Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Does God Love Me?

Last week I explained that spiritual vertigo is when our faith cannot process what we see, hear, or experience. Although we know what the Bible says, life seems to be teaching us otherwise. When we are in the throes of this spiritual doubt, the one thing we want to know is, “Does God really love me—does He care?”

Some time ago, a friend came to me and said he was experiencing a year filled with great adversity. Chris was a deacon in his church, a growing believer, and someone with a servant’s heart for others. He made every effort to be a good husband and father. Fast forward one year—Chris is disillusioned with his faith and church life. During his most dedicated year of service, his wife had serious knee surgery, placing her on crutches for several weeks. He found himself being breadwinner, dad, nurse, and part-time mom. Adding to this, his father had a stroke and suffered a terrible year of mental difficulties. The year ended with Chris placing his father in a nursing facility because his violent outbursts became too much for home care. The man he called “dad” was no longer the same man who raised him.

His father had just passed away when Chris came to me for guidance. He was discouraged and admitted he doubted his faith. His reasoning was simple, and one we all can identify with. He said, “I felt I was doing the right things. I was a leader in the church, a good husband, and father. I just can’t believe a loving, heavenly Father would allow my dad to suffer as he did.” I listened as Chris told his story. At the end of our conversation, Chris summed up his feelings saying, “He may be a loving, heavenly Father, but I feel like I treat my kids a lot better than He treats His.” Chris was experiencing spiritual vertigo. His faith couldn’t process what he was seeing, hearing, or experiencing. Chris doubted God’s love for him. He wondered if God even cared.

Everything that was happening in Chris’ life was true—it’s just not the whole truth. Only God knows the whole truth. We can better understand adversity in our lives when we have a better handle on faith. Oz Guinness says that faith is in transit between the “no longer” and the “not yet.” We build faith by looking at the “no longer.” We look back and thank God for what He has done for us. Thinking back we become grateful, realizing that we are better off than we deserve. We also come to know, as God came through in the past, we can now look to the “not yet,” believing in Him for the future. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The assurance of things hoped for are the things we believe God will provide in the future.

Where do we start? We start at the cross. Colossians 2:6 teaches, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” How did we receive Christ? We received Him humbly at the cross. We came to Christ with no righteousness of our own, with nothing to offer—just a humble heart because of what He did for us. C. J. Mahaney said, “For me, grace is never more amazing than when I’m looking intensely at the cross, and I believe the same will be true for every child of God. There is nothing more overpowering and captivating to the soul than to climb Calvary’s mountain with childlike attentiveness and wonder, with all the distractions and wrong assumptions cleared away.”

We grow in Christ, trust in Christ, and sense the love of Christ, by humbly coming daily to the cross. How does this help?

1. Living at the cross helps us remember the sacrifice He made in order to save us from our guilt and sin. The cross opened the possibility of a relationship with God.

2. The cross declares our worth. William Temple declared, “My worth is what I am worth to God and that is a marvelous great deal, for Christ died for me.” The cross reminds us that God, indeed, does love us.

3. The cross clears our conscience. We constantly deal with the burden of guilt and when we experience adversity we often examine ourselves and wonder if we are “good enough” to be blessed. The cross reminds us that Christ already paid for our sins. “…and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

4. The cross helps us place ourselves into fellowship with God, who desires to bless our lives. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

It’s easy for us to identify with Chris’ spiritual vertigo. All of us have gone through times of disappointment, doubt, disillusionment, and anger. The first step in overcoming spiritual vertigo is to humble ourselves before the cross. However, it’s not the only step.

I wrote Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo to help people like me, you, and Chris. I believe this book holds many answers on how we can overcome doubt and pursue courageous faith for our lives. Please click on the book on the right for more information.

God does love you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo

It was the middle of a typical hot summer night at our home outside Orlando. My wife, Pam, and our two younger children were visiting family in Georgia while our oldest son and I stayed behind. We were sound asleep after a long day of golfing in near 100-degree temperatures when I suddenly woke up in a cold sweat. The room appeared to be spinning. I tried to get up but each attempt made me feel sick to my stomach. To make matters worse, my brain felt like it was moving around inside my heard and my eyes seemed to be dancing. I had lost all perspective of direction and I was scared. I thought, Am I dying? Should I call for help?
I tried to cry out to my son, who was sleeping in his bedroom, but my voice wouldn’t carry. Every time I tried to reach for the phone, I felt like the ceiling was attacking me.

Eventually, I mustered the determination to turn, grab the phone and dial 911. By the time the paramedics arrived, I was so disoriented that they had to wake my son to unlock the front door because I couldn’t move from the bed. They immediately strapped me to a gurney and whisked me away to the hospital. When I got there, the doctors administered intravenous fluids to hydrate me. They diagnosed me with a severe case of vertigo due to dehydration.

The high temperatures during our golf outing earlier that day left me exhausted by the end of the round. I’d also been drinking diet soda all day instead of water, which caused me to become extremely dehydrated. That night, I experienced vertigo because of it. The best way I can describe this condition is that your brain and eyes have a functional disconnect and your brain is unable to process what your eyes are seeing.

You may have never had physical vertigo, but most of us have experienced spiritual vertigo. This is a condition of severe doubt, when our faith cannot process what we see, hear, or experience. We know what the Bible says but we feel real life does not match what our faith teaches us.

As a result we live in a world of doubt and often discouragement. We are challenged by sermons and books to be a giant-killer, a lion-tamer, a conqueror in Christ. However, we cannot seem to gather the faith we need to meet the everyday challenges of life.

How do we reconcile life and faith? How do we win over our doubts? I will be sharing more next week, but let me encourage you to order and read my new book, Overcoming Spiritual Vertigo. I wrote it for people like us, and I believe God can use it in your life. The book is now available on Simply click on the book to the right to order it.

See you next week as we journey together from doubt to courageous faith!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Church Hoppers

While pastoring a church in Atlanta, I had the experience of encountering many “church-hoppers.” There were many churches in the area from which to choose, which lent itself as temptation for many to move from church to church. One particular family had suddenly left our church. When I visited them, they claimed they were not upset with anyone. The husband simply said, “We were members of Pleasant Hill Church for three years and had a good experience. Then we were members of your church for three years and again had a good experience. Now we are moving on to the next church for the next experience.”

While there are a few legitimate reasons why God would lead you to change churches, it is wise to be sure God is leading. Changing churches simply because a church is going through a trial or a “product” seems better at another church, or you want a new experience, is no reason to leave your church family.

There are some who seem to change churches more often than they trade automobiles. Over my many years of pastoring, I have noticed seven reasons that seem to motivate church-hoppers.

1. They mistake the excitement of something new for the movement of the Spirit. Newness brings excitement—whether it’s a new church, new ministry, or new restaurant. However, we must come to the place where we deal with the question, “Am I looking for excitement or the genuine joy of Christ?”

2. They carry their offenses from one church to the next. When we become offended or take up an offense for another, we must deal with the issue before leaving the church. Otherwise, a bitter spirit will develop in our hearts. We will become critical and when the negatives weight too heavily, we will not be able to find satisfaction at any church. The new church may provide temporary relief, but Satan’s foothold in our lives will rule (2 Corinthians 10:3, 4).

3. They have a consumer attitude. Their attitude is “What’s in it for me?” If the price exceeds the benefit, they simply look elsewhere. This attitude is probably the number one reason for church-hopping.

4. They have an unsatisfied family member. A parent should look for a church where their entire family can benefit. However, sometimes offspring will want to leave a good church because they have a complaint against the youth minister or their youth group. Parents should thoroughly research this before making a move. Many conflicts or complaints can be worked out. If the teenager merely wants to move to be with friends, for example, this is not a legitimate cause to move. Disrupting your family for less than God’s will is ultimately harmful both to your family and the body of Christ.

5. They enjoy the love and attention they receive as a newcomer without forming lasting relationships and having to give the same love in return.

6. They compare their pastor to another pastor/writer and are seeking for a pastor to duplicate their model pastor’s philosophy or preaching.

7. They are looking for a church to give them what only Christ can give. The church is a vital instrument in Christ’s hand, but only Christ can give us the joy, peace, sense of belonging, and purpose that we seek.

Again, there are situations where God is leading us elsewhere. However, we need to be certain it is God leading us. The wrong step away from your church family is a step out of the will of God for your life. The term “church family” should mean something to each of us. It does to our Lord.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Convictional Leadership

We live in a society that is essentially non-confrontational. Their motto appears to be “Live and let live—your beliefs are true for you, and my beliefs are true for me.” In application, opposite or conflicting beliefs cannot be all true, and as a result, the claim is that there is no absolute truth. Consequently, having no firm beliefs leads to little or no conviction in the heart.
  • Conviction produces passion in life.
  • Conviction produces clarity in life.
  • Conviction produces purpose in life.

    For example, without the conviction that the United States is vital to the world, few would be passionate about defending it. If you do not believe that good parenting is vital to your children, why care?

    However, heart conviction also leads to confrontation and conflict. Christian author and evangelist, Josh McDowell states, “When truth becomes real and relevant, it becomes a deep conviction.” Beliefs are what we live by; convictions are what we die for. Do you want to live life with passion, deep belief, clarity, and purpose? If so, your conviction can conflict with the beliefs of others. You will want to help your friends see the truth, and this often leads to confrontation.

    A dad I know was talking to his son about his faith. The son had adopted a different view on several important issues. Their conversations tended to end in conflict. The son asked, “Why can’t you just embrace what I believe?” The dad replied, “If I did, I would either have to disregard my convictions or stop caring about you. I will never stop loving you, so what do I do with my convictions?”

    Tough question. Some feel the answer is simply to embrace everyone’s beliefs. But, how can we when it comes to those we love? If your daughter joined a cult, would you not do whatever you could to rescue her? If your son believed that he did not want to face life without drugs, would you not try to intervene or at least pray diligently?

    I find the more deeply I love someone, the less tolerant I am of their harmful beliefs and lifestyle. Perhaps when we do not confront someone with truth it is a statement of our degree of love for them, more than a declaration of our open mindedness.

    This is also true in leadership. As a pastor and leader, I am often faced with this dilemma. With my convictions based on the Word, I am in constant struggle with conflict and confrontation. When beliefs collide, I want to help the person to see the harmfulness of their beliefs. Then, there is the feeling of many that if you stand firm on your convictions, you insult the beliefs of others. Therefore, you are a bigot or guilty of hatred. What can we do? Where do we find conviction? How can we confront without the conflict?

    Let me give you four insights.

     1. Where you get your deepest convictions reveal who is first in your life. If Jesus is your Lord, you must receive your convictions from the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:16)

     2. Apply your convictions to everyday life. That does not merely mean politics, but must also apply to your personality, disposition, emotions, and ministry to others. When others see Jesus making a difference in your life, they will be more open to listening.

     3. When confronting, always do so with grace. John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus came with grace and truth. Never sacrifice the truth. However, always be gracious. Seek to understand others. Share the truth in humility and love. Seek not just to get your point across, but to change the heart of the listener.

     4. Never compromise a biblical conviction.

    Having strong convictions is not popular today. While they ignite clarity, purpose, and passion, they can also be a source of great conflict. We must be certain our convictions are biblical and our confrontation is motivated by love.

    “Convictions fuel the passions that change the world.”

    Your thoughts?


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What Does Your Momma Want?

Motherhood is one of the most difficult, stressful jobs in our society. As our mothers have served and ministered to us, we, in turn, want to honor them. You want to give them what they really need and want in life. But, what do women want? Albert Einstein once said, “Despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, I have yet to answer the great question…what do women want?”
If I were to have written an article on this subject when I was thirty, I would have entitled it “Five Things Every Woman Wants.” Ten years later, I might have called it “Five Helpful Clues to What Women Want.” Today, I might call it, “Feeble Hints for Fellow Strugglers.”
Scripture tells us there are several things we can bank on to answer the question, “What do women want?” Let me give you five:

  • A leader who will give her security. “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” Ephesians 5:23
Head simply means “a leader.” Women want a man they can rely on to follow God, so she can be at peace with following him. Many psychologists believe security is a number one issue with women. It’s been said that security is realized when we know a responsible person cares about us.
  • A love that makes her feel cherished. (Ephesians 5:25-29)  
Cherished means she feels more important than anything else. Men tend to be task-driven. We will do whatever it takes to “win” her. Once married, we often turn our attention to our careers. We want her to be proud of us and we feel this can best be achieved by accomplishments. Women, however, are more relationship-driven. They need our love more than they need our success.
  • A family who appreciates her. (1Peter 3:7)
Philosopher, William James said, “The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” If your mom or wife has placed her family first in her heart, then it only stands to reason that this is how she measures success and even her self-worth. When children take her for granted (especially grown children) it makes her feel unappreciated and unsuccessful. Appreciate her this Mother’s Day, but just as importantly, appreciate her every day.
  • Children who honor her. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother.” Ephesians 6:1, 2
Honor means to add value to; to hold in high esteem. We honor and add value to someone when we affirm them. We can honor our mother by paying attention to her, showing gratitude toward her, taking care of her as she ages, and most of all, by following Christ. Nothing can comfort a mother’s heart more than knowing they will one day see their children in heaven.
  • A Savior who will satisfy her. Ephesians 3:17-19 
No husband, child, job, career, or friendship can ever really meet the needs of a woman. Women want and need what Jesus Christ alone can bring--only Jesus and a relationship with Him will truly satisfy her every need.
What do you think?