Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Letter to my friend who lost someone

I am hurting with you today.
I am not the one to tell you how to get through your relationship because I wasn't asked and try not to butt in. Know that you will always have my love, prayers and support.
But if you're truly breaking up, I also have a prescription for you. If you really want the best life you can have, you have to make radical steps to get through this, allow God to heal you, and grow:
1- Let God forgive you. Allow God's grace to get in all the places where your life wasn't what it should be, where anger, bitterness and hurt changed how you were. Allow God to tell you how valuable you are, how special you are, who you are.
2- Put your time and energy into prayer, reading and learning scripture, and getting to know what God wants of you. Romans 12:1-2
2a- Check every decision- about what to say, how to react to an ex, a friend or anyone else, or what to do- through the question- "How would Jesus want me to do this?". It will make decisions and choices much slower for a while, but that will speed up as you know God and God's word more.
3. Lose the habits that hurt. Substances you take in, ways of talking to or about people, unhealthy eating and living- all these make your life worse not better, and teach you to lean on people or things, not on God. If you really want a happy wonderful life, you have to detox from the bad things (and conversations) that might be in your life now.
3a. That probably means throwing things out, and probably means there are people you shouldn't be talking to.
3b. It also means leaving behind blame. You need to simply stop blaming- out loud or in your thoughts- anyone else for what is happening, has happened or will happen. Change your way of thinking- people aren't good or bad, they make good or bad choices. People don't make you mad, happy, sad, right or wrong- you choose that. Don't choose to allow blame to be part of your life. Take responsibility for what you do, and look at everything outside of what you do as simply part of life. That doesn't mean you let others do things that hurt you without stopping them, but it means you don't blame or accuse- it just brings you down.
Many times, a lot of the anger between people comes from your reactions to each other. Choose not to curse someone out, not to gossip and not to be petty or bitter- for your good, and theirs.
4. Don't get involved with another person romantically for at least 6 months, preferably 1 year. You are leaving a long-term relationship- don't rebound into something else. Spend your time improving you, getting to know God and learning what a woman of God looks, sounds and acts like.
4a- Don't even begin talking to someone you might be interested in unless you know they love God MUCH more than they love you. If you follow #2 above, find someone else who is more attached to God than anything else. Then try to help them follow God more, not get them to fall in love with you. Then- if you are both doing your best to follow God- God will take care of making the relationship what it needs to be in Christ.
4b- Don't live with someone before you are married. I promise, God doesn't want you living with someone before you have a lifelong commitment to them. Don't let finances, frustration or loneliness get you into another intimate relationship without permanence at any point after 2017.
- Before 2017, see #3 above!
5. Get in church- here or somewhere- where you can sit, listen, learn and be loved. Don't go in to be something or do something- you need time to heal. Go in to allow others to speak words into your life, to love you and help you grow. Go in to learn the word, to take notes and live them out, to pray with people and have people pray for you. Go in to be quiet and learn.
6. Find 2-3 "3 a.m." truly Bible-based Christian believer friends (People who will do anything they can to help you, even if you call at 3 a.m.!) Don't count on people as your support system friends (call anytime, share details of life) who don't absolutely live out the fullness of the Christian life. People like Jesus- you know at least a few of them.
6a. Don't surround yourself with people who say anything's all right if you feel good, or that God works in everything, or that God has a plan for everything. That's not scriptural. God has plans for you- as you put God first. If you are on the fence, obeying when you want and doing what you want, not seeking God's will, there is no promise in the bible for you except God's mercy and love. God gives you free will, and only is able to do amazing things in your life when you follow Christ. If your "friends" say everything will work out, without regard for what you do or how you follow Christ, love them, but find new best friends. 6b. God's Spirit and scripture will show you people you should listen to, and that you should not listen to. Scripture also shows you that obedience is part of God's blessings:
Matthew 6:33 "Seek first his kingdom and righteousness and all things will be given to you."
Romans 8:28-which properly translated says "God works in all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." "Things" don't work together- God works in all things.
- in both of these, see that obedience to God precedes God's work and blessings for us.
7. Know that i love you, have been praying for you,and will continue to pray for you. Follow this prescription and God will do things you can't imagine in you. Whether or not you do, I will help however I can- but this is where God wants you to work.
Matthew 6:33- I love you!- Pastor Joe

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Pastors, here's a nugget for you from another discussion. Please pray, search your hearts, be honest, then add your comments.
One of my teacher/mentors told me that if you had a proper passage and were preaching a message (as opposed to giving an exegetical report or teaching a lecture), after 15 minutes you were repeating yourself. I've found that to be true.

When I go over that time (or actually about 20 minutes), I'm usually doing one of 3 preacher no-nos:

1. Trying to get my points across again because I didn't do well enough the first time. People don't need to pay because you didn't do well enough the first go-round. Prepare your sermon so that you are saying what you need to say in the best way possible. One definition of poetry is "the best way something may be said." Make your sermons poetic- struggle to make every phrase, every word, exactly what it should be. Then you don't need mulligans or do-overs.

2. Trying to include another sermon that I want the people to hear. If you are listening to God for what you are going to say, then trust God to give you the right message.
Now part of this may be indecision caused by a lack of Bible study and prayer about your messages. If you aren't sure that what you're saying is god's message for the week, the answer isn't to squeeze parts of 2 other messages in, but to seek God's face until you have God's message.
Also- if the Lord really is the Lord, your 20 minutes isn't the only message from God they hear this week. Trust the Spirit to work in you and others- God will speak to God's people- you're not the only voice they hear from God.

3. Adding unneeded fluff to the message God gave me. Again, poetry- make every thought, every illustration, every phrase, even every break (laughter, movement or change of topic)- serve the message God gave you for these people in this place and time.

The average adult in America today has a 26 minute span of conversation, broken into 5 minute segments. I'm not blaming TV, but there is a coincidence. Every time you go over 5 minutes, they need a break. If you don't give one, they'll take it anyway. And if you go over that time, you won't have the audience all with you for the whole thing.
If you really think more than 10% of your people are listening to the whole 40 minute message, do the math and think about your adult members so that you know I'm right, There may be 4 note-takers, but there are 5 guys who have been thinking about playoff scenarios for half of the message, 2 women who think dinner is burning (or today, that they need to make a call-ahead), and 3 young adults who need God's help with their thoughts about certain brothers or sisters in the church. Right?

Simply put- Your message should be able to be summarized in one sentence (remember the old thesis sentence in school? It still works!); have less than 5 points, and bring home one great truth of life in and with Christ in 20 minutes or less. Anything else is diluting the power of what you say, hurting the reputation of the preacher, and hindering people's learning in the Kingdom.