Category: Spiritual growth (page 2 of 2)

Top books for people sensing a call to ministry

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image credit: CreationSwap user Agatha Villa

Sensing a call to ministry?

Then it’s time to start getting prepped now. Nothing can substitute for doing the work of ministry. But picking up and working through a handful (or two) of good books will help you more than you could ever know.

These are some of my favorites. Some I read in seminary. Others I’ve read since I’ve been working full-time in the local church.

I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

 

Ministry

Small Groups with Purpose by Steve Gladen (e-book)

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley (e-book)

Sticky Church by Larry Osborne (e-book)

Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne (e-book)

Lectures to my Students by CH Spurgeon (e-book)

Creating Community by Andy Stanley (e-book)

UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (e-book)

 

Leadership

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell (e-book)

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (e-book)

Tribes: We Need you to Lead us by Seth Godin (e-book)

Good to Great by Jim Collins (e-book)

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (e-book)

 

Theology/Spiritual Growth

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler (e-book)

Knowing God by JI Packer (e-book)

Christian Beliefs: 20 Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem (e-book)

ESV Study Bible

The Attributes of God by AW Pink (e-book)

Desiring God by John Piper (e-book)

Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen (e-book)

Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper (e-book)

The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg (e-book)

 

Anything you’d add?

 

The car with the different wheel

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image credit: ParkerLineStriping.com

It was a balmy Saturday afternoon, bits of pavement sticking to the bottom of my flip flops as I picked up my 4 year old to carry him through the parking lot. Sweat beading across each of our foreheads instantly, he asked me to pick him up. This also gave me a better vantage point to hear what he was going to tell me amidst the throng of moving vehicles and people.

We were walking in to one of our favorite restaurants, Chuy’s, a Tex-Mex chain that’s opened up in Nashville. He always gets Mac-n-cheese, and he’d already started telling me how that’s what he wanted this time, too. It was hard for me to think about warm, gooey cheese, when that’s about what the black pavement beneath my feet felt like.

There were cars everywhere. Some with their blinkers on, waiting for a spot soon to be vacated. Some whipping through ready to leave. Others frustratedly circling the lot for a better vacancy closer to the air-conditioned indoors. I was glad I was holding Rex.

An old beater car pulled up beside us, turning left back towards the sea of parked, sun-baked cars. The paint was chipping a little. It made grinding noises when it stopped, and screeching noises when it began to turn. The cloth on the inside roof was sagging, held up by a few staples not part of the original design. Smoke billowed from the back end, blending in with the black of the pavement it was blanketing.

Rex noticed something. One of the wheels had evidently been damaged, replaced by a cheaper replacement that barely seemed to keep the axle from falling to the ground. Instead of a new polished, chrome rim with a deep black tire, it was just an old tire with a dusty, dirty rim. It served its purpose, but not well.

It stood out like a…dirty, dusty wheel.

“Ooh dad, did you see that? That car?”

“Which one?”

The one with the different wheel?”

“Yeah, buddy, I sure do. What about it?”

“We should get one like that.”

I chuckled. I told him that something was wrong with the car. That it was kinda broken. He responded:

“Dad. Did you see it?!? It was cool! That wheel!”

I reminded him, again, that this car was broken, and that we didn’t really want a car like this. We’re blessed to have a car that isn’t broken right now. But he was having none of that, as he continued to gush about the cool wheel that we needed to get.

What I saw was a broken-down car at the end of its vehicular rope, hanging on by a thread. It needed work, needed love, and more than anything else, it really just needed a junk yard.

What Rex saw was completely different. He saw something that was out of the ordinary. Something that was cool, and useful, and that we needed. He saw a car that wasn’t done, but that still had life and value.

I wish I saw the world like that.

I wish I saw people like that.

We see weaknesses. 

God says, “I can use that.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

We see crippling failures.

God says, “I’ve still got something for you.” (Judges 16:28-30)

We see an old washed up life.

God says, “Moses was 80 when he led my people out of Israel.”

We see insecurities.

God says, “Be courageous. I’ve got your back.” (Joshua 1:9)

We see someone so young they can’t do anything.

God says, “Don’t let ’em look down on you because you’re young.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

We see pain.

God says, “I’ll rescue you. Then turn you into a rescuer.”(Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

We see unloved and alone.

God says, “I’ll never leave you.”(Deuteronomy 31:6)

We see useless.

God says,“I am your hope.” (Psalm 62:5)

It’s time we stopped seeing the world for what it is. And started seeing it through the eyes of a God that longs to redeem.

We can start by learning from a 4 year old.

 

 

Fear & our crazy imagination

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image credit: CreationSwap user Dave Shrein

Our imaginations are powerful machines. They have a great way of spinning possible scenarios out of control. They play into the fears that have taken root in our hearts and minds, pouring gasoline and igniting them into a raging fire.

  • Your husband is running 5 minutes late on his way home from work…and your imagination thinks he’s abandoned your family.
  • Your meeting with your boss is unexpectedly cancelled…and your imagination thinks it’s because you’re being let go, and probably going to be thrown in jail.
  • You’ve been asked to speak publicly…and your imagination thinks you’ll be booed, or worse, laughed off stage.
  • You’ve got an interview coming up…and your imagination thinks they’ll not only not hire you, but they’ll fire you from your current job.
  • You’ve got a test coming up…and your imagination thinks you’ll fail it, and concurrently life will fall apart.
  • You slip up with your addiction…and your imagination thinks God hates you now.
  • You’re working on your dream…and your imagination thinks you’ll never finish it, but that it’ll be your demise.

Our imagination is great at exacerbating our fears, making them feel worse and worse, feeding what helps them grow: more fear.

But what if God had a different idea for our imaginations? What if there was a better way to use them?

Check this out:

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – the Apostle Paul, Ephesians 3:19-20

This passage speaks directly to the heart of our fears and imaginations. How?

5 Truths about Fear and Imagination

1. The opposite of fear is love. It’s a love that’s “too great to understand fully.” Because when you’re loved, fear can make no nest. I remind my son of this all of the time when he’s afraid. He’ll call me from his room at night, when it’s dark and quiet. “Dad?? Can you come here??”

“Hey buddy. It’s okay. You’re safe. Daddy loves you so much, and I’m not going to let anything happen to you. And even more important than that, ‘God is bigger than the boogie man…'” (we sing a little Veggie Tales song together)

2. Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John reminds us that “perfect love expels all fear.” (1 John 4:18) Fear can’t make a roost where love has rooted.

3. With love comes power. Power from the loving God. Power to conquer our fears, because they don’t hold power over us anymore. Power to punch our fears right in the throat.

4. Through that power, God can accomplish more through us than we can even think. Try to think of how God could use your fear right now. Go ahead. Now ask God to do that. God’s already got something bigger planned. It’s going to blow your mind.

5. Your fear isn’t even about you. What God’s going to do isn’t even on your radar. God’s going to use it to change your future. He’s going to comfort you, and give you courage, and remind you how powerful He is…so that someone else can see and feel the love and power of God through you and your story.

God can use your fears to do amazing things, affecting your life and the lives of others. He can help you grow through them, and become all you were intended to be in Christ. But we’ve got to be creative, and use our imaginations not to constantly spin the worst-case scenario.

But to spin the best, most mind-blowing scenario possible.

And know that God can do more.

Trust God. Rebuke fear. Dream bigger.

 

The audacity

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image credit: Creation Swap user Jeremiah Bauer

Who has the audacity to tell me…

…how to parent?

…that I’m wrong?

…to not be lazy?

…to quit being stingy with my money?

…to forgive someone who permanently damaged me?

…to call me out when my sarcasm stings?

…I need to rest?

…not to go there?

…not to watch that?

…to be friends with him?

…to quit hanging out with her?

…to go to that college?

…I need to quit avoiding him?

…that I have no right to an ego?

…to love those people?

…to tithe?

…that my best life is still yet to come?

…that I don’t have to try to impress him?

…that I’ve got nothing to give him that makes him any better?

…that he loves me, even in my worst moments?

The guy who rose from the dead. That’s who.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. – the apostle Paul (Romans 6:8-11)

 

 

How every dream dies…in 7 seconds

You’ve had a dream that flopped. An idea that didn’t get off the ground. A passion that didn’t come to fulfillment.

I know you have.

  • You wanted to write a book.
  • You wanted to go to work for a non-profit.
  • You wanted to start a non-profit.
  • You wanted to read through the Bible in a year.
  • You wanted to pray every day.
  • You wanted to save enough money to go on a mission trip.
  • You wanted to audition for a part in a play.
  • You wanted to open your own business.
  • You wanted to start, and maintain, a blog.
  • You wanted to launch a small group.
  • You wanted to learn a new language.

You started the process. And somewhere along the way, it lost its cool factor. Someone challenged you. Someone laughed at you. Something didn’t go exactly as you thought it would go. Things grew difficult, and hairy, and life happened.

Dinner still had to be served. Bills still had to be paid. Deadlines still had to be met. And dreaming took a back seat.

So you stopped. You walked away. And your dream, your idea, and that thing that God called you to do is disappearing in your rear-view mirror.

You tried. Got embarrassed. Then walked away.

What does that look like, in real life? Boiled down to 7 seconds? Something like this.

This is my son, Rex. He was dancing in front of the mirror. Dancing like nobody’s watchin. Then he realizes that someone is watching, and gets embarrassed. Then walks away, glancing back as he goes.

It’s funny to watch, but kinda sad, too.

Who cares what other people think? Who cares if they laugh? Who cares if you fall flat on your face? Who cares if things don’t go exactly as you hoped they’d go?

If God’s called you to do something, do it. Ignore the haters. Ignore the cameras. Ignore the failed attempts.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8

What’s God calling you to do? Be brave. Share it with us.

 

 

How do I stop growing in my faith?

How do I stop growing in my faith?

You’ve asked this question time and time again. In varying seasons of life. Maybe you’re asking it right now.

You’re tired of growing your faith.

  • Tired of getting closer to God. 
  • Tired of God calling you to do big things. 
  • Tired of feeling like your gifts are being well-spent. 
  • Tired of pouring yourself out. 
  • Tired of feeling like you don’t know exactly what God’s going to ask you to do.
  • Tired of God using you to minister hope and grace and truth.
I mean, seriously, it’s time to quit growing. Time to get control back over your life. Time for things to calm down, and for you to get a handle on where things are going. Am I right?
If you’re with me on this, and you’re ready for your faith to grow stagnant, stinking the place up like a mosquito-infested pond in June, then try this one thing on for size. It’s easy, really. If you’re tired of your faith growing, all you have to do is

Play it safe.

  • Don’t be generous with your resources. That’s risky, and takes faith. 
  • Don’t be generous with the grace you give others. You will probably get burned.
  • Don’t join a small group. You could be asked to be vulnerable. And you could be stretched. That’s no way to live.
  • Don’t read your Bible and act on it. Just stick to reading it. Much safer.
  • Don’t invite your neighbors to church with you. Stay in your comfort zone.
  • Don’t go on a mission trip. That’s crazy talk. 
  • Don’t go serve the homeless in your city. You might get dirty.
  • Don’t tithe. Planned giving? We’re going for minimal risk here. Come on.
  • Don’t maintain close relationships with people. People are too messy and difficult.
  • Don’t build relationships with people outside of the faith. If someone doesn’t trust Jesus, give ’em a tract and move on. If you try to stick around and love them, you’re being dangerous.
  • Don’t worship with other believers. Just quit going to church. They ask you to do things like ‘participate in worship.’ Not safe at all.
  • Don’t do anything difficult. When things get tough, run the other way. That’ll *stick it* to your faith.
Just minimize the risk in everything you do. That way you keep things safe, easy, and manageable.
And watch your faith shrivel right up.
Anybody with me?
 
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