Everyone has a Story

Christians don’t have just one story or testimony; we have many. Our testimonies are stories of God’s power and presence in our lives. Every new day brings fresh stories of God’s goodness and grace.
Years ago I read Rebecca Pippert’s book “Out of the Saltshaker” on witnessing to others about Jesus. She wrote, “Every Christian has a personal story to tell … God has called you to be a very specific, very special person, and your story, your life, is a testimony to God’s goodness, his grace, his forgiveness. So share who you are with people. Let them know you have struggles, but that God has made a difference.”
In the Scriptures, we read about a woman at the well whom Jesus spoke to about salvation. So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’”   (John 4:28-29)

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What Zone Are You In?

We are living in a season when change is the key word. Everything is changing and as a result there is tremendous turmoil in the world. There are those who are leading the change and they are usually young and are using ‘people power’ and social media to bring about the changes they want and, in many cases, the world needs. 

There are those who are apposing the changes because they simply like what they already have and are not in favour of change or innovation in any area for any reason. 

And, you have a third group – often the largest of the three – who simply don’t care one way or the other. They are either apathetic or simply out of touch with what is happening in the world and in their small corner of the world.

I have observed that we all tend to fall into one of four different zones when it comes to innovation and change. Which zone we live in impacts how we live, how we relate to others, how we lead, and what we achieve. Here are the zones, along with the attitude statements that best represent them:

1> THE COASTING ZONE – “I do as little as possible”

2> THE COMFORT ZONE – “I do what I have always done”

3> THE CHALLENGE ZONE – “I attempt to do what I haven’t done before”

4> THE CREATIVE ZONE – “I attempt to think what I have never thought before”

To which zone do you naturally gravitate? Do you tend to live in the coasting zone, casually – even passively – doing as little as possible? Do you tend to stay in the comfort zone, avoiding risks? Do you connect with the challenge zone, where you try new things and willingly risk failure? Or do you try to stretch yourself the furthest by living in the creative zone, where you explore new ideas, seek out other perspectives, and cross bridges in your imagination long before you physically reach them?

The good news is that we have the ability to choose a zone different from our natural one. And I would recommend the creative zone, because it is where we experience abundance and expand our potential. If you want to take your walk with Jesus and your life journey to ever-higher levels and fulfill the potential God has placed within you then you need to shift from whatever zone you are currently living the majority of your life in and enter the challenge zone and then the creative zone.

Don’t settle for what is when there is so much more within you that needs to be expressed so that you reach your full potential and then the Church and God’s Kingdom can benefit. 

Listening – a Lost Art

If you want to connect with people and grow heathy and beneficial relationship you need to learn how to listen. Listening opens the best door for you to connect with people. Listening with your head and your heart. 

There is the story about the tennis pro who was giving a lesson to a new student. After watching the student take several swings at the tennis ball, the instructor began to suggest ways the man might improve his stroke. But every time the instructor made a suggestion, the student interrupted with his own diagnosis of the problem and how he might fix it.

After being interrupted yet again, the pro simply nodded in agreement and let the player continue on his own. 

When the lesson was over, a woman – who observed the lesson, was familiar with the pro, and had seen the whole thing – asked, “Why did you go along with that arrogant man’s stupid suggestions?”

The old pro smiled and answered, “I learned a long time ago that it’s a sheer waste of time to try and sell answers to a person who only wants to buy echoes.”

If you never listen, before long the people around you will stop talking to you, and you will lose the benefit of their input. If you are a leader in the church and you don’t listen well, you will become isolated and eventually no longer be leading anyone. If you do listen, not only will they tell you things you need to know but they will also connect with you because they see that you care and that you value what they have to say. You will build great relationships and connections.

So, how do you become a good listener?

1> Remind yourself daily to listen well.

Here’s a thought. Those that think they listen well usually don’t! So, remind yourself to listen. We all spend a great deal of time on a daily basis meeting with people – formally and informally. You need to decide that every time you meet with someone – and I mean every time – have a way to remind yourself to listen more and talk less. A past mentor of mine always carried a legal pad with him to take notes. He would open his note pad just as he was sitting down with the person and would write a large “L” on the top of the page. That “L” stood for listen. It was his reminder to shut up and listen.

2> Stop interrupting others when they are talking.

Most people are so focused on what they want to say or share that they simply ignore what the other person is saying, interrupting them often in mid-sentence. They simply take over and talk over the other person until the original person stops talking. This also happens when they want to respond to what is being said even before hearing all that is being said. And, sometimes happens because you think you know what others were going to say and so you jump right in. No matter how you slice it – it is rude and you appear very arrogant. You leave the impression that what you want to say is more important than what they are saying.

3> Start asking questions.

One of the ways to stop interrupting is to engage with what the other person is saying by asking them questions. Asking questions is the best way to encourage another person to talk. And, when you are asking questions you must stop talking to hear the answers. Then dialogue and good communications begins. You will discover, as strange as it may seem, that you ears never get you into trouble.

4> Invite others to hold you accountable in the area of listening well.

Ask people who are close to you to let you know any time that you are not “really” listening to them. There is nothing like accountability to keep you honest and help you to grow. And, whenever someone calls you out for not really listening with your whole being, apologize, close your mouth, and listen. 

If you want to be a good friend, marriage partner, business person, Christian leader – become a better listener. Invite others to hold you accountable. If you have the courage, meet with your team members, colleagues, friends, and family, and ask them how good a listener you are on a scale of one to ten. And, listen carefully to their response. Then make some changes. Then you will become a great listener!

Seven Passion Killers

      And what keeps you from having that constant passion for the Lord
An unbalanced schedule
That means if you’re overworked or you are under worked you’re going to lose your passion for life and lose your passion for God. Life is a series of seasons, the Bible says. There’s a season for everything. And there’s a rhythm to life. You need both in your life — both input and output. You need both rest and work. And too much of either will cause you to lose your passion. Too much work will cause you to lose your passion. Too much nothing — boredom — will cause you to lose your passion too, if you’re not working enough.
What’s the antidote for that? 1 Timothy 4:7 “Take the time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit.”
How do you do that? One word. Balance. We all know to be physically fit you have to have a balanced diet. And to be spiritually fit you have to have a balance of God’s five purposes for your life in your life. You need to have time to worship with God private and corporate. You need to have times when you are fellowshipping with other believers. You need to have times when you’re reading God’s word and growing as a Christian. You need to have times of ministry — service — where you’re giving out and using your abilities. And you need times of where you’re sharing your faith with others.

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Resurrection Life

I want to look at the whole idea of living differently than those who do not believe in Jesus
But, even more than that – living different than we live now – as believers in Jesus
In Paul’s letter to Timothy
Paul, an apostle mentoring a young man called Timothy who is also called to be an apostle
Paul writes and states to this young believer he is discipling and mentoring:
“He (Jesus) gave us resurrection life…” (2 Timothy 1:9a TPT)
But, to get to that point in tonight’s chat we need to go back to the start…

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The Clock, The Compass, The Calling

In my life there are three things that help me to become who God wants me to be
Who I am as a person – a disciple – and who I am becoming as I journey with Him
These same three things help me to do what God is calling me to do as a believer
And the call on my life – and on your life as well – changes over time as circumstances change and as you grow and mature in the faith
The clock, the compass and the calling … and I want us to look briefly at these three
The clock helps me to stay on track with what I am doing today – what I need to accomplish today
1 Corinthians 12:7a “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.”

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The Great Challenge

Setting the stage:

Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, was buried, rose from the dead, and appeared to His disciples a number of times over a period of 40 days…
Jesus, on one occasion, told them to head to Galilee because this is where most of His followers lived…
He was planning to meet them there…
We are talking here of more than the twelve He chose to be leaders in this movement … now eleven because Judas betrayed Him and then took his own life
We are talking here of a good number of followers…

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Basics of the Christian Faith

2 Corinthians 13:14
The love of God the Father
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
Fellowship:
Social interaction
Partnering with
Participating in
The Holy Spirit is a person – He has a personality, purpose, plans

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The Simplicity of the Faith

If it is complicated – it is religion. If it is simple, it is Jesus! And, we do manage to complicate the Christian faith. Often, in fact, we make it into another religion. We take the basics of the faith and add things to it that take our focus off of Jesus and onto programs, buildings, budgets, bodies (number of people attending), and baptisms (number of people publicly confessing their faith).

In time, Jesus seems to get lost totally. Listen to the worship songs today; most are about us, not Jesus. Listen to sermons; most are about life principles, spiritual deeper life, the benefits we gain from salvation – healing, deliverance, prosperity. Jesus has gotten lost. Not His choice – we did it.

So, we end up with “another Jesus, another gospel, and another spirit” as Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians. And, often, we are totally unaware of it. May I add, “another church” (small ‘c’ because it is not the Church that Jesus is the Head of and that He is building). And, we end up in bondage to legalism or life lived without boundaries (license) and no longer experience the liberty and freedom Jesus spoke of and died to release.

It is time to refocus on Jesus. Maybe it is time to focus for the first time on Jesus. He is to be our focus – the King and His Kingdom. To focus or refocus will mean decluttering our spiritual life. It will mean purging religion out of our system (easier said than done). It will mean learning to travel light and experience life as it was meant to be lived.