Youth in the Church – why they are important and how to get them involved

There is an expression that the church is always one generation away from extinction. It’s simply because the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.

With this truth in mind it should be self-evident that churches ought to take seriously their commitment to ministry to the youth, to teenagers.  If the youth are the church of tomorrow then they need to be a priority in the church today.  Some people are at times hesitant to believe they could minister effectively to teens.  Or others conclude that teenagers have no interest in the things of God, they only think about movie stars, the latest musical sensation or their wardrobe.  Perhaps we might even be inclined to ask, “What real value can they be to the church of today?”  What we will find is that the church that takes care of their teenagers today, and values them, will be rewarded now and in the future.

Some people believe that they are not “cut out to minister to teenagers.”  Churches may be quick to think that what they really need to do is hire a youth minister who can do this for them.

A large church once hired two young, cutting edge, hip youth ministry interns.  They had the haircuts, the latest technology gadgets, the whole nine. Each Friday morning the church opened the doors to feed breakfast to any teenager that would come, followed by a devotional time before school began. At first the teenagers flocked around the young 20’s guys.  Little by little someone in the kitchen began to get noticed.  The volunteer who made the pancakes would engage any teen nearby and ask them how their week was or how their mom was doing whom he knew to be sick.  As this simple cook demonstrated care and concern for the teens, they began to flock to him morning after morning.  By the end of the school semester, few teens hung around the cool youth interns.  The cook shared his heart, their burdens and lots of pancakes.  You may feel that you have nothing in common, maybe you don’t, except a common humanity that needs God.

A prevailing notion today is that teenagers are not interested in church or the things of God.  No doubt there are those who don’t give church or God a second thought.  But there are those whose hearts God is drawing to himself.  They have begun to understand even now that all that glitters is not gold.  Many things in this world offer pleasure and escape but only One offers truth with which they can build their lives on.  As teenager I remember getting disgusted with the trappings of our culture and began to seek out godly adults who would answer, from the Bible, my tough questions and were diligent to seek out the answers they did not immediately have.  Often God used people of young ages in the Bible to carry out his will.  Mary, mother of our Lord, was but a teenager when she conceived.  David was only a young man when he became a giant slayer.  Samuel the prophet was only a young boy when God called him to minister in the Tabernacle.  God is working in the hearts of teenagers today.

The church can be of value to them by providing them a safe environment where they can be with other teens who want to live a life honoring to God.  When parents sense that this is what the church is about they are more apt to bring their teens and themselves to church events and worship services.  But the youth themselves can be of value to the church today.

  • Engage them in the service projects of the church. Teens love to feel as though they are making a difference in someone’s life.
  • Take them on mission trips, they will be exposed to new cultures and won’t forget the adventure. Their enthusiasm and excitement as they are involved in the life and work of the church will have a positive aspect on other members, making church an even more joyful place to be. They will remember that in the future, and share those kinds of experiences with

Youth are important, and are the leaders of tomorrow. So make sure you create an environment which welcomes youth, and encourage them to live a good life.

Posted in Church Youth | Leave a comment

Why the senior ministry is so valuable to your church and how to encourage senior membership

With many churches focused on programs for youth and children it is not uncommon for a wonderful group of people to be overlooked, the seniors.  There is so much to be gained for a church when it takes care to minister faithfully to the seniors, the elderly.  There is much value in what the older generations “brings to the table” so to speak.  In oriental cultures, those with gray heads are revered and respected.  Unfortunately, the western part of the globe does not see things as well as this Old Testament man.  Job said, “With the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days there is understanding.”  And with the “Baby Boomer” generation retiring, a church would be wise to consider how it may reach out to them and in turn be blessed by their contributions to the church.

It’s important to value people for the right reasons.  It’s been said that “old” folks are worth a fortune-they have silver in their hair, gold in their teeth, lead in their feet, and gas in their stomachs.  Well, I know that I will be there one day and would prefer not to be valued for those reasons, humorous though they may be.  But they are extremely valuable as they bring into a conversation years, even decades, of experience.  They have learned from the most difficult of laboratories, life.  They have had successes as well as failures.  They have seen moments of great joy and great grief.  They have the ability to share with the up and coming generations the way in which you navigate those things and everywhere in between.  This is one reason why the apostle Paul said, “Let the older men teach the younger men and the older women the younger women.”

I personally have found the senior generation as a whole to have a wonderful sense of humor.  They have lived through some of the most difficult periods of history the world has known.  Yet in spite of that, they find reason and occasion to laugh and to take with humor the challenges that come with their phase of life.  I once read a prayer by an elderly man which went, “God, Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.”  These days many seniors do not live close to their children or grandchildren and they desire to share their lives with others.  There is still much gas in tank.  Benjamin Franklin contributed the most to American governance and culture after his sixtieth birthday.

So what can your church do to encourage?

  • Start a Bible study/book study for the seniors of your congregation but do it mid-day where going home in the dark will not be an issue.
  • Arrange monthly outings for the elderly. Museums, historic sights, and other such places have good rates for tours, if not for free.
  • Par up and elderly person with a younger person. “Adoptive Grand-Parenting” bridges the generation gap and is a great ministry for those whose families live a considerable distance away.
  • Create a membership directory for seniors (such as at ABCFastDirectory). It will help them remember names and faces easier.
  • Host a “Classic Movie Day” and encourage them to bring their friends as Hollywood classics starring such actors as were popular during their youth will be shown.

People never want to feel as though they have been forgotten and our seniors are no different.  By putting the spotlight on them, it will energize the hearts and their bodies and you will find greater participation and involvement than before.  Some churches have increased membership by focusing on the seniors who are unfortunately overlooked.

Plus, senior members have important life experiences that they can share with their younger counterparts, that can strengthen your overall membership.

Posted in Church Membership | Leave a comment

How to make a visitor friendly church and encourage church membership

Ask just about any member of any congregation whether or not their church is friendly to visitors and, by and large, the answer will be an emphatic “yes!”.

At the same time, we can all attest to visiting a church for one reason or another and found the congregation to be less than inviting, warm and friendly.

Chances are, many churches believe that they are friendly to visitors but, it may not be so.  Surely there is something or many things a church can do to make it more enjoyable for visitors when they come to the place where the members love to be.  There are, in fact many things a church can do to help it generate a more visitor friendly environment.  We will consider information, maintenance of the building/grounds, understanding of the worship service, and of course the friendliness of the people.  When these things become a priority, many churches will see visitors return again and again.

  • Where is the bathroom? No one wants to ask such a question but they will if they must.  People who have been in the same church for years could find the bathroom if the lights were turned off.  As a result we tend to forget that people coming to visit don’t know the somewhat hidden location of bathrooms.  So, put up easy to find signs directing people to the restrooms.
  • Where is the nursery? People with children whose ages make them appropriate for the nursery will frequently be late to worship simply because it is harder to get out the door on time with little ones.  Make it easier for them.  Put up signs for them too.
  • What does your church believe?  What are their core values?  Do you have a ministry for senior adults?  What about high school seniors? These and other questions are answered easily enough by some pamphlets on a table near the most used entrance.  Your denomination’s central office may help you in the area of doctrine/beliefs/values and already have such materials printed.
  • How clean do you keep your house? If you’re like me you clean the floors, do some dusting, tidy up the shelves and make sure the house in general is presentable.  Why would we want to treat the house of the Lord any different? Yet it is easy to find cob webs in many corners of the church, dead bugs on window sills, light bulbs burnt out, bathrooms without toilet paper or paper towels.
  • When was the last time the sanctuary was painted?  Are the carpets worn?  How do the hallways look?  Could they use some touch-up paint?  Do the weeds need to be pulled?  Is the outside maintained? Some well placed annuals and perennials add welcomed color to entrances and signs that introduce people to your church.  People notice if these areas have not been kept up, however, they will notice your pleasure in the place where you worship the Lord as you enjoy seeing improvements in the church facility.

Some other useful tips:

  • Making it easy to understand Complicated Church Terminology – Perhaps you will have a visitor come to church who really isn’t all that familiar with church “stuff.”  Maybe they have never heard the words catechism, creed, doxology, benediction, hymn and so forth.  Whenever possible take the opportunity (either the pastor can do this as the service progresses or as written in the bulletin) to explain some to the terms or language of the worship service.  They will feel more at ease and not quite as lost.
  • Name Tags – Also, members would be appreciated by visitors if some wore name tags to let them know who they are talking to.  A visitor registry which they can be gently encouraged to sign will help the minister place the face with the name so that when (Lord willing!) they return he will be able to address them by name.  Dale Carnegie said that the most beautiful sound a person can hear is their own name being spoken.

In time, these kinds of simple means can be the difference between someone visiting once, or in someone returning, building relationships and making your congregation their church home.  So roll up your sleeves, paint a wall, plant some flowers, put up some directional signs, release the bright smile and you’ll be rolling out the welcoming mat.

Posted in Church Membership | Leave a comment

Encouraging church leaders to increase church membership

The leaders of your church are the face of your church. They are who your congregation interacts with. You want to give them the support they need, so that they have the energy and excitement to convey to your congregation. An excited congregation means more people coming to your church, more often, which is of course what you want.

Minisiters, priests, deacons, and so forth are people too. They need words of encouragement. So by gently reminding your congregation that church leaders are people too — and perhaps just to send a word of encouragement their way, church leaders can refuel and reenergize, and channel that energy into the church making it an exciting place to be.

Being a leader in any circumstance can be a challenge.  The church is no exception to that rule.  In fact, in many ways it is more difficult.  Leaders must lead volunteers, and the leaders themselves may be volunteers.  There is the burden of trying to make as many people pleased with what is taking place as possible.  Church ministry can be very complicated. Recent statistics point out that every month 1,500 ministers leave the pulpit never to return again.   In order to keep going, encouragement is paramount.  Ministers, bishops, elders, deacons and others who serve in leadership capacities need fresh wind to fill their sails.  Thankfully there is much that the lay people who fills the pews can do to help those whose calling it is to lead and serve God’s people.  Remember, that as we encourage and bless others, Jesus tells us it is as though we have done it unto him.

A few months ago I had the privilege of participating in an ordination service for a young minister.  It was my responsibility to speak to him and another minister spoke to the congregation.  To the congregation, the sage-like minister said, “Here is the way for the minister to be a joy to you, you be a great joy to him.”

October is considered to be Clergy Appreciation month.  Don’t let it slip you by.  Here are some things you can personally do as a church member to encourage your minister/bishop/priest:

  • Write an encouraging note inside a thoughtful card letting the minister know how he is a benefit to you spiritually-be specific.
  • Put a gift card to his favorite restaurant or store in it.  If he has children, offer to baby sit or to pay for a sitter.  This sometimes makes it cost-prohibitive for a minster to go out with his spouse.
  • Encourage the congregation to take up a love offering when the minister is not present.  One church where I was the associate pastor had everyone fill out a small piece of paper indicating what they appreciated about me and put into a large jar.  I spend the entire afternoon reading piece by piece the gems of appreciation.

As a church leader, here are some other tips of what you can do to help your other church leaders:

  • Send your minister or bishop on a vacation.  Don’t call.
  • Find a retreat center that specializes in ministers.  They usually offer places of solitude and peace.  Perfect for recharging.
  • Discover the conference that has always grabbed your pastor’s attention and pay for the registration and any other costs associated with it.
  • Seminars and workshops are always available for ministers to hone theirs skills in preaching, teaching, management, leadership and stewardship.  Find you one think they would enjoy or benefit from and send them.
  • Pastors are always eager to add to their library, so find where he likes to buy books and give a little help to that end.
  • Have a dinner at the church in honor of your minister.  Ask those who are willing to say a word or two about how their lives have been impacted by his ministry.
  • Drop a simple note in the mail letting your church leader know that you prayed for them recognizing how difficult this calling really is.

While the tips mentioned above have highlighted ways to encourage ministers in particular they certainly apply to all those in leadership positions in general.  The more supported and esteemed they feel from their congregations the greater joy and enthusiasm you will see from pastors.  That in turn always has a positive affect on the church.  It’s a wonderful cycles so long as each is committed to supporting the other.

Posted in Church Membership | Leave a comment

How to find your life purpose and design a life plan

A few years ago a unique movie came out called “The Bucket List.”  The idea was that two men discovered that their time on earth was coming to a close so together they made a list of all the things they would do before they “kicked the bucket.”  They jumped out of air planes, saw majestic locations and did all they imagined should be done before leaving this world.  Essentially it was things that they wished they had done earlier in life but for whatever reason never did so.  Well, instead of waiting until possibly the sunset of our sojourn, why not stop to consider what we were designed by God to do, establish a plan then set goals?

A life lived with purpose and pursuit is a life a marked by milestones and accented with accomplishments.

The hilarious journey of the men in the movie was a joy to watch but I would rather see a life worthily lived than a few famous destinations visited.  So let’s get started!

  • Know what God has designed you for.  We are all different in spite of the many similarities we share, God only make originals, none are the copies of another.  Hear the words of the apostle Paul, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We each have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”  (Romans 12:4-6a)  What a beautiful thought!  Normally we think of receiving gifts at Christmas or on our birthdays but here we learn that God has given us gifts in terms of abilities and skills.  What is yours?  Do you know?  There are three ways to know.
    • First is to pray and ask God to help you see how he has made and equipped you.
    • The second is to ask a friend who is known to be discerning and ask him/her what your strengths, skills or aptitudes are. In a time searching, a friend revealed to me his conviction that I was well suited to do youth ministry so I walked in that direction and loved every minute of it.  I remain thankful for that true friend who helped me see what I could not.
    • The third way is found in personality, abilities and spiritual gifts inventories.  A simple Google.com search revealed numerous tests available all designed to assist you in finding out how God has gifted you.  So, now that we know the ways that God has gifted us and how to find them out, we go now to the next part…making a plan!

Jesus said, “no one sets out to build without having first counted the cost, lest he begin to build and cannot afford to finish.”  Building our lives to God’s glory using the gifts he has graciously given us means making a plan and setting goals.  No one runs a marathon without consulting a map to know where they are going. No builder sets out to construct a sky-scraper without a blueprint.  The Bible even speaks our lives using these metaphors.  How can you use your gift to encourage someone?  God made you to be a blessing in your church and community.  Plug it in!  Write down two ways in which your purpose/design will lift someone up or help another carry their burdens.  Then as you grown more comfortable exercising those gifts, make it three, then four, then five and so on.  Then, find someone else who has the same gift and calling and help them to use it.  That is called mentoring.

Posted in Becoming a better person | Leave a comment

Benefits of photo directories for your Church, and how to create a photo directory

My family and I have moved fairly often and without exception, every time I unpack the attic I come across my yearbooks.  Some are from elementary school and others from college and I just have to stop and flip through and see what I looked like, remember old friends and see familiar faces.  Times change, people grow, mature and dare I say it, age.  Things keep moving on, time waits for no man.  That is why I enjoy flipping through those photographic treasures and in a sense time stands still and we are forever on that playground.  A church directory is very much like those school yearbooks it gives us something useful presently and will even serve as a time capsule as the seasons and years march on.

Maybe you are bad with names but remember faces very well.  This is where a church photo directory can be of easy and tremendous help.  It has been said that the most wonderful sound any human will ever hear is the sound of their own name.  All my high school career, I wanted to be the starting kicker on the football team.  Schools around us have sent kickers to the NFL so competition was great.   My senior year I was not the starting kicker but was the starting punter.  In a game against a great rival I’ll never forget taking the snap, stepping, releasing and feeling the ball jump off my foot only to hear the home team announcer scream my name over the loud speakers.  God blessed that kick, I suppose angels carried it.  I don’t remember the punt so much as I remember my name being called.  We can give that to others in our church by simply reviewing the directory and greeting them personally.

A photo directory is also a wonderful tool as many of them will also contain birthdays.  If you are like me and forget when your own birthday is, it really helps to have an at home reminder of when our friends turn another age older-though of course they don’t look it!  A phone call or a simple note or card on that day is a blessing to them, all because you took out a directory to see who had birthdays this month.  Another important time in the life of members is anniversaries.  Most directories include them as well and the same joy and appreciation is there for those whose anniversary is commemorated by others too.  Using the directory for these purposes actually helps a congregation grow closer together as life’s moments are recognized and shared.

Perhaps someone new comes to the church and wants to put together a children’s program or event, a church directory is an easy way for them to see just how many children the church has and how they can get in touch with their parents.  In some cases, a directory can help people see family relations and connections with greater clarity and understanding.  Sometimes churches need a little something to get excited about or talk about and a new directory does just that.  People check schedules, make appointments to have photos taken (most of the time orders can be made to purchase the family pictures) and then eagerly await the distribution.  Also,  when the church has an event or occasion of great importance and photos are taken and put in the directory, you will have that memory there for you to look back upon and live it afresh.

Of course, you can check out this link for starters for a photo directory :) http://www.abcfastdirectory.com/

You can try it out for free, and see how you like it! Enjoy!

Posted in Photo Directories | Leave a comment

How to become a mentor — and why mentoring is important

It has been an enormous blessing in my life to have people to look up to and emulate.  Perhaps you have as well: a beloved teacher, an inspiring football coach, a supportive employer, an active father or a mother who took time to listen.  We call these people “God-sends” and in reality, that is precisely what they are.  God endows them with such strength of character that we are nearly compelled to say “that is who I want to be like.”  Recently I conducted a funeral that was attended in such a way as to fill all available seats in the sanctuary.  She was a tremendous blessing in that woman her age considered her the wise, trusted older sister they never had.  Younger women gleaned generously from not only her words for living life but in the very manner in which she lived hers.  Young husbands were grateful for her because of her influence on their wives.  She was a mentor to many.

The Bible gives us vivid examples of mentoring relationships.  We see where God allows one or more to one day take up the mantle of leadership or to carry on a legacy.  Elijah was an Old Testament prophet who was in a class all his own.  When seminary students are asked which prophet is their favorite many turn to him.  Elijah had a protégé.  His name was Elisha.  He prayed that he might have a double portion of the spirit of Elijah.  He wanted to be the godly man that Elisha was.  Another fine example of this kind of relationship is found in the apostle Paul and his young disciple Timothy.  Paul often referred to Timothy as a “son in the faith.”  Paul would call others to walk in the same manner as he.  “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice.”  (Philippians 4:9)  Being a mentor is to be a guide, a counselor or a teacher.  Of course the superlative teacher in none other than Jesus Christ, whose twelve disciples and their followers were “turning the world upside down.”  (Acts 17:6 KJV)  One generation of faithfulness handing down to the next generation to be faithful, that is a picture of mentoring. (Article source: ABCFastDirectory.com)

So we have examples of wonderful mentors in our lives and we see how they were important in the Scriptures.  So what about you?  Is there someone you are pouring your life into?  Believe it or not someone is watching you.  It matters to them the decisions you make.  If it’s okay for you to do it, it must be okay for them, they reason.  We may never know who is watching us and our character and behavior.  Hand down to another person what you have learned.  We gain wisdom as we mature, don’t hoard it but share it.  There is immense satisfaction that you will soon feel just by befriending another who could use a little direction.  Speak kind words and let them know they are important.  The smile on their faces as a trusting relationship emerges will be thanks enough.  There are easy ways to do this.

  • Your local Boys & Girls Club
  • Lunch Buddies.  Many public schools are allowing adults to come in and eat lunch with a student they know could use a role model and some encouragement.
  • The children’s Sunday School classes.  Churches always need more teachers so lend a hand and be huge in a child’s life.
  • College students away from their parents could always use a home cooked meal.  Invite them in and invest your life in them during the temporary stage in their lives, they won’t forget it.
Posted in Becoming a better person | Leave a comment

The benefits of homestudy – why you should have a home study group

A little known fact about the early church during the New Testament period (i.e. Book of Acts) is that they did not meet in large facilities for worship.  Most of the time they met in someone’s home and there they studied the Scriptures, read letters from apostles, shared the Lord’s Supper, were baptized, heard sermons, prayed and sang praises to God.  Official above ground churches would not come along until a few centuries later.  During the Roman persecution, some Christian congregations even had to meet in the catacombs (burial places) underneath the city streets and buildings.  But, by and large they met in one another’s home.  On some of the major networks on Sunday mornings, there are some ministers whose stage area behind them is decorated as a home would be in order to create a greater sense of family and togetherness….with 3,000 people!  Let’s hope there are a lot of bathrooms in that house!

A movement that began to gain attention in the mid 90’s is still very much part of Christian ministry in churches today.

Home Study Groups offer church members (and visitors) an opportunity to gather together in homes for study, prayer and fellowship. Unfortunately, for those who come to Sunday worship at 11 (the usual time) and then are not seen again until the following Sunday have little opportunity to get to know their fellow Christians.  A Sunday School class has a better chance but even they usually meet for around 45 minutes or so before the worship service begins.  Whereas as a Home Study Group (HSG) has the flexibility to start around 7pm and end an hour or so later.  A church I served previously had a well established program (for older congregations this concept is really out of the box and may take some time to adopt) and our HSG met every other week and we had a tremendous time.  Not only did we enjoy a quality study, cake and coffee, but more than that we shared our lives together.  Therefore it was not uncommon for meetings to start at 7 and not finish in terms of people leaving until 8:30 and sometimes later.  No one minded because we were having such a good time together!

The laughter you share will leave you smiling the whole drive home. The pie and coffee will satisfy your stomach.  But the real treasure in HSG is the way that your lives are shared. As you talk and get to know one another, burdens will surface and soon you will discover that others have the same worries, fears, delights and hopes that you do.  You will be practicing what the Bible teaches us to do as we help shoulder one another’s trials and difficulties. This is what happens when the church begins behaving as the church is designed to.  Finding studies is easy to do.  Most denominational offices will be able to point you or the pastor in the right direction.  Web sites such as Christianbook.com are well stocked with books and curriculum for HSG.  Avail yourself of those materials and begin to form groups whose subsequent friendships will be lasting connections.  HSG’s are best put together in terms of geographical proximity to one another.  This makes it easier for them to get together and reducing travel time means less of a hassle for them.  Also, this takes away the tendency for people to gather in peer groups.  This way you learn and grow from those who are both younger and older than you.

Now, begin the adventure!

Posted in Church Home Study Groups | Leave a comment

How to overcome fear and anxiety through one simple solution

Fear is something that is part of the human experience from the time we are young children up until we draw our last breathe in this world.  The kinds of fears people experience run the full scale from heights, snakes, job loss, to ones I did not know existed “apeirophobia- the fear of infinity.”  I’m not even sure how you fear infinity on a practical level but apparently someone does. I read something one time where one of the Ringling Brothers trapeze artists refused to travel by plane, even though they offered to put a net underneath it.  Not long ago while flipping the channels on television during a much needed time off and there on a day time talk show was a guest who was petrified of bananas.  That would be Bananaphobia.  Of course, these are some of the odd ball fears that we certainly don’t run into every day.  But in reality there is something that each of us fears.  Frankly, I have a fear of the unknown.  I always like to see what’s coming even if I don’t like it.  I do not like to be surprised or caught off guard.  I was thrown a surprise party one time and, understandably, I let them off the hook.

A biblical concept but one that is often overlooked is the fear of the Lord, rightly fearing God.  Not many sermons are preached these days on this topic and that’s unfortunate for the blessing that many are deprived of on account of that reluctance.  Oswald Chamber is quoted saying, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.”  “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”  What is bigger than God?  What is there that we can fear that he does not have complete and utter sovereignty and authority over?  Nothing.  Rightly fearing the Lord means the rest of our lives are in their proper place, even our fears.  In Psalms, David writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Essentially, you need to put your fears in perspective. Everyone has them. What might petrify someone makes someone else excited. What someone finds scary another person goes to a movie theatre to see, and can’t get scared enough. How you deal with your fears determines whether you are immobilized or you can live your day normally. Remember, fears are just thoughts, they are an interpretation of a situation that you are presented with.

The phrases above — by really only needing to ‘fear’ the Lord, means that you realize — you really don’t need to worry. You can trust that He, or whatever you perceive to be a higher power, can take your worries and fears and deal with them for you. Fear is a shadow. It doesn’t exist except in your mind. Fear is an indication that you may need to stop a second, and think about things rationally. But that is key — deal with it, come up with a plan of attack to overcome with it. Identify why you are fearful or something, see if there is any legitimacy to it, and act appropriately.

One of my favorite sayings in relation to fear is, “Fear knocked at the door.  Faith answered and no one was there.”  Another fear knocks on the door of my heart all the time: the fear of man.  One of the authors of Proverbs writes “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (Prov. 29:25)  Being afraid of what people will think of us is a very common fear.  Preachers avoid topics or even true convictions for fear of what people will think.  What the writer said is true, it is a trap, a trap that is impossible to escape.  But the minister or layman who fears the Lord and trusts in him is freed from that snare and can live in liberty.  Like the apostle Peter who was invited to come out and walk on the water with Jesus, his legitimate fear of the raging waters was overcome by faith until he took his eyes off Jesus then began to succumb to them.  But with eyes of faith locked upon Christ, we can walk on the backs of our fears because God is our refuge and we take safety in him.

Posted in Becoming a better person | Leave a comment

The importance of tranquility in your life

We live in a fast paced, fast food, media saturated, noise polluted time.  We are bombarded by expectations, pressures, commitments and deadlines.  This does not bode well for living well, to say nothing of living long.  It is hard to escape entirely or permanently from our surroundings.  What we need are times of peace, calm, serenity and tranquility.  These things at times seem unattainable.  Maybe that’s why tranquility follows tranquilizer in the dictionary!  If however we consider the parts of our lives (soul, mind and body) and the impact of stress, then we understand just how much we need times of respite.  With a little effort we will also find that they are far from unattainable but are actually within our reach.

First, we need rest for our souls. When you are well rested, it makes it easier to accomplish many other things. “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (6:16)   The ancient paths, the good way all lead back to the Lord.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:28-29)  Is your soul weighed down by the many anxieties and worries that you carry?  Take time each morning, before the day gets going and in prayer, lay before Christ all that troubles your heart and thank him for the day.  Leave the burdens with him.

Second, we need rest for our minds. If you are like me you spend most of your day juggling thoughts and trying to remember all that you need to do.  Those things must still be done.  But instead of trying to keep them all up in the head.  Write them down, check them off as they are completed.  You will sleep better and have fewer headaches.  Don’t stop there though.  For mental relaxation I take a quick drive to the local lawn and garden center.  I spend about ten minutes near the water fountains (not the ones you drink from).  During one summer, I helped a friend install water features in backyards.  It was normally water splashing down into a pool where sometimes colorful fish swam.  Client after client insisted that the relaxation provided by the sounds of falling, trickling or splashing water instantly relaxed them.  Japanese gardens for centuries, perhaps millennia, have demonstrated that. If that is impractical, purchase a sound effects compact disc that includes waterfalls or the ocean.  Lean back in your chair for merely twenty minutes and emerge mentally reenergized.

Third, we need rest for our bodies. Television is notorious for robbing us of bodily rest.  Turn it off.  Most tv’s can record a show for you.  Study shows that people who regularly get 7-8 hours of sleep live longer than those who sleep for less than seven or more than eight. Enjoy a warm drink and dim lighting 30 minutes before lights out.  Sunday is the day God designed for his people to worship him togther AND to rest from their labors.  Don’t cut grass.  Don’t work out.  No strenuous physical activity at all.  Our bodies need that time to repair, drive out impurities, and restore itself.  Take a nap or rock in a chair.  Buy a hammock on Friday, install it Saturday and swing back and forth on it Sunday (after church J ).

The stresses of this life are real and are demanding.  But we don’t have to succumb to them.  God has graciously given us ways to deal with the strains of the life.  Give rest to your soul by casting upon him the worries and fears on him, because he cares for you.  Give rest to your mind by handling tasks smartly and using creation to melt away the mental fatigue.  Give rest to your body by ceasing from work when it is time and getting enough hours of sleep.  Practicing these will not only lead to longer life but a life better lived where times of peace and tranquility override the noise.

Posted in Church Sabbath Day | Leave a comment