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How to Prevent Spiritual Stagnation

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“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come,” (1 Timothy 4:8). It’s good to exercise, and to keep your body in shape. But just as the body gets flabby and out of shape without exercise, the soul can begin to suffer the signs of spiritual atrophy if not intentionally nurtured. Here are some tips on how to exercise your faith, feed your soul, and prevent spiritual atrophy.

[T]HE OLDER I GET, THE MORE I SEE THE CORRELATION BETWEEN NEGLECT AND DEMISE. Simply put, things that get attention grow; things that don’t diminish. If I don’t exercise my body, I get flabby. I begin to have health problems. And, if I don’t feed my soul, the same thing happens, spiritually speaking. My faith grows or declines in proportion to how I neglect or care for it. The things I prioritize in life simply . . . grow. The things I neglect, at best, go away. In the worst-case scenario (which is often frequent), things don’t go away at all – they end up haunting us. I have found that there are indeed a few things that make a significant difference in whether my faith grows or diminishes. I want to share a several with you, because I think they will help you in your journey, too.

1. LIFT PAPER, STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH. Romans 10:17 says “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” If you find yourself spiritually flabby, in a funk, if your soul is out of shape, it could be because you have not been in God’s Word. I have found this to be true in my own life; maybe you can relate. Can I expect my faith to grow if I neglect God’s Word, the Bible? No. Not the way it will grow if I am in it. There is a relationship between whether or not I am in the Bible and whether or not I am walking and growing in my faith. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, which is the Bible. Lift the pages of Scripture and you will build up your faith, your soul, your spiritual strength.

2. WHEN YOU BUILD OTHERS UP, YOU BUILD YOURSELF UP.  Verse 6 of Philemon says “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” There is something about sharing your faith – in any measure – that builds YOU up.  You don’t have to be an evangelist to share your faith. But sharing one’s faith is fundamental to every Christian. If you are not sharing your faith, being a witness for Christ by intentionally looking for ways to share Him in the circle of influence God has given you, you will not grow in your faith the way you otherwise would. Seek to build others up by sharing your faith, and you will also build yourself up.

3. PRIORITIZE WHAT LASTS, NOT WHAT WILL PASS. REMEMBER THAT YOUR SOUL, NOT YOUR BODY, WILL LIVE FOREVER.  1 Timothy 4:8 teaches us that there is indeed benefit in physical exercise, training, working out. But the benefits are temporary because the body is temporary. The one who builds the soul invests in something eternal. Your soul is the most worthy part of who you are, and worth your deliberate, intentional cultivation. As there is physical evidence of physical exercise (sweat, muscle growth, increased oxygen flow, better mental acuity), so there is evidence of spiritual soul-building: the growth of faith, increased trust in God, fuller surrender, peace, reduced anxiety, clarity of thought, power against temptation, freedom, etc.). When you invest in your soul, you invest in yourforever and you invest in the here and now. It’s a great return on your investment that simply can’t be beat. In fact, you may be beaten up, unnecessarily, if you don’t prioritize the building up of your faith. It affects everything.

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear your comments. 

If you like solid Bible teaching and want to enjoy God fully, you’ll appreciate the Courage Matters App, available on iTunes and Google Play. If you’re near York, Pa, come visit us on a Sunday at GenesisYork.com— and be sure to introduce yourself. This is all made possible by generous listeners, readers, and supporters like you. Please consider giving towards Courage Matters to ensure our nation has the opportunity to hear the message of TRUTH and LOVE. You can donate by clicking the “Give” tab on CourageMatters.com or on the Courage Matters app.

Life of Christ #55: Is There an Unforgivable Sin?

Is there a sin a person can commit that is so serious God will never forgive it? In this passage, Pastor Mike helps us understand the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”, why it is so serious, and why God will not forgive it – ever. This message is followed by a Q&A time from the audience.

The Bad Math of the Morning After

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Bad math? Does the morning after pill really provide a healthy option after a night of passion? Two poor decisions do not add up to one healthy outcome. Amazon.com now offers the “emergency contraception” pill. The online company has come a long way in what it offers to consumers.

[I]f you are considering this solution for a pregnancy you didn’t expect, or know of someone who is, here are some things to carefully consider in the midst of your unexpected “emergency.”

1. Many people have had “unwanted” or unplanned pregnancies and lived to be glad nonetheless. Life is full of surprises that cause pain at first, but have unexpected blessings. Are you more interested in controlling your life, or in rolling with the punches, and allowing God to make something beautiful out of chaos? He is a Master at doing this. Give Him a chance – perhaps more of a chance – than you have up to this point. My wife and I met because she extended her time in college to contend with her mother’s diagnosis of cancer. Had her mother never had cancer, she would not have protracted her stay in college – and we’d never have met. It’s not true to conclude that nothing good can ever happen after something unexpected, bad or painful. In fact, life teaches us that the exact opposite is often true. Good things often come after “bad.” Remember that one poor decision is not made better by another poor decision. This simply adds up to two poor decisions, and sets a precedent for more poor decision-making. 

2. One poor decision after another does not make for good math or reasoning.Instead of one painful decision, you may now be choosing to make two, and they may both haunt you for the rest of your life. Be careful you don’t add insult to your perceived injury by making a rash decision to abort the life within you. If you are pregnant, it means that life is inside of you. It may seem like the end of your world, but it isn’t. You may not be thinking rationally now, any more than you were when you did something designed to create life. But now is the time to think rationally, practically. It must not be forgotten that pregnancy means a human life has begun. A decision to end life is the most significant decision a person will ever face. Nothing is greater. 

3. Once life is terminated, the person making the decision will forever be reminded of it. The convenience sought by a termination of life will be overshadowed by a lifetime of perpetual reminders that someone, perhaps you, made that decision. Think about this, because if you terminate life, you will always, perpetually, be reminded of this – at inconvenient, unexpected times – forever.

4. Consider what trend you may be starting, or furthering, by a decision as drastic as ending a human life.If you are willing to do this, what pattern does this establish or reinforce in your own life? Are you willing to set that kind of pattern in stone, with the only life you have this side of eternity?

5. Consider the thoughts that will very possibly haunt you about the child you could have had.You may very well wonder what the child inside you would have become had you let him or her come into the world.

6. Consider another morning-after decision: adoption.Your unwanted, unexpected, undesired pregnancy could be the answer to prayer for a couple who wants, expects and desires a little boy or girl to raise, love and cherish. If you think abortion of any kind is the only solution, you are incredibly wrong. Your surprise could be the biggest blessing in the world for someone else. You have before you one of the greatest opportunities you may ever have in your life – to turn something seemingly tragic into something “magic.” You can make a decision that will be a huge blessing to others, to you, and to the life now inside you. The child could grow up to be a remarkable blessing to others as a teacher, a doctor, a social worker, a kind and loving person who is so needed in today’s world where only me, myself and I seem to be of importance. Your child can be part of a solution we all need so desperately at this time in world history.

Your thoughts? Don’t be rash in your decision. You have your whole life ahead of you, and another one – perhaps even two – within.

If you like solid Bible teaching and want to enjoy God fully, you’ll appreciate the Courage Matters App, available on iTunes and Google Play. If you’re near York, Pa, come visit us on a Sunday at GenesisYork.com— and be sure to introduce yourself. This is all made possible by generous listeners, readers, and supporters like you. Please consider giving towards Courage Matters to ensure our nation has the opportunity to hear the message of TRUTH and LOVE. You can donate by clicking the “Give” tab on CourageMatters.com or on the Courage Matters app.

Will the misguided, inept person in a leadership position please step away from the platform?

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No one wakes up in the morning and thinks “Yup, today I’d like to be a hypocrite.” Be careful, however, because hypocrisy is the auto-pilot of life. If you want people to soar, you have to be in orbit . . .

Listen to a companion podcast by the same title, here, on iTunes, or with the free  Courage Matters App.

Being in a leadership position doesn’t make you a leader.Neither does having a leadership title. These things only suggest that you might be a leader. They proclaim potential, not success.

There are two essential questions for people holding leadership titles and positions. The first is “Am I really leading people?” The second is “Should people really follow me?” Both questions lead us to an especially potent third question everyone in a leadership position should ask before it’s too late: “In the eternal scheme of life, am I worthy to be followed?”

Think about that third question, because it’s a game-changer. It may entirely revolutionize the way you lead – and who you follow.

Before you continue reading, let these three questions really sink in, and answer them in light of the past three months of your life. Are you really leading people?Should people really follow you? In the eternal scheme of life, are you worthy of being followed? Then, make these three questions part of your ongoing self-evaluation process as a leader. If you cannot answer with a resounding “yes” to all three questions, you are merely a person in a leadership position, or possessing a title, with only the opportunity to lead. Or, you may have slipped from the height in which you once soared. You are not living up to God’s potential for your life. But don’t despair. There is hope for you.

THE MAGNETIC DRIFT The drift toward unintentional hypocrisy is stealthy and magnetic. It’s difficult to see coming because it usually happens gradually, by nearly imperceptible measurements. The slide is difficult to resist because with the passage of time – and some success – we can begin to lead on auto-pilot. We can begin to tell other people what to do, and how to do it – while neglecting to do the very same things ourselves.

What exactly is hypocrisy?Why did Jesus warn against it? Why is it so dangerous? In Luke 12:1-2, we read these words that should make everyone in a leadership position sit up and take notice:

“In the meantime, when so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he  (Jesus) began to say to his disciples first, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.'”

Yikes. Thank you, again, Jesus, for hitting me in the head – and the heart – awakening me to my potential drift, as a disciple, toward hypocrisy. In other words, Jesus warns His followers that they too could begin to behave exactly as His arch enemies, the Pharisees. A Pharisee was a hypocrite. And, by Jesus’ words, a disciple could evolve into the same. Watch it. Hypocrisy is the auto-pilot of life.

THE RIGHT KIND OF TRANSFORMATION Romans 12:1 tells us that we are to be transformed – but what and who we transform into is of paramount importance. As a leader, you have to be vigilant so that your transformation honors, and doesn’t disgrace, God. (I hesitate to even write this, for obvious personal reasons. But if I intend to go deeper with God, to continue to develop as a leader, the buck stops here, with me. I am responsible for my spiritual maturity. I am responsible for how I develop as a leader. Great leadership begins and ends by being a great follower. I must follow Jesus, or I won’t become like Jesus. And if I am not like Jesus, in character, and dependance upon my Heavenly Father, no one should follow me – regardless of my position or title).

There are plenty of people in spiritual leadership positions who shouldn’t be followed at all. Are you one of them?If you are not following Jesus, you won’t become like Jesus. And if you are not like Jesus in character, with dependance upon your Heavenly Father, then why in the world should anyone be encouraged to follow you? And, why in the world are you even remotely interested in spiritual leadership in the first place? These are good questions that might serve as good additions to the three above. Are you in danger of being a hypocritical leader? If so, you must do something about it. Not tomorrow. Today. Right now.

WATCH IT!The word Jesus uses to warn His disciples against the drift toward hypocrisy is beware. In other words, if they were not proactive – if they were not diligent and vigilant – the drift toward hypocrisy would run its course. The same is true of you and me.If you’re human, you’re vulnerable. The best of people have been unwittingly fashioned into the mold of a hypocrite. No one strives toward hypocrisy. It’s what automatically happens when we’re not careful.

WHAT IS IT? Spiritual hypocrisy is best defined not merely as play-acting, pretending to be spiritual when you are not. It is better understood as being misguided in your understanding of what God wants from you – and others. Spiritual intimacy is what He wants. He is not interested in mere behavior if the behavior does not have spiritual intimacy with God as the objective. Let’s get this through our thick skulls, because people’s spiritual livelihood is at stake here, beginning with our own. If something can’t be done for the glory of God, as a means of drawing nearer to Him and honoring Him, then it simply shouldn’t be encouraged. Let’s make sure we aren’t heading in the wrong direction – and leading others along this misguided path with us.

Spiritual hypocrisy is also being inept, even unintentionally, in understanding that the primary reason for the Word of God, the Bible, is to bring readers into a growing intimacy with God. When a person in a leadership position, holding a leadership title, loses sight of what God wants (is misguided), and what the Bible is about (becomes inept), and they continue to influence people, he or she cannot help but be entirely incapable of spiritual success. When this happens, hypocrisy comes by default. What’s worse is that they begin to replicate.This is the real heart-breaker for God. But it should also break our hearts, and lead us to repentance. The position of leadership, and the leadership title, may remain – but titles and positions don’t guarantee ongoing success. A spiritual leader is always one decision away from unintentional hypocrisy, and one decision away from having people follow the wrong example that will lead them away from what God desires. Many are unintentional hypocrites, but are hypocrites nonetheless. Jesus makes no excuse for His disciples in Luke 12. He makes no excuse for us.

IT’S A TRAGIC IRONY Why did Jesus warn against hypocrisy?Because it is the exact opposite of the truth, authenticity, and the very nature of God. Spiritual hypocrisy is the greatest, most tragic, devastating form of irony possible. This is why hypocrisy bakes Jesus’ biscuits unlike any other sin. It’s seriously sobering. When you think about it you’ll understand. You may even need to repent. Your future leadership and spiritual success may depend upon it.

HYPOCRISY IS DANGEROUS Why is hypocrisy so dangerous? Because it leads people into a counterfeit spiritual pursuit that Jesus absolutely detests. Think about this, too, and you will realize that making people think they are doing something worthwhile when all along it is worthless to God, is about as dastardly a thing as anyone could endeavor. But again, we don’t need to be intentional in the endeavor to engage in it. Hypocrisy is the auto-pilot of life. Beware the dastardly leader lurking within. He’ll never go away.

THERE IS AN ANTIDOTE The antidote for spiritual hypocrisy is perpetual repentance and unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ. Daily. Hourly. Moment by moment. Let your transformation be in the right direction, or it will be in the wrong direction, by default. We have Jesus’ word on it. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” says Jesus. Now, it’s up to you and me to take His words to heart . . .

If you like solid Bible teaching and want to enjoy God fully, you’ll appreciate the Courage Matters App, available on iTunes and Google Play. If you’re near York, Pa, come visit us on a Sunday at GenesisYork.com— and be sure to introduce yourself. This is all made possible by generous listeners, readers, and supporters like you. Please consider giving towards Courage Matters to ensure our nation has the opportunity to hear the message of TRUTH and LOVE. You can donate by clicking the “Give” tab on CourageMatters.com or on the Courage Matters app.

Life of Christ #54: Will the Misguided Person in a Leadership Position, Please Step Away From the Platform?

Will the misguided, inept person, in a leadership position, please step away from the platform? Beware, this message could re-ignite your hunger for God, and spare you from heading in the wrong direction as a leader.

No one wants to be a hypocrite. But hypocrisy is the unintional drift of each of us. Without careful attention to our spiritual condition, we will drift in the wrong direction, and can end up misguided, inept and incapable of helping others spiritually. Having a position of leadership does not guarantee you will lead people to the feet of Jesus, following Him closely. It all begins with where you are, first. Discover how to follow Jesus in such a way that you’ll be in a healthy position to positively influence others toward the same.

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