the more susceptible you are to feelings of anger, vengeance, resentment, injustice, etc.  And if you are not careful, you can become more hurt by the negative feelings that your grudge produced than you were by the original offense.

Forgiveness is the best redemptive way to let go of a grudge.  After all, forgiveness means to let go of resentment or thoughts of revenge.  It doesn’t mean you excuse or deny what happened, but it is a redemptive process that can keep you from being swallowed up by your own feelings!  Here are some scriptural suggestions to managing your grudge instinct.

You need God’s strength to forgive.

John 15:5b (NLT)

…“For apart from me you can do nothing.”

You’re better off letting God do the repaying.

Romans 12:19 (NLT/MSG)

Dear friends, never take revenge. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” 


You don’t want to give Satan an opportunity.

Ephesians 4:26-27, 31 (NLT)

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.

You can hold onto a “grrr-udge” or you can hold onto God’s promises, for within them there is freedom!

Rev. Doug Clay serves as the General Treasurer of the Assemblies of God. He can be reached at dclay@ag.org.

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How to Be Joyful

Apr 21 2014 Published by under Leadership, Life, Ministry

By Rev. Michael Johnson

MJHow does one keep a smile on their face on a daily basis? Is joyful bliss simply a genetic trait or is it the result of hard effort? WebMD, an online organization that provides medical information, states in an article:

“Research has shown that your talent for happiness is, to a large degree, determined by your genes…and yet, psychologists who study happiness — believe we can pursue happiness.”[1]

This bifurcation in research is devastating because it leaves out a critical influence, the divine connection in Jesus Christ.

For this reason, it would be beneficial to revisit Paul’s letter to the Philippian church where he introduces some key “how-to’s” regarding joy. By both reviewing and following Paul’s admonition one can experience the type of joy only Christ delivers.

At the time of Paul’s writing to the Philippians, he was imprisoned and trying to deal with issues about disunity, worrying, and false teachers. So in Pauline fashion he handles these problems with a Christ-centered theology. Thus, he gives an exhortation to unite and live in peace, at which he also imperatively advises the church to rejoice! After doing so, he gives steps to help the church express their joy.

Step 1. Be gentle with people (vv. 2-5). This direction came as a solution to the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche who were advised to “agree in the Lord” (v. 2-3). Paul uses this case as a teaching point and says “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone; the Lord is at hand.” (v.5). In other words, let conflicts and disagreements be settled with this perspective in mind because in the end, relational problems do not matter in light of Christ’s coming.

Step 2. Pray about everything (vv. 6-7). The Philippian church was overwhelmed with troubles from without and within. Therefore, Paul gives an imperative exhortation to stop being anxious. In its place he encourages prayer and intercession with an attitude of thanksgiving. As a result of this discipline the believer experiences peace that acts as a guard (garrison, mounted guard) against an invasion of worry into the heart and mind.

Step 3. Think about good things (v. 8). Not stopping at prayer, Paul goes further in his exhortation for rejoicing and urges the church to engage in careful and intentional reflection of the following virtues and noteworthy actions: truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, commendable, excellence, and worthy of praise. These high traits encourage the believer to look upward in life, rather than downward; thus increasing the joyful state of mind.

Step 4. Learn from others (v. 9). “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things.” Paul offers his life as an example of how to live joyfully, that is, actively practicing the principles he prescribed when going through difficulties. Keep in mind that Paul’s experiences qualify him as a model to follow because in life he encountered multiple challenges to his faith: shipwreck, imprisonment, persecutions, etc. From this viewpoint, he gives a bold and yet humble plea to the Philippian church, which urges today’s believers to also learn from others through a discipleship and mentorship dynamic.

The search for living joyfully, given from Paul’s perspective in Philippians, offers solid answers because the “how-to’s” were given from a real life experience involving personal struggle, people conflicts, and dark human emotions. It is no surprise that God uses real life characters and events to deliver genuine instructions and guidance for his people. So with great joy I too urge everyone to REJOICE!

Scriptures to consider:

Psalm 98:4

John 15:11

Romans 14:17

[1] http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/choosing-to-be-happy

 

Rev. Michael Johnson serves as the Director of Ethnic Ministries for Global University. He can be reached at mjjohnson@globaluniversity.edu.

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Memories

Apr 14 2014 Published by under Life, Ministry

By Rev. Gary J. Blanchard

Blanchard29More than 73 million Americans gathered around their televisions on the night of February  9, 1964, to watch the Fab Four’s debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” As a 15 year old teenager I was as close to our old black and white TV as I could get. Several weeks ago, exactly 50 years later to the day and time I was again in front of my TV.  This time I sat in my lazy-boy watching The Beatles: the Night That Changed America — a Grammy Salute on my big screen.

I’m no longer into music the way I was back then.  This time around I hardly knew any of the performers, but I remembered the music.  I knew the melodies and the lyrics.  I even found myself singing along.  Not out loud of course; I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  But in my head, I was right on key with every word.

Several days later, while still thinking about the show, I was amazed at how each song had stirred memories.

Memory is a wonderful thing.  That night my memory was full with sights, sounds, events, places and friends.  Memories of 50 years ago were as fresh as if they had happened just last week.  That’s amazing because on most days I can’t even remember what I had for lunch.  I wish I knew why that happens because maybe it would help me better understand why I sometimes forget the faithfulness of God.

Ever been there?  I have.  Times when I’ve been discouraged, disappointed, frustrated, fearful and even angry.  Times when it seemed like my prayers never left the room.  Times that have tested my faith.

Psalm 77 was written by a man who experienced similar feelings.  Through the opening verses we discover that he was going through a bad experience that sent him running to God.  He tells how he prayed and wept and tried to connect with God all night long, but, to his great distress, he heard nothing.  With no response, his heart began to fill with doubts.

In verses 7 to 9 he asks, “Will the Lord reject forever?  Will he never show his favor again?  Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

But in verse 11 the writer has a change of heart; “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” (vss. 11, 12)

Something happens between verses 10 and 11.  This man is suddenly transformed from depression and discouragement to being filled with thoughts of God.  I can’t attest with certainly as to what happened, but I believe his memory kicked in and it changed his focus.

His focus changed from need base to remembrance based.  Instead of being overwhelmed with his needs he began thinking about God; remembering His deeds, remembering His miracles and meditating on His mighty works.  When he did, it deepened his understanding of who God is.  Doubt left; faith filled his heart.

Memories are like pictures.  Before digital photos most of us stored our old pictures in books or boxes.  I have shoe boxes filled with old pictures in my basement.  Some day, when I have time, I’ll retrieve them and relive the memories.  But other old photos are framed and placed in various places in our home.  I see them daily; occasionally, I’ll even pick them up and examine them closely.  Every time I do, I relive that moment.  Our God encounters should be like those special photos…viewed every day and frequently examined.

Like the Psalmist, we’ll realize that reflecting on our God encounters of the past will fuel fresh encounters today. When I take time to “remember the deeds of the Lord” – my salvation experience, my baptism in the Holy Spirit, my call to ministry, miracles of healing in my family, God’s provisions – my faith is stirred.

So while you may forget what you had for lunch yesterday; don’t forget the faithfulness of our great God.  Let the sights, sounds and events of the past generate fresh faith for today’s new challenges.

Rev. Gary J. Blanchard serves as the Assistant Superintendent and Executive Secretary for the Illinois District of the Assemblies of God. He can be reached at gblanchard@idcag.org.

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Help Me, I Have a Problem!

Apr 07 2014 Published by under Church, Evangelism, Ministry

By Rev. Tom Cederblom

P.TomPlease help me, I have a problem!  I’m a pastor and I’m surrounded by people who are saved. My wife is saved, my kids are saved, my secretary is saved, and even my youth pastor is saved.  My problem is that I spend ninety-five percent of my time around people who are not lost!

I decided a couple of years ago that I needed to do something about this problem. I realized I needed to be very intentional about getting out into the world that surrounds my church and my home.  I made the decision that I was going to venture into the schools of our city as a substitute teacher and walk in the part of the world where many people fear to tread:  The world of the elementary school student, the middle school student and the high schooler.

The first thing I recognized was that I needed to follow the example of the One who I was supposed to be following.  John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  (NIV)  Jesus understood that He needed to leave the comfort zone of heaven and come down to earth and walk among us.

And so my first day as a substitute teacher I “became flesh” and “made my dwelling” among 4th graders in a Special Education class (God has a sense of humor!)  I was scared as I walked the halls of that elementary school.  I was nervous, I was uncomfortable, I was without a friend and I was about to enter a classroom with six special needs students.

I survived that day and I have continued to survive for the last 2 years as a substitute teacher, but in the process I have learned a lot about myself and about my “problem”.

My problem is that it’s been awhile since I’ve felt like a visitor.  Can you remember what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, to be on someone else’s turf, walking in their territory?  People visit our churches all the time and we forget how scary that experience can be for them.

I share with my congregation stories about going into the different schools and I tell them, with humor in my voice, that when I am walking down the hallways as a substitute teacher, it’s as if I am “invisible-man”.  Teachers don’t say “hi”, administrators ignore me, and secretaries treat me like I’m not very bright because I don’t know the routine of their school.  The only ones who treat me like I’m visible are the students!  Now, before you think I am having a pity party, remember my point, we need to be sensitive to what it feels like to be a visitor, again.

My problem is that I am a creature of habit.  I need desperately to get out of my comfort zone and walk into the war zone of real life.  When I walk into a middle school, my heart starts to beat faster, my mind is very aware of how much I need God’s strength, and my prayer life comes alive with simple phrases like, “Holy Spirit, help me to be ready with the right response when a seventh grader asks me a question,” and “Lord, please help me to make a difference in this place!”

My problem is that I have forgotten how to weep for souls.  I need desperately to get around lost people and have my heart broken for their lives, their situations, and their world.  It’s amazing how many times a student will just start to talk with me about the things going on in his or her life, and before I realize it, the student has opened up a window into their world.  And when I take a brief glimpse into their world I sense the Holy Spirit doing a work on this religious heart of mine.

The Message quotes John 1:14 this way, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”  May the Lord help us with our “problem”, may He help us to be intentional in moving into the neighborhood of hurting souls and lost lives.

Rev. Tom Cederblom serves as the senior pastor of Life 360 Church – Calvary Campus in Springfield, MO. He can be reached at tom@life360.org.

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