Archives For Faith In Crisis

managingministry-650x220Pastors and ministry leaders are often thrown into the deep end of the pool without a whole lot of coaching when it comes to managing the avalanche of demands, opportunities, and interruptions that make up life in the ministry. And unfortunately for most of us who trained for ministry, our seminary training was woefully lacking in that area.

And that’s why we invited Knute Larson to join us in this webinar. Knute not only has 48 years of pastoral experience, but management and church administration was one of his fortes. He has served as an associate pastor, a senior pastor of a church of 200, and as a senior pastor of a megachurch of 8,000. He currently coaches over 300 pastors regarding effective administrative issues.

Knute joined me and co-host Joe Tower, director of the Church Ministries division of RBC Ministries, to share some of the insights he’s honed throughout his years of ministry. And in keeping with our ministry commitment to make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all, we are making the content of this webinar available without cost or obligation to you and anyone you’d like to share it with.

To listen to the audio recording from the live webinar event, click the link: Managing the Ministry Webinar Audio.

To download the PowerPoint from the webinar, click the link: Managing the Ministry PPT.

To get a free PDF download of Knute’s booklet of pastoral insights, click the title link: Managing the Ministry: Unraveling the Knots of Church Administration. You can also visit Knute’s website for more helpful information on his speaking and coaching ministry at: Knute Larson.

For further resources from RBC Ministries to help you weather the challenges of ministry, click the link: Administration.

findinggod-650x220Life is difficult. Flat tires, flooded basements, cranky kids, wounding words, the loss of a job, a broken body, a painful marriage—“trouble” comes in all shapes and sizes. And it often shows up when we least expect it and are unprepared.

Learning to live for God through all the daily troubles and difficulties of life isn’t something we can take or leave. Our worship, walk, and witness depend upon how we handle the daily chaos of trouble and hardships. However, while the depth of our self-centeredness makes loving others more confusing and harder to learn than anything else in life, there is nothing more important. And that’s where we all need help.

Gary and Lisa Heim joined us on May 7, 2014, for a heart-to-heart discussion about what they’ve learned about pursuing God when we’re discouraged or frustrated. Gary is a pastor of small groups and discipleship at a church in Rockford, MI. Lisa works with the women’s ministry. Both are licensed counselors and have written about what they’ve personally learned and have passed along to others over the past 25 years of ministry. Their book, True North: Choosing God in the Frustrations of Life is the theme of this webinar.

In keeping with our ministry commitment to make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all, we are making the content of this webinar available without cost or obligation to you and anyone you’d like to share it with.

To listen to the audio recording from the live webinar event, click the link: Finding God In The Frustrations of Life.

To download the PowerPoint from the webinar, click the link: Finding God In The Frustrations of Life PPT.

To get a free sample download from Gary and Lisa Heim’s book, click the book title link: True North: Choosing God in the Frustrations of Life.You can also visit their website for more helpful information on their teaching and speaking ministry at: True North Ministries.

For further resources from RBC Ministries to help you understand better what faithful living looks like when we struggle, click the link: Life-Struggles.

flickr/Creative Commons/Spring by Paula Bailey

flickr/Creative Commons/Spring by Paula Bailey

I like winter primarily because it leads to spring. Even though I live in Michigan where the harsh and blustery winters are reminiscent of C. S. Lewis’ make-believe world of Narnia where it was “always winter but never Christmas,” spring (even in Michigan) never fails to show up. And when spring finally arrives, I appreciate it the more for the long wait. The warm, sunny days ushered in by chirping birds and hardy crocuses and daffodils that burst through the ground, even when the last vestiges of snow still linger, prove that winter always gives way to spring.

We all face trials and difficult periods or situations in this life that, like a long winter, seem to never end. I’ve experienced a few, including a period of 2 or 3 years when I thought our son would never learn to read, no matter how much tutoring or special help he received; several years when two of our teenagers (simultaneously but for different reasons) created such stress and heartache in our family that for a while it consumed much of our time and most of our energy; and decades when it seemed a loved one would never experience a victorious Christian life. But God enabled me to endure and to grow in godly character (and surprisingly in joy) through these difficulties—and He continues to do so.

Even in the most trying circumstances we can have hope that God will enable us to endure and will carry us through—and will transform us in the process. Jesus said in His Word: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We can cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He promises to help us and be with us in our struggles.

Unlike winter which always leads to spring, not all difficult trials will end in this life, but they will end with this life. And in the next life, which will last for eternity, we will be with our Savior and will “receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). That gives me hope.

 

Jesus Loves You!

Alyson Kieda —  February 12, 2014 — 4 Comments

God’s Amazing Love/flickr/Creative Commons/Paul Dallgas-Frey

Some of the finest and dearest people I know struggle with believing that God loves them. They believe that they are far too sinful, too unlovable, or too unworthy to be loved by God. They have received Jesus as their Savior but still doubt that His love extends to them. They have no trouble believing that He loves everyone else, but they just can’t fathom the idea that God could possibly love someone like them—someone so undeserving.

Once upon a time, I was one of them. I struggled with my sinfulness, with the ugly words I spoke and with the ugliness inside me. How could God love me, I reasoned, when I failed to live up the standards of what a Christian should be?! I was such a lowly worm.

Thankfully, I now have complete assurance that God loves me—even me! Why? Is it because I’m sinning less and growing more like Him? Nope. Is it because I’m serving in my church? No, not even that. Have I done something to deserve His love? No and no again.

Even though I’m a Christian, I continue to sin. I am totally undeserving of God’s love. Yet I know that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). That’s the key. God loves us because He chose to love us—not because of how lovable we are but because He is the God of love. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us, to pay the debt for our sins (past, present, and future) that we could never pay. Because of what He did, I am considered righteous in His eyes.

It’s a simple yet profound truth that so many fail to grasp—or believe. But I know it’s true. The Bible tells me so, and the Spirit inside me confirms that truth: Jesus loves me. And if you have received Him as your Savior, He loves you too!

despitedoubtw_650x220-recorded-onDoubts are a common struggle for many who have embraced the Christian faith as well as for those who are still considering faith. Doubts are those nagging questions that plague us when life’s struggles push us to wrestle with the hard questions about what’s true and good and really matters.

On Wednesday, February 5, 2014, RBC Ministries Webinars hosted Dr. Michael Wittmer in a live webinar event: “Doubt: A Friend or Foe of Faith?” Dr. Wittmer shared his insights in a lively conversation with our hosts Tim Jackson and Dennis Moles. Many who attended the live event learned practical information on how to struggle well with the doubts that plague us during times of struggle and heartache. Things like:

  • Understanding the difference between “objective” and “subjective” doubt
  • Understanding the difference between “sincere” and “insincere” doubt
  • How doubt can hinder our growth in the faith
  • How doubt can enhance our trust and dependence upon the God of the Bible

In keeping with our ministry commitment to make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all, we are making the content of this webinar available without cost or obligation to you and anyone you’d like to share it with.

To listen to the audio recording from the webinar, click the link: Doubt: A Friend or Foe of Faith?

To download the PowerPoint from the webinar, click the link: Doubt: A Friend or Foe of Faith PPT.

To get a free sample download from Dr. Wittmer’s book, click the book title link: Despite Doubt: Embracing a Confident Faith.

For a free download of a RBC booklet by Dennis Moles, one of our hosts, click the title link: Beyond Reasonable Doubt: The Truth About The Bible.

For further resources on understanding more about why we doubt and how we can handle it from RBC Ministries, click the link: Doubt.

Does God Really Care?

Alyson Kieda —  February 3, 2014 — 3 Comments

 

Nature’s Tranquility/flickr/Creative Commons/judecat (ready to ring in the New Year)

I believe in God the Father and in His Son Jesus Christ my Lord. I hold to the promises of the Bible, and nothing can sway me from those beliefs. But I admit that sometimes I’ve doubted God’s love and His motives.

I’ve wondered why some of my prayers seemed to fall on deaf ears, particularly a certain heart-wrenching prayer I’ve been praying continually and persistently, in varying degrees of intensity, for decades. If it’s true that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16), why won’t He answer this earnest prayer?!

Over the years, I’ve gone through a confusing jumble of thoughts regarding this: Maybe God doesn’t really answer prayer; perhaps I’m not praying hard enough; maybe something needs to change or I need to learn or do something before God will answer; maybe this is a trial God wants to use to purify and refine me. Is this my “thorn in the flesh”? Perhaps God’s answer is “no!” In the beginning, I even wondered if God really is a God of love who cares for His children.

I’ve learned a lot about God through the decades, and He has purified and continues to purify and refine me. And I’ve seen God answer many of my prayers—sometimes miraculously. I’ve grown to trust and rely on Him more for everything I need; and He has become the first love of my life. I know that He deeply loves and cares for me, yet I continue to struggle with the same prayer request . . .

But now my doubt is not as frequent or as despairing. I have the assurance that God will answer my prayer. I’ve learned that I will never fully understand His ways. (All of us this side of heaven see dimly—1 Corinthians 13:12.) And I’m learning to “be still, and know that [He is] God” (Psalm 46:10).

I’m fretting and squirming less and trusting more as I rest in His loving arms—and wait.

So maybe you’re like me and have had your share of struggling with doubts. Maybe you’re there now. Join us for our webinar on February 5, 2014, at 1:00 p.m. with Dr. Michael Wittmer on the topic of Doubt: A Friend or Foe of Faith? I think you’ll find help in understanding and embracing our journey of faith through doubt to trust. Click the title of the webinar above to register for the free webinar.

 

graceandtruth-hfml

Growing spiritually isn’t something that just happens naturally, even for faithful followers of Jesus. It must be cultivated. And frankly, in the frantic and hurried pace that most of us live, it’s simply not easy. Even when we say we want to, knowing what to do to grow consistently in our faith is a struggle. So what does it take to develop and practice spiritual disciplines?

How do we, as followers of Christ, develop the discipline to keep growing in our faith without falling into the trap of obligation and monotonous routine?

On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, RBC Ministries Webinars hosted Dr. James Wilhoit in a live webinar event on “Growing in Grace and Truth.” Dr. Wilhoit shared his insights in a lively conversation with our hosts Dennis Moles and Katy Pent. Many who attended the live event learned practical information on how to passionately pursue God and maintain that pursuit for a lifetime of growth.

In keeping with our ministry commitment to make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all, we are making the content of this webinar available without cost or obligation to you and anyone you’d like to share it with.

To listen to the audio recording from the webinar, click the link: Growing in Grace and Truth: Developing and Practicing Spiritual Disciplines.

To download the PowerPoint of the webinar, click the link: Growing in Grace and Truth PPT.

To get a free sample chapter download from two of Dr. Wilhoit’s books on this critically important topic, click:

For further resources on spiritual formation and discipleship from RBC Ministries, click the link: Spiritual Disciplines.

A Christmas Carol

Tim Jackson —  December 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

Christmas Tree Topper Star–flickr/Creative Commons/Wilson Hui

I recently rewatched the 1984 made-for-television film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ famous 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. It was at a movie night that I host for the men at my church. We watch movies and then discuss the issues raised by the films that challenge, encourage, or discourage our journey into becoming the men God calls us to be.

What struck me was a scene early in the film that set the tone for the rest of the story. It’s the first place the ghost of Christmas past took Ebenezer Scrooge—back to a dreary boarding-school classroom where a boy sat alone with his books on Christmas Eve.

Why was he there? And why was he alone?

Ebenezer’s father had sent him to the boarding school because he blamed Ebenezer for the death of his mother. She’d died during childbirth. As an adult looking back, Ebenezer rationalized to the ghost that this rejection justified his compensation of hiding in his books—a decision that would eventually lead to a heart increasingly incapable of giving or receiving love.

Over time Ebenezer solidified his withdrawal from any and all relationships that held the potential risk of pain, firmly entrenching him in his miserly management of money and stocks devoid of human compassion under the guise of “it’s business.” His ill-placed commitments led to a level of cruelty and hard-heartedness that left him where he began—alone with his ledgers as his only companions on yet another Christmas Eve.

How sad! Not just for Ebenezer Scrooge (whose name has become synonymous with miserly and misanthropy in the English language) but for all who follow his path of a life dominated by the fear of rejection and pain.

The truth that stuck with me that night as I walked outside into the wintry blast was this: People who are a pain are in pain. Turn back the pages in their story far enough and eventually you will find a painful situation they’ve been running from all their lives. And it’s not until they face it in the presence of love and grace that they can break free from the chains they’ve woven in life that have kept their hearts cold, hard, and dead.

Fortunately, in A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens doesn’t leave Ebenezer there. There’s a resurrection, a transformation of heart that required supernatural intervention. And he ends up on his knees praying for the opportunity to be a different man.

Transformation always happens that way. It comes through seeing our painful past, recognizing how we first attempted to survive that pain on our own, owning how the subsequent series of choices forged a lifestyle of control and avoidance that insured our safety from that pain . . . and our loneliness. It’s through brokenness that we come to the end of ourselves and turn in desperation to the only One who can remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26).

The real carol of Christmas is that the Transformer of human hearts, Jesus, has come as a humble baby in a manger, not to condemn those whose hearts have been hardened by trying to survive in a hostile environment, but to offer a way out, to rescue us from ourselves that we might share in His life (John 3:17).

 

At some point in every individual’s walk with God, the question of unanswered prayer surfaces. It often erupts after we’ve passionately poured out our hearts to God about a desperate situation that we know needs His divine intervention and correction to literally save the day.

But then He doesn’t show up. Or at least not like we expected Him to or in the way we thought He would. And that’s when we struggle in our search for reasons as to “why” He didn’t answer like we thought He’d promised.

Didn’t He hear me? Doesn’t He know how important this is? Doesn’t He understand how much we need Him? Doesn’t He ask us to pray for anything in His name and He will give it to us? So what’s the catch?

Prayer invites us deeper into both the mystery and the madness of the journey of faith more than just about anything else we may encounter in life. It pushes us deeper into the heart of our great God who loves us more than we will ever be able to fully grasp and yet who responds . . . or doesn’t respond . . . in ways that can drive us to doubt or even the brink of despair as we cry out, “Why God?”

Larry Crabb has wrestled with these kinds of questions about prayer himself, and he shares with us what he’s learned along the way in his journey with God. Watch and listen as Larry responds to questions about unanswered prayer and the purpose of prayer.

I hope you find these videos helpful.

If you’re a church leader—from pastors and elders to small-group leaders, Sunday school teachers, and everyone in between—please join us for a repeat of our popular “Leading in Prayer” webinar this Thursday evening at 7:00 PM EDT with Dr. James Banks as our guest, along with Dennis Moles and myself. You can register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6281720287662468096

Our Prayers Count

Jeff Olson —  July 18, 2013 — 1 Comment

One of the many encouraging stories about prayer in the Bible is found tucked near the end of the New Testament book of James. As the half-brother of Jesus wrapped up his letter, he encouraged his readers to pray in their time of need (James 5:13).

Being familiar with the Old Testament, James pulled an example out of the life of the Jewish prophet Elijah to illustrate prayer.

James reminded his audience of the time Elijah earnestly prayed for God to withhold rain for three and a half years—and not a single drop fell on the land (5:17). After that time passed, he began praying for rain to return, and God opened up the heavens (verse 18).

Two things encourage me about James’ use of Elijah’s dramatic story. First, he starts out by saying that Elijah “was a man just like us” (James 5:17). In other words, he was an ordinary guy—just as human as we are.

It’s only a few words—“just like us”—but it carries a truth that counters a familiar lie that can diminish our prayers. The lie can come at us in this way:

Alright, those kinds of prayer may have worked for one of those Bible guys, but not for an ordinary person like me today.

James would beg to differ. He wrote that Elijah is no different than any of us. It doesn’t matter when or where we live, our prayers matter and can be just as effective as any follower of God—even as effective as someone whose prayers held back rain for three plus years.

A second thing that lifts up my heart about Elijah’s story is that our prayers play a significant role in what God is up to. Sure, the God who made this world didn’t need Elijah’s prayers to stop the rain that triggered a severe famine that brought a wicked ruler to his knees. And God could have started the rain again without Elijah’s prayers, but He invited Elijah to be a part of what He was up to, to partner with Him in what He’s doing in the world.

Sometimes we may be tempted to think that our prayers make little difference, if any at all.

Don’t believe it!

Our prayers do count for God’s kingdom agenda!